Why The FV Is Wrong On Paul

Here is Daniel Kok’s excellent comment (originally posted here) that shreds the FV take on Paul:

[For the FV] every statement of scripture [necessarily] means the same for every person. FV advocates (Leithart etc.) would have us read Ephesians 1 as indicative for every person in the church. As outward, baptized members we are all part of Christ’s body and thus these words are true for us. But what about Amos or Galatians? If I preach from these books should I condemn the whole congregation because Amos speaks to Israel (the church/the covenant people) and roundly condemns them? Is there a remnant according to grace to whom I should speak to along with the reprobate, and say ‘you are false, and you shall die!’ Should I say “O foolish [congregation] who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?” Or do I believe that those who have faith (a gift for the elect: Ephesians 2:8) will respond, and that the rest will respond in unbelief? (“The elect obtained it and the rest were hardened” Romans 11:7) When Christ speaks to the church of Ephesus and says that they have abandoned their first love, does He mean to say all, or every person addressed, man woman and child have done so? What if there were some faithful among them? Are they to be condemned because the greater body has fallen away? I do not mean to be cute or antagonistic, but it seems to me that a consistent reading of scripture would determine that not all statements apply to every person in the same way.

So much for the FV’s wooden hermeneutic on Paul.

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94 Comments

  1. pduggie said,

    October 30, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Y’know there is an explicit contrast between Ephesus, where everyone is addressed equally, and Thyatyra, where Jesus lines out that “you” tolerate Jezebel, but that “the rest of you” have no other burden than to hold fast.

    Hey, who loves perfectly! Can’t we all be said to have left our first love in some sense?

  2. greenbaggins said,

    October 30, 2007 at 10:20 am

    So, we are supposed to believe that there were no new believers at all in Ephesus, such that all of them had lost their first love? It’s a generalization.

  3. Al said,

    October 30, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Or so much for the critics’ wooden hermeneutic on the FV…

  4. greenbaggins said,

    October 30, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Al, that isn’t really an answer. Can you give us something more substantive?

  5. pduggie said,

    October 30, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Imagine if you will, a congregation formed in trial, that has left its first love.

    New member joins.

    Why did he join? Was it the love of Christ an neighbor preached? Or their cold hard stand against nicloaitism.

    A badly formed church can make proselytes that are even worse than the church that forms them. I don’t really see a problem with the warning in general.

    Or maybe Revelation is just talking about the Angels: the ministry and leaders.

    Or maybe we can’t really involve John’s revelation in a discussion of the hermeneutics apropos for Paul

  6. greenbaggins said,

    October 30, 2007 at 10:55 am

    You are assuming that the new member joined with all of these problems, and that he is culpable for joining because of said problem. Even if I were to grant your point here, you still need to answer Amos and Galatians, especially Galatians, since it is Paul. I don’t grant your point, by the way. I think Daniel is still spot on.

  7. October 30, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Oh, my head! That’s why you wanted to post it? I think there was a subsequent post that did a pretty good job at answering this “shredding” of the FV….hmmmm, I think it was by some guy addicted to Starbucks.

  8. October 30, 2007 at 11:23 am

    LOL, Al. That’s taste of the ol’ medicine.

  9. October 30, 2007 at 11:23 am

    * a taste…soz

  10. October 30, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Ah! I found it…here it is…

    # 18.

    Yes. Were you in the church @ Ephesus, you should hear the warning as if it were to you personally. Say you weren’t yet leaving your first love (”Hey, Pastor (er, Angel), I haven’t lost my 1st love yet…may I be excused?”) but b/c you live in a body of 1st-love-leavers, guilty by association. Hearer, beware.

    Short. Sweet. And mighty decent, I must say.

  11. Mark T. said,

    October 30, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Black & Tan,

    Gary’s wrong about you. You don’t need a designated driver; you need to have your license revoked.

    Thank you.

  12. October 30, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Ooooooo. That’s a good one.

    You’re Welcome.

  13. October 30, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you.

  14. October 30, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    What is that? No, really. Is that some final word slam? Like you actually said something worth wiping the puss (is that how one spells “puss”? is it one “s” or two? huh! Weird.) out of your dog’s eye. Is it like you offered some kind of brilliant retort that cannot help but be lauded? Is that what it is? Is it? Huh!? Cuz it’s not.

    Thank you.

  15. October 30, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    All child-ness aside. Is there a MS program that can read a WORD doc outloud? As if I were a blind person and needed that kind of program?

  16. October 30, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    I should have said “goo”. It’s “pus”.

  17. jared said,

    October 30, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Lane,

    Daniel says, “[For the FV] every statement of scripture [necessarily] means the same for every person.” but I haven’t gotten the impression that this is true. If this premise isn’t true, then doesn’t this entire post fall flat as a robust critique? The problem here is that Daniel is presuming FV is a singular position, which it’s not. Perhaps Leithart and some others want to utilize such a “wooden” interpretation of Paul so that “every statement of scripture means the same for every person” (though I don’t think Leithart would agree with this assessment of his work) but it does not, therefore, stand to reason that all FV advocates think such is the case.

    Moving on, Daniel says: “When Christ speaks to the church of Ephesus and says that they have abandoned their first love, does He mean to say all, or every person addressed, man woman and child have done so? What if there were some faithful among them? Are they to be condemned because the greater body has fallen away?” Yes, they are. Jesus is speaking to the whole church is He not? Why would this exclude those who are being faithful? If those few were being faithful they (a) wouldn’t remain with an unfaithful church/congregation or (b) they will eventually get the church/congregation’s act together. An analogical situation is helpful here, Genesis 18. God condemns Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham pleads (or reasons) with God not to destroy the city on account of the righteous who live there. God ultimately agrees not to destroy Sodom if He finds even but ten righteous living there; we all know how that turns out (fire and brimstone for those of you who don’t want to check the reference). Lot and his daughters are spared, their numbers apparently did not add up to ten. At any rate, my point here is made I think.

    As a pastor, if your congregation is wallowing in sin, you are the prophet that should warn of impending judgment even if there are a few members who aren’t wallowing in sin. Is this not right? Context determines use to a large extent, does it not? If your congregation isn’t “bewitched” and you’re preaching Amos or Galations, then, obviously, you don’t preach it as Paul addressing them specifically in that regard. I’ve not taken any homiletics courses though so I won’t be much help in this vein. I don’t know why it should be any different for a FV preacher…

  18. R. F. White said,

    October 30, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Paul wrote to the elect Ephesians of their blessedness. Christ has a letter sent to the unrepentant Ephesians and, through it, threatens them with losing their lampstand. What accounts for the difference?

  19. Robert K. said,

    October 30, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    FVists are the same people who in academia read the Iliad and declared that it’s about feminism.

  20. October 30, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    Jared,

    Good post.

  21. October 30, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Everybody!!!! Sling Mud!!!!

  22. pduggie said,

    October 30, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Christ’s letters follow the pattern of prophetic covenant lawsuit.

    So I guess the differences is that the one is a construct of the covenant of grace, and the other is a construct of the typological covenant of works we’re under with the law as a Rule of Life.

    They’ll lose their lampstand, though they themselves will NOT be cast into hell.

    Kline has well taught us than whenever you see a works principle (like in the letters in Revelation) you know you’re dealing with a Covenant of Works (either real as in the garden, or typological, as with Moses)

    :-)

  23. Al said,

    October 30, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    To be honest, I see little point in substantive engagement at this stage. I have seen little evidence that critics of the FV have really understood what the FV is saying, or gone to sufficient effort to give a charitable reading. The critiques really don’t speak to my understanding of the FV, but to a caricature, where the statements of the FV are read in terms of the critics’ theological framework, rather than in terms of the theological framework in which the FV writers situate their statements.

    I suspect that much of this arises from the fact that the critics of the FV tend to be very well read in certain areas of the Reformed tradition, but not very well read outside. Consequently, they are not used to thinking in terms of categories that are second nature to those of us who receive our general theological training in a less confessionally driven context. In the context in which I study theology there is no confessional standard in terms of which the education is given. We are just exposed to dozens of different theologies, each of which we have to understand on their own terms. Given the ecumenical context, we can’t easily get away with careless critiques of other positions (except, sadly, in the case of unfashionable positions such as fundamentalism and Cartesianism). As a result, our theological training is designed in a way that is primarily geared to teach us to understand many theological paradigms on their own terms and merits, rather than to teach us to think in terms of a particular set of theological categories.

    Having lecturers from a wide range of different theological backgrounds means that we learn to maintain a suspicion of any of the positions that we are presented with. We are also strongly encouraged to try to think of ways in which our own theological positions can be criticized and to sit loosely to some degree to our own positions. There is no fixed and authoritative confessional or biblical datum to which everything can be related. This is helpful, insofar as it shows that not all theological systems can be understood on the same terms. Even the Bible cannot but be read in terms of different theological paradigms. We are taught to be able to think in terms of any theological system, but ultimately be driven by none.

    I do not pretend for a moment that such a theological education is without its problems. It isn’t. However, it does teach you to do some things very well, and understanding different theological paradigms is one of them. The criticisms of the FV that I have come across are evidence that many of the critics have not received such a good education in this particular skill. I do not doubt for a moment that they have an exhaustive knowledge of their own particular area of the Reformed tradition, but that can be more of a hinderance than a help when it comes to understanding positions that differ subtly from the traditions that they are familiar with.

    Coming to Daniel’s comment, he is absolutely right: not all statements apply to every person in the same way and only a wooden reading of Scripture would suppose that they did. A passage like Ephesians 1 is addressed, not to a set of individuals (whether understood as a subset of the ‘visible’ church, whether the ‘elect’ or something else, or as the full number of individuals contained within the church) primarily, nor to a corporate entity (the ‘Church’, abstracted from its particular members). Rather, Ephesians 1 is addressed to a personal solidarity, which is neither simply corporate nor individual. A family is one example of a form of a personal solidarity, although the sense in which the Church is a personal solidarity exceeds the sense in which the family is one.

    Ephesians 1 addresses people as members of the body of Christ and not as individuals abstracted from this personal solidarity and network of relationships. Every baptized person is a member of the body of Christ in some sense, whatever the spiritual state of their heart. So, on one level, Paul’s statements apply to everyone. However, they do not apply to everyone in the same way. People participate in the life of the body of Christ in different ways and to differing extents.

    This is comparable to a father telling all of the members of his family how privileged they are to be members of the family, how much they are loved and ennumerating the blessings of their life as a family. Every person in the family is addressed in such statements and needs to take the father’s words personally. However, different members of the family bear different relationships to the family.

    One son may find his identification with the family as a chafing constraint and look to throw it off as soon as possible. He has mentally disidentified himself from his family in various ways. Do his father’s statements apply to him? In one sense they do. Until he formally breaks from the family, or is cut off from the family, he still belongs to it in some sense and all of the blessings and privileges of family life at least nominally belong to him, whether he takes the trouble to enjoy them or not. However, the person that the father addresses in his statements is a person who is constituted by his relationship to the family — not the son considered as an individual, abstracted from the family. As the son is in the process of rejecting this identity (the identity of ‘family member’ and son of the father) there is a very important sense in which he will not hear himself being addressed in the statement of his father, simply because the father is addressing him as someone that he is actively disidentifying from.

    On the other hand, a son who loves his father and the rest of the family will hear himself being addressed directly in the words of his father, simply because he has not disidentified himself from his father and family. The person that the father is addressing (a family member) is the person that he is with every part of his being.

    Much the same is true of Paul’s statements in Ephesians 1. Everything that he says is true of the Church, considered as the body of Christ, and is true in some sense of all of its members. We have all received the gift of membership in the body of Christ and family of God in Baptism. Some continue to live out of this gift of membership; others have tired of it and cease to identify both mentally and actively with the body of Christ. Statements about the blessings that belong to all of the members of the body of Christ will not apply to these different people in the same way at all. Some want to shake off their identification with Christ, others want to identify with Christ even more. Baptism and the Church don’t lose their character on account of our unfaithfulness, but our rejection of God’s gifts can lead to a point when our identity is no longer constituted by them.

