Is Christianity a False Religion?

Everyone is talking about the documentary coming out on finding the supposed tomb of Jesus and His family. James Cameron, the director of Titanic, is doing this in conjunction with a Jew. It really is amazing how some people will believe anything that is controversial. I agree with Kostenberger that the almighty dollar is what is really at the bottom of this. And, unfortunately, Cameron will succeed in that endeavor, even if he does not eradicate Christianity from viability. Kostenberger has some great arguments of his own against the ludicrous arguments of the documentary, and directs us to some very high-profile refutations here, and here.


As this blog post interchange sadly indicates, some Arminians think that if you hold to Limited Atonement, you are going to hell, and you are badly misleading the people of God. Never mind that one must believe in Jesus Christ: that’s completely peripheral, according to some. Christ becomes decentralized in an all-out effort to bash the Calvinists. Dave Hunt does the same thing, as Dr. White points out so forcefully.

Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore

I wish to put in a plug for my favorite bookstore: Westminster Seminary Bookstore. For everything they have in stock, they will beat any normal (e.g.,, cumberland valley) internet price by one percent. So, I highly recommend them to your attention.

Index to the review of By Faith Alone

Here are all the parts of the review, listed here for convenience:

part 1 (Forword by David Wells), part 2 (Introduction by Guy Waters), part 3 (Cornelis Venema on NTW), part 4 (T. David Gordon on NTW), part 5 (Richard Phillips on imputed righteousness), part 6 (FitzSimons Allison on imputation), part 7 (T. David Gordon on FV), part 8 (David VanDrunen on the active obedience of Christ), part 9 (Fowler White and Cal Beisner on the covenants), part 10 (John Bolt on the CoW), part 11 (Gary Johnson on evangelicalism and Mohler’s afterword on audience)

By Faith Alone, part 11

This is an article by Gary Johnson, entitled, “The Reformation, Today’s Evangelicals, and Mormons,” subtitled, “What next?”

The article concerns itself with the definition of the category “evangelicals.” He starts off by asking, “What is an evangelical?” (pg. 191). The thrust of the article is (to my mind, anyway) a sort of ultimatum: either evangelicals get back to doctrinal orthodoxy (back to fundamentals, if you will), or else Reformed Christendom should perhaps escape from under the umbrella of “evangelicalism.”

Johnson gives several examples of how problematic and meaningless the term “evangelical” has become in recent years. Clark Pinnock describes evangelicalism as to be defined in “more sociologically than precisely theologically” terms (quoted, pg. 192). As evidence of the truth of this definition, penal substitution, a very theological concept which used to unite evangelicals, “is now openly disdained and considered detrimental by a growing number of today’s evangelicals” (pg. 192).

Johnson then critiques Bebbington’s and Collins’s definitions of evangelicalism as in need of revision. Their four sine qua non doctrines of evangelicalism are the normativity of Scripture, conversion, atonement, and evangelism (pg. 193). However, what makes this definition poor in today’s world are some other examples, such as Keith Fournier, who calls himself an evangelical Roman Catholic, and does not regard himself as a living contradiction (pp. 193-194). However, Fournier’s book is a rather unashamed defense of the doctrines of Rome (pg. 194). Another example which is briefly (but adequately) addressed is the Promise Keepers, who have abandoned doctrine as the definition of evangelicalism.

The next section discusses is some detail the issue of Robert L. Millet, a Mormon, who received the accolade of “evangelical” from Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary. Mouw believes that Millet is a Christian: “Bob Millet is in fact trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for his salvation” (quoted on page 196). Johnson then destroys Mouw’s position by examining the doctrine of Millet’s book, which has nothing to do with traditionally Protestant doctrines, from the Trinity (pp. 196-197), Christ’s person and work (pp. 197-199), salvation (pg. 198-199), and the fall (ibid). The doctrine of Scripture follows on pp. 199-202). Then Johnson explodes Millet’s claim that David Wells and Haddon Robinson endorsed his Christianity, by noting that Wells and Robinson were not satisfied by Millet’s (correct) answer to the salvation question.

