Merit

In this post, I am summarizing the findings of Wes White in another article of his entitled “Does the Concept of Merit Merit Abandonment?” FV proponents loudly proclaim that the idea of merit should be abandoned. For instance, Norman Shepherd says that the problem of evangelical Protestantism is that they have not always rejected the concept of merit itself, and thus are unable to challenge Romanist concepts of salvation at its very roots (see Call of Grace, pp. 61-62). Is this the case? Absolutely not. Everyone was talking about merit in the days of the Reformation, even about Adam. Merit was neither distinctive to Roman Catholicism, nor repugnant to Reformation theology.

There are three kinds of merit that everyone was talking about: condign merit means something that intrinsically deserves a reward that is in proportion to that something; congruent merit means something that deserves a reward, but is rewarded to a greater degree than it deserves; covenant merit, or merit by pact, is something that has no intrinsic value, but is rewarded because of a promise.

Here is the ultimate problem with Shepherd’s position on merit: if we chuck merit entirely, then sin does not merit hell. The view of the law given in the WS is that obedience and disobedience are the flip sides of the law (see LC 99). A command has the corresponding opposite negative prohibition, and, furthermore, the threat has the corresponding opposite positive promise. This is absolutely vital to understanding the Covenant of Works. Now, Wes’s position is that sin condignly merits hell. Sin is intrinsically meritorious of hell. I agree with this. However, I also think that sin merits hell by pact in addition to condignly meriting hell, since it was part of the covenant that God made with Adam. The question, then, is this: how can a negative prohibition in Genesis 2 coupled with a threat of punishment for disobedience amount to a positive promise, as well as a positive command? Or, to put the question in Shepherd’s own terms, “How does a command not to do something demonstrate that by a lifetime of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience Adam will earn or merit the right to eternal life?” (see response 3, pg. 1). This is answered for us in LC 99: how do we interpret the moral law? The moral law was certainly given to Adam (see WCF 19.1-3). Therefore, the way in which the WS interpret the Ten Commandments applies also to the moral law as given to Adam. The nature of Adam’s sin was fundamentally idolatrous. That was the nature of the temptation, explicit in Genesis 3:5. Therefore, the nature of the corresponding, opposite obedience, would have been of a God-honoring pactum merit nature. As the WCF itself says, Adam’s could never have merited anything condignly. Adam owed obedience to God as his liege-Lord. However, God had promised (by the law of interpretation given in LC 99) eternal life based on the pactum merit of Adam’s perfect and personal obedience. This is why the WS interpret the CoW the way they do. It is because they see fundamental continuity between the stipulations of the CoW as given to Adam, and the Ten Commandments as given to Israel. That continuity justifies the interpretation of the Ten Commandments being valid also for the CoW. So, contrary to Norman Shepherd, the Reformers have **never** said that Adam’s merit to eternal life would be a matter of “simple justice” (Call of Grace, pg. 26). This is simply irresponsible historiography. It is not a matter of condign merit, but of pactum merit. I see that Norman Shepherd makes the same historiographical errors in his response to the OPC study committee report (see his inexplicable citing of Thornwell as indicative of a representative treatment of the CoW in response 3, pg. 2: I have never seen Thornwell’s ideas anywhere else). I have not read Horton’s work (which Norman Shepherd blasts for using ANE background as helpful in understanding the CoW). However, I would be willing to bet that Horton has considerably more exegesis than Shepherd is willing to allow. There seemed to be very little in the way of contextual quotation of Horton.

One final issue needs to be addressed, and it is the perennial issue of whether such a reading as the above reads into the text something that isn’t there. Shepherd raises this issue ad nauseum in his response to the OPC report (section 3). The issue here is whether or not later texts of Scripture will be allowed into the exegetical discussion. I believe that every “Do this and live” passage has a bearing on the question, since that phrase captures the essence of the pactum merit Covenant of Works. He makes the claim that the Covenant of Works is a later Reformed development (section 3, pg. 3), and that it is not present in the HC or the BC. This is the basis on which he says that the OPC should dump the WS, and hold to the BC and the HC. So much for theological development. Even if Shepherd is right in this claim, the watchword of the FV has been onward and upward progress in theology. If the CoW is a progression in Reformed thought, then why reject it? It certainly has exegetical basis, both in Genesis 2 (as I have pointed out above) and in the “Do this and live” passages. However, I do not agree with Shepherd’s claim that this is a later development. What he is doing is making the word/concept fallacy. “The term ‘covenant of works’ is not present, therefore, the idea is not present.” As Richard Muller points out, the first Reformed theologian to use the term was probably Dudley Fenner, who used the term foedus operum in his Sacra Theologia of 1585 (see MAJT ‘2006, pg. 21). However, as Wes White has proved rather conclusively, John Calvin, in his exegesis of the “Do this and live” passages, exposits the substance of the CoW.

On Leviticus 18:5. It is a remarkable [verse], and contains general instruction, from whence Paul derives his definition of the righteousness of the Law (Rom. 10:5) it seems to me to come in very appropriately here, inasmuch as it sanctions and confirms the Law by the promise of reward. The hope of eternal life is, therefore, given to all who keep the Law; for those who expound the passage as referring to this earthly and transitory life are mistaken… But Scripture does not therefore deny that men are justified by works, because the Law itself is imperfect, or does not give instructions for perfect righteousness; but because the promise is made of none effect by our corruption and sin…The law requires works for the attainment of salvation, whilst faith directs us to Christ, that we may be delivered from the curse of the law. Foolishly, then, do some reject as an absurdity the statement, that if a man fulfils the Law he attains to righteousness; for the defect does not arise from the doctrine of the Law, but from the infirmity of men, as is plain from another testimony given by Paul (Romans 8:3). We must observe, however, that salvation is not to be expected from the law unless its precepts be in every respect complied with; for life is not promised to one who shall have done this thing, or that thing, but, by the plural word, full obedience is required of us. The pratings of the Popish theologians about partial righteousness are frivolous and silly, since God embraces at once all the commandments; and who is there that can boast of having thoroughly fulfilled them? See Calvin’s commentaries, volume 3.1, pp. 204-5.

