Wilkins’s exam, part 5

Under Doctrine of the Church (Carolina Memorial), question 2, we find some key statements about interpretation of Paul, and also about systematic and biblical theology.

Wilkins starts out with a very flimsy defense indeed. After accusing the SCP of misquoting him, he adds in the rest of the sentence. As if adding “The clear implication of these passages” actually answers the query sent by SCP! As if the SCP hadn’t ever read the passages quoted! As if Paul is automatically and without argumentation against the SCP! Since Wilkins’s argumentation on those pages is woefully inadequate in dealing with alternate understandings of the verses in question, we can hardly grant that this is sufficient defense. As a matter of fact, there is absolutely zero detailed exegesis of those supposed passages referred to except for John 15. I have dealt with this exegesis here. He simply assumes that quoting them proves his point. The flimsiness of this defense is evident in the word “appear” in the phrase “the apostles appear to attribute these same things to all the members of the visible church without distinction.” Furthermore, is not this sentence evidence of his not really believing in ontological distinctions within the visible church? Certainly his eisegesis of John 15 points in that direction.

It is very important what Wilkins says on page 10: “My question in light of what WLC affirms (and which I also affirm) is this, ‘How can Paul say that these things are true of the members of the church in Corinth and in what sense are they true?’ Whatever our answer to this question, it seems clear then that Paul is not using these terms in the same way that the Westminster Confession defines them.” His disagreement with the WCF is even more clear when he says “our understanding of salvation from a systematic (Westminsterian) theology standpoint has difficulty accommodating these passages…better way.” Regarding the first quotation, since Wilkins hasn’t even begun to deal with the judgment of charity, which deals quite easily with every single one of the passages he asserts, we can hardly expect to be convinced that his interpretation is correct. If you shove more than half the evidence under the mat, how can you be called a scholar? If we say “judgment of charity,” then it is extremely easy to see that Paul is in fact using those terms in the same way as the WCF uses them. But if Paul never does use these terms in the same way as the WCF uses them, then why isn’t Wilkins advocating changes to the WCF? If the WCF doesn’t accurately reflect Paul, then why should he follow it? He says that his understanding of covenant is a better way of dealing with such passages. That is, his way of understanding covenant is better than the WCF’s way of understanding those passages. Hubris indeed.

About these ads

144 Comments

  1. December 29, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Has FV addressed the “judgment of charity” issue anywhere? It would surprise me if they haven’t since this concept is so clearly manifest in Calvin’s work, and seems he would apply it to this very circumstance.

  2. December 29, 2006 at 11:43 am

    Sorry, I just read your statement on another thread saying they haven’t. It get’s difficult keeping up with 2 or 3 threads here and usually the same elsewhere dealing with this matter.

  3. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 11:57 am

    The FV guys don’t give much attention at all to “judgment of charity.”

    The word of God as *promise* seems to be more theologically promising than the word of God as charity. In Ephesians 1, God himself is addressing every member of the congreation. And what God says must be true. I think that’s why “judgment of charity” may fall a bit short of a full explanation.

  4. December 29, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    “The FV guys don’t give much attention at all to “judgment of charity.””

    Then they aren’t giving much attention to historical Reformation (or Calvin’s) thought on the matter. They may disagree with it, but don’t disagree with this interpretation then call yourself “reformed” and “in-line” with Reformed thinking.

  5. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    You know, it’s interesting how multifaceted is the FV kerfluffle, as it can be debated from the POV “Is it scriptural?” as well as the POV “Does it align with the Westminster standards?” plus it’s possible to be personally disinclined to believe the FV though thinking it doesn’t do violence to the Westminster standards, meaning it’s permissible for Pastor Wilkins to teach it without first clearing it with the PCA high muckety-mucks, as well as being possible to think the FV is dead on target, theologically, but not squared with the Westminster standards, meaning Wilkins ought not to teach it under the umbrella of the PCA.

    The theory that Paul meant every word he wrote to be applicable to every person sitting in an assembly in which it’s read is an intriguing theory indeed. Until recently I’d not realized that was the primary foundation for the FV, and wondered where they were getting these ideas. Once one grasps that they believe Paul’s calling his listeners and readers “saints” was deliberately intended by the apostle to include even those who are reprobate, much becomes clear.

    Here’s something that fascinates me but I’ve yet to run across much attention being paid to it, which is that the FV effectively creates a third spiritual type of human being. Up till now there have been only two classifications, if you will: sheep and goats…saved and unsaved….regenerate or unregenerate. Once one applies “saint” to those who will be found to be reprobate, however, one loses that either/or distinction. The creation of a type of person who is similar to the traditional “elect” in that Christ is viewed as having died for him, and who possesses the overwhelming majority of salvific graces, yet is also similar to the traditional “non-elect” in that he was not given the gift of perseverance so his eternal destiny is still hell, is absolutely stunning in its implications, ISTM.

    Mind, it’s certainly a possibility, I suppose. It’s not as if the FV is putting the deity of Christ on the table or anything like that. But still, to take the stance (as Wilson has recently) there’s no big change involved is ludicrous.

    If nothing else, the FV takes a tire iron to the knees of limited atonement. The whole point of limited atonement is that Christ died solely for those destined for eternal glory. Once one has Christ dying for people in hell, limited atonement has vanished.

    I, for one, would have scads more respect for those who adhere to the FV if they’d cheerfully and willingly acknowledge it is, in fact, a sea change with enormous implications for traditional Reformed theology. Nothing inherently wrong with that, after all. If errors have been made, they should be corrected. But to insist it’s not really much of a change, and certainly not worth all the fuss and feathers surrounding it, is disingenuous at best, and not too bright at worst.

    If they really don’t grasp the implications, then it’s irresponsible on their part to be promoting it.

    Arguing for the FV is fine; arguing for it while simultaneously insisting it doesn’t qualify as a significant theological change is not. Causing ructions because one believes one has uncovered a more accurate way to read Scripture is fine; taking offense at the ructions resulting from one’s new teaching is not.

    IMO. ;^)

  6. December 29, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    Anne, it is a dynamic shift in viewing Paul’s thoughton justification, that is at the heart of NPP, AAT, Shepardism, FVT, etc. They (I’m generalizing, please no accusations of slander) suggest rather than Paul addressing justification as a forensic act of God on behalf of sinner, he is thinking along the lines of more Hebraic categories (his own background) as to the Gentiles relationship to the covenant. In other words, “what do we do with the Gentiles?” E.P. Sanders called it “covenantal nomism”. And along with James Dunn and more recently N.T. Wright, this shift in how we are to understand Paul’s perspective is a radical change. It basically negates the work of Luther all together in dealing with the issue of justification.

