Michael Horton & Two-Stage Justification?

In a recent Twitter discussion regarding John Piper’s teaching on two-stage justification, it was suggested that Dr. Michael Horton also espouses this error. I reached out to the radio ministry, White Horse Inn, for clarification on Dr. Horton’s position on this issue.

Dr. Michael S. Horton

“Thanks for contacting us. You asked about a quote where some have suggested Dr, Horton espouses two stage doctrine of justification: “The New Testament lays before us a vast array of conditions for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor Holiness, which is defined by love of God and neighbor…is the indispensable condition of our glorification: no one will be seated at the heavenly banquet who has not begun, however imperfectly, in new obedience.” That quote is from page 182 of God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology. There, Dr. Horton is explaining that sanctification is inseparable from justification. Here he distinguishes himself from the legalistic view that sanctification or obedience is necessary precondition for obedience and from the Roman Catholic Church that teaches that justification and sanctification are an identical process completed at the resurrection. Instead he is only saying that sanctification is a necessary result in the life of those who are justified, that obedience necessarily follows being declared righteous. This is consistent with Paul’s teaching in Galatians 5 about the fruit of the Spirit. The language of “condition” in this context is not meant to carry the theological weight that some are attributing to him since he is not using the term to imply condition of entrance into the covenant of grace or for remaining in but simply to show the logical relationship between various parts of the order of salvation (justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification). Each of these parts of the order are like a chain with logical relationships. For example, Justification is prior to sanctification. In this sense justification would be a condition for sanctification; a person can’t be sanctified who isn’t justified. This would also mean that for justification to have really happened, for a person to be genuinely justified in the eyes of God would mean that they would have received the Holy Spirit and begun a process of sanctification that will not complete until glorification. Dr. Horton’s view is distinct from a two-stage theory of justification and he has written against the view in The Christian Faith on pages 630 through 642. See especially his criticism on NT. Wright’s view that there is a final justification based on a person’s whole life lived on page 636. I hope this helps to clarify that passage.”

Silverio Gonzalez

Associate Producer Core Christianity