On Ezekiel 20:11. [Ezekiel] took this testimony from Moses, and we shall see immediately that he cites it in a different sense. Moses there pronounces that th life of man rests on the observance of the law; that is,- life was surely to be expected through satisfying the law. Some think this absurd, and so restrict what is said to the present life, taking “he shall live in them” politically or civilly: but this is a cold and trifling comment…Since, then, it pleased God to descend so far as to promise life to men if they kept his law, they ought to accept this offer as springing from his liberality. there is no absurdity, then, if men do live, that is, if they deserve eternal life according to agreement. See Calvin’s Commentaries, volume 12.1, pp. 297-298.

On Matthew 19:17. This passage was erroneously interpreted by some of the ancients, whom the Papists have followed, as if Christ taught that, by keeping the law, we may merit eternal life. [N.B. Calvin is referring to sinful humanity ("we") as the Papists view humanity, not to the hypothetical reality of eternal life by law-keeping, as will become clear later in the quotation: emphasis original] On the contrary, Christ did not take into consideration what men can do, but replied to the question, ‘What is the righteousness of works?’ or, ‘What does the Law require?’ And certainly we ought to believe that God comprehended in his law the way of living holily and righteously, in which righteousness is included; for not without reason did Moses make this statement, ‘He that doeth these things shall live in them,’ and again, ‘I call heaven and earth to witness that I have this day showed you life.’ We have no right, therefore, to deny that the keeping of the law is righteousness, by which any man who kept the law perfectly-if there were such a man- would obtain life for himself…I acknowledge, therefore, that, as God has promised the reward of eternal life to those who keep his law, we ought to hold by this way, if the weakness of our flesh did not prevent; but Scripture teaches us, that it is through our own fault that it becomes necessary for us to receive as a gift what we cannot obtain by works. See Calvin’s Commentaries, volume 16.2, pp. 394-395. I will also refer folk to Calvin’s commentaries on Romans 10:5 (volume 19.2, pp. 385ff) and Galatians 3:12 (volume 21.1, pp. 90-91).

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43 Comments

  1. Tim Wilder said,

    March 31, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Fine. But Genesis, the early chapters especially, are loaded with covenant language and narrative, and yet everybody acts as though one has to strain to find a few clues, and argue heatedly over what you can prove them them. Why is that? If we have made all the great advances in Biblical theology, why can’t anyone do it?

  2. Ken Christian said,

    March 31, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Lane, you write:

    –This is the basis on which he says that the OPC should dump the WS, and hold to the BC and the HC. So much for theological development. Even if Shepherd is right in this claim, the watchword of the FV has been onward and upward progress in theology.–

    Now this simply doesn’t follow. Just because Shepherd might be against a theological development in one arena does not mean you’ve found an inconsistency withing the whole school of FV thinking (as it seems you’re trying to imply). C’mon, brother. It’s this kind of silliness that clouds the debate and, frankly, weakens the rhetorical strength of your post – which is really interesting and raises some good points about our tradition.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Well, I don’t think the point is useless, because of this: Shepherd wants the OPC to chuck the WS because it has the theological development of the CoW. So, he wants to say that the HC or the BC is more pure to the fount of the Reformers. But this basis for his argument is inconsistent with the rest of what the FV claims it is doing with theological development. He outright says that one of the reasons (admittedly not the only reason: he thinks that exegesis is on his side, but see Tim’s post above) he thinks that the WS should be ditched is because they are part of the “Calvinist” scheme, not the “Calvin” school, to put it in Mullerite terms. So, I think the point is still valid. Glad to see you think I have a point in the rest of the post. Did you follow the link to “Merit in the Reformed Fathers?”

  4. Ken Christian said,

    March 31, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Lane –

    I’m curious about how merit functions, if at all, within your own home. When your children please you by obeying one of your comands; and you reward them for their obedience, what kind of merit are we dealing with in that case?

    On a related note, was there ever a time where your children had to merit your love and delight, or was that always there? And in the grand scheme, could we not say that rewarding our children for obedience is really very similar to our granting them certain priviledges based on their maturity?

    The reason I’m asking these types of question is because I believe this family metaphor must factor into our discussion of Adam’s situation in the garden. After all, “later texts of scripture” do indicate that Adam was God’s son (Luke 3:38). Please don’t think I believe I have all of this figured out. I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

  5. Tim Wilder said,

    March 31, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Re: #4

    The reason that the covenant is made as a legal instrument is to bring about a reciprocal legal relationship, and bring into existence a legal order in creation. That is what God wanted to do.

    The FV bent toward reducing everything to family and infantile relationships shows a strong pietistic and anti-civilization bent to that theology. Yes: pietistical. There is also an anti-intellectual bent in the FV in its disdain for systematic thinking, even if the FV does indulge itself in theological excursions of an undiciplined sort (such as trying to establish the perpetual need for a scrificial rubric in worship following the Tabernacle on the basis of speculations about the nature of the Trinity being an eternal mutual sacrifice).

  6. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    These are good questions, Ken. We must be careful not to say that what goes on in a human family has to have a direct parallel with God and Adam. That being said, I’m sure there are some parallels.

    To answer your first paragraph, it would depend on whether we made an agreement, such as, “If you are good in potty-training today, you may have a piece of candy.” That is an example of pact merit. The child’s act of being good in potty training obviously does not, in and of itself, deserve a piece of candy, any more than an adult’s hygiene would do so. However, the agreement was there. However, this example seems to be a bit different from what you were talking about. It would seem to me that congruent merit comes closest to what you’re talking about, since there was no promise of reward for the obedience (as there would be in pactum merit). Obviously, the child could not merit condignly anything in terms of obedience to parents, since the child owes the parent everything. And the act of obedience might not in and of itself deserve a piece of candy (such as taking out the garbage: we might have simply told the child to do it. Then, knowing that they hate doing it, give them a piece of candy as a reward for their doing it).