    * understand this only scratches the surface of the debate.

  7. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Anne and David, I think the FV guys are encouraged to think of their views as in line with the Reformed tradition when they read things like the Scots Confession on sacraments:

    And thus we utterly damn the vanity of those that affirm sacraments to be nothing else but naked and bare signs. No, we assuredly believe that by baptism we are engrafted in Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his justice, by the which our sins are covered and remitted; and also, that in the supper, rightly used, Christ Jesus is so joined with us, that he becomes the very nourishment and food of our souls.

    Or one of Calvin’s catechisms for tikes:

    Teacher: My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?

    Child: Yes, my father.

    Teacher: How is this known to you?

    Child: Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    Just a couple of common examples.

  8. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Oh yes, the ‘boundary markers’ business.

    Foolishness, of course. Utter folly. Trust me, I’m all over justification as a forensic act of God like fleas on a monkey (was raised Episcopalian then spent a dozen years as a Roman Catholic…you’ll have to pry the forensic view of justification out of my cold, dead fingers with a crow bar!).

    The FV isn’t exactly the same as the NPP, though, is it?

  9. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    “The theory that Paul meant every word he wrote to be applicable to every person sitting in an assembly in which it’s read is an intriguing theory indeed.”

    This probably isn’t quite the best way to put it. Instead, it’s more a matter of how the Scripture functions as the word of God in the hearing of everyone to whom it is addressed. It’s taking seriously this question: “Is God speaking *truly* when he says these things to an entire congregation?”

  10. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    Todd, you need to define “promise.” Does promise mean that they will have it in future, but don’t now? Or does it mean that they do have it now (in which I would argue that it isn’t really promise). I want your definition, by the way, not someone else’s. The difficulty I see with the word promise is that, as I usually understand the word, promise means something you don’t have yet. I don’t see Paul’s language as meaning “you don’t have this yet.” In fact, he is rather emphatic that we do have this salvation. Help me out here, Todd.

    Anne, I think you have hit the nail solidly on the head. What irritates us TR’s is that the FV will not admit that they have a completely different theology when they so obviously do. It is not a credit to their intelligence (or honesty, perhaps) that they do not admit this. Of course, we PCA’ers brought this upon ourselves to a certain extent by going to a good-faith subscription to the standards, with all the ambiguity that that brings. We should never, ever have done that. It was quite ill-advised.

  11. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    “you’ll have to pry the forensic view of justification out of my cold, dead fingers with a crow bar!”

    Of course, Wright agrees that justification is forensic.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    Todd, the last question in comment 9 shears off the possibility of judgment of charity from the very get-go. Does God have to be speaking to everyone in the congregation in order for it to be true? Why do you assume this?

    Anne, FV and NPP are not precisely the same thing. They have different concerns. However, there is some overlap of the NPP with some FV proponents. For instance, Steve Schlissel’s formulations are very similar to the NPP. Some of the other FV advocates also appreciate NT Wright’s works and think that he is correct on justification. However, to say that they are the same thing is wide of the mark, in my judgment.

  13. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    Todd, I’d sort of hope that creating an entirely new classification of human being would rest on more than a couple of examples.

    What I can’t figure out is, are the (theoretical) saints in hell sheep? Or goats? Or were they goats that became sheep then switched back to being goats? Or goats that became sheep and stayed sheep only were bad sheep that ran away from the Shepherd and so fell off a cliff?

    Except that last won’t work because Christ clearly indicated it’s gonna be sheep to His right and goats to His left. He didn’t give any indication of sheep being sent to the left.

    The “third classification of humans” makes mice feet of an awful lot of Christ’s words in the gospels.

  14. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    But you and I both know, Todd, that NTW doesn’t even remotely mean the same thing by “forensic” as the TR’s mean by it.

  15. December 29, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    …I know too ;)

  16. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    The view that Ephesians 1 and similar passages should be viewed under the category of promise is using the term promise in a way similar to the way it’s used in the Heidelberg Catechism:

    22. Q. What, then, must a Christian believe?

    A. All that is promised us in the gospel, which the articles of our catholic and undoubted Christian faith teach us in a summary.

    According to the Heidelberg, then, the gospel, as it is summarized in the Apostle’s Creed, contains promises to God’s people.

  17. December 29, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    And isn’t this the primary concern for TR’s? FV’ers are “hijacking” Confessional language, import new meaning and repackaging it as “historical Reformed” thought? I have said all along, not here, but to myself, this is a battle for words, for language, he who controls the langauge, wins.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    But Todd, according to that question (and you still didn’t give me your definition, Todd) is it not the case that if we believe in the gospel, then we have what is promised? And if that is the case, then it is no longer promised (except for what will happen to us in the future), but actually given to us. It doesn’t answer the question.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    Absolutely right, David.

  20. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    “The “third classification of humans” makes mice feet of an awful lot of Christ’s words in the gospels.”

    But “third classification” is your term, not theirs. The FV is trying to take history seriously. For a while, the fruitless branches grew on the vine. Suckers? Sure. But they grew on the vine for some amount of time.

  21. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    As parasites. You would agree, would you not? Anne’s point about them being of a different species was very intriguing to me.

  22. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    “if we believe in the gospel, then we have what is promised?”

    Right. This is Barach’s view, I think.

    “And if that is the case, then it is no longer promised (except for what will happen to us in the future), but actually given to us.”

    No. It’s still promised, promised and fulfilled.

  23. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:42 pm

    “As parasites. You would agree, would you not?”

    The term parasites adds something to the parable that is not at all important to Jesus’ point.

  24. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    Todd, if we have what is promised, but others in the church don’t because they do not believe, then we are back to the same problem: Paul is still addressing a mixed body. Are you saying that we can have what is promised without believing? If you are not saying that, and it is also true that some in the visible church do not believe truly and savingly, then you have added precisely nothing to the conversation.

    Au contraire, mon ami. These branches are parasites. Otherwise, why would they be taken out and burned? It is merely another way of saying what the parable says. Anything that is attached to a plant, but does not contribute to its life is a parasite by definition. What Jesus is saying is that a “branch” that does not bear fruit is not a true branch. That is why they will be taken out and burned. So actually, saying that the branches are parasites is getting at the very heart of the parable.

  25. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    “Does God have to be speaking to everyone in the congregation in order for it to be true? Why do you assume this?”

    This is the question, I think. Is it your position that he is only addressing some?

