In light of Chuck’s excellent essay on Calvin’s understanding of justification and sanctification, I want to draw your attention to this bit by Oliver O’Donovan at the recent event in Washington D.C.:

…In grasping what God has done in raising human nature from the death of sin, one has to grasp the restoration of human agency, the making of it vital again. It is passing from death to life in the power of the Holy Spirit. And this division, between, as it were, the retrospective (justification, forgiveness, wiping out) and the prospect, is a division of aspects which cannot be a division in substance or reality. The work of God is a transforming work, as it is a forgiving work, and a forgiving work, as it is a transforming work.

The tendency, of course…is to always regard these as separate gears. We shift from one to the other. We need justification when we’ve sinned; then we forget about it. Then we need sanctification in order to do something. That’s not how we’re encouraged to think about it. They come together in the Spirit of Christ.

That was pulled out by my friend Joe Sunde at Acton, who also works with Christian’s Library Press, one of the evening’s co-sponsors.  Here’s what you need to remember:  O’Donovan was saying all this extemporaneously, not reading it.  If you needed any further reason to get the audio, there you have it.


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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. “Brethren, I’ve heard it said that I am to be a human sacrifice for your sins. May I asketh, who in the goddamn hell came up with Neanderthal bullshit!!!!????

    What are you,a bunch of fucking lunatics!!!!???

    Blood sacrifice!!!!!!!!????????? You can shove that sickening pile of donkey shit straight up thy fucking asses!!!!”

    —–Jesus Christ, the lost Gospel of Sanity


    1. It’s precisely that sort of snappy writing and cogent logic that will doubtlessly persuade many.

      All the best,



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