If you’re not familiar with the term ordo salutis, it is Latin and means “order of salvation,” and is basically a framework for laying out the different parts and events of salvation in order. There are two common views on the ordo salutis, a Calvinistic one and an Arminian one. Here’s the a short version of the most common layout, with the differences between the two versions noted:
- Election/predestination — Chronologically, election happens before time. While Calvinists and Arminians disagree on what it means, they agree that it is before time.
- Atonement — With election decided, atonement is the next step. Christ died for the sins of the world (or just the elect, if you ask a Calvinist) and so purchased all of the remaining benefits.
- Conversion/regeneration — Next, upon the preaching of the Gospel, come conversion and regeneration. Calvinists believe that regeneration, being born again, comes first and causes faith and repentance. Arminians, on the other hand, hold that faith and repentance come first and lead to regeneration. (If anyone ever tells you “how you can be born again” by faith, that’s a rather Arminian statement. Calvinists say only God causes regeneration, and there is nothing you can do to cause it until the Spirit moves in you.)
- Justification — Justification follows conversion, with God declaring the sinner righteous on the basis of the faith which came about at conversion. At that moment you are given the verdict “righteous.”
- Sanctification — Following justification, one begins to progress in conformity to Christ’s image, a process called “sanctification.” This will continue until death.
- Glorification — Finally, at the resurrection when Christ returns, we are given fresh new bodies, a new share in God’s glory, and complete eternal life.
This all seems nice and tidy, but an argument can be made that this is a bit out of focus with the Biblical teaching. An Evangelical Calvinist alternative would look something like this:
- Election/predestination — God chooses humanity for Himself in Christ, and predestines Christ as the one in whom humanity is to be oriented, shaped, and glorified.
- Incarnation/atonement/justification/sanctification/glorification — From an EC perspective, the whole of salvation is fully accomplished in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. In the Incarnation He became man like us and for us, so that He might do all of this on our behalf. He lived a sanctified, consecrated human life for us. He was publicly vindicated/justified in His resurrection, declared to be the Righteous One before the world. In His death He offered Himself as the set apart and just sacrifice by which the death of the natural man could be redeemed by sharing in His resurrection. In His ascension He was exalted to the right hand of the Father and given all authority, an authority which He will one day share with us.
- Conversion/Union with Christ — With all of the rest of this accomplished, the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ and leads us to faith and repentance (realities also rooted in Christ’s faithful and sin-resisting life). It is this Spiritual union which imparts to us all of the realities mentioned before, allowing us to share in His justified, sanctified, and glorified life in the present.
- Consummation — Finally, when Christ returns, our share in His salvation life will no longer be partial, but complete. We will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2). Our bodies and souls will enjoy full participation in everything He won for us once-for-all.
Sounds good, right? I thought so. I’m not going to elaborate that for now, but ultimately I think this conception is superior to and less artificial than the ordo salutis offered by the classical Calvinist/Arminian paradigm. Barth would agree. And I suspect Scripture would as well. (For recommended Scripture reading on this point, I would suggest reading closely together Romans, Hebrews, and 1 John.)