  26. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    I have already answered this, Todd. God speaks to the whole congregation, but not in the same way. To those who believe, He says one thing. To those who do not believe, He says another. You seem to be assuming that God has to be speaking to everyone the same way, or He is not telling the truth. The law does not speak to everyone the same way, does it? To unbelievers, it says “See how far short you fall.” To believers it says, “Come on, you can now do it by the grace of God.” Same words, speaking differently. The same is true of someone speaking to a mixed congregation, as every congregation is.

  27. December 29, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    I think God says the same thing to everyone “Repent and believe”. The question is how it is received. Those whom God has given it to receive by faith, do. While others simply do not. We receive the promises of God by faith. Yet it is only by God’s good pleasure, as to who He sees fit to give this gift too. All other faith, other than saving faith, that faith given by God, receives His Word in unbelief. If God calls you His elect, and you say, “Hey!, no I’m not.”, the problem isn’t with what God says, it is with you. Let God be true and every man a liar.

  28. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    Well, yes, I willingly acknowledge “a third type of human being” is my term, not the FV’s.

    However, it’s surely inarguable? The traditional, orthodox view of humanity is there are two classifications of people….those who are elect unto life, and those who are not. The LORD deals with those two types of people in very different ways, regenerating one group and providing them with saving grace while simply leaving the other group alone (so far as regeneration and salvific grace is concerned).

    The FV has posited a third manner in which the LORD deals with people, i.e. regenerating them and giving them every spiritual grace save one….that of perseverance. (Which right there is a poke in the eye to Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ”; apparently not EVERY spiritual blessing, if some of the poor schnooks got ‘em all except perseverance. Pauline hyperbole?)

    So if the FV hasn’t acknowledged the existence of “a third type of human being”, boo to them.

    BTW, Todd, allow me to take this opportunity to tell you how much I admire your civility and patience while being battered with questions on all sides like this. Just wanted you to know I am aware of it. Bless your heart, Todd. That’s all…just bless your heart. (Can you tell I’m a middleaged Texas lady?) Shades of Tennyson:

    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d…

    (The Charge of the Light Brigade)

  29. December 29, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Well, Anne, he has ran out into the middle of a battlefield hasn’t he?

  30. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    “The FV has posited a third manner in which the LORD deals with people, i.e. regenerating them and giving them every spiritual grace save one….that of perseverance.”

    This way of putting things is a bit out of date. Here’s the most recent answer to this kind of question:

    1. Do you believe that every baptized person possesses “all the eternal blessings of salvation?”

    No. I do believe that baptism delivers over to us all the promises of God in Christ Jesus (for this reason the LC #167 imposes upon us the necessity of “improving our baptism” by “growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament”). In the AAPC revised summary statement on Baptism, we state this:

    “By baptism, one enters into covenantal union with Christ and is offered all his benefits (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:1ff; 2 Cor. 1:20). As Westminster Shorter Catechism #94 states, baptism signifies and seals “our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace.” Baptism in itself does not, however, guarantee final salvation. What is offered in baptism may not be received because of unbelief. Or, it may only be embraced for a season and later rejected (Matt. 13:20-22; Luke 8:13-14). Those who “believe for a while” enjoy blessings and privileges of the covenant only for a time and only in part, since their temporary faith is not true to Christ, as evidenced by its eventual failure and lack of fruit (1 Cor. 10:1ff; Hebrews 6:4-6). By their unbelief they “trample underfoot the Son of God, count the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified an unholy thing, and do despite to the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29) and thus bring greater condemnation upon themselves.”

    To say that the baptized individual is offered all Christ’s benefits is not saying that the baptized is given automatic salvation apart from faith. Rather, these promises are given over to him and are his, but they must be embraced by faith for him to enjoy their benefits in salvation. Charles Hodge in his commentary on Ephesians 6:1 states this view in a similar way. In speaking of the baptism of infants, he states that infants are baptized on the basis of the “faith of their parents” and then goes on to say that “their baptism secures to them all the benefits of the covenant of grace, provided they ratify that covenant by faith.” All the benefits of Christ and the new covenant are presented, delivered over to the baptized individual, but they cannot secure salvation apart from faith.

    Since faith is a “gift of God” this in no way implies that we are saved by works (as if faith is a purely human work) but rather it is to emphasize that we are saved by grace through faith. Baptism, as the Confession teaches, obligates the baptized to believe in Christ. The baptized individual who refuses to believe or who ceases to believe in Jesus will suffer an even greater condemnation than the world. He has “received the grace of God in vain.”

  31. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    True, but he’s standing and taking the fire in a admirable way.

    That’s been me before, having posters coming at me from all directions and while I handled it, I didn’t much enjoy it.

    Mercy Maud, compared to the behavior exhibited by some people on other blogs, boards and forums when in a similar position…! =8^o

  32. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    I don’t know if I buy the distinction between offered and received, but this is the way these guys are talking these days.

    Anne, you and I are neighbors. I live in Arlington but work in Fort Worth.

  33. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    The Hodgge quote there in the middle of all that is interesting to me:

    “Their baptism secures to them all the benefits of the covenant of grace, provided they ratify that covenant by faith.”

    Do you guys buy it?

  34. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    I took it from the AAPC Position Paper on the Covenant, Baptism, etc. at the church’s website:

    8. God has decreed from the foundation of the world all that comes to pass, including who would be saved and lost for all eternity. Included in His decree, however, is that some persons, not destined for final salvation, will be drawn to Christ and His people only for a time. These, for a season, enjoy real blessings, purchased for them by Christ’s cross and applied to them by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament.

    That’s a third type of human being, from the POV of how the LORD deals with people.

    And down in the Endnotes:

    “Second, the illustration immediately following the warning in 6:7-8 indicates these people have received some kind of new life. Otherwise, the plant metaphor makes no sense. The question raised does not concern the nature of the grace received in the past (i.e., real regeneration vs. merely common operations of the Spirit), but whether or not the one who has received this grace will persevere.”

    Now, to be perfectly fair, the above quote is immediately followed by:

    “…the solution to Heb. 6 is not developing two psychologies of conversion, one for the “truly regenerate” and one for the future apostate, and then introspecting to see which kind of grace one has received. This is a task beyond our competence. The solution is to turn from ourselves and to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:1ff).”

    This is buffleheaded, though. Okay, maybe “buffleheaded” is a mite harsh…make it “Lutheran”. I remember debating with a couple of Lutherans years ago, striving to make them see it’s logically impossible to hold to total depravity and unconditional election while simultaneously denying irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. Can’t be done. Finally went to the website of the Missouri Synod and found that they’re well aware the two are incompatible, but they just don’t care. In fact, I’d be willing to go so far as to say they positively revel in clasping such a contradiction to their bosom.

