On Distinguishing Between Synonyms
As those who have been following my series on paradigms know, I have been arguing that there is a vast amount of New Testament data that may be able to be squeezed into just about any theological system, but nonetheless fits best within a Catholic paradigm. Indeed, much of this data simply would not have arisen from a (proto) Protestant paradigm at all, despite Protestants wholeheartedly affirming such passages and doing their best to fit (or force) them into their theological systems.
One of my arguments has been that the Reformed view of justification is deficient because it only takes into account a small sliver of the relevant data (and by “relevant data,” I mean passages that employ either the term dikaioo in a soteriological context, or allude to the concept of sinners being saved and receiving eternal life on the day of judgment). In a word, it is completely arbitrary to limit the data-set that informs our understanding of justification to only a handful of verses in a book like Romans, especially when certain usages in that very book are excluded.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin (Rom. 6:5-7).
The word that most modern translations render as “set free” is the perfect passive form of the Greek word dikaioo, to justify. The question that arises should be obvious: “Why would Protestants not allow this usage of dikaioo to inform their theological understanding of justification?” If they were to do so, then justification would be seen to include sanctification and our being freed from the power of sin.
The answer from the Protestant could be: “Just because Paul uses the Greek word for ‘justify’ as a synonym for sanctification doesn’t mean that he is conflating the two, since the usage of a word doesn’t necessitate that the theological concept is in view.” But this appeal to the word/concept fallacy just begs the question. In other words, whether or not justification should be limited to the forensic while excluding the transformative is precisely the issue under dispute, so to say that the appearance of dikaioo in Romans 6:7 should not be incorporated into our understanding of justification since its usage there is an anomaly is to assume what itself needs to be proven.
But perhaps the bigger question in all of this is, “If Paul was operating from a paradigm that said that distinguishing between justification and sanctification is essential for getting the gospel right, then why would the apostle use the Greek word for the former as a synonym for the latter?”