    The book of Galatians addresses the Galatian church, not considered in terms of being the body of Christ (although it still is) and of the privileges that belong to it as such, but in terms of its unfaithfulness as a local body of Christians. This unfaithfulness characterizes the body of Christians as a whole, and not just a few individual members. Even faithful Christians are implicated in various ways. Judgment on the church will affect them as well. Even faithful Israelites had to go into exile. Even faithful Joshua and Caleb had to wander in the wilderness for forty years. We are not individuals, but persons in communion and when the communion that we belong to is judged, the penalty will affect us too.

    The underlying problem here seems to be the failure to grasp such concepts as that of personal solidarity and a tendency to think and articulate things in terms of very unhelpful categories such as individual/corporate dichotomies. Framed in such a way, it is no surprise that FV teaching looks strange and unbiblical.

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 30, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    OK, so this pushes things a little further for me.

    For only last night, (the night before? Life is blurry with two toddlers…), I was reading Wilkins’ essay in “The Federal Vision” concerning the Corinthian church, and I was thinking to myself,

    “Wilkins asserts that 1 Cor is written to each of the church members (actually, all of the church members in Achaia!) without distinction. But what if I apply Wilkins’ hermeneutical principle to the book of Ephesians? Then we have that all of the Ephesians are ‘covenantally’

    * predestined to be adopted
    * redeemed by Jesus’ blood
    * chosen and predestined to be to the praise of his glory
    * given a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance.”

    And it occurred to me, in ruminating further, that Paul is attributing decretal and eschatological things of the Ephesians, which cannot be possibly be predicated of the NECMs in a covenantal fashion.

    So I wondered how Wilkins would deal with this, and concluded that either he had overlooked it (unlikely) or else that he would say that the address to the Ephesian church was different, being written to “the faithful saints” instead of “the church of God, called to be holy”; that is, that he would nuance his hermeneutics at this point.

    But apparently I’m wrong! Does Leithart say that Ephesians is addressed to all in the church? Can anyone point me to the article where he does so?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

    P.S. I’m not sure why Revelation 2 is particularly difficult for either side, assuming a later date for Revelation. The Ephesians of the mid-50s were mostly dead by the 90s. But even if Rev. was written in the 60s, still and all, the turnover in the church would have been tremendous.

  25. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 30, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    I’m sorry if this is a duplicate; I had trouble posting.

    Only last night, (the night before? Life is blurry with two toddlers…), I was reading Wilkins’ essay in “The Federal Vision” concerning the Corinthian church, and I was thinking to myself,

    “Wilkins asserts that 1 Cor is written to each of the church members (actually, all of the church members in Achaia!) without distinction. But what if I apply Wilkins’ hermeneutical principle to the book of Ephesians? Then we have that all of the Ephesians are ‘covenantally’

    * predestined to be adopted
    * redeemed by Jesus’ blood
    * chosen and predestined to be to the praise of his glory
    * given a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance.”

    And it occurred to me, in ruminating further, that Paul is attributing decretal and eschatological things of the Ephesians, which cannot be possibly be predicated of the NECMs in a covenantal fashion.

    So I wondered how Wilkins would deal with this, and concluded that either he had overlooked it (unlikely) or else that he would say that the address to the Ephesian church was different, being written to “the faithful saints” instead of “the church of God, called to be holy”; that is, that he would nuance his hermeneutics at this point.

    But apparently I’m wrong! Does Leithart say that Ephesians is addressed to all in the church? Can anyone point me to the article where he does so?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

    P.S. I’m not sure why Revelation 2 is particularly difficult for either side, assuming a later date for Revelation. The Ephesians of the mid-50s were mostly dead by the 90s. But even if Rev. was written in the 60s, still and all, the turnover in the church would have been tremendous.

  26. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 30, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    ACK. Posting just isn’t working for me. This is my third attempt, and then I’ll give up.

    To be honest, I see little point in substantive engagement at this stage.

    Al, the point is precisely because of the corporate nature of the church. Because the hand can’t say to the foot, “I don’t need you”, it must learn how to speak footish.

    And frankly, I have yet to see either side assume the full burden of clarity that needs to be assumed in order to dialog in love.

    That’s the point, brothers: we’re stuck with each other for eternity, so we better act according to our destiny and learn to communicate.

    I know you know this, but I need to say it because some basic, obvious things haven’t happened in the communication process yet. We aren’t yet talking like a family.

    Jeff

  27. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 30, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    OK, since that worked, then I’ll try the original post:

    Only last night, (the night before? Life is blurry with two toddlers…), I was reading Wilkins’ essay in “The Federal Vision” concerning the Corinthian church, and I was thinking to myself,

    “Wilkins asserts that 1 Cor is written to each of the church members (actually, all of the church members in Achaia!) without distinction. But what if I apply Wilkins’ hermeneutical principle to the book of Ephesians? Then we have that all of the Ephesians are ‘covenantally’

    * predestined to be adopted
    * redeemed by Jesus’ blood
    * chosen and predestined to be to the praise of his glory
    * given a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance.”

    And it occurred to me, in ruminating further, that Paul is attributing decretal and eschatological things of the Ephesians, which cannot be possibly be predicated of the NECMs in a covenantal fashion.

    So I wondered how Wilkins would deal with this, and concluded that either he had overlooked it (unlikely) or else that he would say that the address to the Ephesian church was different, being written to “the faithful saints” instead of “the church of God, called to be holy”; that is, that he would nuance his hermeneutics at this point.

    But apparently I’m wrong! Does Leithart really say that Ephesians is addressed to all in the church? Can anyone point me to the article where he does so?

    Thanks,
    Jeff

    P.S. I’m not sure why Revelation 2 is particularly difficult for either side, assuming a later date for Revelation. The Ephesians of the mid-50s were mostly dead by the 90s. But even if Rev. was written in the 60s, still and all, the turnover in the church would have been tremendous.

  28. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 30, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    OK, since that worked, then I’ll try the original post:

    Only last night, (the night before? Life is blurry with two toddlers…), I was reading Wilkins’ essay in “The Federal Vision” concerning the Corinthian church, and I was thinking to myself,

    “Wilkins asserts that 1 Cor is written to each of the church members (actually, all of the church members in Achaia!) without distinction. But what if I apply Wilkins’ hermeneutical principle to the book of Ephesians? Then we have that all of the Ephesians are ‘covenantally’

    * predestined to be adopted
    * redeemed by Jesus’ blood
    * chosen and predestined to be to the praise of his glory
    * given a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance.”

    And it occurred to me, in ruminating further, that Paul is attributing decretal and eschatological things of the Ephesians, which cannot be possibly be predicated of the NECMs in a covenantal fashion.

    So I wondered how Wilkins would deal with this, and concluded that either he had overlooked it (unlikely) or else that he would say that the address to the Ephesian church was different, being written to “the faithful saints” instead of “the church of God, called to be holy”; that is, that he would nuance his hermeneutics at this point.

    But apparently I’m wrong! Does Leithart really say that Ephesians is addressed to all in the church? Can anyone point me to the article where he does so?

    Also, I’m not sure why Revelation 2 is particularly difficult for either side, assuming a later date for Revelation. The Ephesians of the mid-50s were mostly dead by the 90s.

    But even if Rev. was written in the 60s, still and all, the turnover in the church would have been tremendous.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

  29. jared said,

    October 30, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Robert K,

    The Iliad is about the anger of Achilles…

  30. R. F. White said,

    October 30, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    To pduggie in 22,

    I agree with your opening sentence that Christ’s letters follow the prophetic covenantal pattern. Would you say that the letters of Christ’s apostles follow a different pattern?

  31. October 30, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Al,

    Why are FV critics criticized for reading the FV writers from within the confessional theological tradition we have vowed to uphold, rather than from the theological perspective in which “the FV writers have positioned themselves”?

    Seems to me that’s the very issue, namely, that the FV men have vowed to uphold one perspective (a confessional one) and yet have “positioned themselves” in a theological world of their own making (a biblicist one).

    Sure, I have no business criticizing N.T. Wright for not being a presbyterian, but he never claimed to be one in the first place. But when minister subscribes to his church’s Standards, he should be expected to uphold them.

  32. Matt said,

    October 30, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Al,

    I appreciate reading your explanations (even when I often disagree), but I want to highlight one thing you say here:

    “The critiques really don’t speak to my understanding of the FV, but to a caricature, where the statements of the FV are read in terms of the critics’ theological framework, rather than in terms of the theological framework in which the FV writers situate their statements.”

    I’ve noticed you’ve said this a number of times in different venues, so I can tell it’s an important point for you….and yet I can’t honestly understand *how* this actually proves anything.

    Because if I were to really try to follow what you say consistently, I wonder how I could honestly tell ANYONE that they were wrong about ANYTHING they say. After all, who doesn’t interpret Scripture within their own ‘theological framework’!?!?

    I couldn’t tell an Arian that he’s wrong…because after all Arius has a rather complex (yeah even *Scriptural*!!!) defense for arguing “there was a time when Christ was naught”! IOW, Arius has his ‘theological framework’ for denying something we all believe is essential to our Christology…and yet I wonder how I could critique him without taking direct umbrage with his terminology and definition of terms.

    Or, moving closer to home, what about the classic Calvinist and Arminian debate over ‘election’? Both recognize the Bible speaks about ‘election’!! But is the debate simply a matter of the Calvinist having their ‘theological framework’ and the Arminian having their ‘theological framework’? Does one side have no right to tell the other why their ‘framework’ doesn’t measure up to the Scriptural definition of ‘election’, simply because that might imply I’m trying to understand the Calvinist using ‘Arminian’ categories OR the Arminian using ‘Calvinist’ categories?

    A credobaptist could never tell a paedobaptist that he’s wrong…because after all he’s assuming a different ‘theological framework’! A postmillennialist could never tell an a- or premillennialist that he’s wrong…because after all he’s assuming a different ‘theological framework’! And on and on we could go….

    Theological discourse simply cannot work this way.

  33. Tony S said,

    October 30, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    Matt. as I understand what Al’s saying the standard isn’t that you can’t criticize a person operating out of another theological framework, but rather that you understand them within their own framework according to its categories and terms.

  34. October 30, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Tony,

    But isn’t that the issue? Ministers in confessional Presbyterian denominations already have a theological framework: The Westminster Standards. Is it not disingenuous to vow to one framework, and then, after being accused of failing to uphold it, to say, “Well, now I have a new framework within which I theologize, didn’t you get the memo?”?

    As ministers in 2007, we have all walked into a converstaion that has been going on for a long time before we showed up. Re-writing our lexicon and changing the definition of our terms both causes confusion, and robs the innovator of the right to kick and scream when no one understands what he’s talking about.

  35. Tony S said,

    October 30, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Jason, no the Westminster Standards are not an exhaustive theological framework. Its purpose is to establish doctrinal boundaries. Multiple frameworks can exist within the boundaries of the standards. Which means that if you read a statement from someone and conclude that if you said that you’d mean something heretical it doesn’t remove your ethical obligation to understand what the other person said in their own framework before making an accusation.

  36. October 30, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Tony,

    No one said anything about the Standards being “exhaustive” (well, you did, but I didn’t). I agree with you about their providing us with boundaries, which is why it is frustrating when FV proponents insist on calling the final judgment “justification,” church membership “union with Christ,” while rolling their eyes at the distinction between the visible and invisible church.

    So yeah, I can appreciate one guy being more TR, another reading Kline, while another is trying to redeem sports. But when a group wants the status of being just another room in the confessional house, while undermining the foundation of that house, it smacks of duplicity, at least to me.

  37. Robert K. said,

    October 30, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Let’s put an end to this current night of the living dead outbreak here on this thread of the notion that the critics of Federal Vision don’t understand them. We understand you like we understand Shelby Spong.

  38. October 30, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Daniel Kok’s whole argument depends on this first assertion. [For the FV] “every statement of scripture [necessarily] means the same for every person.” But I think this statement not only false, but crazy false. Now what do we do?

