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‘Duplex Beneficium’ by WSC’s Tricia Barackman

16 August, 2008

The trouble with Dr. R. Scott Clark is that he’s so darn consistent. And in a world of inconsistent theologians (Reformed and otherwise) that’s troublesome. However, his zeal for the Reformed tradition can also be very refreshing for those who would like a little consistency for a change.

The following is a Review of Dr. Clark’s book Casper Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant: The Double Benefit of Christ by one of his students (and a good friend of the family), Tricia Barackman. You can also find other good Reformed thoughts on her blog “Reformerette”


Duplex Beneficium

Casper Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant: The Double Benefit of Christ
R. Scott Clark
One of my assigned readings for Medieval Church and Reformation with Dr. Clark was this work on Casper Olevian. A quick read, 209 pages with large footnotes, this book surprisingly covered the history of the Calvinist Reformation subsequent to the Lutheran, in great detail. The objective of the book was to demonstrate the dual benefits of the covenant of grace, justification and sanctification. While the majority of the book sets up Olevian’s context and the foundation for his covenant theology, chapters 6 and 7 break down the two benefits specifically.
Chapter 6, on Justification, discussed the difference between the forensic conception of justification that separated Olevian from the Roman Catholic understanding, taught by a Roman Catholic theologian Canisius, “Both Olevian’s commentaries on Romans and Galatians give abundant evidence of his commitment to the forensic conception of justification, that justification is a matter of God’s binding, legal declaration of the sinner’s justification, as opposed to justification by infused grace (gratia infusa) or justification through sanctification. ‘Justification’ is ‘the pronouncement that we are absolved of our sins in the body of Christ’.” (p. 151)
Justification, as a legal pronouncement, as opposed to an infused righteousness, was not sanctification, “It is not, however, as though Olevian envisioned that Christians would have a perfect faith in this life. There remains in every believer a part of the soul which remains unregenerate, or not dominated by the ‘knowledge of God’ (cognitio Dei). In that portion of the soul, ‘terrors of the conscience’ (terrores conscientiae) will continue to afflict the faithful. Nevertheless, the believer ought to fight against such doubts and rest on the promise of God that he will never leave his people. For this reason, Christ has instituted the means of grace to strengthen the infirmity of our faith.” (p. 155)
Olevian battled against the Medieval Roman Catholic view of Condign and Congruous Merit, the view that God would reward a person with a congruous kind of merit if he responded to God, then making him able to be infused with Condign (intrinsic) Merit, “For Canisius (a Roman Catholic Theologian contemporary of Olevian), like the medieval intellectualist tradition, justification is an ontological matter, an essential transformation of the soul from the state of sin to the state of grace. Therefore, according to his doctrine of God, the beginning of justice (exordium iustitiae) was sufficient to satisfy God. The assumption behind the condign merit (meritum de condigno) scheme was that God holds his judgement in abeyance until final justification or sanctification is achieved.” p. 156
Canisius again: “The impious are justified as the ‘merit of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is communicated’ to them and not as something is accomplished legally or extrinsically.” p. 157
Canisius cont.: “Just as Adam’s ‘sin was transfused into all humanity’, so also one’s sanctification must be the very stuff of justification; it is the pouring forth of ‘the love of God’ (charitas Dei) into the hearts of those who are being justified’.” p. 157
Olevian, unlike Canisius, maintained a separation between Justification and Sanctification. Justification was the legal declaration of our righteousness and Sanctification was the infusion of righteousness. Both were accomplished through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, “As a corollary to his understanding of Adam’s federal headship, he believed that the righteousness which is imputed to believers was not only Christ’s obedientia passiva, i.e. his suffering and crucifixion, but also his active obedience (obedientia activa), to the divine law.” p. 168
The double benefit, Christ obedience renders us justified before God legally and it also works in us through the Spirit to remove our actual sins, though slowly and never completely, “Together justification and sanctification comprise the duplex beneficium. This theme in his soteriology corresponded to his definition of sin. ‘Sin is twofold, original and actual.’ The twofold benefits of Christ address both.” (p. 185)
I enjoyed this read, it really unpacked Justification and Sanctification in a clear way. Chapter 7 on Sanctification, also clearly laid out the process of sanctification and how it is never fully achieved in this life, but is accomplished slowly primarily through the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments, that draw our minds to Christ and strengthen our faith. The Lord renews His covenant through the sacraments, not as law, but as promise and grace. Renovatio and vivificatio, renewing us and giving us new life.

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