    My love (in the sense of self-sacrifice) is not ever earned by my children. It is always there, simply by virtue of my being their father. I would not say that granting them privileges based on maturity is the same thing at all as rewarding children for obedience. For instance, I could think of an instance where the child is already more mature than necessary for a certain task. The child does the task out of obedience, and then the parent rewards the child, not because it is the act of a mature child, but because they did you told them to do. This is the fundamental problem with James Jordan’s merit versus maturity schema (I don’t know if this is the article you had in mind, but it makes sense to talk about it here). I think he conflates two different things (reward for obedience and privileges based on maturity), and misunderstands the nature of Adam’s covenant with God.

    I think that the family aspect is important here. It rules out condign merit in Adam’s case from the get-go, as all Reformed authors state. Congruent merit doesn’t work in Adam’s case either, because the question is not a question of degree of reward in relation to obedience. Rather, by the WS’s interpretation, it must be pactum merit. An analogy could work this way: a father promises that if the son does very well in school, the father will give him a car. Obviously, the son doing well in school has nothing to do with a car except because of the promise. All sides admit that Adam’s obedience is not condignly meriting or congruently meriting eternal life. After all, Adam owed obedience to His Father. Hence, God, in order to relate to Adam at all, engaged on condescension to enter into covenant with Adam. But once God bound Himself to reward Adam with eternal life based on Adam’s obedience, then Adam would have earned eternal life by obedience. Does this make sense?

  7. John said,

    March 31, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    A few points:

    1. You speak first about “FV proponents” and then go to say “For example, Norman Shepherd.” While it’s true that some of those who are associated with the so-called “FV” have learned from Shepherd, it is not necessarily true that Shepherd himself is an “FV proponent.”

    The “FV” guys have also learned, of course, from N. T. Wright, but that doesn’t make Wright an “FV proponent.” And, putting things together, Shepherd and Wright don’t agree on such matters as Paul and the law.

    I guess that’s part of the problem with treating a conversation as if it were an identifiable movement.

    2. You write: “covenant merit, or merit by pact, is something that has no intrinsic value, but is rewarded because of a promise.”

    What, then, about the rewards that we receive at the final judgment? For instance, God promises a crown to elders who serve faithfully (1 Peter 5) or to those who endure temptation (James 1). If an elder serves faithfully and receives that crown, or if a man endures temptation and receives that crown, would we say that he merited it (covenant merit)?

    Possibly (see below), but then we have to recognize that we’re really working with a different sort of merit than was debated at the time of the Reformation, a different sort of merit than the Heidelberg Catechism is talking about when it says that the rewards we receive aren’t merited but are bestowed graciously. Right?

    3. You mention Jordan’s article on merit and maturity, but it doesn’t appear as if you’ve read it. Either that, or you’ve forgotten that Jordan does speak about merit.

    He suggests that a form of merit (covenant merit, to use your term) might work within a given covenant but never to get you from one covenant to another. In other words, if you obey in the Old Covenant, you receive certain rewards (Deut 28). But no amount of obedience to the Old Covenant could merit the New Covenant with its glorification and the gift of the Spirit.

    So, too, with Adam. If he stayed away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would stay in the same situation he was in at the beginning. There’s no hint in the Bible that by staying away for a certain length of time he would merit a change in his status or an additional glorification. Rather, he’d keep plugging away at his work and receive blessings in accord with that work.

    Even if you import “Do this and live” back into the pre-fall covenant, that phrase itself doesn’t mean “Do this and receive eternal life in a new state of glory.” At best, it means “Do this and keep living in this covenant situation.” No?

    As Jordan points out, though, as he worked he might also recognize that he needs the knowledge of good and evil (which is something kings need and mature men have in the Bible) in order to accomplish his tasks. He’d become more and more aware of his weakness, not of his merit, and would receive the advance in glorification as a free gift.

    4. Where did God promise Adam eternal life on the basis (pactum merit) of his obedience? I don’t see it in Genesis 2 or 3. In fact, Adam was permitted to eat of the Tree of Life from the beginning, though I don’t believe he did before the Fall.

    Your argument from the Ten Commandments seems to me a bit convoluted. At least, I’m having a hard time following it. So perhaps you could unpack it more, starting with the claim that the moral law had been given to Adam.

    5. You claim that the “watchword for the FV has been onward and upward progress.” This is not true. While “FV” guys certainly believe in doctrinal development, that’s hardly limited to them.

    Anyone who appreciates the biblical theology approach pioneered by men such as Vos would be likely to believe in doctrinal development. Meredith Kline and his followers certainly do, and they don’t hesitate to criticize the WCF at points where they think biblical theological developments have given us better insight. For instance, Kline argues that Adam was created in covenant with God, whereas the WCF makes it sound as if the covenant was added after creation.

    But, in spite of an appreciation for theological development, none of the “FV” guys are stupid enough to believe that every doctrinal development is necessarily good. Nor have the “FV” guys ever talked as if they despised the past. Men such as Joel Garver, for instance, have dug into the early Reformation to point out what the early Reformers believed about baptism.

    So the truth of the matter is that Shepherd may think that a particular doctrinal development in one area is good and that another is bad. He prefers the Three Forms of Unity to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Well, so do a lot of people. My seminary theology prof would tell us, tongue only slightly in cheek, that the 3FU were the ripe fruits of the Reformation and the Westminster Standards the overripe fruits of the Reformation.

    Hope this helps!

  8. March 31, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Lane

    Are you ever going to turn this federal vision stuff into a book?

