A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen’s Sanctification, Part 1


Michael Allen’s Sanctification (Zondervan, 2017) caught my attention this Spring, particularly his treatment of sanctification through the prism of Dogmatics. After a brief characterization of the book here, this review will address one chapter per post, offering summary, affirmation, critique, and ways to extend Allen’s material. I invite my readers’ comments.

Sanctification exhibits a laudable intersection of biblical and systematic methodology. Its rich dogmatics develop around ten loci of Christian theology: God, creation, covenant, incarnation, in Christ, justification and sanctification, grace and nature, grace and responsibility, and grace and discipline. Allen ranges the theological landscape to avoid reducing sanctification to mere exemplarism or mere substitution (33). He demarcates what he regards as wrong readings of this doctrine: “neonomianism, higher life, or an addition to the apparently insufficient work of Jesus Christ,” (which one might construe as a dismissal of Wesleyan-Arminian formulations) (22). He targets Radical Lutheran dichotomies between law and gospel (30-33), the category of carnal Christian (39), and the phrase ‘irresistible grace’ (244-45), to name a few.

Occasionally he serves a dollop of sanctification with a 3-shot theological espresso, rather than the balanced sanctification macchiato I had hoped for.[1] Most chapters, however, were sanctification-soaked all the way through. Statements throughout the book seemed to suggest that a chapter on sin was intended but didn’t make it into the book.[2] This lacuna leaves the book’s portrayal of the challenges and struggles of progressive sanctification a bit unbalanced.

Nonetheless, Allen argues cogently for the necessity of real and ongoing transformation by grace through the Spirit in consequence of union with Christ. Two and three readings of various chapters have illumined and thereby sanctified me. If my experience is a guide, you’ll find fresh insights on well-worn topics in virtually every chapter.

Originally published at Exegetical Thoughts and Biblical Theology.

[1] Allen himself seems to have been aware of the imbalance in chapter 8 which concludes with, “We do well to conclude by specifying our argument into terms directly related to our overarching theme” (224). While I’m aware that is generally considered poor academic form to criticize an author for what he didn’t do, the amount of space devoted to theological forays with minimal sanctification payoff seems to warrant observing what has been omitted.

[2] “We do well to … [give] attention to these key dogmatic foci: God, creation, covenant, sin, incarnation, …” (46). “We must consider how the doctrines of sin and triune grace relate to our theme of human holiness” (113). “We have considered how [Christ’s] work addresses not only the problem of sin but also the need for glory” (128). “We have … looked to the ways in which creation, covenant and sin shape our story” (140). Between pages 113 and 128 there is no focused engagement with the problem of sin or sin in general. Allen’s engagement is limited to discussing sin as a twofold problem met by God’s twofold grace.

Philip Brown
Philip Brownhttp://apbrown2.net
Dr. Philip Brown is Graduate Program Director and Professor at God's Bible School & College. He holds a PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of A Reader's Hebrew Bible (Zondervan Academic, 2008).