Sunday, September 30, 2007

On the Ordo- and Historia Salutis

I've noticed that, for some reason, I am more careful and nuanced with my formulations in the "comments" section than I am in my posts proper. For this reason, I want to clarify something.

In the Christian life, the existential and individual experience of the faith is rooted in the eschatological realities of that faith. To put it differently, redemption applied to me (ordo salutis) stems from redemption accomplished outside of me (historia salutis).

So the redemptive-historical shift from worship according to "the old way of the letter" to worship according to "the new way of the Spirit" accounts for the experiential differences between the saint of Romans 7 and the saint of Romans 8. Moreover, the horizontal movement from the old age to the dawning of the new is the background for Paul's dichotomy between the flesh and the Spirit in Galatians 5.

In fact, I am arguing in my current series of sermons on the psalms that it is the psalms of remembrance (like 136) that inevitably lead to psalms of confidence (like 91). So knowing that God "brought Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm" leads the psalmist to say that "he who dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." The historia salutis grounds the ordo salutis, and redemption accomplished always leads to redemption applied.

This is all fine in theory, but it gets tricky when new indicatives make their entrance into the story (like, say, the resurrection of Christ and subsequent gift of the Spirit). When we ignore the ongoing development of God's redemptive plan, we are not only in danger of losing the contours of the biblical landscape, we are also susceptible to an under-realized eschatology that cannot but affect our daily Christian living.

What I'm saying is that both street maps (systematic theology) and topographical maps (biblical theology) are important. We can probably get by with one or the other, but we lose much more than we gain by such neglect.