  9. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    1 is ridiculous. The FV would never have happened without Shepherd. This whole “distancing” thing is way off base. Can anyone deny that Norman Shepherd’s theology is part and parcel of the FV discussion? It can hardly be removed from the discussion.

    BOQ Possibly (see below), but then we have to recognize that we’re really working with a different sort of merit than was debated at the time of the Reformation, a different sort of merit than the Heidelberg Catechism is talking about when it says that the rewards we receive aren’t merited but are bestowed graciously. Right? EOQ Well, this is kind of the point, isn’t it? The HC rejects condign and congruent merit for those kinds of works. It does not reject pactum merit for these works. After all, doesn’t God promise that our works will be (graciously) rewarded? That is the very definition of what happens in pactum merit. The HC was directed against Roman Catholic ideas, not against pactum merit ideas.

    Your points about Jordan are beside the point. Jordan denies that Adam would have merited eternal life. He denies that there is any way in which Adam would have merited it, pactum or otherwise. This is clear from page 152 of _Federal Vision_: “It is the thesis of this paper that maturation rather than meriting is the proper way to understand the two phases of human life.” How clear can one get?

    Point 4: Did you read the post? I really have to ask that because that is the burden of the entire lengthy third paragraph of the post. You ask the very same question that Shepherd asked. I answered it already. With regard to the Ten Commandments argument, just read LC 99 in conjunction with WCF 19.1-3, in conjunction with WCF 7 and you will see where I’m going with this.

    Your fifth point I answered in comment 3.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Daniel, I probably will not, because it is simply too much work to do a book, and there are already many, many books out there that quite adequately deal with the issues (and more are coming). What I am doing is merely keeping things current and up-to-date.

  11. John said,

    March 31, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Lane: You wrote: “1 is ridiculous.” No, it isn’t. Follow the example I gave: the “FV” guys have learned from Wright but Wright isn’t “FV.” The “FV” guys have learned from Shepherd, but Shepherd isn’t necessarily FV. For instance, I don’t know what Shepherd thinks about what some of the FV guys have written on Paul and the law, where some of them follow Wright (but Shepherd doesn’t, as far as I know), or what he thinks about sacramental efficacy or … a host of other “FV”-related issues.

    Re. Point 4. Yes, I read the post. No, I didn’t understand it. That’s why I asked you to spell it out further for us Bears (or Baraches) of Little Brain.

    But enough. You may spell it out further, but I’m not sure this thread is profitable for me to continue.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Okay, Barach of Little Brain

    1. WCF 19.1-3 says that the moral law was given to Adam and later encoded in the Ten Commandments. Hence, it is the *same* moral law given to both.

    2. LC 99 spells out the principles for how to interpret the Ten Commandments. LC 99.4 is the most relevant to our discussion: “That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included.” So, combine points 1 and 2 together, and you arrive at this point: the way of interpreting the Ten Commandments works also with the commands in Genesis 2 as being part of the moral law. If God threatened eternal death to Adam, then eternal life was promised. If God forbade allegiance to any other (implied in the command to guard the garden from intruders), then He also commanded allegiance only to Him. The former promise is predicated on the latter obedience. This is how the divines arrived at the Covenant of Works (WCF 7).

    Shepherd has the same objective view of the covenant as the FV, and is monocovenantal (same as most FV). Shepherd sees election through the lens of covenant, as do the FV folk. Shepherd has a high view of baptismal efficacy vis-a-vis union with Christ. Are these not the central distinctives of the FV? In which case, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, teaches like a duck….

  13. Tim Wilder said,

    March 31, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Re: #7
    “Your points about Jordan are beside the point. Jordan denies that Adam would have merited eternal life. He denies that there is any way in which Adam would have merited it, pactum or otherwise. This is clear from page 152 of _Federal Vision_: “It is the thesis of this paper that maturation rather than meriting is the proper way to understand the two phases of human life.” How clear can one get?”

    Jordan’s argument reads as though it were ripped off from Herman Hoeksema, which it probably was. Actually, Hoeksema argues better, and would probably be the best place to go to find and refute the argument in its strongest form.

    This goes to show how so much of the pieces of the FV have been sitting out there in Dutch sects stewing for decades. Hoeksema could not get his mind around the idea of pactum merit. He therefore had to start moving in conception of a covenant away from an agreement toward covenant as family relations (the Covenant of Friendship in the Hoeksema context) as the FV has done. He has to start interpreting the unity of the Trinity as covenant, as the FV has done, etc.

    But Hoeksema differs in that he was not willing to do away with merit, so he had to throw the long bomb to get merit back into play from the fact of the incarnation itself.

    But Hoeksema was a high calvinist of sorts. The Arminian side of the FV resembles stuff in Hoeksema’s arch-opponent W. Heyns. Odd how this all comes back after eighty years. Take the worst from each side of an old Dutch fight and, voila, the Federal Vision!

  14. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    “I would be willing to bet that Horton has considerably more exegesis than Shepherd is willing to allow.”

    One of the interesting aspects of this debate is the difference between those authors who receive the “benefit of the doubt” and those who don’t.

  15. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    “Okay, Barach of Little Brain”

    I’ve been trying to figure out whether there is a pattern for when Lane is kind and mature, and when he resorts to silly name-calling.

  16. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    I see now that sometimes Lane’s opponents provide the silly names themselves!

  17. Tim Wilder said,

    March 31, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    “So, contrary to Norman Shepherd, the Reformers have **never** said that Adam’s merit to eternal life would be a matter of “simple justice” (Call of Grace, pg. 26). This is simply irresponsible historiography.”

    “Simple justice” is the language the Meredith Kline uses, for example in his Covenant Theology Under Attack essay. Maybe Shepherd was thinking about Kline.