    Okay, that’s Lutheranism for you. Reformed people, though, aren’t historically given to making happy faces at logical impossibilities.

    It’s nonsense to say the FV’s intention isn’t “developing two psychologies of conversion” since that is what it’s busily doing, for pity’s sake.

    Saying something doesn’t make it so, y’know.

  35. December 29, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    I disagree with Lane’s wording in #26, but not in his conclusion. God speaks in the same manner to all people. He holds everyone to the same standards. God commands men everyone to repent and believe, and even to exercise faith. This is His divine perogative. It is our responsiblity to respond. When Paul addresses the Church in Eph. as he does, what he says is true, and for those who have been given the faith to believe, they recieve it as such. So it isn’t so much that God is speaking differently to different people, as it is different people receive the Word of God diferently depending on whether they have been given the faith to receive the truth of God as interpreted by His Spirit for what it really is.

  36. December 29, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    “Their baptism secures to them all the benefits of the covenant of grace, provided they ratify that covenant by faith.”

    Do you guys buy it?

    ~ Yes. It must be received by faith to have value.

  37. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    Anne, doesn’t the WCF concept of “common operations of the Spirit” creates your “third category”?

    1. God works in the elect
    2. God works in a non-saving way in non-elect covenant members
    3. God doesn’t work at all in the rest

  38. Jon said,

    December 29, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    Sorry to go back, but this is in reference to #7. Todd, what about what the Scottish Confession states immediately preceding your quote:

    BOQ [W]e acknowledge and confess that we now, in the time of the evangel, have two sacraments only, instituted by the Lord Jesus, and commanded to be used of all those that will be reputed members of his body: to wit, baptism and the supper, or table of the Lord Jesus, called the communion of his body and blood. And these sacraments (as well of the Old as of the New Testament) were instituted of God, not only to make a visible difference betwixt his people, and those that were without his league; but also to exercise the faith of his children and, by participation of the same sacraments, to seal in their hearts the assurance of his promise, and of that most blessed conjunction, union, and society, which the elect have with their head, Christ Jesus. EOQ

    Do all those that are baptized receive the benefits listed? Those benefits would seem to qualify the section you quoted.

  39. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 2:08 pm

    “Do all those that are baptized receive the benefits listed?”

    Of course not. Ratified by faith, after all. But how many TRs would be comfortable saying what Knox says, even about the eternally elect?

    “No, we assuredly believe that by baptism we are engrafted in Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his justice, by the which our sins are covered and remitted.”

  40. Jon said,

    December 29, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    My point was that your quote was sufficiently qualified. Does Knox believe that everyone who is baptized will be a beneficiary of all of the blessings in Christ or is his statement in some way qualified as well?

  41. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    Todd asked: “doesn’t the WCF concept of “common operations of the Spirit” creates your “third category”?

    1. God works in the elect
    2. God works in a non-saving way in non-elect covenant members
    3. God doesn’t work at all in the rest”

    Is this the bit you’re paraphrasing: “Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved.”

    The whole point of “common operations of the Spirit”, surely, is that they are common? IOW, given to everyone to a greater or lesser degree. The innate sinfulness of people is so deep and heinous it requires the common operations of the Spirit to allow the planet to be habitable, else we’d have killed each other off ages ago.

    Reading Chapter 10, I’m not seeing where the framers of the WCF were asserting the baptized-but-non-elect people receive any sort of saving faith.

  42. markhorne said,

    December 29, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    No, common can mean something that can be share between an elect and non-elect person.

    Hawaii is common in this way (assuming anyone there is, has been, or will be regenerate). It is not common to all.

    John Murray has a fantastic essay on Common Grace that parses all this rather well and, in my opinion, is foundational for this discussion.

    In the context of the WCF the issue is not everyone but rather those who have responded to the Gospel Call but not savingly. Both elect and nonelect respond but the elect have something more that permits them to and guarantees they will persevere.

  43. December 29, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    The blessings of Christ are always either received by faith or not. This why baptism, in and of itself, isn’t efficacious. The promises conveyed by baptism are only effectual if and/or when received by faith. Non-elect covenant members can’t recieve the blessing and benefits of Christ, by baptism or otherwise, because those the benefits of Christ are reserved for whom God has called (the elect) and granted the faith to receive them. I don’t think TR’s would have a problem with this, but I think FV’s would.

  44. December 29, 2006 at 2:53 pm

    AND since our faith isn’t something that can be checked at the door, we acknowledge a visible/invisible distinction realizing some in the church do actually possess saving faith, while others merely profess it.

  45. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:02 pm

    “I don’t think TR’s would have a problem with this, but I think FV’s would.”

    Many claim that Paul isn’t talking about the sign itself when he sounds most like Knox, in Galatians 3:27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

    Knox is obviously talking about the sign: “We assuredly believe that by baptism we are engrafted in Christ Jesus.”

  46. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Anne, you’re mixing the categories of common operations of the Spirit and common grace. The “common operations of the Spirit” is the way the WCF describes how God works among the non elect in the visible church.

    It seems like three categories are inevitable, Anne.

    1. Members of the invisible church
    2. Nonelect members of the visible church
    3. Nonelect nonmembers of the visible church

    I don’t think Reformed theology has ever tried to make it simpler or neater than that.

  47. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:06 pm

    Yes, Mark, “common” CAN mean that but just because it CAN mean that doesn’t mean it DOES mean that.

    If you follow that.

    Point being, God “works” in ALL of us, elect and reprobate alike, which is all that keeps the planet habitable.

    But He saves His work of election, of saving grace, for those He predestined for glory.

  48. December 29, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    Todd, do you belive the blessings of Christ must be recieved by saving faith?

    Assuming your going to answer yes…

    If saving perservering faith is the gift of God then what is the difficulty in saying only those whom God has chosen to receive the faith have the ability to receive the blessing (i.e. justification, sanctification, pereseverance, etc.)?

  49. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    Oh well, perhaps you’re right, Todd.

    Not being Presbyterian I’m not nearly as savvy on the WCF as you, obviously.

    This is the nice thing – forgive me, gentlemen – about not being Presbyterian…I’m free to say the WCF is wrong in spots.

    If it’s saying the LORD distributes any sort of saving grace to the reprobate, it’s wrong.

  50. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    However, Todd, you are not making allowances for the sacramental union between the sign and the thing signified, whereby, as the WCF says, what properly belongs to one is sometimes attributed to the other. This is something that many FV guys miss, I deem.

  51. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    I have no problem with any of that, David. Except the “you’re” thing again.