The logical conclusion of the direction evangelicalism is taking is that Islam and other religions cannot really be excluded from its umbrella. This is a very incisive critique of modern evangelicalism. At first, after reading the article, I was puzzled as to how it fit into the book. Then I realized that NPP and FV are not the only targets of the book. Sola Fide is a doctrine, an unashamedly Protestant and (used to be) evangelical doctrine. All of this rejection of doctrine means that the Reformation will be swallowed up if we do not stand for its fundamental truths. I believe that this is the clarion call of the book (although it would not have been detrimental to the book had this been spelled out a bit more explicitly: it’s there, but the reader has to take the final logical step).

The afterword is by Al Mohler. He warns us against the dangers of claiming that contemporary thought is better over continuous thought withthe Reformation truth (pg. 206). He argues that “those arguing for the New Perspective have not escaped the bonds of tradition; they have simply come out on the wrong side” (ibid). The doctrine of imputation stands at the heart of the Protestant doctrine of salvation (ibid). Therefore, any attempts to undermine it will attempt to undermine Christianity itself.

He then argues that what we have today is a change in the audience. He says that “many of today’s evangelicals new demand a new drama, a new theology. To some extent, this is a reaction to a failure in evangelical demonstration. In other cases, it appears that a sense of theological fatigue has set in, prompting some to look for theological formulations that demand a lower level of defense in light of current controversies. Whatever the case, a new audience demands a different drama” (pg. 207). This is a call to be warned against the new theology, not to embrace it. “Otherwise, nothing genuinely evangelical will remain of evangelicalism.”

In conclusion to this review, I agree with Mohler’s claim about this book: “Taken as a whole, the book is an arsenal of theological arguments in defense of the gospel” (pg. 207). Amen, and may it convince the nay-sayers.

By Faith Alone, part 10

This article is written by John Bolt, and it is entitled, “Why the Covenant of Works is a Necessary Doctrine,” subtitled, “Revisitng the Objections to a Venerable Reformed Doctrine.”

Bolt takes aim (reluctantly) at his former teacher, Anthony Hoekema, and also John Stek for challenging the doctrine of the covenant of works. Bolt’s aim is to “restate the doctrine in its classic form, then summarize Stek’s and Hoekema’s objections along with similar ones from contemporary Reformed theologians, and finally indicate my own reasons for rejecting the challenge” (pg. 172).

The first section concerns itself with the definition of the CoW. He likes WCF 7.2 as a definition: “The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” Galatians 3:12, Leviticus 18:5, Romans 5:12-21, Galatians 3:10, and Genesis 2:17 are cited as proof-texts. “From this summary evidence the doctrine’s basis and purpose is clear. God’s relationship to humanity from the outset was a legatl, covenantal relationship in which obedience was demanded and to be rewarded, disobedience proscribed and under sanctioned curse and punishment: ‘Obey and live; disobey and die’” (pp. 172-173).

He notes a’Brakel’s argument for the CoW, and the points used to establish the definition: 1. God gave a law to man; 2. Adam had the promise of eternal felicity; 3. Adam accepted the promises and conditions of the covenant (pg. 174). The difficulty of establishing the third is evident. However, he uses an argument from the lesser to the greater: if sinners know that the law of God is holy, just and good, then how much more did Adam know that. There are more arguments, but that is a very striking argument, it seems to me.

Bolt addresses the especially important aspect of the CoW, which is its exegetical basis as compared to its moorings in ST: “We therefore make a serious error when we dismiss the notion of a covenant of works simply on the basis that it fails to meet the standards of modern biblical exegesis. Even if true, and the point is debatable, the case for the doctrine never depended solely on the exegesis of a few ‘proof-texts’” (pg. 175). Rather, as Muller says, the doctrine is founded on a large complex of texts, a conclusion largely in harmony with the exegetical tradition (quoted on pg. 175).

The challenge to the doctrine forms the second major part of the article. He notes Stek’s arguments about overloading the exegetical foundation. Interestingly, Stek contends that it is incorrect to define covenants as relationships, a position I also share (as does Rick Phillips and a myriad of other Reformed authors). However, Stek also says that covenant is not “the central theological category for synthetica construal of he God-humanity relationship” (quoted on pg. 176). Stek appreciates Murray’s attempts in (what I think is biblicistic) exegetical endeavors to establish a biblical definition of covenant theology.