  39. jared said,

    October 30, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    Doug,

    Isn’t that what I said? ;-)

  40. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 30, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    Jason, I would respond by saying this: the Westminster Standards are a complex system with language that was purposely left undefined at points.

    In the current controversy, the PCA adherents to the FV — Meyers, Wilkins, et. al. — claim that they subscribe simultaneously to the Confession *and* to the FV. In the case of both of those men, their presbyteries agree with them.

    So their official position is that they *do* subscribe to the WCoF; they *do not* subscribe to the particular understanding of the WCoF that Duncan, Waters, and Sproul hold. Rather (they say), they subscribe instead to the understanding held by Murray, Shepherd, and so on.

    So already, the stage is set for several non-profitable discussions.

    One of those is charging them with un-Confessionalism. Even if true, it will be denied in good faith because these men see themselves as Confessional. This is where your analogy to Arius breaks down; he was in the end unwilling to abide by Nicea.

    Another is for FVers to continue to claim that they are being misrepresented. At some point, the burden of clarity falls to them.

    Yet another is for FV critics to continue to read statements by the FV and reason, “If I said that, I would mean something heretical by it. Therefore, he must also mean something heretical by it.” For the fact of the matter is that words aren’t concepts, and it’s entirely possible to wrap a non-heretical concept in words that sound heretical.

    It’s unwise to do so, IMO, and I wish that Wilkins and friends would find new language. But still and all, the burden of charitable construction falls to the critics.

    Jeff

  41. Robert K. said,

    October 30, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    >But I think this statement not only false, but crazy false. Now what do we do?

    Consult the signal coming in through the filling in James Jordan’s tooth.

  42. Robert K. said,

    October 30, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    >”So their official position is that they *do* subscribe to the WCoF; they *do not* subscribe to the particular understanding of the WCoF that Duncan, Waters, and Sproul hold. Rather (they say), they subscribe instead to the understanding held by Murray, Shepherd, and so on.”

    Yes, Shepherd, that stout WCF man.

    Shelby Spong can ‘say’ he holds to the WCF. What do his statements and writings say? And you can’t put the burden on: “Yes, Arius stated Jesus is God, but then he didn’t cotton to Nicea, so what he was doing is not what the FVists are doing.” You can’t do this because FVists have stated they want to rewrite the WCF, and, anyway, they only say they hold to it because they know they can get away with that ‘just say anything’ tactic in this particular era. And Arius, anyway, saw his harvest in what was to become Islamic lands. FVists seek a similar harvest…wherever they can get it.

    But this is all just theological liberals turning their deconstructing on Reformed/Calvinist doctrine. It’s not like they are sneaking up on anybody (or fooling anybody but the currently extremely innocent who will eventually develop discernment, if they do, by God’s grace).

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 30, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    OK, I need to revisit an old point in this thread.

    Two nights ago … or was it last night?? Life is fuzzy with two toddlers … I was reading Wilkins in The Federal Vision re: the Corinthian church. There, he makes the argument familiar now to all that the Corinthians are attributed by Paul to have a laundry list of things that look like salvation: He was speaking about what was true of these people objectively by virtue of their union with Christ (TFV, 58-60).

    So I put the book down and started thinking. It is clear that Wilkins wants to attribute this list to the entire church on the grounds that the letter is addressed to the entire church.

    So Doug (#34), here we do have at least one instance of FV attributing the contents of the letter to the entire church without feeling “compelled in the least to qualify or hedge” his statements (60).

    So then I started thinking, what if I applied the same hermeneutical method to Ephesians?

    In that case, because the letter is once again addressed to the whole church, I would have to conclude that each individual member is

    * predestined to adoption as sons
    * made alive from the dead
    * predestined to be to the praise and glory of his grace, and
    * sealed with the deposit of the H.S. guaranteeing their inheritance.

    Now those things are decretal and eschatological in nature; they clearly cannot be considered to be covenantally true without overturning the distinction between decretal and covenantal. It seemed to me clear then that we could not say that the above list was temporally experienced by the NECMs.

    So I wondered how Wilkins would exegete Ephesians 1. Perhaps he overlooked Ephesians? Unlikely. OK, perhaps he would read Ephesians differently from 1 Corinthians on the grounds that the former is addressed to the “faithful saints”, while the latter is addressed to the “church at Corinth.”

    But now, Kok’s comment makes me think that Leithart — and thus perhaps Wilkins? — is willing to swallow the criticism and really attribute all of Eph. 1 to the whole church. Can anyone substantiate this? A link to an article would be helpful.

    So Doug: if we agree that attributing everything in an epistle to the entire church is “crazy” wrong (and apparently we do), then should we not fault Wilkins for trying to attribute the generalizations in 1 Cor to the entire Corinthian church?

    Confused,
    Jeff

  44. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 30, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    But this is all just theological liberals turning their deconstructing on Reformed/Calvinist doctrine. It’s not like they are sneaking up on anybody (or fooling anybody but the currently extremely innocent who will eventually develop discernment, if they do, by God’s grace).

    I’ll tell you why I’m not willing to go there, Robert K.

    For one, no church court has convicted them of theological liberalism. You may scoff at that if you wish — but you can’t scoff at it while standing on Presbyterian ground. To scoff properly, you must stand apart from the church courts and tell them that they’re all wrong. Who’s the individualist then?

    For another, I’m not actually thrilled at the prospect of cutting people out of the church. I know that some people have had it up to their eyeballs with the Federal Visionists and just wish them good riddance.

    But let’s assume for the sake of argument that what they teach is positively heretical. Then what’s the best outcome? Repentance. What’s the second-best outcome? That they would agree to no longer teach what they have taught. What’s the last and worst outcome? That people would be excommunicated because we just plain old couldn’t manage to persuade them through Scripture and reason. That amounts to a controlled system failure. The purpose of church discipline is restoration, not excommunication.

    Now I ask: what value is there in making accusations? Is that more likely to promote repentance or contumacy? That’s why I’m not willing to go there.

    For my part, my tentative hypothesis is that FV is a strained solution to a real problem: the problem of how to understand our own and our children’s participation in the visible church. I don’t like how their solution is packaged, but I’ve been stimulated by them to reconsider the Scriptures and reconsider my children and how I disciple and raise them. I find value in engaging them even as I consider how I disagree (and in some cases, agree) with them.

    Jeff

  45. Mark T. said,

    October 30, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Jeff Cagle asks,

    For one, no church court has convicted them of theological liberalism. You may scoff at that if you wish — but you can’t scoff at it while standing on Presbyterian ground. To scoff properly, you must stand apart from the church courts and tell them that they’re all wrong. Who’s the individualist then?

    Actually, Jeff, the FVists are the individualists who scoff at their denomination. I don’t know how else to describe Mark Horne and Jeffrey Meyers. The PCA GA instructed them to inform their presbyteries of their disagreements with the WS, and rather than obey, they have used the Internet to inform the world of their disagreements and they have done this in mocking tone toward the PCA. Perhaps you think this submissive; I think it fits the definition of contumacious.

    But let’s assume for the sake of argument that what they teach is positively heretical. Then what’s the best outcome? Repentance. What’s the second-best outcome? That they would agree to no longer teach what they have taught. What’s the last and worst outcome? That people would be excommunicated because we just plain old couldn’t manage to persuade them through Scripture and reason. That amounts to a controlled system failure. The purpose of church discipline is restoration, not excommunication.

    Agreed, but while they declare their teachability out of one side of their mouths, they have told the world that they have the correct interpretation of all things Christian out of the other side. If the voice of seven Reformed denominations and countless micro-denominations cannot persuade them, then sooner or later somebody has to remark the obvious: “These men are incorrigible” (which I suspect will soon happen).

    For my part, my tentative hypothesis is that FV is a strained solution to a real problem: the problem of how to understand our own and our children’s participation in the visible church. I don’t like how their solution is packaged, but I’ve been stimulated by them to reconsider the Scriptures and reconsider my children and how I disciple and raise them. I find value in engaging them even as I consider how I disagree (and in some cases, agree) with them.

    Highly noble words, but I fail to see anything commendable about these men or their doctrine. However, if they jumped through all the right hoops, following the presbyterian procedure that they vowed to uphold, and if they submitted themselves to their fathers and brothers in the faith as they peacefully endeavored to amend the WCF to their unclear standards, then that would be a different story. But as it stands, they have given a stiff middle finger to everyone who challenges them, which forces me to conclude that they and their doctrine are equally bankrupt — certainly nothing to consider, let alone emulate.

  46. Al said,

    October 30, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Jeff,
    I agree to some extent. The problem is, however, there are certain things that can’t be said in ‘footish’. If the hand could say all that it wanted to say in ‘footish’, and say it the way that it felt it was best said, it would not be speaking ‘handish’. At some stage the feet are just going to have to learn ‘handish’ if they are going to understand what the hand is trying to say.

    If FV proponents are to understand the theological positions of their critics they certainly need to go to the effort of learning how to think in terms of their critics’ theological paradigms. The main issue in the current debate, however, is that of understanding the FV, and for that the onus is on the critics to learn to think in terms of the FV paradigm, rather than trying to translate it into paradigms that they are more familiar with. It seems to me that very important things are lost whenever such an attempt at translation takes place.

    The complaint that FV proponents are not being clear is understandable to some extent. The problem is that FV proponents are being perfectly clear. You just need to learn to think in terms of their theological categories if you are to properly understand them. Their ‘handish’ is impeccable. However, the feet are still listening to them as if they were trying to speak ‘footish’, but they are not. If they were they would not be able to say what they want to say the way that they want to say it.

    Jason,
    TonyS is right: to impose the categories of the WCF as normative is unhelpful. Understanding it in terms of its own categories, FV proponents claim that they can affirm what the WCF is saying. I couldn’t, but they claim that they can and I see no reason not to take them at their word.

    What they want to go on to do is to say certain things that cannot be said in terms of the categories of the WCF, without denying what the WCF is trying to say in terms of its own categories. It also argues that, strictly speaking, words like ‘justification’ within the WCF are not being used in quite the same sense as they are being used within Scripture. The term ‘justification’ in Scripture means something slightly different. Of course, this is not particularly radical. Most people will do the same thing with traditional creedal terminology like ‘Son of God’. They might argue that the categories of the ecumenical creeds are unhelpful at points, but affirm what the creeds are trying to say in terms of those categories. The FV treatment of the WCF, I might add, is far better than that of many Reformed people who will take creedal clauses like ‘he descended into hell’ or ‘one baptism for the remission of sins’ and merely retain the form, while emptying the statements of their theological content.

    We could compare all of this to the way in which someone working in terms of Einstein’s view of physics can affirm much of what Newton was trying to say when he is understood in terms of his own categories, whilst making clear that better categories are available and that there are things that need to be said that cannot be said in terms of a Newtonian view of the cosmos. If Einstein had had to translate everything he said into the framework of Newtonian physics we would live in a very different world today.

    Matt,
    No one said anything about not being permitted to criticize. It just means that if, say, you want properly to critique a person like Karl Rahner, you need to have a pretty firm understanding of where he is coming from and how he uses his terms. You need to have some sort of acquaintance with the thought-worlds of some of his influences and interlocutors: Aquinas, Kant, Husserl, Heidegger, etc. You need to be aware that when Rahner uses a term he does not necessarily use it in the sense that you are used to. Read in terms of Rahner’s own categories, a statement that might be deeply heretical in terms of your familiar categories might prove to be profoundly orthodox. You need to go to the effort of finding out how he is using his terms and why he is using the terms in such a manner. This is how real theological scholarship is done and it is not easy. You have to do the difficult spadework of learning dozens of different theological idioms, so that you can understand many different people on their own terms.

    There comes a time when, after you have understood what Rahner is trying to say in terms of his own categories, you come to the conclusion that you disagree with him and articulate the reasons why. You attempt a sympathetic reading; you seek to read Rahner as he would want to be read. When, after all of this, you choose to respectfully disagree with him, no one can accuse you of poor scholarship.

    This is what I would expect from the critics of the FV and this is exactly what seems to be lacking in almost all of the critiques that I come across. What I am seeing is all of the classic signs of shoddy scholarship.