  52. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    “If it’s saying the LORD distributes any sort of saving grace to the reprobate, it’s wrong.”

    Of course it’s not speaking of saving grace.

    Lane, do you believe that Knox is speaking of the sign in a straightforward way?

  53. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    I think Knox’s whole point is the sacramental union. We cannot say either that the sign and thing signified are the same thing, nor can we say that they are separate entities. Knox denies the latter, but stops short of affirming the former. That’s what the qualifications Jon mentioned are all about. As such, I don’t have a problem with Knox. What I do have a problem with is people saying (as Wilkins does) that if one is baptized, then one is in union with Christ such that one has all spiritual blessings in Christ, with the possible exception of perseverance. That is unbelievably problematic.

  54. December 29, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    Todd, then would you not agree there are those within the visible church who don’t not possess saving faith and therefore in no way participate in the benefits enjoined to it?

  55. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:18 pm

    But to speak of grace being “distributed” is a bit Roman Catholic.

  56. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    “What I do have a problem with is people saying (as Wilkins does) that if one is baptized, then one is in union with Christ such that one has all spiritual blessings in Christ, with the possible exception of perseverance.”

    Hmmm.

    “1. Do you believe that every baptized person possesses “all the eternal blessings of salvation?”

    No. I do believe that baptism delivers over to us all the promises of God in Christ Jesus, etc.”

  57. December 29, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    “What I do have a problem with is people saying (as Wilkins does) that if one is baptized, then one is in union with Christ such that one has all spiritual blessings in Christ,…”

    Lane, Todd just acknowledged this is not the case…

    David: “If saving perservering faith is the gift of God then what is the difficulty in saying only those whom God has chosen to receive the faith have the ability to receive the blessing (i.e. justification, sanctification, pereseverance, etc.)?”

    Todd: “I have no problem with any of that, David”

  58. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    “Todd, then would you not agree there are those within the visible church who don’t not possess saving faith and therefore in no way participate in the benefits enjoined to it?”

    The “in no way” is an attempt to make things a lot simpler than either the Bible or Reformed theology makes it. The COMMON operations of the Spirit, etc.

  59. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    David, I said that Wilkins said that, not Todd. I still don’t know what Todd believes. He uses this ambiguous term “promises” all the time. Baptism delivers to us the promises? That could mean anything, just about. It is the farthest thing from precise. Does deliver the promises mean that we actually get what is promised or not? To my mind the language allows for either one. I am not willing to sit on that fence.

  60. December 29, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    Todd, you just admitted that it takes faith, saving faith, to make the benefits promised in baptism and realized in Christ efficacious. Are you suggesting “saving faith” is granted to the reprobate?

  61. December 29, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    Or to ask it another way….

    Todd, what other means is there other than persevering, saving, and efficacious faith that grants people access to the blessings and benefits of Christ?

  62. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:34 pm

    “Are you suggesting “saving faith” is granted to the reprobate?”

    Of course not. But even non-elect members of the visible church are members of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God. They participate in the benefits of this membership, which is why I’m not comfortable with the more simplistic way you put it:

    “Todd, then would you not agree there are those within the visible church who don’t not possess saving faith and therefore in no way participate in the benefits enjoined to it?”

    But I see now that we may have a grammatical ambiguity here, through no fault of your own. “the benefits enjoined to it” — enjoined to saving faith or enjoined to the visible church? I bet you meant the former, where my desire is to emphasize the latter.

    Membership in the visible church is membership in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God. It is to enjoy the operations of the Spirit.

  63. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    You mean “common operations,” right Todd?

  64. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    “Todd, what other means is there other than persevering, saving, and efficacious faith that grants people access to the blessings and benefits of Christ?”

    At least some of “the blessings and benefits of Christ” are enjoyed by all the members of his kingdom. You’ll have to be morespecific to rule out the non-elect covenant member.

  65. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    Of course, common. But they are still the work of the Spirit.

  66. December 29, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    Todd, my apologies. My last question is better worded and more to the point. Would you respond to it?

  67. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:41 pm

    The reason I ask you to qualify, Todd, is that I see constantly this tendency to blur the distinctions between the elect in the visible church and the non-elect in the visible church. I see much more effort being put into explaining what is in common than in what is distinct. In that effort, key definitions and distinctions are blurred. This is the main concern that TR’s have with the FV.

  68. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    Todd, I’m deleting number 68, as it is identical with 64.

  69. December 29, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    “At least some of “the blessings and benefits of Christ” are enjoyed by all the members of his kingdom. You’ll have to be morespecific to rule out the non-elect covenant member.”

    Todd, What benefits are enjoyed by non-elect covernant members? And how are they received if not by faith? I thought sola fide, assuming you affirm this, means they are recieved by faith alone?

  70. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    “What benefits are enjoyed by non-elect covernant members?”

    The common operations of the Spirit.

  71. December 29, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    Well, can’t we all agree on this?

  72. December 29, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    The special operations of the Spirit, including all the components of the ordo salutis, are clearly excluded from the common operations. The benefits of Christ, fufillment of the promises given in the sacraments, etc. are reserved for the elect and not enjoyed by the non-elect. They only the common operations of the Spirit where the elect of God enjoy both.

  73. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    I hope so, unless Anne still wants out.

    Some specific common operations: enlightening, a taste of the heavenly gift, a share in the Holy Spirit, a taste of the goodness of the word of God, a taste of the powers of the age to come.

  74. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    What is excluded from the common operations: regeneration, adoption, justification, sanctification, glorification, the things that Wilkins ascribes to the baptized in Federal Vision, pg. 58-59.

  75. December 29, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    I tend to agree that those are common operations. Yet I also believe the common blessings received by the reprobate are ultimately curses, not blessings. For in the end, they have rejected more light (more of the Spirit) than there heathen counterpart. So in the end, common blessing turns out to have only been special cursing. If you follow me. A sort of epistemelogical self-conscienciousness (or awarenes) that both the elect and non-elect experience.

  76. December 29, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Right Lane….the attributes and application of the ordo salutis is not a common operation.

  77. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Of course, David, you must be referring to post 73, not post 74. I agree with you completely here.

  78. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    But even Lane has admitted, however reluctantly, that there is such thing as “covenantal” or “common” union with Christ.

  79. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Yes, Todd. But to say that in this climate needs such heavy qualifications: *none* of the ordo salutis benefits are conveyed in that union, which, in the case of unbelievers, is a parasitic union of a completely different cast than the elect enjoy. I am glad to see that you don’t deny that Wilkins claims too much for this union on Federal Vision, pp. 58-59.

