The Sungenis/White Debate on Hebrews 10:10-14

Can you elaborate on why this passage is not dealt with in your book “not by faith alone?” And apparently you ran out of time on that debate. I think that White had a good point when he brought up the fact that the believer is sanctified once and for all. You stated to him that you can’t just take one scripture. However that verse is pretty clear in that it appears to say that justification is a one time process. For the most part I think that you won that debate and the only part that seemed to get by you was this last question.

Best Regards,

Keith Wasser

R. Sungenis: Keith, I’ve been meaning to get back to this passage for several years, knowing that I had no time for a complete answer during the White debate. First, Hebrews 10:14 is a somewhat obscure grammatical choice of words by the writer.

It contains the present participle touV agiazomenouV (“those being sanctified”). Greek commentators are mixed on its significance. Moulton’s grammar says that the tense (present participle) is related to the perfect tense of teteleiwken (“he has perfected”). In this way, the act that is a once for all for Christ, is in a progressive relationship to us. The gist is, the one act of Christ is, at least in regards to sanctification, not applied all at once to us. Mouton’s grammar seeks to relate these two tenses together, otherwise, the Hebrew writer would have used a noun (e.g., touV agiouV = “the sanctified”) if he did not intend to make one verbal tense depend on the other.

Interestingly enough, in verse 10 the writer uses a perfect tense instead of a present participle. He says hgiasmenoi esmen (“we have been sanctified”). The difference apparently lies in the “we” of vr. 10 (the author and his immediate hearers) as opposed to verse 14’s open-ended inclusion of anyone who will experience the sanctification in the future. In such cases, in Greek it is better to use a present participle, because only that form can include those in the present who are being sanctified as well as those in the future who will be sanctified.

The other grammatical possibility is that touV agiazomenouV (“the ones being sanctified”) refers to the entire sanctification process for the “author and his hearers” in verse 10. In other words, they have been sanctified (as vr. 10 states) but they are also being sanctified (as vr. 14 states). This is what I was trying to say to White (albeit unsuccessfully) when I said that Christ “perfected the sanctification process.” That is, Christ does not have to repeat his sacrifice in order to continue to give me what I need to continue my sanctification. By Christ’s once for all act on the cross, we have all we need to continue in sanctification.

This “once for all” act, of course, does not negate Christ’s continual intercession in heaven by the re-presentation of his one-time sacrifice (Hb 9:23-24). In fact, it is precisely the re-presentation of the sacrifice in heaven which allows our sanctification to continue unimpeded, if we so choose to keep it unimpeded.

The continual intercession of Christ in heaven for our continual sanctification is also the reason I quoted from White’s 1990 book, “The Fatal Flaw,” since in that book White sanctions the idea that Christ is now in heaven continually re-presenting his Calvary sacrifice to the Father. As I said during the debate, if White allows Christ to re-present the sacrifice to the Father, how is that different than the Catholic Mass which says virtually the same thing?

In his usual mental gymnastics, White squirmed out of that one, but I don’t remember how he did it. I’d have to look at the video again. In fact, that scene may be from our first Mass debate in 1999, if I am not mistaken. Not sure, it’s been so long.

God be with you

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