  18. Tim Wilder said,

    March 31, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Here is the Kline quote:

    “The statement of Jesus appealed to (Luke 17:10) does indeed indicate that we can never do something extra, beyond our covenantal obligations, as a sort of favor for which God should be grateful. But this does not mean that human works of obedience are of no merit. Though we cannot add to God’s glory, Scripture instructs us that God has created us for the very purpose of glorifying him. We do so when we reflect back to him his glory, when our godlike righteousness mirrors back his likeness. Such righteousness God esteems as worthy of his approbation. And that which earns the favor of God earns the blessing in which that favor expresses itself. It is meritorious. It deserves the reward God grants according to his good pleasure. Just as disobedience earns a display of God’s negative justice in the form of his curse, so obedience earns a manifestation of God’s positive justice in the form of his blessing (cf. Rom. 2:6�10). This is simple justice.”

    February, 1994
    http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/Kline_cov_theo.html

  19. Todd said,

    March 31, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    “So, contrary to Norman Shepherd, the Reformers have **never** said that Adam’s merit to eternal life would be a matter of “simple justice” (Call of Grace, pg. 26). This is simply irresponsible historiography.”

    Tim caught an important mistake. Here’s another one: Shepherd doesn’t mention “the Reformers” in the context. He only mentions “different theologians.” Lane, this is simply irresponsible polemics!

  20. Craig Phelps said,

    April 1, 2007 at 12:01 am

    Tim Wilder, Hoeksema was right in the middle of the stream of reformed thought as regards Adam having the ability to merit. You would do well to look at the Ursinus HC commentary on qanda 91(pages 476-488). My favorite line as respects Adam or anyone other than Christ meriting with God by his works: “Thou hast given me one hundred florins, Therefore thou oughtest to give me a thousand florins.” Hoeksema rightly maintained that Adam was given the ability to delight in God and His law as a gift(HC 6-9), and therefore could not merit by those gifts. What about pact merit? Hoeksema again rightly maintained that in order for Adam to merit by pact, God would have to deny Himself as God in relationship to the creature created in His image. Only the eternally beogtten Son of God in our flesh has the ability to merit. Sounds wierd? Well, do you remember HC LD 5 and 6?Christ’s death has merit by the virtue of Christ being God Incarnate. Canons of Dordt second head articles 3 and 4 speak the same way:
    “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”
    4.The death derives its infinite value and dignity from these considerations because of the Person…” Hoeksema was right in line here and no innovator. Adam-obedience has no merit, only creature
    Last Adam-obedience has merit, God in flesh
    Also, for Hoeksema and Danhof, the covenant was God’s self-revelation as the triune God and that the essence of the relationship of the persons of the trinity is fellowship, love, communion. Therefore, God’s covenant with man, rather than being a sovereignly administered pact or treaty with attendant blessings and curses, was rather a bond of fellowship and union of friendship. God relates to Himself in fellowship. God’s relationship with Adam was the reflection of that fellowship-the covenant. Adam walked with God in the cool of the day as His son, servant, and friend. Hoeksema correctly was loath to read merit where he found rather gifts of true righteousness, knowledge, and holiness with the commission to employ these gifts in the enjoyment of God to the glory of His name.

  21. Craig Phelps said,

    April 1, 2007 at 12:11 am

    The florins line is from Ursinus. Students of Hoeksema, as well as Kline, reject the fv. I believe that fv proponents share the free offer of the gospel and common grace with Kline and for the fv these seem to be necessary doctrines for their system. Just to be fair.

  22. Tim Wilder said,

    April 1, 2007 at 7:46 am

    Craig Phelps #20 said”

    “Only the eternally beogtten Son of God in our flesh has the ability to merit.”

    But that is not how it works out. It turns out that the meritorious act for Hoeksema was the act of the humiliation of the divine nature to be incarnated. Therefore Christ merits for us as God, not as second Adam, so it ends up being an extra-covenantal merit.

    “Not only is it impossible for Adam to have attained to that higher glory in the heavenly tabernacle, but it was equally impossible for him to have merited it. But Christ is worthy of the resurrection, of life eternal. He is the Son of God in human nature. And He humbled Himself deeply into death and hell in perfect obedience of love. Hence, it is entirely according to the justice of God that in the same measure that He humbled Himself He should be highly exalted and attain to the state of immortality in eternal glory. Such is the teaching of Philippians 2:6-11: ‘Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.'” Reformed Dogmatics, p. 504.

    It seems for Hoeksema there was only congruent merit.

    Some FV writers, such as Jordan, cite Hoeksema as an authority for their position on the Covenant of Works, and to prove that the FV is in the Reformed tradition.

    The difference is that Hoeksema still worked with the acknowledged category of merit, though he had to go to the Covenant of Redemption to get it. It turns out to be Christ’s merit under the Covenant of Redemption, if it is covenantal at all, that is imputed to us.

  23. pduggie said,

    April 1, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    “Is this the case? Absolutely not. Everyone was talking about merit in the days of the Reformation, even about Adam. Merit was neither distinctive to Roman Catholicism, nor repugnant to Reformation theology.”

    I think Shepherd’s point is that the Reformation *inherited* merit talk from romanist theology, and thus holds it in common with it. He would then attribute the failures of the reformation (the RC church is still around and RC theology is bigger than evar!) to our inability to divest ourselves of merit entirely.

    You (and I) may certainly disagree with this claim, but it isn’t as incoherent as you make it out to be

  24. pdugi said,

    April 2, 2007 at 9:30 am

    “If God threatened eternal death to Adam, then eternal life was promised. ”

    But God didn’t threaten death for breaking the 10 commandments. He threatened death for eating from the tree.

    The WLC says that that is a “special command” besides the 10 commandments.

    The WLC says “and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.” is God’s work of providence towards Adam. Not “requiring to keep the moral law upon pain of death”.