Moving on to Hoekema, Bolt lists his objections: CoW doesn’t describe the gracious elements of the Adamic administration; it is not called a covenant, no ratification ceremony, and the word “covenant” is always used in the context of redemption (pg. 177). By way of preliminary response, he states that “It is not clear, and Hoekema does not adequately explain, why the term covenant at least should not then be used, if not covenant of works” (in the light of the doctrinal truths of Adam as federal head, the probationary command, death to all through his disobedience, and as type of Christ, pg. 178). Bolt also takes a swipe at Herman Hoeksema’s equation of covenant with election (pg. 179).

In the third section, Bolt notes that these views are characterized by biblicism. It denies good and necessary consequence. The truths that are so integral to salvation, such as Adam’s federal headship, are preserved carefully in the CoW, and are seriously endangered if no agreement was made between God and man regarding the future of mankind: “If we deny the covenant of creation with Adam we unravel the tapestry of God’s redemptive plan in Christ” (pg. 184).

One criticism I would have of the article is to be found on page 185, where he says that these things are complementary truths: law is gracious and grace is legal/forensic. I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion from the rest of his paper, which seems to be arguing in a very different direction. Maybe Bolt will be so gracious as clarify for us. A very interesting article. However, I am not convinced at all points.  

Sealed and Guaranteed

Ephesians 1:13-14 

Sometime back the Associated Press carried this dispatch: “Glasgow, Ky.–Leslie Puckett, after struggling to start his car, lifted the hood and discovered that someone had stolen the motor.” Kind of silly, isn’t it? It is rather obvious to say that a car will not run without its engine. But it is equally true to say that we cannot live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit working in our lives, being the engine. Paul says that the life he lives is no longer him living, but Christ living in him. Christ lived in Paul by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also lives in us, if we are united to Christ by faith. Here in our text, the metaphor is that of a seal. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit.

What is a seal? I suppose that if we were asked that question, we would probably think of the seal of the President of the United States, and use that as an analogy. There is truth to that analogy: the seal of the President is used to indicate that something is genuinely belonging to the President. You know that the President is coming to speak, if the podium has his seal on the front. In the same way, you know if you are a Christian if you have this seal of the Holy Spirit. What is the seal? It IS the Holy Spirit. It is not as if the Holy Spirit seals you with something else. No, the Holy Spirit IS the seal. Let me explain.

The Holy Spirit works in the Word of God to bring someone to faith in Jesus Christ. This is called regeneration. In that act of the Holy Spirit, we are given new hearts instead of our old, dead hearts. This happens because of the Word of God, which the Holy Spirit makes alive in us, as a seed that sprouts and starts to grow. That is what the Word of God does.

In that same instant in which we are saved, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. He puts His mark on us, which is He Himself. God can then look at us and call us His possession. Just as the presidential seal is on that podium, marking the podium as belonging to the President, so also the Holy Spirit puts His mark on us, Himself, so that everyone in the world can know who owns us.

The second way a seal is used is to secure something. The Holy Spirit is a seal for us in this way as well. When the Holy Spirit acts in a person’s life, there is no going back. There is a certain finality to being sealed by the Holy Spirit. When the stone was placed over the tomb of Jesus, the thought was to secure the tomb from the disciples, lest something happen to the body, and the disciples claim that Jesus was resurrected. Of course, that seal didn’t work very well, given the fact that the power of God was inside that tomb, and unleashed the full force of resurrection power against that seal. Still, when the high priests put that seal on the tomb, the idea was to make it secure. How much more secure are we when we have the seal of the Holy Spirit! It is magnificently secure, absolutely secure. No one can gainsay the power of God to keep his people. Does that give you some comfort in this insecure world?

We live in a world that wants security. They want to know what is going to happen in the future. Unfortunately, they look in all the wrong places for this security. They look to money, and pleasure, and land, and power for these things. Those things are not very helpful for security, since they can blow away with the brush of a hand. However, the Holy Spirit, which seems less tangible, less physical than these other things, is, however, much more secure than these worldly things. The reason for this is that the Holy Spirit seals us into Christ. That is what the first part of verse 13 tells us. The basic sentence is this, “In Christ you were sealed with the Holy Spirit.”

Thirdly, a seal marks something off as genuine. People used to seal envelopes with wax, putting their signet ring into the melted wax, such that the mark of the ring would seal the envelope and seal the letter. The person receiving the letter would see the seal, and know that it could only come from that person. They knew that the letter was genuine. In the same way, when the Holy Spirit seals us, He testifies to our hearts and minds that we are genuine believers in Christ. This happens to every person who becomes a Christian. Every Christian has this seal. Are you sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit?