    Jeff again,
    Regarding Ephesians 1, I see no reason not to say that every baptized person was predestined to adoption as a son, make alive from the dead, predestined to be to the praise and glory of God’s grace and sealed with the deposit of the Holy Spirit. I just understand what these statements are saying in a very different way to that which I expect you do. If I were to speak Westminsterese, I would strongly deny these statements, because within the categories that Westminster is working within such statements are patently false. FV proponents will agree with their critics on this point. By affirming such statements in terms of their own theological categories they are not affirming what the WCF is denying in terms of its theological categories. That said, I suspect that some FV proponents would have reservations about understanding the language of Ephesians 1 as I do.

    Within the categories that Paul is using, he can affirm statements that are false when considered in terms of the categories of Westminster. This is not a matter of Paul being right and Westminster being wrong. They can both be right, provided that we read them in terms of their own categories. Also, as I have already made clear in a previous comment, although the statements of Ephesians 1 do apply to everyone in the Church, they do not apply to everyone in the Church in the same sense.

  47. pduggie said,

    October 30, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    A minimal example of the failure to do that with Wright seems to me present in the double inconsistet criticism that

    1) Wright denies imputation is key in justification
    2) Wright has a doctrine of justification that isn’t dealing with acceptance with God.

    if 2 is true ONE doesn’t matter. If Wright is talking about God’s restorative justice, instead of distributive justice, worrying that there isn’t any forensic reckoning is a rabbit trail if wright is instead rethinking justification in terms of “setting someone to rights”

  48. pduggie said,

    October 30, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    41: Mark T

    Someone saying “Person X’s views should be acceptable in the PCA”

    is not the same as saying “I hold to the same views as person X”

  49. Robert K. said,

    October 30, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    >”The complaint that FV proponents are not being clear is understandable to some extent. The problem is that FV proponents are being perfectly clear. You just need to learn to think in terms of their theological categories if you are to properly understand them. Their ‘handish’ is impeccable. However, the feet are still listening to them as if they were trying to speak ‘footish’, but they are not. If they were they would not be able to say what they want to say the way that they want to say it.”

    FV scholarship in action.

  50. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 30, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    Actually, Jeff, the FVists are the individualists who scoff at their denomination. I don’t know how else to describe Mark Horne and Jeffrey Meyers…But as it stands, they have given a stiff middle finger to everyone who challenges them, which forces me to conclude that they and their doctrine are equally bankrupt — certainly nothing to consider, let alone emulate.

    Maybe so. So let’s assume that they are terrible, evil men. Perhaps even totally depraved.

    Where does that leave me? I can’t control their behavior; only mine. I can’t force them to act wisely by yelling at them. I’m not called upon to be their judges.

    At some point, I *am* responsible to evaluate their ideas, and judge those to be in or out of bounds Confessionally. To do that job, I need to understand their ideas as best as possible. That’s why I’ve entered into discussion — here, with Meyers, reading Wilkins’ book, elsewhere: to understand.

    But I’m not ever required or called upon to evaluate them as people. Does Paul ask for no reason, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant?”

    Or are our ‘bankrupt’ brothers no longer our brothers because they are bankrupt? Where then shall any of us find fellowship?

    However, if they jumped through all the right hoops, following the presbyterian procedure that they vowed to uphold, and if they submitted themselves to their fathers and brothers in the faith as they peacefully endeavored to amend the WCF to their unclear standards, then that would be a different story.

    I agree. That bothers me, too, greatly. But they didn’t — and here we are. Now what? “They deserve it, so let ‘em have it”?

    No. Conflict is not the end of relationship. Even if someone shoots the bird at me, I don’t have to accept that as the last word, and I *certainly* don’t have to respond in kind.

    At some point, our practice of theological dialogue has to bear some resemblance to the doctrines of grace we’re arguing over. Otherwise, the only reasonable conclusion is that we really don’t know what in heaven we’re talking about.

    James 3.17: “But the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive…”

    This is every bit as Confessional and binding on me as an elder as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And frankly, it’s a lot harder for me than affirming the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

    Jeff

    BTW, are you certain that Meyers hasn’t contacted his presbytery? I seem to recall him stating that he had done so, though I’m not certain of it.

  51. Robert K. said,

    October 30, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Jeff, the Word of God has something to say about answering a fool… We’ve all violated that one I know, but the point is: your U.N. dialogue style is not a style that values defending the faith once delivered. It values pretending to care while the city burns…

  52. pduggie said,

    October 30, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Jeff, you’ll soon realize its best to ignore Robert K, and the whole K family, Mom K and Dad K.

    O K?

  53. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 31, 2007 at 12:22 am

    Al, I’m going to be hard on the FV here as a way of explaining the obstacles that keep me, Joe Schmoe elder, from being able to grasp and embrace it. This isn’t my final evaluation; it’s just some of the more negative thoughts I’ve had.

    Regarding Ephesians 1, I see no reason not to say that every baptized person was predestined to adoption as a son, make alive from the dead, predestined to be to the praise and glory of God’s grace and sealed with the deposit of the Holy Spirit. I just understand what these statements are saying in a very different way to that which I expect you do.

    This is probably a helpful place to start.

    Thoughts about Einstein and Newton notwithstanding, the way in which Scripture uses words *does* have normative implications for the way in which we are allowed to use those words. That is, the Scripture is a preferred reference frame for language use (unlike our situation in Physics). Paul’s original intent *is* the correct understanding of Ephesians 1, and it *does* put boundaries on how we can use words like “εξελεκτω”.

    So now, I am working on two levels as I read your statement. First, I’m seeking to understand it from within the FV categories I’ve tried to grasp so far. As such, I understand you to be saying that the NECMs have some lesser and temporary experience of those items above.

    Second, I’m seeking to evaluate it — not on Confessional grounds, but on Biblical grounds. And on those grounds, I have real concerns.

    I’ve not yet seen an exegetical case that Paul’s language was intended to encompass the experiences of the non-elect (meaning: non-decretally elect) within the church. It may be that I’ve not yet read that particular case, but there it is. At this moment in 2007, my reaction to your statement is, “Nah, I don’t think Paul is saying that.”

    That’s partly because my understanding of Ephesians 1 is so dominated by (decretal) election that I can’t imagine that Paul is not talking about that very thing. But it’s also because I cannot understand what it might mean to experience being temporarily predestined to future adoption. So not only does my evaluation see exegetical problems, but it also sees logical consistency (or coherence) problems. For me, the exegetical problems are the more serious of the two.

    So this brings us back to the burden of clarity. IMO, if the FV is going to make progress amongst those of us who are trying to be open-minded, the various proponents are going to need to create (a) clear pictures that (b) connect in unambiguous ways to “good and necessary inferences” from Scripture.

    So far, I would rate the clarity of pictures to be about 3 of 10. Granted, I’m still trying to get up to speed; but still and all, I continue to be confused about what the FV actually teaches.

    How could someone who is not decretally elect have some here-and-now experience of being “chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in [God's] sight”? It’s not that I’m trying to be obtuse; it’s that the passage seems to me to be so clearly speaking of decretally elect people to the exclusion of non-decretally elect people, that it just seems self-contradictory to speak otherwise.

    Or what could it mean to say that the non-elect Ephesians experience the forgiveness of their sins in a covenantal, temporary sense? Leaving aside the fact that this appears to collide strongly with John 6.37-40 (esp. v. 40), I don’t understand what it might mean to have the Father’s wrath at one’s sin be propitiated at time X and later unpropitiated again at time Y.

    Back when I was first reading Kline in seminary, I could tell that he was clear and that I was the one confused; and sure enough, over time, he made more sense to me.

    But when I read FV materials, I can’t tell whether I’m confused or they are. That’s a sure sign of a communication problem. FV proponents need to assume a greater burden of clarity, IMO. We need to be able to grasp clear pictures in some way or another.

    Likewise, I would rate the connection to “good and necessary inferences from Scripture” to be similarly about 3 of 10.

    In this case, I could maybe imagine seeing some type of lesser predestinary experience that the NECMs have. I can’t imagine what experience that would be, but I can imagine imagining it. :) BUT, I can’t for the life of me see what features in the passage demand seeing such a thing. There is such a strong dichotomy in Ephesians between those who are alive and those who are dead, and nary a hint of some state in between, that I cannot understand why one would need to see a third category in this book. 1 Cor 7, yes. Here? It doesn’t seem necessary.

    So here, if FV is going to succeed with me, it will need to persuade me that its exegesis produces better results than other ways of reading the various passages. At this point in time, I’m not seeing it. This doesn’t mean I can’t listen. It just means that the words aren’t being said in a way that I can easily hear.

    And if that is the case, then I wonder how closely related the FV is to the WCoF system, which is supposed to be an aid in understanding what the Scriptures teach about life and godliness, and which I thought I understood reasonably well.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

  54. Al said,

    October 31, 2007 at 5:51 am

    Jeff,

    Thanks for your response.

    Firstly, I really don’t think that it is fair to blame the FV of being hard to understand. In my experience, FV writers, like N.T. Wright, are superb communicators and can say what they want to say very well. Once you know the categories that they are working within, what they are trying to say is perfectly clear. The only reason that they are hard to understand is because they are not speaking in the theological idiom that most Reformed people are used to. However, if you wanted to understand the theology of someone such as John Zizioulas, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Rowan Williams, Benedict XVI, you would have to go to far more effort to understand the way that they use their terminology and each of the writers is a gifted communicator in his own way. It is just what good theological work demands of us. Understanding people on their own terms is never very easy and it is only the rather insular nature of Reformed churches that means that Reformed Christians are seldom expected to develop this skill.

    Secondly, I agree: Scripture should have some sort of normative implications for the way in which we are allowed to use terms. I don’t think that anyone is denying this. The problem is that every reading of Scripture already takes place within a theological paradigm. We read Scripture in terms of our theological categories. Although Scripture undoubtedly plays a critical role in the development of our theologies, there is no way in which we can read Scripture outside of any theological paradigm whatsoever. This means that we have to assess the claims of our theological opponents in terms of the categories with which they read Scripture, not in terms of the categories which we use to read Scripture.

    FV writers would like some of the ridiculous claims made against them to be withdrawn. Reading them carefully on their own terms would, I believe, probably lead to the withdrawing of many of the accusations made against them. However, it will not necessarily lead to agreement. What I would like to see more than anything else is not so much agreement with the FV, as a breaking down of the controversial issues down to their proper size. They are differences, and we need to be open about them. However, these differences are not actually as big as they have been portrayed as being. While I do not believe that understanding FV paradigms will lead all of the critics to agree with the FV, it would take something of the heat and shrillness from the debate and make clear that we are not actually as far apart as many have supposed.

    Consequently, I don’t mind when you say that you don’t share my reading of Paul. I am not seeking to convert you to my position and I don’t expect you to change your mind on your reading any time soon. What I am looking for from you is an understanding of how I am reading Paul in terms of my own categories and I am not seeing it. You can arrive at such an understanding without rejecting your own reading in the process.

    The problem that I see is that you are failing to take sufficient account of the degree to which ‘good and necessary inferences’ from Scripture are paradigm-relative. The ‘good and necessary inferences’ that I will draw from Scripture read in terms of my theological categories are not the same as the ‘good and necessary inferences’ that you will draw, reading Scripture in terms of your own categories.

    Thirdly, bypassing the controversial claim that Paul’s original intent is the correct interpretation of Ephesians, the important thing here is that you first try to understand how FV writers are reading Paul in the context of the categories that they use to read Paul. In terms of the categories that I use to read Paul — though I am not within the FV, just sympathetic in some respects — the concept of a NECM is utterly meaningless and contradictory. For this reason, I am not affirming that ‘NECMs have some lesser and temporary experience’ of saving blessings. Reading me to be making such a claim is a classic example of forcing me into your theological categories, theological categories that I am not operating within.