    If the Moral Law violation is the source of the death penalty, then the violation at the tree becomed redundant.

    in reformed tehology, the Moral Law is natural law, and the tree-law is a “positive law”. The Westminster standards offer no heremeneutics of interpreting positive laws or civil codes.

  25. Tim Wilder said,

    April 2, 2007 at 10:21 am

    “If the Moral Law violation is the source of the death penalty, then the violation at the tree becomed redundant.”

    At least some Reformed people, e.g. the Puritans, used to argue that any time any commandment is broken all of them are implicitly broken. For example any time you break a command of God you are implicitly putting another god before him, and breaking the first commandment.

    So on this view all command breaking is redundant. That is simply the way things are, and hardly counts toward a separation of the covenant with Adam and the covenant given through Moses.

  26. Craig Phelps said,

    April 2, 2007 at 11:52 am

    From my post above:
    “Only the eternally beogtten Son of God in our flesh has the ability to merit.”
    “Adam-obedience has no merit, only creature
    Last Adam-obedience has merit, God in flesh.”
    “Canons of Dordt second head articles 3 and 4 speak the same way:
    “The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”
    4.The death derives its infinite value and dignity from these considerations because of the Person…”
    From your post:
    ” It turns out that the meritorious act for Hoeksema was the act of the humiliation of the divine nature to be incarnated.”
    Hoeksema:
    “Not only is it impossible for Adam to have attained to that higher glory in the heavenly tabernacle, but it was equally impossible for him to have merited it. But Christ is worthy of the resurrection, of life eternal. He is the Son of God in human nature. And He humbled Himself deeply into death and hell in perfect obedience of love. Hence, it is entirely according to the justice of God that in the same measure that He humbled Himself He should be highly exalted and attain to the state of immortality in eternal glory. Such is the teaching of Philippians 2:6-11: ‘Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.’” Reformed Dogmatics, p. 504.
    Where is the difference?

  27. Craig Phelps said,

    April 2, 2007 at 11:55 am

    That was directed to Mr. Tim Wilder. Where in principle is the real difference?

  28. Craig Phelps said,

    April 2, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Plus Jordan is real fond of Kline in a certain way, just like Paul here.

  29. Tim Wilder said,

    April 2, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    The difference is whether Christ’s merit that is imputed to us is his merit as God who humbles himself in the incarnation carrying out the Covenant of Redemption, or whether Christ’s merit that is imputed to us is his merit as man, the second Adam, fulfilling the Covenant of Works.

    It seems to me that the difference is big enough to amount to two different systems of theology. Hoeksema seems to want to accept only the former type of imputation, because he seems to want to accept only condign merit. Note that in #22 I said “congruent” when I should have said “condign”.

    But this idea that only condign merit is to be accepted is an assumption by Hoeksema, and maybe fits in with his emphasis on the “organic” in theology. But I don’t know where he argues for it. “Organic” in some sense that seems clear to him but not to me, and condign merit seem to be unexamined set assumptions in his view. The assumptions precede his arguments. What his “argument” against the Covenant of Works comes to is really a rhetorical embellishment of this assumption, more than an actual argument, in the sense that Hoeksema’s reasoning does not touch the person who does not share the assumption that only condign merit can be accepted.

  30. pdugi said,

    April 2, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    “At least some Reformed people, e.g. the Puritans, used to argue that any time any commandment is broken all of them are implicitly broken.”

    And the probelm is that that kind of reasoning, though biblical, runs roughshod over the Genesis text. God commanded w.r.t the tree. God judged adam w.r.t the tree. God didn’t say, in Genesis 3 “Because you have eaten of the tree that I told you not to eat of, that was not the point: you are therefore are actually guilty of breaking the natural law (which I’ve never mentioned), and you get the penalty associated with the natural law”.

    The crime is the tree, and the punishment is the punishment God specified w.r.t the treee.

    Kline at least has the exegetical skill to know that he needs to deal with the actual crime and actual covenant words found in Genesis 2-3.

    Otherwise we end up with the stuff Shepherd brought out about Thornwell: a theology fixed in logical and autonomous thought, and divorced from the biblical text.

  31. Craig Phelps said,

    April 2, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    For Hoeksema, the covenant with Adam, the pactum salutis, and the covenant of grace did not work in the way you think. You’re still thinking like a Klinean. Check out Prof. Engelsma’s PRC seminary journal article from Nov 2006.

  32. Craig Phelps said,

    April 2, 2007 at 1:05 pm

    Tim, we agree that two systems of theology are at work. Hoeksema affirmed the legal headship of Adam and the immediate imputation of Adam’s sin. Confessing this with Turretin and Hodge over against Dabney is one of the main issues as regards Adam in this whole debate. The covenant is understood as a bond of fellowship, rather than a treaty with attendant blessings and curses, rather than a bond or pact of do this and you earn this, we say that the covenant was Adam’s friendship with God as His servant created in His image and that Adam had no ability to earn a higher life with God by the gifts he had been given in creation. Had he not sinned in the test of his fellowship, he would have been confirmed in his created state, still lower than the holy angels.

  33. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Paul, do you really think that the first of the Ten Commandments is not implied in the command not to eat of the tree? Surely God is saying that Adam needs to take God as his authority in life, and that God is the reference point for what is right and wrong. Your exegesis is minimalist and stultifying. What was Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve? Was it not to take God’s place, or at least put them on a level with God? In which case the first commandment is *most definitely* involved here. You cannot exclude the first commandment from Genesis 2-3, as anachronistic as it is to refer to it in that fashion. The command about the tree is part and parcel of the entire authority Creator/creature distinction thing.

  34. pdugi said,

    April 2, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    I’m claiming

    1. Its logically illegitimate for you to prove that eternal life for obedience was implied by the threat of death with reference to the WLC handling of the Moral Law.

    a) the WLC is distiguishing sharply the moral law and the special command

    b) You’re saying far more than is warranted from the WLC. What you’re saying is true, but the divines did not see fit to make the claims you are. Maybe you see more than they do, standing on their shoulders. If so, what you are saying is NOT just standard reformed doctrine that everyone owes allegience to, but untested theology that will need to stand the test of time.