Paul then switches metaphors. Now, instead of a seal, Paul describes the Holy Spirit as the deposit guaranteeing the inheritance. Now, “deposit” is an unfortunate translation, since many deposits can be returned. That is not true of this kind of deposit. It is more like a down-payment that ensures that the rest will also be paid. A very important characteristic of this kind of down-payment is that the rest of the payment is in the same kind. One does not pay this kind of payment in money, and then the rest of it is in land. No, if the Spirit is the down-payment, then the rest is also by the Spirit. What is the rest of the inheritance? It is the resurrection body. The Scriptures say that the new resurrection body will not breathe normal air, but will breathe the Holy Spirit. This is from 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul says that God breathed into Adam the breath of life, but into Christ the Holy Spirit. We will live, move, and breathe in the Holy Spirit in the future world. Sound scary? It shouldn’t. It means that we will have the same kind of body that Jesus has. The Spirit breathes into our soul right now, the breath of spiritual life. The Spirit will breathe into our bodies physical Holy Spirit-breath when our bodies are resurrected on Judgment Day. We have a down-payment on our souls. The rest of it is coming in the form of the new body. However, the down-payment means more than just the resurrection body. It also means that the curtain between heaven and earth will no longer exist. We will then see God face to face. We will see Him as He is, for we will be like Him, says John the apostle.

Do you often think of your inheritance? Do you think about your resurrection body? As I have said before, it is quite possible to be so earthly minded, that you are of no heavenly good, to reverse the more common proverb. We can be so earthly minded: we love to think about our land, and increasing how much land we have. Do we know that our heavenly inheritance is not only infinitely greater, but so much more important? If we were to compare how much time we think about our land versus how much time we think about our heavenly inheritance, how many of us would score high on thinking about our heavenly inheritance more than our earthly inheritance? I would venture to guess none. And yet, how much more important is it to be concerned about our heavenly inheritance! Instead of fighting and clawing your way to more land, you should fight and claw your way to sharing the Gospel in love with your neighbor, for that would increase your heavenly goods. I’m not talking about earning salvation. Salvation is a gift from first to last. What I am talking about is rather the reward that people can get in heaven. Do you think about that? You know, thinking about heaven and the resurrection body that we will have in the new heavens and the new earth is one of the very best antidotes to greed. I use greed as an example, but there are many other sins to which this would apply as well. Use your creativity in applying these truths to your entire life. What you will find is that if you are a signed, sealed, and delivered Christian, then you are a pilgrim in this world, just passing through. You do not belong here. This is not your home. The story is told in C.S. Lewis’s book The Last Battle, where the children are in the land of Narnia, but the land ends. Aslan destroys the land, and takes His children into the new land of Narnia, the heavenly land of Narnia. When reflecting on this change, it is said in that book that the only reason we liked the old Narnia so much, is that it reminds us just a little of the real Narnia. As Lewis would elsewhere put it, we live in the shadowlands right now. This land is but a poor reflection of the new heavens and the new earth. That is the real thing. This is only a dim copy. So, let’s stop acting like this is the real thing, and the future world only a dim copy. Don’t hold on so tight to possessions, relationships, your own ego or social standing, your grudges, your land, or anything else which is tempting to turn into an idol. Instead, trust in Christ that you have been signed, sealed and delivered for the new heavens and the new earth.

By Faith Alone, part 9

This is an article by R. Fowler White and E. Calvin Beisner, entitled “Covenant, Inheritance, and Typology,” subtitled “Understanding the Principles at Work in God’s Covenants.” I wonder if “principles at work” is a pun intended or not. That is an interesting question. This is one of the harder articles to read, but correspondingly more rewarding when the effort is expended.