    The concept of NECM is alien to the categories in terms of which I read Paul. The concept of a NECM is a Trojan horse, under which a set of further foreign categories are brought into my way of reading Paul. Some clear distinction between election and covenant is presupposed. In addition, a particular notion of ‘covenant’ is presupposed, an understanding that I do not share. The concept of election being employed introduces a form of soteriological individualism that will only serve to confuse what it is that I am trying to say. I understand election in terms of the category of personal solidarities, which is neither simply individual or simply corporate, but resists the opposition that those terms set up. For instance, the object of the electing decree in your understanding (the individual chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world) is not the same as the object of the electing decree in my understanding. If you don’t pick up on this fact, you will end up very confused by some of my statements. The whole framework in which election is understood by those who speak in terms of NECM is not the framework that I naturally work within. For this reason, if you try to understand what I am saying in terms of such categories as NECM, you cannot but go seriously wrong.

    I also have serious doubts that the Scriptures ever talk in terms of what the Reformed tradition has spoken of as ‘decretal election’. It is just not a category that Scripture uses. The doctrine of election in Scriptures works in quite a different manner, it seems to me. Reading Scripture in terms of ‘decretal election’ will almost necessarily distort the text in various ways. Election is not the only category that we have different understandings of. I suspect that we will also understand the death/life dichotomy quite differently. As long as you are trying to understand the FV in terms of the way that you understand such terms you will think that they are unclear and largely speaking nonsense. If they were using their terms in the same way as you were they would be speaking nonsense.

    Unfortunately, given my heavy workload at the moment, this is not a discussion that I will be able to continue, although I have appreciated it so far. I would encourage you to keep on trying to think through these issues and to try to work out how differently conceived categories might serve to make the FV position more explicable. It may take some time. Sadly, given the shortage of patience and charity in the current debate, this is time that few have taken. It is easy to rush to judgment on the basis of how things look upon an initial reading, rather than holding back until you have really gone to great effort to attempt a sympathetic reading. People like Peter Leithart, for instance, are not stupid. Leithart must be seeing something in his positions that his critics are missing, because one would be stupid to believe the position that Leithart’s critics suggest that he is holding. The willingness to give considerable effort to questioning you own understanding of the other person’s position rather than presuming that you have understood it and are qualified to dismiss it can go a long way.

  55. Mark T. said,

    October 31, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Jeff, you write,

    So let’s assume that they are terrible, evil men. Perhaps even totally depraved. Where does that leave me? I can’t control their behavior; only mine. I can’t force them to act wisely by yelling at them. I’m not called upon to be their judges. At some point, I *am* responsible to evaluate their ideas, and judge those to be in or out of bounds Confessionally. To do that job, I need to understand their ideas as best as possible. That’s why I’ve entered into discussion — here, with Meyers, reading Wilkins’ book, elsewhere: to understand. But I’m not ever required or called upon to evaluate them as people. Does Paul ask for no reason, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant?” Or are our ‘bankrupt’ brothers no longer our brothers because they are bankrupt? Where then shall any of us find fellowship?

    If you judge them by their fruits, then sooner or later you will conclude that dialogue is fruitless (as countless leaders in the Church have already done) because they alter the definitions of common words to compensate for their contradictory system of theology. Consequently, you will have to determine whether their novel use of the English language stems from incompetence or dishonesty (I can’t think of a third option), which ultimately should help you determine the boundaries of your “fellowship” with these so-called brethren, for the truth has no fellowship with a lie.

    However, if they jumped through all the right hoops, following the presbyterian procedure that they vowed to uphold, and if they submitted themselves to their fathers and brothers in the faith as they peacefully endeavored to amend the WCF to their unclear standards, then that would be a different story.

    I agree. That bothers me, too, greatly. But they didn’t — and here we are. Now what? “They deserve it, so let ’em have it”? No. Conflict is not the end of relationship. Even if someone shoots the bird at me, I don’t have to accept that as the last word, and I *certainly* don’t have to respond in kind. At some point, our practice of theological dialogue has to bear some resemblance to the doctrines of grace we’re arguing over. Otherwise, the only reasonable conclusion is that we really don’t know what in heaven we’re talking about. James 3.17: “But the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive…” This is every bit as Confessional and binding on me as an elder as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. And frankly, it’s a lot harder for me than affirming the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

    Jeff, there is a reason that these men have blown off presbyterian procedure, and you must come to grips with that. If it was one time, then, sure, we could all suffer them. But after continual exhortations, warnings, and rebukes, these men still refuse to heed their vows and submit to their brethren.

    Think of your toddlers. Do you allow them to dictate to you the terms of their compliance to your God-given parental authority? I hope not. Now apply this rule to the two-year-olds pitching fits in the Church, saying that, after five years, no one understands them. Should the Church allow their petulant tantrums to disrupt its peace and purity for ever and ever amen? Of course not. “This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (Jms. 3:16).

    The Church must exercise its God-given authority to discipline these men for their sins. Or as they would have it, the Church must hold them to their baptism and excommunicate them.

  56. Al said,

    October 31, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I tried to post this earlier today with no success. Hopefully it will work this time. Unfortunately, due to other commitments, this will have to be my last contribution to this discussion.

    Jeff,

    Thanks for your response.

    Firstly, I really don’t think that it is fair to blame the FV of being hard to understand. In my experience, FV writers, like N.T. Wright, are superb communicators and can say what they want to say very well. Once you know the categories that they are working within, what they are trying to say is perfectly clear. The only reason that they are hard to understand is because they are not speaking in the theological idiom that most Reformed people are used to. However, if you wanted to understand the theology of someone such as John Zizioulas, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Rowan Williams, Benedict XVI, you would have to go to far more effort to understand the way that they use their terminology and each of the writers is a gifted communicator in his own way. It is just what good theological work demands of us. Understanding people on their own terms is never very easy and it is only the rather insular nature of Reformed churches that means that Reformed Christians are seldom expected to develop this skill.

    Secondly, I agree: Scripture should have some sort of normative implications for the way in which we are allowed to use terms. I don’t think that anyone is denying this. The problem is that every reading of Scripture already takes place within a theological paradigm. We read Scripture in terms of our theological categories. Although Scripture undoubtedly plays a critical role in the development of our theologies, there is no way in which we can read Scripture outside of any theological paradigm whatsoever. This means that we have to assess the claims of our theological opponents in terms of the categories with which they read Scripture, not in terms of the categories which we use to read Scripture.

    FV writers would like some of the ridiculous claims made against them to be withdrawn. Reading them carefully on their own terms would, I believe, probably lead to the withdrawing of many of the accusations made against them. However, it will not necessarily lead to agreement. What I would like to see more than anything else is not so much agreement with the FV, as a breaking down of the controversial issues down to their proper size. They are differences, and we need to be open about them. However, these differences are not actually as big as they have been portrayed as being. While I do not believe that understanding FV paradigms will lead all of the critics to agree with the FV, it would take something of the heat and shrillness from the debate and make clear that we are not actually as far apart as many have supposed.

    Consequently, I don’t mind when you say that you don’t share my reading of Paul. I am not seeking to convert you to my position and I don’t expect you to change your mind on your reading any time soon. What I am looking for from you is an understanding of how I am reading Paul in terms of my own categories and I am not seeing it. You can arrive at such an understanding without rejecting your own reading in the process.

    The problem that I see is that you are failing to take sufficient account of the degree to which ‘good and necessary inferences’ from Scripture are paradigm-relative. The ‘good and necessary inferences’ that I will draw from Scripture read in terms of my theological categories are not the same as the ‘good and necessary inferences’ that you will draw, reading Scripture in terms of your own categories.

    Thirdly, bypassing the controversial claim that Paul’s original intent is the correct interpretation of Ephesians, the important thing here is that you first try to understand how FV writers are reading Paul in the context of the categories that they use to read Paul. In terms of the categories that I use to read Paul — though I am not within the FV, just sympathetic in some respects — the concept of a NECM is utterly meaningless and contradictory. For this reason, I am not affirming that ‘NECMs have some lesser and temporary experience’ of saving blessings. Reading me to be making such a claim is a classic example of forcing me into your theological categories, theological categories that I am not operating within.

    The concept of NECM is alien to the categories in terms of which I read Paul. The concept of a NECM is a Trojan horse, under which a set of further foreign categories are brought into my way of reading Paul. Some clear distinction between election and covenant is presupposed. In addition, a particular notion of ‘covenant’ is presupposed, an understanding that I do not share. The concept of election being employed introduces a form of soteriological individualism that will only serve to confuse what it is that I am trying to say. I understand election in terms of the category of personal solidarities, which is neither simply individual or simply corporate, but resists the opposition that those terms set up. For instance, the object of the electing decree in your understanding (the individual chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world) is not the same as the object of the electing decree in my understanding. If you don’t pick up on this fact, you will end up very confused by some of my statements. The whole framework in which election is understood by those who speak in terms of NECM is not the framework that I naturally work within. For this reason, if you try to understand what I am saying in terms of such categories as NECM, you cannot but go seriously wrong.

    I also have serious doubts that the Scriptures ever talk in terms of what the Reformed tradition has spoken of as ‘decretal election’. It is just not a category that Scripture uses. The doctrine of election in Scriptures works in quite a different manner, it seems to me. Reading Scripture in terms of ‘decretal election’ will almost necessarily distort the text in various ways. Election is not the only category that we have different understandings of. I suspect that we will also understand the death/life dichotomy quite differently. As long as you are trying to understand the FV in terms of the way that you understand such terms you will think that they are unclear and largely speaking nonsense. If they were using their terms in the same way as you were they would be speaking nonsense.

    Unfortunately, given my heavy workload at the moment, this is not a discussion that I will be able to continue, although I have appreciated it so far. I would encourage you to keep on trying to think through these issues and to try to work out how differently conceived categories might serve to make the FV position more explicable. It may take some time. Sadly, given the shortage of patience and charity in the current debate, this is time that few have taken. It is easy to rush to judgment on the basis of how things look upon an initial reading, rather than holding back until you have really gone to great effort to attempt a sympathetic reading. People like Peter Leithart, for instance, are not stupid. Leithart must be seeing something in his positions that his critics are missing, because one would be stupid to believe the position that Leithart’s critics suggest that he is holding. The willingness to give considerable effort to questioning you own understanding of the other person’s position rather than presuming that you have understood it and are qualified to dismiss it can go a long way.

  57. Robert K. said,

    October 31, 2007 at 10:55 am

    >”I would encourage you to keep on trying to think through these issues and to try to work out how differently conceived categories might serve to make the FV position more explicable.”

    This is a liberal fresh from a Bill Hicks Commemoration (maybe he even was able to have a few words with Harvard graduate and intellectual Al Franken) who actually thinks words like ‘categories’ effect Reformed Christians like magic dust, rendering us insensible and frustrated, hitting our brains with rocks.

  58. pduggie said,

    October 31, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Your such a coward Robert with your railing accusations and ill manners on the internet. Go cry to you mom.

  59. Robert K. said,

    October 31, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    The formalist engages in sophistry with God’s Word and with the words of the great teachers of God’s Word and pats himself on the back for his ‘good manners’ (I’ll excuse your typical internet ‘Pan-like’ trolling you engage in, Pduggie, for now) then excoriates his critics for ‘not being nice.’

    It seems you’re already in your mother’s lap as you write, by the way, pduggie…

  60. pduggie said,

    October 31, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    coward.

  61. pduggie said,

    October 31, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    bwak bwak.

  62. October 31, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    One of the reasons–perhaps the only reason–why this blog has nearly half a million hits is because Lane labors diligently to offer substantive words and comments that are well worth the time spent considering them. Common courtesy demands that those who comment here do so in a manner consistent with and showing respect for the tone Lane sets. I am not trying to be overly personal, but one has only so much time to read different comments, and I, some time ago, stopped reading pduggie’s for various reasons (one reason being his plainly expressed deep appreciation for James Jordan’s stylings). The above interchanges have simply confirmed what I still consider to have been a wise choice.

  63. Mark T. said,

    October 31, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Pastor Hutchinson,

    I have two words for you: “Thank you.”

