The Role of the Holy Spirit in Justification

By Ken Hamrick

We are justified by faith in Christ. But is that justification a mere legal fiction, as the Catholics object? While many look for the answer in the analogies of marriage and adoption, there is a more explicit answer: it is the spiritual union of Christ in the believer, effected by the Holy Spirit. The role of the Holy Spirit in justification is a badly neglected topic. To address this will require some review of history—and one that is not usually taught.

An Historical Overview
Over the course of the last several centuries, the importance of reality in Christian theology has been eclipsed by the importance of position. Imputation and justification have come to be seen as mere exercises within God’s mind. This eclipse has resulted from abandoning the idea of a real union of the moral nature of all men within Adam when he sinned, which was the realism that was implicitly contained in all the creeds and confessions of the early Reformed Church.

In this article, I will mostly be referring to Biblical realism—that Biblical principle of shared identity based on immaterial union, to which philosophical realism (with all its excesses) came to be applied. Biblical realism is the recognition of a shared personal identity, effected by immaterial (spiritual) union or singularity of immaterial origin, which is sufficient in itself to account for the headships of Adam and Christ. More broadly, Biblical realism is a paradigm from which God’s judgments and justice are dependent upon substantial reality—a reality which He may sovereignly change but cannot justly ignore. Continue reading

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The 3rd Rail: Can a Loving God Determine to Save So Few?

By Ken Hamrick

This is the last post in this series, and concludes my attempt to provide a compelling articulation for the middle ground on which so many Southern Baptists stand—holding that God is the ultimate Determiner of destinies and that men have free will in the matter (but without going to the lengths of Calvinism or Traditionalism).


An important question, which goes to the heart of the Calvinism debate, was asked by Dr. Eric Hankins, at the 2017 Connect 316 Banquet:

On Calvinist principles, God could have foreordained the salvation of all just as easily, just as righteously, as He foreordained the salvation of only some. What else can such an act be called except “evil”? This is not a misrepresentation of Calvinism. I see no way around this implication. If there is one, Southern Baptists are going to need to hear it.[1]

There is a Biblical solution to this supposed implication, but it’s found only in the middle view. As we’ve already seen in this series, in issue after issue, Calvinists and Traditionalists have chosen a divisive simplicity over a deeper complexity. Any time that a doctrine is stripped of an inherent complexity by two opposing arguments, the dispute will not end until the complexity is restored. This issue is no different. Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: Unconditional Election is Not Restrictive

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

The posts in this series are not in any particular order; but it may be helpful, before reading this one, to read the following posts: “The 3rd Rail: Inability of the Will is Never Literal,” and, “The 3rd Rail: The Fallacy of a Restrictive Foreknowledge.”

As we have seen in previous posts in this series, God’s knowledge of all events from outside of time does not in any way restrict man’s freedom to freely act—that, in fact, we retroactively write God’s foreknowledge with every decision we make. Many may balk at this because it sounds so foreign to our linear, temporal thinking; but we cannot expect a timeless God to interact with our world in ways that we comfortably understand. If we dare to ask tough questions, then we ought not to be satisfied with pat answers, but should strive beyond comfort to glimpse the truth, even if it be unexpected. But this is not to say that God is not in control. Middlers affirm that God determines the destinies of men—we simply deny that He does this against or in spite of their free will. Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: Inability of the Will is Never Literal

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

We in the middle watch with dismay as justification for the extremes of one side is claimed to be based on the extremes of the other (in the ongoing Calvinism/Traditionalism debate). Why ignore the middle position? There are more than two choices here. In fact, both sides can actually come to near agreement on some issues, with a few minor adjustments—adjustments that bring them more in line with sound, Biblical truth. The issue of the inability of sinners is one in desperate need of common sense and Biblical clarity, which will provide some common ground for both sides—that is, for those who are willing to open their eyes and consider what the middle has to offer. Continue reading

The 3rd Rail: The Call to Believe is Not Without a Promise

KH LogoBy Ken Hamrick

See all the posts in the series, ‘The 3rd Rail’

Imagine how sinners would react if the gospel offered no promise of eternal life to those who believe. If there were no amazing grace, no opportunity for forgiveness, no loving heavenly Father to welcome us into His family, no Savior who gave His life to save us, but only a proclamation that God ought to be worshipped for who He is, and that sin must be punished, would anyone come to God in faith? If only hell awaited—even for believers—would any be willing to pray, “Not my will but Thine be done?” No one would come.

Why does God always provide a promise to go with a call to believe? Continue reading

Does Your Anchor Hold Within the Veil?

Also posted at SBC Open Forum and at SBC Voices.
By Ken Hamrick
Heb. 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil…” (NKJV)
Col. 1:27, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (NKJV)
1 Cor. 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (NKJV)

To hear that someone we thought of as a brother in the Lord—a pastor, a teacher of sound doctrine and a contender for the faith—has now renounced his faith… well, it weighs on my soul, as I’m sure it does with many of you. So we bring this burden before the Lord, praying for this man’s salvation. But we can’t help asking with exasperation, how could this happen?!  Continue reading