Polemics Term: Vicarious Sanctification

Feeling better about yourself by trying to get others to do something you should be doing actually has a name. In the polemics realm it is called “Vicarious Sanctification.”


The term utilizes the term “vicarious” which means “in the place of,” a term that is often used to describe Christ’s substitionary atonement for sinners (“Vicarious Atonement”). Sanctification is part of the Ordo Salutis that begins at conversion and finishes upon death, in which one progressively becomes more like Jesus, increasing in godliness. The term, “Vicarious Sanctification,” was coined by Michael Hall.


It is not uncommon for someone to find virtue in demanding that others do something sanctifying (a godly work), instead of them actually doing the act themselves. One who uses peer pressure, emotional manipulation, lobbying efforts or other external pressure to accomplish some good deed in exchange for their own work (especially if they feel more holy because of it) is guilty of practicing “Vicarious Sanctification.”
The term itself came about in response to 100 evangelical leaders pressuring the Trump Administration to not cut federal relief funds to foreign nations under the claim that it was their “Christian duty” to petition the government to accomplish acts of charity for the impoverished, which is actually demanded of the church, and not the government.
No sanctification can be found in compelling or guilting other people to do work you should be doing.

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