Miller, Timothy. “The Debate Over the Ordo Salutis in American Reformed Theology,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 18 (2013): 41-66.
In this piece Tim examines the different ways in which union with Christ, justification, and sanctification are related to one another by individuals connected with either Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (Gaffin, Tipton, Garcia, Evans) or Westminster Seminary California (Clark, Fesko, Horton, VanDrunen, and Godfrey). In unpacking this debate Miller first examines the Lutheran ordo salutis since some accuse those on the Westminster Seminary California (WSC) side of adopting a Lutheran ordo. Lutheran theologians have rejected the idea that union with Christ is the unifying soteriological category and that soteriological benefits flow from union. Instead, Lutherans have all soteriological benefits, including union with Christ, flow from justification.
Miller then turns to the WSC ordo. First, those aligned with WSC argue that Lutherans and the Reformed share the same conception of justification. Second, they affirm that all other soteriological benefits flow from justification. This does not mean that theologians, such as Michael Horton, wish to deny that the other soteriological benefits are all connected to union with Christ. But “he also believes that within the unfolding drama of human history, justification is the source of the other soteric benefits” (48). This position raises the issue of how justification and sanctification relate to each other as “distinct–yet-inseparable.” Third, and as a result of the first two points, union with Christ is distinguished into a forensic union and a renovative union. This is not a claim that there are two unions but that the one union has two aspects.
Having outlined the WSC ordo Miller then outlines the ordo associated with Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (WTS). In contrast to WSC, those aligned with WTS distinguish Lutheran and Calvin’s conceptions of justification in that Calvin affirmed that “so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us” (Institutes 3.1.1). (On this point Calvin is said to differ from late Reformed federal theology.) Justification therefore flows from a union with Christ that is obtained by faith. From union with Christ flow the double benefits of justification and sanctification. These two benefits are inseparable as they both come from union with Christ, but they are also distinct. Finally, instead of distinguishing between forensic and renovative aspects of union, those associated with WTS seek to relate the historia salutis with the ordo salutis. Miller summarizes this in four points: “First, the historical bodily resurrection of Jesus includes within it His adoption, justification, and sanctification (57-58). Second, “believers are united with Christ into His life history—His death, burial, and resurrection” (59). Third, “the redeemed share with Christ all of His soteric benefits in union with His person and work” (60). Fourth, “because Christ contains in Himself all the soteric benefits, union with Him provides all benefits simultaneously, distinctly, and inseparably” (61).
Having outlined the debate Miller probes the significance of the two positions. First, if the WTS position is correct, the Roman Catholic objection that Protestantism leads to “immoral living” is answered. Sanctification is inseparable (though district) from justification as a benefit of union with Christ. Second, the WTS position more clearly guards the forensic nature of justification by not having sanctification flow from justification. Third, the WTS ordo emphasizes the centrality of Christ rather than subsuming Christ as one benefit among others within the ordo.
As should be clear, Miller favors the WTS view. Unreflected in this summary, but present in the article, are the exegetical arguments that lead Miller to favor the WTS viewpoint. I found this to be a clear and compelling article and recommend it to all interested in this issue.