    2. Your claim that eternal life as a reward for this obedience to the moral law is implied by the text of Genesis 2-3 runs aground on the free provision of the tree of life to adam in advance of the command. Eternal life was already there. Its as if you’re saying that because God threatened to send israel into exile for her sins, that God promised to take them out of egypt as a reward for their obedience. Such a claim doesn’t work, since they already ARE out of egypt.

  35. pdugi said,

    April 2, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Lane, all this makes me feel like I’m giving up sola scriptura if I accept your kinds of arguments.

  36. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Paul, all this makes me feel that I’m giving up the analogy of faith if I accept your arguments. You didn’t actually address my real arguments from the text of Genesis itself regarding the temptation of Satan, and what that implied. It is the same Moses who wrote Genesis and Exodus. You seem to have forgotten this. Do you really think that Moses would have written about Adam without having the Ten Commandments running around in his mind? Absurd.

  37. Craig Phelps said,

    April 2, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Paul, while I may disagree with Lane, I openly acknowledge that a great many reformed theologians, the greats Vos and Hodge included, agreed that this line of reasoning is sound and has been a part of reformed theology. Hoeksema consciously parted company realizing that the greater part of the reformed world would notice and object. We are comfortable with that as long as we all really see that along with the similarities there are differences between us. How am I or you able to play the game with Lane, who is an admirable presbyterian and reformed minister, “well we’re really all are just saying the same thing” or “you’d better realize the difference doesn’t matter ecclesiastically” or “Kline supports our position?”

  38. Tim Wilder said,

    April 2, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Re: # 37
    Hoeksema was right about there being a problem in his day, and he was right about the common grace doctrine being harmful. But he was 180 degrees wrong in his analysis and in his solution.

    When Kuyper divided theology in two areas, and had culture proceed on a common grace track, which gave it a basis that was not covenantal, and not structured by norms, but more like a force of nature, he made Reformed theology to be schizophrenic. (See Sin & Grace by Henry Danhof and Herman Hoeksema for how Kuyper makes common grace out to be like a constant force on everything on a certain direction.) Thereafter common grace began to eat up special grace.

    What Hoeksema ought to have done is to say that theology must be united on the basis of the Covenant of Works, which is the starting point for God dealings with man in sin and salvation, but also the only foundation for a theology of culture. But instead, Hoeksema did exactly the wrong thing, and tried to get rid of the Covenant of Works altogether.

  39. Thomas Twitchell said,

    April 4, 2007 at 3:24 am

    Lane said,

    “You didn’t actually address my real arguments from the text of Genesis itself regarding the temptation of Satan, and what that implied. It is the same Moses who wrote Genesis and Exodus. You seem to have forgotten this. Do you really think that Moses would have written about Adam without having the Ten Commandments running around in his mind? Absurd.”

    What does Moses writing about the Ten have to do with the actions of any of the parties in the Garden? It does not necessarily follow that the two have to be complimentary. You proposed that the Covenant of works given Adam is of the same kind as the Mosaic covenant. But, why? The conditions were not the same. And, no, Satan’s lie was not that they take God’s place, but that they should be like him. It is quite alarming that you would think that Adam had a concept of right and wrong. But, how can that be since he had no knowledge of evil? The innocence in which Adam was created was with only the knowledge of right. It was right that he should not eat and live is the promise that was given. God did not “tempt” man by placing death and evil before his eyes as a possibility of disobedience! He forbid it as a possibility. He did not make it a choice, did he? God is not Arminian, is he? With the Mosaic covenant we have this formula, “See, this day I put before you evil and good, death and life, choose life.” But, these conditions exist because of the fall, not because God is tempting man to choose. In the Garden the ony choice that was placed before Adam was life. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the very knowledge of God and not evil. Death was not in the Garden. Though the tempter was, and evil was in him, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of evil’s presence. And death had not yet come into the creation.

    The following is a compilation from the WCF:

    “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.”

    “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.”

    “Besides this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.”

    “We can not, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, because of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins; but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit;”

    “God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience; promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it; and endued him with power and ability to keep it.”

    What can be see from the WCF is that in neither the Adamic nor the Mosaic is works meritorious, nor can be. Which seems to agree with Paul that by the works of the law can no man be justified. Now in the first, since their is no need for justification, it is not the satisfaction of a violation that can even be considered. In both cases “grace” is the only operative principle that can procure life. In the second it is the promise of the restoration of life that is the subject and that only in type, but in the first it is the continuance of life. Some one may argue that the promise of the Laws of Moses are grounded in obedience. However that cannot be true except because of the obvious sacrificial nature of it. The sacrifices speak of the same thing as the passover, namely that the children of Israel were children of wrath and had to perform service to merit life after the sacrifice. The covenant in the Garden is entirely different. No service is required to procure life. In this case the “gulf” between man’s works meriting God’s favor is just as great as it is in the case of the Law of Moses, except that life in the Garden is by grace. It is not “eternal life” as is evidenced by the fact that A&E were driven out of the Garden so that they would not take of the Tree of Life and eat. Whether they would have taken of it before the fall we do not know, though it is implied that they might have. Nevertheless, the life that they lived was temporal and sustained not by reward for obedience but by continuance in the grace of the works of life. I think the term was used that life was congruent with the CoW. It was also stated that life would have continued by the rule of ” do this and live.” But, isn’t it also true that the prohibition could be restated as “do this not and live?” In other words “Do not eat this for in the day you do you will die,” could be stated, “Do not eat this and you will live and not die.” In either case it means “do this and live,” which is true but quite backwards. Because Adam was created living. So the order should be “live and do this.” This is quite different than Moses commanding the people that if they do something deserving death then they must undo the wrong by sacrifice or if they want to live and not die they must do something extraneous. It is also different because the natural condition post fall is death, not life. In Adam’s case the life that was promised was the life that he was living and required nothing added to it. Death was theatened if he did add something to it and to continue living he needed merely to live life. Satan’s deception had to do with convincing Eve that she needed to add to her life God’s life, not that she violate the covenant of a life of works, but by works to attain to eternal life, the life of God. Instead of a life given to them by grace and the works of life attendant to it, Satan convinced Eve’s mind, that true life is attainable only by works, rather than works being a gift prepared before hand that she should live in them.