Their thesis is that FV and NPP have denied sola fide by either affirming the doctrine but redefining the terms, or by using traditional terms in non-traditional ways. Their area of critique is the doctrine of the covenants. They start by pointing out that a “redefinition of the doctrine of God’s covenants inevitably brings reformulation of the doctrine of justification” (pg. 148). The rest of the article proves this point. They proceed first by a fresh exposition (read “conservative, Reformed, historical” here!) of the doctrine of the covenants. They argue that “two contrasting but compatible principles of inheritance- namely, personal merit (i.e., merit grounded in the heir’s own works) and representative merit (i.e., merit grounded in another works)- are at work in each of these covenants and that these principles of inheritance have existed side-by-side through all of history (pre-fall and post-fall) until Christ, with the former always subserving the latter” (pp. 148-149). It should be noted here tha the “compatible” aspect, according to White/Beisner, means not that the two are identical, but that the Mosaic economy and the New Covenant have aspects of continuity and discontinuity (works and grace both). If you still have questions about what they mean, just hold on, and it will become clear. A very important footnote (note 2 on pg. 149) deals with the question of the validity of merit as a biblical category. Not only do they explain Calvin’s “repudiation” of merit, but they thoroughly trounce Lusks’ objections by noting Calvin’s acceptance of the category with regard to Christ’s work.

The first covenant in priority is the covenant of redemption. In theology, this refers to a supra-historical pact made between the Father and the Son, whereby Christ’s own inheritance was promised to Him on the basis of His personal merit, whereas the people of God’s inheritance was promised to them (in Christ) by the representative principle of inheritance (pp. 149-150). The most amazing insight of the entire paper (in my judgment) is in footnote 4 on pg. 150: “That the principle of inheritance by personal merit (meritorious works) originates not in the covenant of works but in the covenant of redemption refutes the objection that it is improper to posit merit on the part of the creature toward the Creator.” This is pure brilliance, and in one stroke, takes the rug out from under the entire FV’s objection to merit in the CoW. The entire (lengthy) footnote is brilliant: read it!

They move on then to the CoW. White/Beisner distinguish between the commission given to Adam in 2:15 and the commandments given in 2:16-17. The latter are the works principle, and are completely bilateral in fulfillment. The commission, however, was not part of that: it was unilateral and inviolable (see pg. 152 for the argumentation of this). They argue (footnote 11 on pg. 152) that the function of Gen 2:16-17 is the same as the commandments given on Mt. Sinai: “words morally obligating but not effectuating their fulfillment.” One question I would have is this: in what way do they not effectuate the fulfillment of the CoW? Is this lapsing into a gracious fulfillment of the CoW?

Then, they address the CoG. The two principles are still at work even here: personal merit-Christ; and representative merit-Christ to us: “His appointment as mediator in the covenant of grace is the reward for his obedience to the stipulations of the covenant of redemption” (pg. 153). In passing, (another footnote: why are most of their best thoughts in the footnotes?) they notice that “in a crucial sense, the blessings to the elect include the curses on the reprobate” (note 14 on pg. 153). The way they describe the CoG is in this way: “The covenant of grace is the historical context for the outworking of the suprahistorical covenant of redemption” (pg. 154).

Having exposited the covenants, they move on to the two seeds of Adam and Christ, related to the two principles of inheritance: “For both Adam’s seed and Christ’s seed, the inheritance of eternal life is conditioned on the obedience of their representative and is, therefore, procured vicariously for the seed by the meritorious works of another” (pp. 154-155). They sum up their account of the CoG with this remarkably helpful statement: “Accordingly, in the covenant of grace there is a triple imputation: God imputes christ’s righteousness in fulfilling the covenant of works (his active obedience) to the elect; he imputes the guilt of the elect (because of their breaking of the covenant of works) to Christ in his suffering (his passive obedience); and he imputes the penal satisfaction of his justice by Christ to the elect” (pg. 155). Actually, I might have liked to see them work in the covenant of redemption to this summary, but one cannot have everything.

What follows is a discussion of analogies to this covenantal structure in the covenant to Noah (a common grace covenant), the relation of the Mosaic Covenant to the Abrahamic Covenant, the relation of the MC to the NC, the relation of the MC to the CoW, and the conclusion. I am trying to tell everything about the article. These last sections (which form the rest of the article) are also excellent. But you should read it for yourself. The point of this review, after all, is to get you to buy the book, which you should.

Hebrews 2:8b-9

Hebrews 2:8b-9 “In this putting everything in subjection to him, nothing was left that was not subjected. However, right now we do not see all things subjected to him. Rather, we see Jesus (who was for a little while made lower than angels) crowned with glory and honor on account of his suffering death, in order that, by the grace of God, He might taste death for everyone.”