  80. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:14 pm

    Covenantal union, but no covenantal sanctification?

    “a parasitic union of a completely different cast than the elect enjoy.”

    But is it a union that brings no benefits whatsoever, even temporary ones?

  81. December 29, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Lane #77 confused me. My #76 is referring to your #74. You agree w/ my #75 referring to Todd’s #73?

  82. December 29, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    Todd, for #80 I’d reference my #75 as well.

  83. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    I like how we’ve all written so much, we can begin to use numbers instead of words.

  84. December 29, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    I agree w/ #83. :)

  85. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    I agree with 75, except for the “only” in this sentence: “So in the end, common blessing turns out to have only been special cursing.” That’s a hyper-Calvinist view, I believe. It’s still important to call it grace.

    Have you read Murray on common grace, David?

  86. December 29, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    “But is it a union that brings no benefits whatsoever, even temporary ones?’

    ~ I would say there are temporal benefits for reprobates being in the Church. There is accountability for sin, exposure to the Law, you might even say restriant from sin provided by the Church. Yet enjoying temporary benefit is in no suggests they have access to the same benefits the elect do.

  87. December 29, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    Yes. I affirm common grace, in a sense. Have you read North on it? I tend to align with him.

  88. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    Yes, David, on 81. Regarding 85, it does turn out in the end (in the judgment) to have been a curse. There are certainly benefits. Not sure why you would have though otherwise, Todd. They hear the Word, they receive fellowship with other believers, and receive proper church discipline (hopefully). I will post on Heb 10:29 shortly.

  89. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:33 pm

    “They hear the Word, they receive fellowship with other believers, and receive proper church discipline (hopefully).”

    These are benefits from being in the building on Sundays. I suspect that covenantal/common union with Christ is gonna “bring in” more than that.

    David: “Yet enjoying temporary benefit is in no suggests they have access to the same benefits the elect do.”

    No access? Sounding hyper again, I think. Access is not the issue, I think.

    I’ve read North, and I remember liking it a bit. Have you read Murray? I’m gonna pull myself away from the screen and read it through now. Vol. 2, p. 93.

  90. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    Yo, Todd!

    Anne’s been at the grocery store, which is why y’all got to converse unmolested by me. ;^)

    I very much appreciate your elucidating the “common operations of the Spirit” before I could ask, for I was completely baffled as to what the deuce they could possibly be.

    “Some specific common operations: enlightening, a taste of the heavenly gift, a share in the Holy Spirit, a taste of the goodness of the word of God, a taste of the powers of the age to come.”

    Truth be told, I tend to waffle worthy of Eggos about this sort of thing (except for the “share in the Holy Spirit”, which I firmly reject….the reprobate have no share in the Holy Spirit). The LORD being sovereign over all His creation, if someone is self-deceived as to their faith, that self-deception is ultimately traceable back to Him, as the first cause of everything.

    OTOH, the idea of His enlightening someone just so they will eventually fall farther and harder doesn’t seem to jibe with the description of Him as compassionate, not wanting any to be lost, no shadow or turning, etc. It’s one thing to give all spiritual blessings to His elect while passing over everyone else; it’s something else again to give just enough spiritual blessings to someone so they reasonably believe their faith is valid, only to withhold the blessing that nails it down.

    It strikes me as rather a cat-playing-with-a-mouse-before-killing-it type of behavior, yet the LORD is presumably straightforward, does not lie, and is mighty to save and wants to save. How giving someone just enough spiritual blessing to hang themselves squares with straightforward, etc. beats me. Sovereignly placing people where they hear the Word preached, sitting in the Body by attending church and so on, okay. That’s giving them every opportunity to turn to Him in faith.

    But to actually work in them as you described without any intention of saving them?

    That seems cold, frankly.

  91. December 29, 2006 at 4:35 pm

    Well, I think I’m going to bow out until Lane posts again or something substantive arises.

  92. December 29, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    Todd: “No access? Sounding hyper again, I think. Access is not the issue, I think.”

    David: Access is the issue. Faith grants access to the full benefits of Christ apart from the common operations of the Spirit. There would be no need to differentiate between “common” operations and other (uncommon?)operations of the Spirit if through common operations we have access to the same things. There’s nothing hyper about that. BBL

  93. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Just out of curiosity, Anne, how do you interpret Heb 6?

  94. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    “Anne’s been at the grocery store,”

    Central Market?

  95. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    Anne, the language I used to list out some common operations is all from Hebrews 6:

    4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

    Some who have shared in the Holy Spirit are nevertheless in danger of falling away. Beware of trying to make things tidier than the Bible does.

  96. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    Can’t this share in the Holy Spirit be a benefit of their common union with Christ? Indeed, where else could it come from?

  97. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    I’m assuming you’re inquiring about verses 4-6?

    4 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
    5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
    6 and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

    The author of Hebrews was writing, naturally enough, to Jewish believers. At the time, to be a Jewish follower of Christ exacted a heavy penalty indeed. “Is this worth it?” was rippling through the assembly as those who had once claimed Christ wound up falling away and rejecting Him.

    Dang. I wish I could find the notes I took in the class on Hebrews from several years ago, but I lent them to one of my sons and can’t find them now. The instructor used the Greek, often hearkening back to the gospels, to show how “enlightened” and the rest didn’t mean an in-working of the Holy Spirit but were strictly temporal in nature. Everything listed, though, was obtainable by being present and active in a church…hearing the Word opened and explained, taking communion with the Body, and so on.

    Having had the blessing of sitting in the Body, tasting the Word, etc. it was to their increased condemnation when they publicly rejected Christ (“crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame”).

    It’s telling that verses 1-3 use the second person plurals of “we” and “us” while verses 4-6 switch to the third personal plurals of “those” and “them”, returning to “we” and “you” in verse 9.

    The people of whom the author was speaking in 4-6 were clearly not expected by him to be sitting in the assembly. He was separating those who had fallen away from those who were still faithful. He was issuing a stern warning, combined with thoughtful encouragement, to keep them on the narrow path, regardless of the viciously high, earthly price they were paying.

    Wish I could locate those notes! It was a really stellar class, especially as Hebrews trips up so many others who misread it, thinking it says the vv. 4-6 people were true believers who lost their faith.

  98. December 29, 2006 at 5:15 pm

    “Beware of trying to make things tidier than the Bible does.”

    ~ Beware of assuming to much of this passage when considering the analogy of faith.

    “Can’t this share in the Holy Spirit be a benefit of their common union with Christ? Indeed, where else could it come from?”

    ~ No. This share of the Holy Spirit comes from common operations of the Spirit which take place independent of union with Christ.