  64. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 31, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks for the interaction, Al. A few final thoughts and then I’m out, too.

    The problem that I see is that you are failing to take sufficient account of the degree to which ‘good and necessary inferences’ from Scripture are paradigm-relative.

    You’re right, I didn’t address that issue. Rest assured that I don’t mean it in a wooden, naive sense. My statement that authorial intent is normative was somewhat deliberately provocative. :)

    This means that we have to assess the claims of our theological opponents in terms of the categories with which they read Scripture, not in terms of the categories which we use to read Scripture.

    I agree to a point, especially wrt the understanding of the opponents’ categories … my point was simply that there is a third set of categories, the categories of the writers of Scripture, and to the extent that we can discover them, they normatively supersede both our categories and opponents’ categories.

    All of this is still subject to the interference from our paradigms that you mention above. It’s the discovery process that is so hard.

    Reading me to be making such a claim is a classic example of forcing me into your theological categories, theological categories that I am not operating within. The concept of NECM is alien to the categories in terms of which I read Paul. The concept of a NECM is a Trojan horse, under which a set of further foreign categories are brought into my way of reading Paul.

    Not intended. Sorry. I learned the term “NECM” by observing usage, not by having it defined by this person or that, so I don’t actually know which authors if any would affirm it as a category.

    I understand election in terms of the category of personal solidarities, which is neither simply individual or simply corporate, but resists the opposition that those terms set up. For instance, the object of the electing decree in your understanding (the individual chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world) is not the same as the object of the electing decree in my understanding. If you don’t pick up on this fact, you will end up very confused by some of my statements.

    Indeed, and if time permitted, I would definitely want to know what the object of the electing decree is in your system. For my part, I certainly see it as individuals chosen before the foundation of the world for salvation, over against other individuals not so chosen.

    I also have serious doubts that the Scriptures ever talk in terms of what the Reformed tradition has spoken of as ‘decretal election’. It is just not a category that Scripture uses. The doctrine of election in Scriptures works in quite a different manner, it seems to me. Reading Scripture in terms of ‘decretal election’ will almost necessarily distort the text in various ways. Election is not the only category that we have different understandings of. I suspect that we will also understand the death/life dichotomy quite differently. As long as you are trying to understand the FV in terms of the way that you understand such terms you will think that they are unclear and largely speaking nonsense. If they were using their terms in the same way as you were they would be speaking nonsense.

    And here’s where the rubber meets the road concerning the distinction between exegesis and systematics. I’m willing to suspend my systematics to a much greater degree than I am my exegesis. A statement like “Reading Scripture in terms of ‘decretal election’ will almost necessarily distort the text in various ways” (assuming that by decretal election, we mean the standard WCoF use of election) strikes me as quite false.

    I know exactly why it does so: my reading of election in Eph 1, John 6, Rom 9 – 11, and so on, accords to a high degree with the statements made about election in WCoF X. So in order for me to accept your statement as Biblical, I would need to see a lot of argument and have a substantial portion of my paradigm overturned — assuming that I understand what you mean.

    This is where I am with the FV. *Assuming* that I understand what Wilkins means in his exegesis concerning 1 Cor, I can’t accept it without overturning a substantial portion of my paradigm, which in turn requires a high burden of proof. Which leads to…

    People like Peter Leithart, for instance, are not stupid. Leithart must be seeing something in his positions that his critics are missing, because one would be stupid to believe the position that Leithart’s critics suggest that he is holding.

    I haven’t read him yet. But let’s take Wilkins, who also strikes me as quite non-stupid.

    Still and all, I don’t find his article from the Federal Vision to be a piece of good writing. It’s not because he doesn’t match his subjects and verbs, nor because his style is defective (it’s better than mine by a mile!).

    Rather, the fault lies in this: he knows the audience to whom he is writing — theologians who operate in the categories of the WCoF, and yet he fails to anticipate the objections that will be raised, and provide sufficient data to answer those objections.

    All of us on this thread teach the Bible, probably. And as teachers, we *know* that communication requires what Gadamer calls the “fusion of horizons.” The sender must package his message in such a way that the receiver can grasp it.

    Here I am, a reasonably well-read, flexibly-minded individual reading “The Federal Vision”, and all of these red flags start popping up, and the authors move on and leave me in the dust.

    That’s not clear writing. It’s what we in the math business call “hand-waving.”

    So what I mean by the burden of clarity (on the part of the FV) is not that they need to go back to school. Most of them outstrip me in scholarship. Rather, I mean that they need to show greater consideration for their readers and provide a clear path by which we can map our current categories to theirs. They need to show a greater willingness to accept burden of proof.

    Because in the end, the readers aren’t stupid, either.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

  65. Jeff Meyers said,

    October 31, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Okay, so my google alerts showed me that my name has been used here. More accurately, outright lies have been told by Mark T about me and Mark Horne in these comments. Mart T said:

    Actually, Jeff, the FVists are the individualists who scoff at their denomination. I don’t know how else to describe Mark Horne and Jeffrey Meyers. The PCA GA instructed them to inform their presbyteries of their disagreements with the WS, and rather than obey, they have used the Internet to inform the world of their disagreements and they have done this in mocking tone toward the PCA.

    I have never scoffed at the PCA. I don’t mock the PCA. I’m presbyterian. I’m Reformed. I’m Calvinistic. I subscribe to the WCF. The PCA GA instructed me to inform my presbytery of my disagreements with the Westminster Standards. I’ve done that. I have a number of exceptions registered with my Presbytery. They have accepted me.

    I’m the farthest thing from an individualist. But, of course, if an individualist is an individual who stands against injustice and irresponsible scholarship over against the mob, then I guess you’ve pegged me.

    I actually think the 9 declarations are rather innocuous and lame. The way Sean Lucas summarized them on the floor of GA was just fine by me. I really only had a problem with one of them and I’ve already registered my exception on that with 3 separate presbyteries and been accepted by them all. My problem was with the process and the bulk of the committee report.

    I know this will make a number of you really angry, but it’s true: I’ve served as chairman of our presbytery’s theological examinations committee for about 7 or 8 years, maybe longer (I’ve lost track), talking two years off in 2005-6 to be moderator. I don’t mock my presbytery. I don’t mock the PCA. I love them both. But my love is not sentimental but biblical.

    I try to be a good churchman, but it’s difficult given the climate of suspicion that is being cultivated outside of the local presbyteries.

    The problem with this whole debate is that it’s being conducted without reference to men’s local reputations and fruit. The only way to get people condemned from a distance is to have a star chamber-like trial that overrules what local presbyteries have determined. The politics of all of this make me sick.

    No one wants to talk to me face to face or even mouthpiece to earpiece.

    My 30 reasons was not written in a mocking tone. I had and have serious disagreements with the way the committee was stacked and the content of the report. I stated these honestly and openly.

    And just to round things out, there was a disparaging comment here a while back questioning why I and others didn’t stand up and say something on the floor of GA. Only someone who has never been to a GA can make such a accusation. The debate didn’t go south until late in time allotted for discussion. I had already said quite a lot through my 30 reasons. Most people had already heard my objections. But by the time the argument on the floor of GA started getting ugly and there was a need for someone to say something sensible there were already dozens of men standing at the microphones. The men who were able to make a speech at the end of the debate had been standing in a line at a mic since the beginning of the debate. The debate ended with dozens still in line.

  66. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 31, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks for the interaction, Al. A few final thoughts and then I’m out, too.

    The problem that I see is that you are failing to take sufficient account of the degree to which ‘good and necessary inferences’ from Scripture are paradigm-relative.

    You’re right, I didn’t address that issue. Rest assured that I don’t mean it in a wooden, naive sense. My statement that authorial intent is normative was somewhat deliberately provocative. :)

    This means that we have to assess the claims of our theological opponents in terms of the categories with which they read Scripture, not in terms of the categories which we use to read Scripture.

    I agree to a point, especially wrt the understanding of the opponents’ categories … my point was simply that there is a third set of categories, the categories of the writers of Scripture, and to the extent that we can discover them, they normatively supersede both our categories and opponents’ categories.

    All of this is still subject to the interference from our paradigms that you mention above. It’s the discovery process that is so hard.

    Reading me to be making such a claim is a classic example of forcing me into your theological categories, theological categories that I am not operating within. The concept of NECM is alien to the categories in terms of which I read Paul. The concept of a NECM is a Trojan horse, under which a set of further foreign categories are brought into my way of reading Paul.

    Not intended. Sorry. I learned the term “NECM” by observing usage, not by having it defined by this person or that, so I don’t actually know which authors if any would affirm it as a category.

    I understand election in terms of the category of personal solidarities, which is neither simply individual or simply corporate, but resists the opposition that those terms set up. For instance, the object of the electing decree in your understanding (the individual chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world) is not the same as the object of the electing decree in my understanding. If you don’t pick up on this fact, you will end up very confused by some of my statements.

    Indeed, and if time permitted, I would definitely want to know what the object of the electing decree is in your system. For my part, I certainly see it as individuals chosen before the foundation of the world for salvation, over against other individuals not so chosen.

    I also have serious doubts that the Scriptures ever talk in terms of what the Reformed tradition has spoken of as ‘decretal election’. It is just not a category that Scripture uses. The doctrine of election in Scriptures works in quite a different manner, it seems to me. Reading Scripture in terms of ‘decretal election’ will almost necessarily distort the text in various ways. Election is not the only category that we have different understandings of. I suspect that we will also understand the death/life dichotomy quite differently. As long as you are trying to understand the FV in terms of the way that you understand such terms you will think that they are unclear and largely speaking nonsense. If they were using their terms in the same way as you were they would be speaking nonsense.

    And here’s where the rubber meets the road concerning the distinction between exegesis and systematics. I’m willing to suspend my systematics to a much greater degree than I am my exegesis. A statement like “Reading Scripture in terms of ‘decretal election’ will almost necessarily distort the text in various ways” (assuming that by decretal election, we mean the standard WCoF use of election) strikes me as quite false.

    I know exactly why it does so: my reading of election in Eph 1, John 6, Rom 9 – 11, and so on, is a reading that pretty much accords with WCoF X. So in order for me to accept your statement as Biblical, I would need to see a lot of argument and have a substantial portion of my paradigm overturned — assuming that I understand what you mean.

    This is where I am with the FV. *Assuming* that I understand what Wilkins means in his exegesis concerning 1 Cor, I can’t accept it without overturning a substantial portion of my paradigm, which in turn requires a high burden of proof. Which leads to…

    People like Peter Leithart, for instance, are not stupid. Leithart must be seeing something in his positions that his critics are missing, because one would be stupid to believe the position that Leithart’s critics suggest that he is holding.

    I haven’t read him yet. But let’s take Wilkins, who also strikes me as quite non-stupid.

    Still and all, I don’t find his article from the Federal Vision to be a piece of good writing. It’s not because he doesn’t match his subjects and verbs, nor because his style is defective (it’s better than mine by a mile!).

    Rather, the fault lies in this: he knows the audience to whom he is writing — theologians who operate in the categories of the WCoF, and yet he fails to anticipate the objections that will be raised and provide sufficient data to answer those objections.

    All of us on this thread teach the Bible, probably. And as teachers, we *know* that communication requires what Gadamer calls the “fusion of horizons.” The sender must package his message in such a way that the receiver can grasp it.

    Here I am, a reasonably well-read, flexibly-minded individual reading “The Federal Vision”, and all of these red flags start popping up, and the authors move on and leave me in the dust.

    That’s not clear writing. It’s what we in the math business call “hand-waving.”

    So what I mean by the burden of clarity (on the part of the FV) is not that they need to go back to school. Most of them outstrip me in scholarship. Rather, I mean that they need to show greater consideration for their readers and provide a clear path by which we can map our current categories to theirs. I would like to see in the writings a greater willingness to accept burden of proof. This is not to say that they haven’t tried; it’s just to say that more needs to be done.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

  67. Mark T. said,

    October 31, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Dr. Meyers,

    Please forgive me for misrepresenting you on the matter of registering your exceptions. This was my mistake that I made after I read this post of yours and this post of your assistant’s.

