Published on July 8, 2015 by Todd Scacewater

IVP Academic, 2014 | 300 pages

Today we continue our interview with Dr. Kelly Kapic, as he talks to us about his new book, Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice. If you missed part 1 of this interview you can catch up here.


Books At a Glance:
Recent scholarship emphasizes more the definitive nature of sanctification. How should an understanding of this inform and shape our doctrine of and efforts toward progressive sanctification?

This is a great question.  On the whole, my hope is that this book might stimulate further discussions.

One thing that may surprise many readers of this book is how strongly some of the scholars emphasize the definitive nature of sanctification. But this is no cliché or slogan for them; they aim to ground this idea in exegetical and theological foundations.

I wish, for example, many pastors or interested laity would read the essays by Richard Lints (Living by Faith – Alone?), Henri Blocher (Sanctification by Faith?), and Ivor Davidson (Gospel Holiness: Some Dogmatic Reflections) and Julie Canlis (Sonship, Identity, and Transformation), and then get together as small groups to talk about them. What surprised them?  What did they learn? What aspects made them nervous? Where do they see disagreements emerging between these Reformed scholars? And finally, if we are to speak of ‘progressive sanctification,’ what must we first presume to be true about our holiness?

Hopefully reading these essays will encourage us to think in some fresh ways about sanctification, or at least help us recapture some classic dynamics of this conversation that appear potentially lost in contemporary discussions.

For example, how might Lint’s discussion of different forms of antinomianism, “sanctifying faith,” and his emphasis on wisdom challenge certain contemporary ways of framing this classic debate? Is he right?

Or, I would love for a group of pastors to get together to talk about Brannon Ellis’ essay “Covenantal Union and Communion: Union with Christ as the Covenant of Grace.” Here Ellis argues that biblically we need to recognize how closely being ‘united to Christ’ is linked to being united to his people. How can one speak of the importance of union with Christ without, at the same time, emphasizing the great value of the Church? But since Protestants often have a weak ecclesiology, this is possibly a massive blind spot for us. Consequently, we often approach sanctification in an overly individualistic framework.

Others are also quick to highlight the significance of human agency, and that the call for our response to God’s grace in no way compromises divine gift nor generosity. I suspect a favorite chapter for many readers will be Michael Horton’s essay which unpacks the Spirit and Human agency – and I believe some who worry Horton doesn’t always have enough space for human agency will find this illuminating for how he aims not to undermine human agency, but anchor it theologically in the ways God normally works in this world. 

We need this kind of careful work to better think through how to frame sanctification in such a way that we are not constantly choosing between divine and human agency. John Murray reminded us a long time ago to avoid thinking in terms of “cooperation,” with God doing his part for a time and then we do our part: such a rendering is far from the Pauline view that ‘we work because God is at work in us.’

Along these lines, the brilliant Christian ethicist Oliver O’Donovan offers a rich essay on “Sanctification as Ethics,” and James Eglinton helps us see how for Herman Bavinck, sanctification and ethics are inseparable. And I could go on to recommend other various essays, but this at least gives you a taste of some of the discussion you will find in the book

Books At a Glance:
Can you tell us a bit about your own particular essay in the book?

I wrote an essay for the book called, “Faith, Hope, and Love: A Theological Meditation on Suffering and Sanctification.” Writing this essay was difficult for me, but also proved helpful to my soul. It is the first time I have given any attention in print to reflecting on some family health issues and the challenges of suffering.

It was our own struggle with cancer and now with chronic pain that has forced me to really wrestle through various difficult questions and experiences that I have discovered are fairly common among those who suffer. And, as I sometimes say, I don’t actually know what I think until I write it.  Consequently, although readers will discover I only mention personal matters at the very beginning, composing this essay proved highly instructive to me – as funny as that may sound. 

Without going through the whole essay, I will just say I found Luther’s personal letters particularly helpful; he struggled with physical pain, and he was terribly aware of difficulties that hit those he loved. Reading through those letters proved hugely beneficial to me, though this essay is not merely on Luther’s correspondence.

Employing the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, I argue for the importance of the community during times of suffering and struggle. Put simply, my conviction is that ‘faith’ is much more of a team sport than we tend to realize. This is something I believe even good Protestants who hold to sola fide need to embrace and better understand. 

Books At a Glance:
Do you have any other books in the works that we can watch for?

Growing out of my work on that essay I started down a path of giving sustained reflection to thinking more carefully through suffering for the Christian.  The result is that I am currently working on a book called Wrestling and Resting: Pastoral and Theological Reflections on Suffering [working title, IVP Academic). 

In that book I am not so interested in philosophical questions about defending God from charges of evil, or anything like that.  But I am interested in the Christian experience of suffering, and all the painful questions and experiences that crop up along a sufferer’s pilgrimage, questions we are often uncomfortable asking.  And, to be honest, I greatly fear we too often give responses to those who suffer that are superficial at best, and hurtful at worst.  But I can’t unpack that here.

I am also editing a book called Reading Christian Theology in the Protestant Tradition, with Hans Madueme (T & T Clark).  This is a fairly large volume in which we asked scholars to offer short essays (4000 words each) on Christian classics from different periods of Christian history.  We hope this will introduce many people to some wonderful but often neglected books.

And finally, I have agreed to write a Theology of the Christian Life (Zondervan Academic), for the New Studies in Dogmatics Series, which is edited by Michael Allen and Scott Swain.  But I have some years before that is due, for which I am thankful!

Thanks for asking.

Editor’s Note:  We will continue our interview with Dr. Kapic here tomorrow. Meanwhile, check out our Summary of Dr. Kapic’s book on Sanctification here.

You may also like to see our previous interview with Dr. Kapic on his A Little Book for New Theologians – Part 1Part 2Part 3. This was one of our most popular interviews of 2014!

Buy the books

Sanctification: Explorations In Theology And Practice

IVP Academic, 2014 | 300 pages

Share This

Share this with your friends!