For any who are following me on this journey of going deeper into the Word of God and understand the church, today I write a brief synopsis of this past week in my Systematic Theology class. This past week was a big week, because we studied the doctrine of salvation. We studied varying concepts of salvation that exist among men. We studied the antecedent to salvation which is predestination.
We studied differing views of predestination: Calvinism, Arminianism and Karl Barth. We studied the beginning of salvation; regeneration and conversion. By conversion I mean the human response to God’s offer of salvation. There is both a negative and positive side to the human response to God’s offer of salvation; repentance is the negative side (abandonment of sin) and faith is the positive side. Regeneration is God’s work alone. Regeneration is the transformation of a human being from within. Christ referred to this as the new birth. We had an interesting class discussion on which comes first in the salvation of a human; conversion or regeneration. The Calvinistic leaning students naturally said that regeneration occurs first, because of the Calvinistic understand of the doctrine of total inability. Arminian leaning students said that Conversion occurs first; that God gives you the Holy Spirit as a result of repenting and believing.
We also studied justification as forensic righteousness and the believer’s union with Christ. We studied the continuation of salvation which is called sanctification and the completion of salvation which is called glorification. We also studied the means and extent of salvation. I found the study on the means of salvation to be very interesting. Two views that I found most interesting where the Sacramentalist view and the Evangelical view.
In the Sacramentalist view the means of a grace are the sacraments. In this view a sacrament either confers grace or augments grace. “In the Catholic understand, three elements are necessary to constitute a sacrament: a visible sign, and invisible grace, and divine institution.” (Erickson, 934) For this reason a true Sacramentalist would say that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic church.
In the Evangelical view the means of grace are the Scriptures. For this reason, the Word of God is indispensable in the matter of salvation. The Word of God is not just the means of salvation to the beginning of the Christian life, but in the growth of the Christian throughout the believer’s life. Whether read or preached the word of God is God’s means of presenting His plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. As you can see from this brief synopsis that past week was packed with a great deal of information.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.