    When I saw the mocking photograph attached to a post that charged someone in your denomination (if not the denomination itself) with illegally amending the constitution, I assumed you were doing more of your Braveheart routine. Obviously I mistook this for individualism and not presbyterianism. It followed (at least in my mind) that your opposition to tyranny kept you from registering your exceptions. This was my mistake and consequently I misrepresented your actions. Therefore, I sincerely ask you to forgive me.

    However, if you don’t see the scoffing tone in your attitude, then God has struck your Federal Vision with blindness. And please spare me the righteous indignation about standing “against injustice and irresponsible scholarship over against the mob,” because by the word “injustice” you mean “confessional standards” and by the word “mob” you mean “PCA,” that denomination you love so much and would never mock. Quite honestly, the way you abuse language and dodge responsibility, you’re a perfect fit with the CREC defrockees.

    Thank you.

  68. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 31, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Thanks for the interaction, Al. A few final thoughts and then I’m out, too.

    The problem that I see is that you are failing to take sufficient account of the degree to which ‘good and necessary inferences’ from Scripture are paradigm-relative.

    You’re right, I didn’t address that issue. Rest assured that I don’t mean it in a wooden, naive sense. My statement that authorial intent is normative was somewhat deliberately provocative. :)

    This means that we have to assess the claims of our theological opponents in terms of the categories with which they read Scripture, not in terms of the categories which we use to read Scripture.

    I agree to a point, especially wrt the understanding of the opponents’ categories … my point was simply that there is a third set of categories, the categories of the writers of Scripture, and to the extent that we can discover them, they normatively supersede both our categories and opponents’ categories.

    All of this is still subject to the interference from our paradigms that you mention above. It’s the discovery process that is so hard.

    …The concept of a NECM is a Trojan horse, under which a set of further foreign categories are brought into my way of reading Paul.

    Not intended. Sorry. I learned the term “NECM” by observing usage, not by having it defined by this person or that, so I don’t actually know which authors if any would affirm it as a category.

    … the object of the electing decree in your understanding (the individual chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world) is not the same as the object of the electing decree in my understanding. If you don’t pick up on this fact, you will end up very confused by some of my statements.

    Indeed, and if time permitted, I would definitely want to know what the object of the electing decree is in your system. For my part, I certainly see it as individuals chosen before the foundation of the world for salvation, over against other individuals not so chosen.

    I also have serious doubts that the Scriptures ever talk in terms of what the Reformed tradition has spoken of as ‘decretal election’. It is just not a category that Scripture uses.

    And here’s where the rubber meets the road concerning the distinction between exegesis and systematics. I’m willing to suspend my systematics to a much greater degree than I am my exegesis. A statement like “Reading Scripture in terms of ‘decretal election’ will almost necessarily distort the text in various ways” (assuming that by decretal election, we mean the standard WCoF use of election) strikes me as quite false.

    I know exactly why it does so: my reading of election in Eph 1, John 6, Rom 9 – 11, and so on, is a reading that pretty much accords with WCoF X. So in order for me to accept your statement as Biblical, I would need to see a lot of argument and have a substantial portion of my paradigm overturned — assuming that I understand what you mean.

    This is where I am with the FV. *Assuming* that I understand what Wilkins means in his exegesis concerning 1 Cor, I can’t accept it without overturning a substantial portion of my paradigm, which in turn requires a high burden of proof. Which leads to…

    People like Peter Leithart, for instance, are not stupid. Leithart must be seeing something in his positions that his critics are missing, because one would be stupid to believe the position that Leithart’s critics suggest that he is holding.

    I haven’t read him yet. But let’s take Wilkins, who also strikes me as quite intelligent.

    I don’t find his article from the Federal Vision to be a piece of good writing. It’s not because he doesn’t match his subjects and verbs, nor because his style is defective (it’s better than mine by a mile!).

    Rather, the fault lies in this: he knows the audience to whom he is writing — theologians who operate in the categories of the WCoF — and yet he fails to anticipate the objections that will be raised by them and to provide sufficient data to answer those objections.

    All of us on this thread teach the Bible, probably. And as teachers, we *know* that communication requires what Gadamer calls the “fusion of horizons.” The sender must package his message in such a way that the receiver can grasp it.

    Here I am, a reasonably well-read, flexibly-minded individual reading “The Federal Vision”, and all of these red flags start popping up, and Wilkins moves on and leave me in the dust.

    That’s not clear writing. It’s what we in the math business call “hand-waving.”

    So what I mean by the burden of clarity (on the part of the FV) is not that they need to go back to school. Most of them outstrip me in scholarship. Rather, I mean that they need to show greater consideration for their readers and provide a clear path by which we can map our current categories to theirs. This is not to say that they haven’t tried; it’s just to say that more needs to be done.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

  69. Jeff Cagle said,

    October 31, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for the interaction, Al. A few final thoughts and then I’m out, too. Grading calls.

    The problem that I see is that you are failing to take sufficient account of the degree to which ‘good and necessary inferences’ from Scripture are paradigm-relative.

    You’re right, I didn’t address that issue. Rest assured that I don’t mean it in a wooden, naive sense. My statement that authorial intent is normative was somewhat deliberately provocative. :)

    This means that we have to assess the claims of our theological opponents in terms of the categories with which they read Scripture, not in terms of the categories which we use to read Scripture.

    I agree to a point, especially wrt the understanding of the opponents’ categories … my point was simply that there is a third set of categories, the categories of the writers of Scripture, and to the extent that we can discover them, they normatively supersede both our categories and opponents’ categories.

    All of this is still subject to the interference from our paradigms that you mention above. It’s the discovery process that is so hard.

    …The concept of a NECM is a Trojan horse, under which a set of further foreign categories are brought into my way of reading Paul.

    Not intended. Sorry. I learned the term “NECM” by observing usage, not by having it defined by this person or that, so I don’t actually know which authors if any would affirm it as a category.

    … the object of the electing decree in your understanding (the individual chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world) is not the same as the object of the electing decree in my understanding. If you don’t pick up on this fact, you will end up very confused by some of my statements.

    Indeed, and if time permitted, I would definitely want to know what the object of the electing decree is in your system. For my part, I certainly see it as individuals chosen before the foundation of the world for salvation, over against other individuals not so chosen.

    I also have serious doubts that the Scriptures ever talk in terms of what the Reformed tradition has spoken of as ‘decretal election’. It is just not a category that Scripture uses.

    And here’s where the rubber meets the road concerning the distinction between exegesis and systematics. I’m willing to suspend my systematics to a much greater degree than I am my exegesis. A statement like “Reading Scripture in terms of ‘decretal election’ will almost necessarily distort the text in various ways” (assuming that by decretal election, we mean the standard WCoF use of election) strikes me as quite false.

    I know exactly why it does so: my reading of election in Eph 1, John 6, Rom 9 – 11, and so on, is a reading that pretty much accords with WCoF X. So in order for me to accept your statement as Biblical, I would need to see a lot of argument and have a substantial portion of my paradigm overturned — assuming that I understand what you mean.

    This is where I am with the FV. *Assuming* that I understand what Wilkins means in his exegesis concerning 1 Cor, I can’t accept it without overturning a substantial portion of my paradigm, which in turn requires a high burden of proof. Which leads to…

    People like Peter Leithart, for instance, are not stupid. Leithart must be seeing something in his positions that his critics are missing, because one would be stupid to believe the position that Leithart’s critics suggest that he is holding.

    I haven’t read him yet. But let’s take Wilkins, who also strikes me as quite intelligent.

    I don’t find his article from the Federal Vision to be a piece of good writing. It’s not because he doesn’t match his subjects and verbs, nor because his style is defective (it’s better than mine by a mile!).

    Rather, the fault lies in this: he knows the audience to whom he is writing — theologians who operate in the categories of the WCoF — and yet he fails to anticipate the objections that will be raised by them and to provide sufficient data to answer those objections.

    All of us on this thread teach the Bible, probably. And as teachers, we *know* that communication requires what Gadamer calls the “fusion of horizons.” The sender must package his message in such a way that the receiver can grasp it.

    Here I am, a reasonably well-read, flexibly-minded individual reading “The Federal Vision”, and all of these red flags start popping up, and Wilkins moves on and leave me in the dust.

    That’s not clear writing. It’s what we in the math business call “hand-waving.”

    So what I mean by the burden of clarity (on the part of the FV) is not that they need to go back to school. Most of them outstrip me in scholarship. Rather, I mean that they need to show greater consideration for their readers and provide a clear path by which we can map our current categories to theirs. This is not to say that they haven’t tried; it’s just to say that more needs to be done.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

  70. Jeff Meyers said,

    October 31, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    This is why I don’t hang around here. It happens every time. I post a comment that tries to explain my position and I am mocked and ridiculed by characters I don’t even know. If Mark T would just read the posts he references, he would see that I was criticizing a move from some men in the PCA who were asking that their individual presbyteries adopt unconstitutional overtures. I wasn’t mocking the PCA, but trying to protect it.

    Jeff H thinks that Lane is so very balanced and fair. I think that’s true for the most part, even though I disagree with a lot of what he says. I affirm his right to say what he says and to hold his positions in the PCA. I’m a big tent guy.

    But why in the world does Lane allow such irreverent, caustic trolls to frequent his comments? We might actually be able to have a reasoned, fair debate without these ever-present, cowardly characters who are such wussies that they won’t even reveal who they are. And yet THEY are the true presbyterians. Give me a break.

  71. greenbaggins said,

    October 31, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Jeff, do Mark’s first two paragraphs not exist?

  72. Jeff Meyers said,

    October 31, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    You’re joking, right? His first two paragraphs are why I wrote my last comment. That doesn’t read like a sincere apology, but a surreptitious defense of his original comments laced with a mockingly sincere request for forgiveness. The last paragraph makes that pretty clear.

    If I’ve misread his post, then let me speak for himself. Even so, I accepted apologies and extend forgiveness to visible saints with proper identities, not to internet spooks. I know who you are. You know who I am. I have no clue who this character might be.

  73. greenbaggins said,

    October 31, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    The “however” at the beginning of the third paragraph seems to me to say that the first two paragraphs were not heading in the direction you think they were. I mean, I’ve seen many of Mark’s comments, and when he repents of something, it is genuine. I would interpret his comment as meaning that he said in the first two paragraphs that he misinterpreted your actions with regard to those particulars. But then, in the third paragraph he says what he still has against you. Mark T is not an internet spook. He has real concerns and does advance the discussions oftentimes.

    The problems with trolls do not seem to go away even when I try to reign in the comments. It was better there for awhile after I exiled temporarily a few of the offenders (and Mark was one of those exiled).

    That being said, I do think Mark has gone overboard with his third paragraph.

  74. Mark T. said,

    October 31, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    Dr. Meyers,

    I sincerely apologized to you for misrepresenting your behavior because I hold the Ninth Commandment dearly. And in my apology I made clear that I believe you misrepresented the truth with your self-righteous, self-serving indignation. You see, I can’t bring myself to believe that words such as “injustice,” “irresponsible scholarship,” “the mob,” “lame,” “climate of suspicion that is being cultivated,” “star chamber-like trial,” and “committee was stacked” reflect the heart of a true churchman. To be sure, elsewhere you described your brethren in the PCA as “a Reformed inquisition” who “are ripping out various ministers’ ecclesiastical entrails.” If I’m not mistaken, this casts you as a martyr/victim suffering at the wicked hands of your brethren, the evil persecutors.

    Consequently, I believe these accusations betray more than you admit, because if the PCA was a corrupt as your describe, then you have an absolute obligation to reform it from within or leave it. Instead, you have chosen to pelt it with insults on the Internet and, incredibly, you describe your behavior (in between torture sessions, I presume) as that of a “good churchman” — “the farthest thing from an individualist.”

    Perhaps you think this kind of loaded rhetoric honors your promise of “subjection to the brethren.” I do not. Or maybe you think your incendiary language upholds your vow “to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the . . . purity and peace and unity of the Church.” I do not.