    I think that the WCF has it right. “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.”

    The covenant is by God’s condescension, it is by grace, prepared, empowered and made to perservere by grace. It has never been dependent upon man’s abilities apart from God, nor is it the expectation of God that man should be faithful in it unilaterally. That was Satan’s lie. For even if we are unfathful, he remains faithful. Even if we deny him, he cannot deny himself. Even repentance is his work, not ours, though we who have the Spirit of God will surely fulfill the works that he has given us to do. This is what has been restored, not the freedom to choose to do evil, but the freedom to choose to do good and that only.

    It is unfortunate that the WCF would use the phrases, “upon condition of perfect and personal obedience,” and “promised life upon the fulfilling.” It makes it sound as if merit is involved and that life is consequential to man’s actions. Genesis teaches us the opposite. Adam lived and then worked because he had life. It is also unfortunate that the WCF uses language that leads the reader not familiar with the texts of Scripture or who may not reference the other parts of the WCF for clarification, to assume that Adam had the natural ability to discern evil from good as if that knowledge was a resident knowledge with which he was created. He did not possess the knowledge and any ability that he possessed to rationally determine right from wrong was negated by his innocence. The WCF does make this clear in other parts, especially in the concepts of innocence and deception. To clearify, Eve saw the fruit as good being deceived and deceived her husband. But, what can that mean? It cannot mean that they saw the fruit to be bad or evil, for it was neither. The did know good and they did know what was for food and what was not. And that is what Genesis says, that she saw it as food, but it was not given for food. Neither was the Tree of Life. The text says that she saw that it was good for food, implying and reinforcing what was said earlier, that it was not for food. But being the very knowledge of God, it was good. The negative prohibition, “thou shall not eat,” then could only mean to Adam and Eve, in their innocence, that “it is good that you should not eat,” seeing that they had no knowledge of the meaning of death which is itself the expression of opposition to Life. Nor did they have a concept of “bad,” itself the definition of sin.

    In conclusion when we look at the CoW given in the Garden it could never have been meritorious in any sense. It can only be as it is now, the accomplishment of grace given by the condecension of God. Before the fall and after the fall the distance between man and God is the same. This speaks to that condencension necessary for man to accomplish anything, even the keeping of the first commandment not to eat, which had nothing to do with the commandments given to Moses except that only by grace are either accomplished. It was not the First Commandment that Adam broke. In fact, the deception must have proceeded from his love of God, for that is all that he had within him being created in the image of God and having His commandments written upon his heart, which at that point was a heart of flesh not a heart of stone. The deception was that Adam believed his wife’s voice, just as she had heeded the serpent’s, and that lie was that to truely love God with all their being they needed to gain wisdom and knowledge so that they could be just like their Father. What greater love does a child have, and what greater good is there in the heart of a child than the desire to be like Him?

    The final statement on the CoW is captured best in this, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

  40. greenbaggins said,

    April 4, 2007 at 10:01 am

    My point about Moses was that FV authors seem to think (as do many who deny the CoW) that because Genesis happened long before Exodus, that therefore the doctrine of CoW cannot be present in Genesis. What they forget is that Moses wrote both books under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Moses’ understanding of law (“Do this and live”) cannot be divorced from how we understand Genesis.

    And no, I am *not* saying that the CoW and the Mosaic covenant are identical. I have always said that there are two layers to the Mosaic covenant. There is a CoW layer, and a CoG layer. They both function simultaneously. The prologue of the Ten Commandments points us to the CoG element, and Galatians 4 points us to the CoW elements. Otherwise, why would Paul call the *entire* Mosaic economy Hagar? Galatians 4:24 says explicitly that these two women are ***two*** covenants, not one.

    BOQ “We can not, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life, at the hand of God, because of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit, nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins; but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants: and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit;” EOQ This has no reference to pactum merit, but to works done by the Christian. It is referring to the post-fall situation, and thus has no relevance to the pre-fall situation in terms of Adam meriting (by pact) eternal life by perfect, personal obedience to the moral law, given to Adam.

    BOQ What can be see from the WCF is that in neither the Adamic nor the Mosaic is works meritorious, nor can be. EOQ This flies directly in the face of WCF 7.2. If obedience is the condition of Adam’s inheriting eternal life, then, in some sense, Adam’s obedience merits eternal life. It is not condign merit, and it is not congruent merit. Rather, God promised that if Adam obeyed, he would enter into the glorified state. This follows from the explicit language of the confession. It is pactum merit. Why is it that anyone who denies the CoW will not allow even the hypothetical possibility of pactum merit?

    And no, the final statement of your post has nothing to do with the CoW. In fact, that is dangerous for you to say that. We are not in any way, sense, or manner under the CoW. We are under the CoG. That verse refers to the CoG, and the place of works within it as part of sanctification.

  41. June 20, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    [...] 20th, 2007 at 1:44 pm (Federal Vision) I have already addressed this issue in several posts here, here, here, here, here, and here. I do not wish to duplicate what I have already said in those [...]

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    [...] reading (Forde’s On Being a Theologian of the Cross) that seemed germaine to some of the air blowing about the blogosphere these days. Anyway, here is part of the section that struck me as [...]

  43. February 8, 2010 at 9:57 am

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