After Paul quotes Psalm 8 and applies the Psalm to Christ, he talks about Christ’s reign over all things. Jesus Christ started to reign over all things when He was resurrected from the dead. All things are subjected to Him.

However, we do not see that right now, do we? We see many people who do not bow their knee to Jesus. We see many nations running pell-mell after idols of wealth and power. In fact, to say that Jesus reigns now seems like a very foolish thing to say! Paul realizes this and helps us by giving us a distinction: we can see with our physical eyes that not all things are subject to Jesus. However, we can see with our spiritual eyes that Jesus reigns in heaven. Paul is saying then, that our spiritual vision is more true to reality than our physical eyes, which often deceive us.

A second question that Paul addresses is whether Jesus is qualified to reign, given His humiliation on earth. Paul says that it was only for a little while, and that the exaltation of Christ completely wipes out the status of humiliation. He is now crowned as king.

Notice that Christ is crowned king because of His humiliation. Christ’s humiliation is His obedience even to the point of death, as Paul says in Philippians 2. God honored that obedience with resurrection. As one writer puts it, “The resurrection is God’s ‘Amen’ to Christ’s saying ‘It is finished.’”

Another point of interest: “tasting death” does not mean that Christ tasted death “just a little,” but rather that He tasted the full bitterness of the cup. The phrase does not belittle Christ’s experience of death, but rather heightens it.

One last point: “for everyone” does not mean everyone on the planet. Plainly, Christ’s death is a substitution. Since not everyone on the planet is saved, then the “everyone” is plainly limited. The following verses tell us who the “everyone” is: “many sons” in verse 10, and “His brothers” in verse 11. That is the “everyone” of verse 9. Jesus tasted death for all who believe, that we might not have to suffer a spiritual death, and might therefore have a bodily resurrection to which we can look forward, even as we experience spiritual resurrection when we come to faith in Christ.

By Faith Alone, part 8

This is an article by David VanDrunen, of WSC, on the active obedience of Christ. The article is entitled “To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice,” subtitled “A Defense of the Active Obedience of Christ in the Light of Recent Criticism.” I wonder just a tad about the title. The article is outstanding. However, I wonder how many FV proponents and/or NPP proponents would deny that Christ was actively obedient to the law. Is it not the part of Christ’s active obedience in imputation that is at stake? Gundry (not a FV or NPP proponent) denies that Christ’s active obedience was imputed to the believer. However, he does not deny that Christ was actively obedient to the law. It makes Christ a perfect sacrifice. That, however, is usually where Christ’s active obedience ends with regard to salvation of sinners. VanDrunen’s focus is obviously on the part of Christ’s active obedience in imputation, since he says, “but also fulfilled all of the positive obligations of the law on their (His people’s) behalf” (pg. 127).

He notes that the denial of the active obedience of Christ in justification is common to both the NPP and the FV (127). His thesis is stated on page 128: “I argue that, despite recent claims to the contrary, God does demand perfect obedience to his law and that Christ has indeed provided this obedience on behalf of his people.”

The first major section deals with the Reformed tradition in the light of critiques. Shepherd, for instance, denies that Christ’s active obedience plays any part in justification (see page 128 and footnotes for quotations and sources in Shepherd’s theology). VanDrunen shows that Calvin, the 3FU, the WS, Turretin, Witsius, Hodge, Vos, Murray, and Berkhof all hold to the active obedience of Christ imputed to the believer. The selection of quotations is quite apt, in my judgment. Then, VanDrunen shows that various proponents of FV theology deny this: Jordan, Shepherd, Lusk, Sandlin; and NPP authors Wright and Dunn also deny this doctrine. One small criticism: Dunn deserves more than the one throw-away comment at the end of the paragraph on pg. 133. Either he shouldn’t have been mentioned at all, or been given his own paragraph.

The second major section defends the two absolutely necessary doctrines that form the basis for the imputed active obedience of Christ: the necessity of perfect obedience to the law for righteousness, and the doctrine that Jesus fulfilled such requirements on our behalf. As such, this section is exegetical in nature. The first part proves from Scripture that perfect obedience was always required. VanDrunen starts from the very character of God: “He will never permit his justice to be compromised” (pg. 134). VanDrunen affirms the covenant of works in the first chapter of Genesis. His exegesis of the commands given to Adam (yes, as a matter of fact, there is more than one command!) shows that they are legal in character: לֹא תֹאכַל “This is not simply imperative, but law” (pg. 135). The very same form appears in the Decalogue. Furthermore, “The fact that a single sin ushered in the curse means that perfect obedience was the standard” (pg. 135). This is a very telling argument. The analogy of a boy needing to do his homework is quite apt. The point is that, after the Fall, “the commands given to Adam in Genesis 1-2 still remain unaccomplished” (pg. 136).