    In fact, I think that your conduct represents the complete opposite of the spirit and intent of your vows. You are free to disagree with me, but I don’t know how you can justify your “subjection to the brethren” while you gnash your teeth at them. And I don’t know why you think your incessant boohooing advances purity, peace, and unity. As I wrote here, if you were a minister in the CREC and you criticized those ministerial rejects the way you criticize the PCA, they would call a “council” of churches together to oversee your immediate dismissal, in bad standing, from the confederation, for violation of your vows — i.e. “covenant breaking.”

    So please don’t let my apology confuse you, Dr. Meyers. Yes, I misrepresented your actions based upon my false assumptions. I am responsible for this and I am truly sorry for it. But don’t think that in apologizing I must vindicate your irresponsible language and behavior. They are two separate issues. And just as I am accountable for my words, so you are accountable for yours.

    Thank you.

  75. its.reed said,

    October 31, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Ref. #65:

    Brother, certain language is just inappropriate, even when not spelled out fully. Please, respect others in this public setting. Surely there are better words in the rich English language to make your point.

    Reed DePace

  76. Mark T. said,

    November 1, 2007 at 6:00 am

    Dr. Meyers,

    I sincerely apologized to you for misrepresenting your behavior because I hold the Ninth Commandment dearly. And in my apology I made clear that I believe you misrepresented the truth with your self-righteous, self-serving indignation. You see, I can’t bring myself to believe that words such as “injustice,” “irresponsible scholarship,” “the mob,” “climate of suspicion that is being cultivated,” “star chamber-like trial,” and “committee was stacked” reflect the heart of a true churchman. To be sure, elsewhere you described your brethren in the PCA as “a Reformed inquisition” who “are ripping out various ministers’ ecclesiastical entrails.” If I’m not mistaken, this casts you as a martyr/victim suffering at the hands of your brethren, the evil persecutors.

    Consequently, I believe these accusations betray more than you know, because if the PCA was a corrupt as your describe, then you have an absolute obligation to reform it from within or leave it. Instead, you have chosen to pelt it with insults on the Internet and, incredibly, you describe your behavior (in between torture sessions, I presume) as that of a “good churchman” — “the farthest thing from an individualist,” which is absurd.

    Perhaps you think this kind of loaded rhetoric honors your promise of “subjection to the brethren.” I do not. Or maybe you think your incendiary language upholds your vow “to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the . . . purity and peace and unity of the Church.” I do not.

    In fact, I think that your conduct represents the antithesis of the spirit and intent of your vows. You are free to disagree with me, but I don’t know how you can justify your “subjection to the brethren” while you gnash your teeth at them. And I don’t know why you think your incessant boohooing advances purity, peace, and unity. As I wrote here, if you were a minister in the CREC and you criticized those ministerial rejects the way you criticize the PCA, they would call a “council” of churches together to oversee your immediate dismissal, in bad standing, from the confederation, for violation of your vows — i.e. “covenant breaking.”

    So please don’t let my apology confuse you, Dr. Meyers. Yes, I misrepresented your actions based upon my false assumptions. I am responsible for this and I am truly sorry for it. But don’t think that in apologizing I must vindicate your irresponsible language and behavior. They are two separate issues. And just as I am accountable for my words, so you are accountable for yours.

    Thank you.

  77. November 1, 2007 at 6:34 am

    Yessir.

  78. greenbaggins said,

    November 1, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Jeff, please see this post of Mark’s. I think you’ll agree that I interpreted Mark correctly.

    http://federal-vision.blogspot.com/2007/10/tortured-churchmen.html

  79. pduggie said,

    November 1, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Jeff Cagel:

    “I’ve not yet seen an exegetical case that Paul’s language was intended to encompass the experiences of the non-elect (meaning: non-decretally elect) within the church.”

    That’s the rub. Its difficult to express properly.

    I think its important to state that in an important and real sense, the non elect don’t have their “experiences” encompassed by Ephesians 1. The FV has emphasized the “objectivity” of the covenant. The reality they “have” “are offered” “participate in” (something less than ‘receive’) is more like what we speak of reckoning or imputation.

    Maybe that’s a helpful schema, or maybe not. God and Paul want all the Ephesians to “reckon” themselves elect, seated in heavenly places, dead to sin. If they believe and therefore heed that call, they find that they experience those things.

    Likewise, John and Christ want ALL the ephesian’s in revelation to reckon themselves as having left their first love and being in danger, just as much as they should consider they are doing well in hating the Nicolaitans. That will being about repentence corporately for sins that perhaps even a few individuals have nothing to do with.

  80. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 1, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    Thanks, Paul. I realized later that I’d actually overlooked Wilkins’ discussion of Ephesians, and he says much what you do.

    So what exegetical evidence leads you to conclude that (St) Paul really is speaking to the entire church, rather than to “the subset to whom this applies” (with emphasis on the “faithful” of v. 1, or on the charitable assumption that it applies to most within the church?

    Jeff

  81. pduggie said,

    November 1, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    The whole bible.

    The way all of God’s covenantal dealings have been with identifiable visible groups in the past, not invisible subsets.

  82. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 1, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    OK, I can understand that if I grant the premise that “God’s covenantal dealings have been with identifiable visible groups in the past” (I’m not prepared to, except for the sake of discussion), that such a premise would strongly color the way I read Ephesians.

    But that alone is not dispositive. Perhaps what Paul expresses here in Ephesians is new and different in some way. The New Covenant, grounded as it is in the circumcision of the heart, might well be different from what came before.

    So what evidence within Ephesians itself would lead to that reading?

    For my part, I would see Romans 9 as a possible counterexample to the claim that God doesn’t deal with invisible subsets. Esau’s rejection occurred before any visible apostasy had occurred.

    That’s the tip of the iceberg for me; I see the entire remnant theology of Kings and the Prophets as directly speaking of a relatively invisible subset of the saved within the visible community. And such a reading helps me make sense of the theology of John 6, the wheat-and-tares parable, and more.

    None of this is to say “You’re wrong!” but rather to explain the obstacles I have to going from “what the whole Bible teaches” to reading Ephesians in terms of covenantal election.

    Jeff

  83. November 3, 2007 at 2:30 am

    #69
    Jeff,I, too, am out of my league here in terms of scholarship. I read and can think but that point you made
    Here I am, a reasonably well-read, flexibly-minded individual reading “The Federal Vision”, and all of these red flags start popping up, and Wilkins moves on and leave me in the dust.
    is just the opposite with me. When I picked up The FV and I read it, I was euphoric. I thought, someone has finally turned the light on for all my stumblings. So I am here trying to flesh out how it all works and am constantly humbled by the hugene (my old youth group slang) depth of knowledge that it here. Anyway, all to say, I had green lights for my reading rather than red flags.

  84. GLW Johnson said,

    November 3, 2007 at 8:00 am

    Jeff Meyers
    You have on more than one occasion made comments about the WS that are hardly in keeping with your present posture and your claim to be completely in harmony with your ordinational vows . I documented some of these in a footnote in my chapter in the book ‘B.B. Warfield: Essays In His Life And Thought’ (P&R,2007). Your recently remarks over at DRC clearly show that if you and Mark Horne had your way the WS would be revised so as to reflect the views of James Jordon,Norman Shepherd and NT Wright .To begin with your most obvious objection to that ‘system of doctrine ‘ in the WS , the CoW , would be the first item of business and the WS as such would have to be eviscerated since their bi-covenantal structure would be completely discarded by you and your cohorts. You, and those sympathetic to your views on the WS, pose a clear and present danger to denominations like the PCA and the OPC.

  85. November 3, 2007 at 8:18 am

    *is here

  86. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 3, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Anyway, all to say, I had green lights for my reading rather than red flags.

    It’s possible for there to be both. The Federal Vision taps into several powerful strands of genuinely Reformed thought: Redemptive-historical readings of Scripture; Calvin’s view of the church (though not of communion); and a great emphasis on the priority of exegesis over philosophical systematics.

    All of these are salutary, and if one encounters them in the writings of the FV, and is thereby blessed, then praise the Lord.

    Despite this, there can still be red flags. For me at this moment, Wilkins’ reading of Ephesians 1 as applying to the entire church is one of them. I would encourage anyone reading Wilkins on this to think carefully and deeply about what it would mean to attribute a temporary predestination to those not actually predestined to be saved. That appears to me to be a novel reading of Ephesians 1.

    For my part, my next step is to seek out more detailed exegetical work that would support such a view and see whether it holds up to scrutiny.

    This situation is very similar to what we encounter with anyone’s theology. There’s a lot that’s good about Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology — but there are yellow and red flags in there as well (continuance of gifts; credobaptism). Ditto Robert Reymond’s systematic theology. Or anyone’s!

    Jeff

  87. Robert K. said,

    November 3, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Justification by faith alone is a wee bit more primary than the yellow or red flags one might want to see in Grudem or Reymond though…

  88. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 3, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Yes, I agree … if in fact that’s what Wilkins means. That’s one of the things I’m still trying to determine. According to Wilkins himself, his reading of Eph. 1 is not related to the justification that the decretally elect receive by faith, but something else, something experiential.

    That’s why I feel the burden to clearly understand Wilkins first, and evaluate afterwards.

    Jeff

  89. Robert K. said,

    November 3, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    When people like Wilkins (and Horne, and Wilson, and Jordan, and Leithart) come up against orthodox Reformed Theology they are presented with a choice: humble themselves to the truth of God’s doctrine, or maintain their vanity and pride and rebellious self-will and refuse to ‘give in’ (I put give in in quotes because that is how they see it; i.e. to accept the truth is a ‘giving in’ where the internal sovereignty of their Old Man will have to lose). They’ve taken the latter course, so now all they can do is deconstruct the confessions and systematic theologies and theologians, redefine language, and generally play games.

  90. Robert K. said,

    November 3, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Their vanity is of a very juvenile level in that once they they take the course described above they can’t allow that anybody has understanding of a greater degree than they have. That includes the collective wisdom of Reformed theologians from Calvin onwards.

    Step back for a moment and see what they are saying. Put it into context using small examples. Here is one: if you take what Wilkins and Wilson and Leithart and Jordan and Horne say seriously you have to look at, for instance, Thomas Boston’s book Human Nature in its Fourfold State, hold it in your hand and look at it, and pronounce that it is ridiculously wrong regarding biblical doctrine. Then you have to look up from that book, see the faces of Wilkins, Wilson, Horne, Leithart, and Jordan and say: “Yes, they have the truth.”

    The ground those fools stands on is as inane as that. That is the ground they stand on to launch their repetitive attack on Reformed Theology.

  91. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 3, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    Your personal attacks on them (“fool”, “vanity”, “pride”) don’t really sway me much. Except perhaps to induce me to give them a small sympathy vote.

    In the end, when I finally decide which parts of the Federal Vision I can accept, which parts I cannot, and which (if any) I must declare to be outside Confessional bounds, I would hope that I do so on Biblical grounds rather than on the force of the speech against them. To do otherwise would be unfaithful to the Lord.

    I strongly encourage you to restrict your comments to their ideas and refrain from attacking them as people. It is not good for your soul.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

  92. Robert K. said,

    November 3, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    Right. Let your outrage at me lead you down the road to Rome. Have fun.

    You need the discernment that comes from the Spirit to be able to see and accept biblical doctrine. So we’ll leave that to God. The problem with FVists is they are posing as something they are not (and grin and mock at every step of their game playing).

    If you can’t see this, so be it. Try to restrain yourself from criticizing those of us who can.

    And the arguments from biblical grounds have been made. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. These people calling themselves Federal Vision are shameless to a Satanic degree.

  93. Robert K. said,

    November 3, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    But you know what? FVists jumped the shark awhile ago. It’s only people like myself that keep their flame alive. They are only fueled by being called Satanic, as can be evidenced by your own reaction, Jeff. “See? We are persecuted! So join us!”

  94. November 5, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    [...] of the support for the judgment of charity understanding of Paul. I will do it simply by linking these great words. It is similar to an argument I had with someone about Peter Leithart’s exegesis of Psalms [...]


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