  99. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    “This share of the Holy Spirit comes from common operations of the Spirit which take place independent of union with Christ.”

    Do you deny any kind of common union with Christ, David?

  100. December 29, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    For the non-elect?

    ~ No I don’t deny any type of union. And I am a lot more willing to say what that union doesn’t include (regeneration, faith, justifiaction, sanctification, etc.) that what it exactly does. They are members of the covenant, as were the Pharisees. And like the Pharisees, non-elect members of the covenant may seem clean ans white-washed on the outside, yet they are full, FULL of dead men’s bones.

    Todd, do you believe non-elect covenant members can do good works?

  101. greenbaggins said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Certainly, Heb 6 describes people who have never come to true faith. They ahve none of the ordo salutis benefits. The reason I was asking is that it seems that they are, in some heavily qualified way, part of the covenant. The slippage between covenant and election seems to be the explanation of Heb 6, to my mind, at least.

    This brings up a question upon which I have not settled my mind: with whom is the covenant of grace made? Some in the Reformed camp (notably Witsius and Turretin) say that the covenant can only properly be said to be made with the elect. Others (such as Robertson and Gaffin) say that the Covenant is not equal to the elect, but is broader than the elect. I do not know which view I take. In either case, there has to be a strict deliniation between the elect and the non-elect. However, this passage seems difficult for the former view. It seems to me to work better if the covenant is defined in somewhat broader terms than just with the elect.

  102. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    Totally off topic….

    Todd! Your family’s aware of the tornado heading up toward Arlington, right???

    Where do you work? Are you monitoring the weather?

    Anxiously…

  103. December 29, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    I have believed for a long time the COG includes more than the elect. Not all of Israel is Israel. I believe in an objective covenant. Baptism is the sign of entrance into the COG. And so, to my way of thinking, when we speak of those who fall away (as in Heb. 6), we’re talking about falling out of covenant of God (covenant-breakers), not out of union w/ Christ. For there are those in covenant with God, who are not in union with Christ. And the ultimate difference between a covenant keeper (the elect) and a covenant-breaker (an apostate) is faith. Saving faith is the key to unlock God’s gift of union with Christ and the blessings and benefits that entails.

  104. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Very well put, David. You explained it much better (which isn’t at all surprising).

  105. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    Just came back upstairs from hiding from the storm with my kids for half an hour or so. Very exciting.

  106. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 5:57 pm

    David, I’m still not clear. Are you willing to say that even non-elect covenant members experience a certain kind of (covenantal/common) union with Christ?

  107. December 29, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    My 103 might answer this, but I’d say non-elect covenant members experience non-salvific union with God, apart from the redemptive aspects of the person and work of Christ. And again it is faith which applies the work of Christ to a person. Non-elect covenant members lack this essential element of saving faith.

  108. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    “I’d say non-elect covenant members experience non-salvific union with God”

    Are you hesitating to say union with Christ, or was that just a slip?

  109. December 29, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    I’d hesitate, b/c many people would not understand I mean to say union w/ Christ apart from the redemptive aspects of His person and work. It’s simpler to just say God.

  110. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    But what passages would you be thinking of when you say that “non-elect covenant members experience non-salvific union with God”?

  111. December 29, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    Heb. 6

  112. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    Union with God in Heb. 6?

  113. December 29, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    John 15 / Romans 10 &11. All the OT.

  114. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    Why use that phrase?

  115. December 29, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    By virture of the covenant, yes.

  116. December 29, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    It expressed more clearly elsewhere, but I’d include it, yes.

  117. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Surely union with Christ is a real biblical concept. Union with God seems made up.

  118. December 29, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    If the union w/ God was salvific, we couldn’t call them non-elect could we?

  119. December 29, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    God is the God of the covenant is He not? Is the covenant w/ Christ alone or does it not include all persons of the Trinity?

  120. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 6:16 pm

    Can you show me even one passage that speaks of union with God, rather than union with Christ in particular?

  121. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 6:16 pm

    So your union with God implies union with Christ?

  122. December 29, 2006 at 6:16 pm

    I’m comfortable w/ union w/ Christ though, as long as it’s qualified.

  123. December 29, 2006 at 6:17 pm

    “I will be your God, you will be my people” ~ wherever that is.

  124. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    OK. A qualified union with Christ for the non-elect covenant member. And a share in the Holy Spirit, too. What is the relationship between these two temporary blessings?

  125. December 29, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    Neither is received by saving faith.

  126. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    I agree. But how are the two blessings related to one another?

  127. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 7:52 pm

    I’m getting muddled, trying to envision what a non-saving union with Christ would look like, apart from being temporal. Being “united” to Christ – in a manner of speaking – due to being united to the earthly church, I can see. That’s scriptural, surely. Falling away from the church can be legitimately spoken of as falling away from Christ.

    But otherwise….?

    Before anyone can turn to Christ in faith, they must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Are we all on the same page here?

    I can’t tell if y’all have someone unregenerated turning to Christ or not. I can’t think that’s possible, though, since we’re all born as enemies of Christ, dead in our sins. Dead people can’t turn worth diddly-squat. Before any turning can occur, the spiritually dead must be made spiritually alive. (“All have turned aside , together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” Romans 3:12)

    But how does someone who has NOT turned to Christ have any sort of spiritual union with Him of any form or fashion? A temporal union, fine, but a spiritual union?

    You’ve either got an enemy of Christ, still dead in his sins, somehow showing an interest in Him…and not only that, but being effectively turned away by Christ by saving grace is withheld from him even though he wants it.

    Boy, there’s a concept for you.

    Or you’ve got the Holy Spirit working in the spiritually dead guy, so not only the SDG but those around him think he’s been washed with the Spirit, only the Spirit never does so and at some point hangs it up and leaves.

    The traditional belief has been a person’s regenerated, he turns to Christ, and he is forever after kept safe for Christ loses none that are His (“no one will snatch them out of My hand” John 10:28).

    I’d rather thought we’re united to Christ when He has us safe in His hand.

  128. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 8:11 pm

    Anne,

    In John 15, Jesus speaks of some who are united to him (commonly!) being removed. The image is almost the same in Romans 11.

    There is no real conflict with the perseverance and security teaching in John 6 and John 10. How can there be? Jesus speaks clearly about both covenant and election, visible and invisible.

    Do you see in Hebrews 6 that a “share of the Spirit” is no automatic guarantee of eternal salvation? You certainly don’t have to like the phrase “common operations of the Spirit,” but Hebrews 6 is different.

  129. December 29, 2006 at 8:52 pm

    “But how are the two blessings related to one another?”