Obedience is better than sacrificed. The meaning of this Scriptural statement is not limited to a forbidding of insincere hearts. Rather, obedience is actually separated from sacrifice (this would be contrary to Sanders’s claims, for instance). Jeremiah 7:23 says “Walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you. Sacrifice cannot replace obedience. Jesus’ conversation with the scribe in Mark 12 says the same thing (pg. 137). Paul, in modifying Dtr 27:26 in Galatians 3:10 makes the same point: he addes the word “all” in order to underline the fact that perfect obedience is required for life (pg. 138).

Then, VanDrunen exegetes the Scriptures that prove that Jesus did fulfill the entire law on our behalf. Gal 4:4-5, Heb 5:8 show that Christ’s positive obedience means more than that He became a perfect sacrifice (pg. 139). Rather, they show us the “necessity of Christ’s active obedience if we are to be saved” (pg. 139, emphasis original).  

Then follows an exposition of the phrase “the righteousness of God” in Paul. He notes that “Reformed theologians have associated the righteousness of God with the obedience of Christ that is imputed to Christians and upon which the justifying verdict is rendered” (pg. 140). He argues that “the righteousness of God comes to be identified with the active obedience of Christ by the apostle Paul” (pg. 140). Against Wright, Romans 1:17-18 speaks of unrighteousness as moral, rather than as having to do with covenantal status. The logical corollary is that righteousness also has to do with morality, not with covenant status. This argument is iron-shod, and casts Wright’s argument to the ground all by itself. “Furthermore, when Paul speaks about the righteousness that does not justify, he spaeks in moral terms and not in terms of being in or out of the covenant” (pg. 141). He cites Titus 3:5-7, Romans 10:3, and Phil 3:9 in support. In citing Philippians 3:9, I could wish that a footnote would have dealt with Wright’s distinguishing between τὴν ἐκ θεοῦ δικαιοσύνην and δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ (as found, say, in Romans 3:21). I do think Wright is incorrect to draw such a huge distinction between these two phrases. However, it might have been good had VanDrunen addressed the issue.

The human predicament, therefore, is that we do not have a perfect righteousness, but need one. Therefore, the Gospel is that Jesus has provided us with a perfect righteousness, which can stand the utmost scrutiny of the law. The Gospel, of course, is not limited to this. But anything less than this is no Gospel.

VanDrunen has an absolutely brilliant exposition of Romans 5, and the oft-quoted objection to the active obedience of Christ found in the one, single, solitary, lonesome act of obedience to which all objectors point. He notes that Christ’s passive obedience was no more a single act than his active obedience was (pg. 143). See, for instance, Heb 2:10, 17-18; 5:7-10. Therefore, “there must have been some reason for Paul’s emphasis on the oneness of Christ’s righteous action other than the isolation of a single discrete event” (pp. 143-144). That reason is that Christ’s obedience is seen in its “compact unity” (Murray’s phrase, quoted ibid.). “In context, the ‘righteous act’ of christ surely cannot be dissociated from the positive righteous obedience that Adam was required by God to accomplish in the garden” (pg. 144).

Philippians 2:8-9 also clearly show the active obedience of Christ. μέχρι θανάτου means “up to and including death,” thereby forbidding us to isolate one part of Christ’s obedience from any other part (pg. 145). Then, the particle διὸ is causal: “God exalted Christ on the basis of his obedience” (pg. 146). He notes the etymological fallacy that Lusk and Jordan commit when they note the word ἐχαρίσατο, saying that since it is from charis, therefore grace was meant in giving Christ the reward. Hogwash. This commits the root fallacy. “The precise meaning of the verb must be established in context, and the context of Philippians 2:9 is clearly one of ‘work rendered and value received’” (pg. 146, note 40). This is an outstanding article that not only sets the historical stage for the active obedience of Christ imputed to the believer, but also argues the point exegetically. He is triumphantly convincing, in my opinion.

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