We’ve already seen Deism and Naturalistic eliminated from the theological tournament set to decide the biblical plan of salvation set forth by God in the first chapter of B.B. Warfield’s The Plan of Salvation. As we continue down the Theistic supernatural path we now face the question of whether God’s plan is achieved through sacerdotal or evangelical means. Or, as Warfield presents the question:
“Does God save men by immediate operations of his grace upon their souls, or does he act upon them only through the medium of instrumentalities for that purpose?”
Warfield has in mind specifically the church of Rome, which teaches that the church is the sole institute of salvation, making it unattainable to man outside of said church. This notion makes the ministers within the church the vessels that provide the grace needed to man for salvation through the sacraments, specifically of baptism & the Eucharist (communion). This is not to say that the sacraments aren’t means of the Grace of God, they clearly are, but something becomes sacerdotal when the instruments become indispensible…
“The sacerdotal principle is present, however, wherever instrumentalities through which saving grace is brought to the soul are made indispensable to salvation; and it is dominant wherever this indispensability is made absolute.”
Dispatching the sacerdotal principle is the evangelical understanding, which Warfield paints as the only consistent pattern found in Theistic Supernatural salvation. The Evangelical principle completely does away with any outside or man-made/facilitated intermediates to the grace of God that brings salvation. It brings to mind an episode of G.I. Joe where new Cobra recruits were being trained on how to be as lethal and evil as possible. The dreadnoks pointed to their sundry pile of chainsaws, blow-torches, and grenades as proof that they recruits should follow them to learn the ropes of working for a ruthless terrorist organization. Storm Shadow, Cobra’s resident Ninja, then showed the recruits that the weapons are nothing in themselves, and won’t provide them with any benefit unless coupled with ability — he showed this, of course, by disassembling a tank (a tank!) with a few well placed punches and kicks. So it is for the sacerdotalist who mistakenly turns the means of grace as objects of grace.
“It is directly upon God and not the means of grace that the evangelical feels dependent for salvation; it is directly to God rather than to the means of grace that he looks for grace; and he proclaims the Holy Spirit therefore not only able to act but actually operative where and when and how he will.”
Old Ben Warfield is clearly drawing his readers to a distinction between the operating procedures of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, showing the Protestant establishment to be the most consistent in practicing the supernatural principle by placing all of the work on God, rather than allowing for the church to make any claim on the distribution of salvation.
“That only is true evangelicalism, therefore, in which sounds clearly the double confession that all the power exerted in saving the soul is from God, and that God in his saving operations acts directly upon our soul.”
Tomorrow: Did God specifically save men, or just make men able to saved without actually securing anyone to salvation?