    ~ they’re both common operations of the Spirit.

  130. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 9:01 pm

    Going back through the NT and reading all the verses addressing the Holy Spirit, there is no suggestion whatsoever of any half-way attachment to Him. None. It’s invariably “filled with the Holy Spirit.”

    ISTM there’s a possible hint in an oft-overlooked epistle, Jude: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit…”

    I can see how someone who has been partaking in the assembly, surrounded by saints “praying in the Holy Spirit”, could be said to have “partaken of/shared in the Holy Spirit.” If prayer, etc. occurred through the movement of the Holy Spirit, and one is present and taking part in it…praying along with everyone else…surely that could be described as “sharing in the Holy Spirit.”

    “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened (heard the gospel clearly proclaimed), who have tasted the heavenly gift (taken the Lord’s Supper), and have shared in the Holy Spirit (prayed and fellowshipped with the assembled saints).” (ESV)

    There is nothing in Scripture, however, to lead one to believe being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is anything but an all-or-nothing affair: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

  131. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened (heard the gospel clearly proclaimed), who have tasted the heavenly gift (taken the Lord’s Supper), and have shared in the Holy Spirit (prayed and fellowshipped with the assembled saints).”

    But in what sense would the “falling away” of the person you have described be a big deal? In what sense would it be a “falling away” at all? You’ve described a Sunday visitor. Why would it be “impossible to restore” someone like this?

    I don’t think we should give in to the temptation to try to make the Hebrews 6 blessings *too* common. Our theology has to be shaped by the Bible, instead of the other way around.

  132. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    “There is nothing in Scripture, however, to lead one to believe being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is anything but an all-or-nothing affair.”

    1 Samuel 16:14?

  133. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    Not a Sunday visitor at all, Todd. Instead, someone who had claimed Christ, claimed the blessings, was publicly identified with Him, then dropped Christ like a hot rock.

    And what on earth has 1 Samuel 16:14 have to do with the case? There IS a difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, and one of the most distinctive differences is how the Holy Spirit comes into a regenerated person and stays.

    “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

    “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19)

    “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” (2 Tim. 1:14)

    One’s dwelling is commonly regarded as one’s permanent residence, rather than a weekend cabin by the lake.

    However, it is illuminating that apparently you don’t recognize a significant difference between the actions of the Holy Spirit under the Old Covenant and His actions under the New Covenant; it explains quite a lot, in fact. It cannot be denied were I to believe as you presumably do, i.e. the Holy Spirit hops in and out of people now the same way He did in the OT, I’d probably interpret Hebrews 6 the way you interpret it.

    No wonder we’re not communicating terribly well. We’ve got some real foundational differences going on here.

    Meaning, we’re most likely spinning our wheels. ;^)

  134. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 10:56 pm

    “However, it is illuminating that apparently you don’t recognize a significant difference between the actions of the Holy Spirit under the Old Covenant and His actions under the New Covenant.”

    I’m sure I haven’t shared enough of what I believe about this subject for you to draw any realistic conclusions.

    I only named one verse (with a question mark!) as a possible counter example to your global claim: “There is *nothing* *in Scripture,* however, to lead one to believe being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is anything but an all-or-nothing affair.”

  135. Anne Ivy said,

    December 29, 2006 at 11:15 pm

    Point is, though, either one believes there is a stark difference between the way the Holy Spirit acts in the post-resurrection era and the pre-resurrection era, or one does not.

    To be fair, however, I was sloppy in what I wrote; I should have specified “post-resurrection” rather than just saying “Scripture.”

    You got me there.

  136. Todd said,

    December 29, 2006 at 11:47 pm

    Any regeneration in the old covenant, Anne?

  137. Anne Ivy said,

    December 30, 2006 at 12:48 am

    Of course, but the details regarding it are not limned as clearly as they are in the New Testament.

    Which is not surprising, seeing as how the Old Covenant was fulfilled in the New Covenant. The OC was a, what’s the word, precusor of the NC….? Is that the word I’m looking for?

    The New Covenant is not merely Business As Usual, or Same Ol’, Same Ol’. Things happened. Things changed.

  138. December 30, 2006 at 3:00 am

    I’ve been reading through these posts, and #57 is the most telling one for me:

    [GB said]
    “What I do have a problem with is people saying (as Wilkins does) that if one is baptized, then one is in union with Christ such that one has all spiritual blessings in Christ, with the possible exception of perseverance.”
    {Todd said]
    Hmmm.

    I say: think a little bit harder before you rush in front of Wilkins’ firing squad, eh?

    [GB said]
    “1. Do you believe that every baptized person possesses “all the eternal blessings of salvation?”

    [Todd said]
    No. I do believe that baptism delivers over to us all the promises of God in Christ Jesus, etc.”

    I say: more trying-to-fit-round-peg-into-square-hold sophistry. What does this “delivering…promises” business actually mean?

  139. Todd said,

    December 30, 2006 at 8:48 am

    As I’ve said before, I’m stll undecided whether I believe the “delivering promises” business is meaningful or not. I’m just eager for the critics to critique the latest version of things, rather than continue to beat an already-retracted dead horse.

    Is the Hodge quotation also sophistry, David? “Their baptism secures to them all the benefits of the covenant of grace, provided they ratify that covenant by faith.”

  140. Todd said,

    December 30, 2006 at 8:58 am

    138 doesn’t have anough “quotation levels.” Todd didn’t say. Wilkins did. It’s all from the written exam.

  141. greenbaggins said,

    December 30, 2006 at 9:28 am

    Todd, it seems quite clear to me that Hodge qualifies his statement by the faith clause. All the benefits of the covenant of grace do *not* come to the person, unless that person has faith. What is this quote intended to prove in your system?

  142. Todd said,

    December 30, 2006 at 9:53 am

    But it is baptism itself that secures those benefits to the one baptized. These benefits are forfeited if the covenant is not ratified by faith. Hodge is speaking of baptismal efficacy in a way that would be criticized if it came from another source.

    I’m not speaking about “my system.” Wilkins, however, believes that Hodge’s phraseology reflects his own view. Secured, ratified; delivers, receives. If you don’t buy it, no problem.

  143. greenbaggins said,

    December 30, 2006 at 10:08 am

    The faith clause indicates rather clearly, Todd, that the baptismal efficacy is nothing without faith. That is a position with which I agree. It’s divorcing faith from baptism, and then claiming efficacy for baptism without faith that I cannot accept.

  144. Todd said,

    December 30, 2006 at 10:31 am

    Me too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 335 other followers

%d bloggers like this: