Berkhof and Baptismal Efficacy

I’d like to float another post drawing on various portions of Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, as I find his writings to be not only clear, logical, and orthodox, but also because his insights continue to be relevant to today’s Federal Vision controversy, 75 years after his ST was originally published. His writings serve not only as an antidote, but more importantly as an inoculation against these FV errors. You can call Berkhof boring, and you can call me slavish and uncreative for following him so closely, but hopefully the reader will prefer it to the innovations swirling about the Federal Vision world. Berkhof may not always be right, but he must be contended with. I rarely see evidence that FV writers are aware of the points he raises concerning the controverted topics, much less do they present arguments that overturn his positions. I can only conjecture that this stems from FV’s disdain for the Old Princeton tradition, with which Berkhof walked hand-in-hand (while being more indebted to Bavinck and teaching at Calvin Seminary).

The Reformed have always sought to hold up baptism, as a means of grace, to be more than merely symbolic (as Baptists and Zwinglians hold), while avoiding, on the other hand, the superstitious and Gospel-denying errors of Romanists (holding to an ex opere operato view of the sacrament) and the various inconsistent and compromise positions (held by Lutherans and some Anglicans). We want to say that the sacraments, including baptism, do something, and are not dependent on the subjective response of human sinners to outward symbols or memorials. Rather, God’s Spirit effectively works through the sacraments, as means of grace by which the sinner is ministered to. As good Calvinists, we ought to see the sinner as passive in receiving God’s ministrations through His Church, the preached Word and Sacraments. As we consider the above positions, we see that there are “extremes” on both sides – a ditch on both sides of the road, as it were. But the Scriptural data forces us to steer a path in the middle of the road, between those ditches.

OK, then. How does God’s Spirit work efficaciously through the sacraments? What does, specifically, baptism do? The Reformed have debated this endlessly, and have had a diversity of opinion in answering this question. One thing, however, is agreed on (our confessional symbols bearing witness to it): the sacraments, and therefore baptism, are efficacious in that they are signs and seals of the spiritual blessings in Christ the elect have. Given the paucity of scriptural data that directly deals with the efficacy of baptism, I am surprised that there has been no serious focus in the recent Federal Vision debates (that I have seen) on the exegesis of Romans 4, the passage that we get our “sign and seal” language from:

Is this blessing [righteousness by faith, to the exclusion of works] then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well…

This passage is near and dear to my own heart, not only because it teaches so clearly the doctrine of justification by faith alone, contra the Gospel-assailing errors of Rome, but because this section in particular was the most pivotal text that convinced me of the truth of paedobaptism. Notice: Paul holds up Abraham as an archetypical member of the covenant of grace (indeed, the “father of all who believe without being circumcised”). His example proves that we, as Christians, are also justified by faith alone. Notice the flow of Paul’s argument as you read from the beginning of the chapter. Those who “do not work, but believe in Him who justifies the ungodly” are counted as righteous. How do we know that? Because Abraham was likewise justified, as he had not been circumcised until after he was justified.

Since Abraham’s circumcision was received after his justification, his circumcision could not have been a cause, instrumental or otherwise, of his justification. Yet this passage says that his circumcision was a “sign and seal” of the righteousness that he already had by faith. This situation is paralleled in the Christian church most directly in the baptism of adult converts, where it is both assumed and demanded that the catachumen already be in possession of “the thing signified”, regeneration unto faith and justification (a point frequently ignored by Protestant sacerdotalists). And, yet, at the same time we see (in examining the book of Genesis) that this sign and seal of righteousness was also applied to Abraham’s infant son, Isaac, as well as his son Ishmael.

Since baptism is the sign and seal of the righteousness which we have by faith, taking the place of circumcision, as New Testament saints under the New Covenant administration of that same Abrahamic covenant of grace (which is established by a careful consideration of Colossians 2:11-12), we should conclude that, likewise, baptism cannot be an instrumental means, alongside of faith, by which we lay hold of Christ’s righteousness unto justification. Paul excludes works, including circumcision, from having such a role (even as an ordained and commanded sign and seal of God), and by implication the same is true for the sign and seal of baptism. Such an idea would be directly contrary to the Reformational doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide), which insists that faith is the “alone instrument of justification” (WCF 6.2). In this part of the Westminster Confession, we see that faith’s instrumental causation is, specifically, in “receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness.” Likewise, Berkhof calls faith, in this capacity, the “appropriating organ,” in that “it is the organ by which we lay hold on and appropriate the merits of Christ, and accept these as the meritorious ground of our justification” (ST, p. 522).

This distinction is important, because Reformed theology does not want to deny the efficacy of the preached Word or the Spirit in a sinner’s justification, which can also be said to be “instrumental” causes, but in an entirely different sense. By faith alone the sinner lays hold of Christ’s righteousness unto justification, but the Spirit works through the Word into the heart and mind of the sinner, whereby that faith is engendered, cultivated, and strengthened. The Spirit and Word are thus indirect or second-order instruments of justification. They are not co-instruments along with faith.

This consideration should suggest to us a way of understanding the efficacy of baptism. It, like, circumcision, is not something we can do to be justified. I do not understand how it is any improvement to have a doctrine of justification by faith and baptism rather than the doctrine of justification by faith and circumcision that Paul condemns as a false gospel in the book of Galatians. Frankly, one has to be rather dense not to take the hint.

But then what does baptism actually do or effect, as a sign and seal, in the lives of believers? If what we said is not true of signs and seals above is true, why should anyone care about having signs and seals? The answer is that the Spirit works through baptism, as a sign and seal, and thereby engenders, cultivates, and strengthens the faith of Believers various ways, much as He works through the preached Word. On this point, Berkhof’s comments are apt:

But baptism is more than a sign and seal; it is as such [emphasis mine-DG] also a means of grace. According to Reformed theology it is not, as the Roman Catholics claim, the means of initiating the work of grace in the heart, but it is a means for the strengthening of it or, as it is often expressed, for the increase of grace. This gives rise to a rather difficult question in connection with infant baptism. It can readily be seen how baptism can strengthen the work of faith in the adult recipient, but it is not so apparent how it can operate as a means of grace in the case of children who are entirely unconscious of the significance of baptism and cannot yet exercise faith. The difficulty, with which we are confronted here, naturally does not exist for the small number of Reformed scholars who deny that baptism merely strengthens an antecedent condition of grace, and claim that it “is a means for the impartation of grace in a specific form, and for the specific end of our regeneration and ingrafting in Christ” (ST, p. 641).

The Heidelberg Catechism, similarly, makes this connection between the efficacy of the Word and baptism (or, rather, sacraments generally):

Question 67. Are both word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?

Answer: Yes, indeed: for the Holy Ghost teaches us in the gospel, and assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ which he offered for us on the cross.

I can think of at least 5 more topics that stem from the above discussion, each worthy of their own post. But I’ll stop here for now so that the reader can consider the Federal Vision’s “baptismal regeneration lite” doctrine, especially in light of Berkhof’s comments and, more importantly, Romans 4.

Posted by David Gadbois

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164 Comments

  1. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 8:36 am

    David:

    Great post. If you would, for the sake of my feeble brain and maybe the benefit of others, might you please:

    1. Summarize the FV baptismal position, and
    2. Highlight the critical reason(s) you identify it as baptismal regeneration lite?

    I’m inclined to agree with you, yet I find that my mind needs a thorough review to put this together. Thanks!

  2. November 28, 2007 at 9:27 am

    David,

    Excellent post and analysis. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

  3. November 28, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Reed,

    You can find a short definition of “baptismal regeneration lite” in this post, although I originally coined the term in this post:

    This essentially gives everyone baptized into the visible church most of the saving graces–including “initial justification,” adoption, and sanctification–but not perseverance. (That’s like baptismal regeneration lite–wets good, less lasting?)

    I offer further thoughts on the term here. It is based on Wikins’ published views but the same views are applauded by other Federal Visionists.

  4. jared said,

    November 28, 2007 at 9:39 am

    If baptism is a sign and seal of what’s already present or true in the recipient’s life, then it can have nothing, whatsoever, to do with regeneration, can it not? On this account, baptism is an adendum to a grace possessed; how does this work on account of infants? It isn’t exactly clear in the post. Berkhof is quoted as saying, “The difficulty, with which we are confronted here, naturally does not exist for the small number of Reformed scholars who deny that baptism merely strengthens an antecedent condition of grace, and claim that it “is a means for the impartation of grace in a specific form, and for the specific end of our regeneration and ingrafting in Christ.” So he denies that “baptism merely strengthens an antecedent condition of grace, and then he affirms that it “is a means for the impartation of grace in a specific form”; isn’t that just another way of saying it strengthens an antecedent condition of grace? Or is the “claim” also part of the denial? And if the claim is part of the denial, then why is there no difficulty for those who deny that baptism is “merely” such? If the claim is not part of the denial, then how could baptism be “for the specific end of our regeneration and ingrafting in Christ” if these things have already occured via justification by faith which is prior to baptism?

  5. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Ref. #4:

    Jared, with this comment,

    “If baptism is a sign and seal of what’s already present or true in the recipient’s life, then it can have nothing, whatsoever, to do with regeneration, can it not? ”

    Aren’t you missing the notion that the Spirits work of regeneration is not tied to the time of the Church’s administration of baptism? Cf., WCF 18.6:

    “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered (John 3:5, 8); yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time (Rom. 6:3-6; Gal. 3:27; I Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38, 41).

    If this summary is accurate of what Scripture teaches, then in a given administration of baptism, there is no Biblical assumption that the thing signed/sealed is “already present or true in the recipient’s life.”

    In the case of adult converts, yes your statement is accurate. Under these circumstances, David’s baptismal regeneration lite charge does not apply. But I do not think that is what David said (or a necessary inference) or means.

    Am I reading you right; which do you mean: the case of an adult convert (no BR lite), or the case of an infant (yes BR lite if assumed)?

    16. John 3:5, 8
    17.

  6. November 28, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Hi Dave,

    This is great stuff. Thanks!

    Reed,

    Some people have found this booklet helpful:
    http://www.wscal.edu/bookstore/store/details.php?id=1341

    See also this:
    http://www.wscal.edu/clark/exposition9pts.php

    rsc

  7. Xon said,

    November 28, 2007 at 11:40 am

    In the case of adult converts, yes your statement is accurate. Under these circumstances, David’s baptismal regeneration lite charge does not apply. But I do not think that is what David said (or a necessary inference) or means.

    But doesn’t this mean that infants and adults do not receive the same baptism? It sounds as though you are saying that we think one thing about the adults who are baptized, and something else about the infants who are baptized.

  8. Xon said,

    November 28, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Lane, I think there’s an ambiguity in the way you set up the issue, as when you say the following:

    The Reformed have always sought to hold up baptism, as a means of grace, to be more than merely symbolic (as Baptists and Zwinglians hold), while avoiding, on the other hand, the superstitious and Gospel-denying errors of Romanists (holding to an ex opere operato view of the sacrament) and the various inconsistent and compromise positions (held by Lutherans and some Anglicans). We want to say that the sacraments, including baptism, do something

    If the sacraments do something, then whatever that something is it is done ‘ex opere operato’, isn’t it? Hugging my wife makes me feel good, which means that hugging my wife works ex opere operato to the end of making me feel good.

    You characterize the very idea of ex opere operato as Romanist, but if the real question for the Reformed position is what baptism does, then you are already allowing for a notion of ‘ex opere operato’.

    Doing the wedding ceremony makes you married. Ex opere operato. You do the ceremony, the marriage results. Turning in the paper so my teacher can read it gets me a grade. Ex opere operato, we might say. It doesn’t guarantee me a good grade, but it does indeed give me a grade of some sort. You say correctly that baptism signs and seals…whatever exactly that means (you don’t really say in your post, do you?). Okay, let’s say that’s the end of the story. Since baptism actually does sign and seal, as you would say, then we can say that, as far as signing and sealing are concerned, baptism works ex opere operato. Can’t we? What am I missing?

    Rome’s problem is not that they think baptism works in an eoo way, it’s that they think it works in an eoo way apart from faith for justification. FVers do not believe this; they believe that baptism works in an eoo way to put people into the covenant of grace. But if you don’t have faith, then being in the covenant of grace is a bad thing. It will be greater judgment unto you when all is said and done. Of course, most people who are raised faithfully in the Church do have faith, b/c God is gracious and kind. But certainly anyone who doesn’t is in big trouble. As Calvin said, and as Rich Lusk has also written, we must receive the baptism by faith for the ‘full graces’ of the covenant to genuinely be effective in us. But whether I have faith or not, my baptism does place me in the covenant community. And that’s not nothing. That is “doing something.”

    This situation is paralleled in the Christian church most directly in the baptism of adult converts, where it is both assumed and demanded that the catachumen already be in possession of “the thing signified”, regeneration unto faith and justification (a point frequently ignored by Protestant sacerdotalists). And, yet, at the same time we see (in examining the book of Genesis) that this sign and seal of righteousness was also applied to Abraham’s infant son, Isaac, as well as his son Ishmael.

    Not sure who the “Protestant sacerdotalists” are, but FVers say that infants can have faith. And since God’s promise is to be God to believers and to their children, we presume when we baptize an infant that they also are receiving that baptism with faith. The ‘thing signified’ is presumed present in the infant just as much as in the adult. There is not really any difference between the infant baptism and the adult baptism, as far as
    ‘what is going on’ is concerned. The difference is that adults are capable of ‘showing’ their faith in a more outward way than infants are, by professing it. So we ‘feel’ like there is something ‘different’ with adults. But there really isn’t. And if someone thinks I’m wrong about this, then aren’t they denying sola fide? For how else does an infant who passes away find salvation, if he doesn’t have faith?

    This distinction is important, because Reformed theology does not want to deny the efficacy of the preached Word or the Spirit in a sinner’s justification, which can also be said to be “instrumental” causes, but in an entirely different sense. By faith alone the sinner lays hold of Christ’s righteousness unto justification, but the Spirit works through the Word into the heart and mind of the sinner, whereby that faith is engendered, cultivated, and strengthened. The Spirit and Word are thus indirect or second-order instruments of justification. They are not co-instruments along with faith.

    Why cannot the Spirit also work through the sacraments “into the heart and mind of the sinner, whereby that faith is engendered, cultivated, and strengthened?” Why can’t sacraments also be this sort of ‘second-order instrument’? This is the FV position as I understand it, in fact. No FVer makes baptism a ‘first-order’ instrument of justification.

  9. jm said,

    November 28, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    I have been kinda of following the FV_NPP debate and would like some FV folks to respond to the above. It seems to me that in many instances both parties are saying the same thing. When the debate gets to the details of the actual issues involved then the whole discussion turns into name calling and category placements. I would like to see some dialog about the topics at hand with the knowledge of the fact that there are many strains of reformed thought, Dutch, Scot, American, etc. Remember, we are all brothers in Christ and my experience as a RE in the PCA & ARP for 25 years is that many passionate folk who stand, argue and would die for truth have been throughly wrong regarding the topic they are embracing. Also, it seems to me that the PCA has been so throughly indoctrinated with Sonship teaching that we have really become somewhat Lutheran in some of our views.Thanks.

  10. John said,

    November 28, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Echoing Xon’s comments, Doug Wilson said almost exactly the same thing as you, David, right here. I don’t really see the difference between what you said and what he says. Let me know if somebody will need to cry heresy. I’m young, I’ve got a good voice… :-p

  11. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    On this reading, can you remind me why we object to the “merely” symbolic view of baptists and zwinglians?

  12. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Ref. #7:

    Xon, no, not at all. It may be that you are not keeping in view another biblcal doctrine, that of Sacramental Union:

    “WCF 27.2: There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other (Gen. 17:10; Matt. 26:27-28; I Cor. 10:16-18).”

    A simple way of understanding this is the idea that the thing signified by the sign is not the same as the sign. E.g., a sign noting a stop light ahead is not the stop light.

    Applied to baptism in Scripture, sacramental union notes that the Scriptures often use the language of the sign to discuss the thing signified, and do so in an undifferentiated manner. Nevertheless the Scritpures do differentiate between the sign, e.g., baptism applied by the Church, and the thing signified, the Spirit’s baptism-regeneration of the believer.

    These are not the one and the same: the one is the sign and the other is what the sign points to, or represents. Keeping this in view, and bringing in the prior point about the timing of the Spirit’s use of the sign, there does not need to be a coinciding of the Church’s application of baptism (sign) and the Spirit’s application of regeneration (thing signified). The references in the prior post exemplify this.

  13. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    “I do not understand how it is any improvement to have a doctrine of justification by faith and baptism rather than the doctrine of justification by faith and circumcision that Paul condemns as a false gospel in the book of Galatians.”

    Self-baptism is generally regarded as invalid. Self-circumcision was the way that God initiated circumcision. Circumcision is a self-bloodying. Baptism signifies the blood of another. Baptism embraces all, Circumcision is for males. Circumcision is the bloodying of the generative organ of one person who founds a single tribe. Baptism is the universal waters of the whole world. Minimally, that’s an improvement.

  14. greenbaggins said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Xon, please note that this is David’s post, not mine. :-)

  15. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Ref. 16:

    Paul (your name?): I think you’re missing the comparison David’s is making. justification by faith + anything is anathema, i.e., the argument of Galatians. Old covenant this most often was j-by-f + circumcision; new covenant would be j-by-f + baptism.

    This seems to be David’s point of comparison, rather than the list you note.

  16. greenbaggins said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Paul is Paul Duggan of Tenth Pres. Church.

  17. Andy Gilman said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Xon said:

    “But whether I have faith or not, my baptism does place me in the covenant community. And that’s not nothing. That is ‘doing something.’”

    Baptism does not place you in the “covenant community.” By your baptism you are solemnly admitted into the visible church, but because you have at least one believing parent, you “are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.” (from LC 166) You are baptized because you are already part of the “covenant community,” either by virtue of your parents profession of faith or by virtue of your own profession of faith. Those who are baptized are “Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized.” (from the Directory for Public Worship)

  18. David Gadbois said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Reed,

    I’m pressed for time right this moment, but the short story is that FV believes in a “baptismal regeneration lite”, which means that baptismal regeneration works some of the time (in the case of the elect), but not all of the time (ex opere operato). But I don’t know how this is any better than believing in, say, decisional regeneration. Just taking the “ex opere operato” causation out of the formula doesn’t make either of these teachings correct.

    In light of that, I think FV’s view of baptism is most comparable to that of Lutherans and Anglicans (not Romanists). I don’t think that any of these groups, FV, Lutherans, or Anglicans, succeed in squaring their teachings on this matter systemically with reformational or Reformed theology.

    Xon,

    To be super-brief: what is objectionable is the idea of the “thing signified” by baptism being conveyed ex opere operato, not the signing and sealing of the “thing signified.”

  19. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    Ref. 21, 3, & 6:

    Dave, Bob, & Scott: Thanks!

  20. Keith LaMothe said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    David (re #21),

    Just to be sure, is it acceptable to say that regeneration and baptism are related in that the former is signified by the latter but that regeneration may occur before, during, or after the sign? Or never, in the case of the non-elect.

    When you say that “baptismal regeneration lite” means “baptismal regeneration works some of the time (in the case of the elect)”, are you saying that someone in the FV teaches that the regeneration of the elect *always* (or even most-of-the-time) happens *during* baptism? Otherwise I’m not quite sure I understand the difference between their position and the one I described above.

    There is the issue of using the term “regeneration” in a “covenental” sense rather than the “irrevocably indwelled by the Holy Spirit, given genuine evangelical faith, repentance, etc…” sense, but I think that is a somewhat distinct issue.

    Thanks,
    Keith

  21. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Ref. #7 & *:

    Rey, see my comments in no. 15. The sign is not the thing signified. I can refer you to more sources if you’d like to study this doctrine.

  22. jm said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Baptism is a sacrament of the NT, where Christ has ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into Himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life, and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted to the visible church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.

  23. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Ref. #25:

    Jared, o.k.,

    “As for WCF 18.6, I don’t think there is biblical warrant for such a qualification.”

    Fair enough. Let’s just be clear that this is the standard reformed understanding. As well, I think you’re missing the biblical warrant referenced in David’s post, and noted in Rom 4:11:

    “He [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.”

    Note that Abraham already possessed the thing signified before he received the sign. Consider the references listed wiht my quote of WCF 18.6 and you’ll see further evidence of this biblical warrant.

  24. jm said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Baptism is a sign and seal of ingrafting into Christ, of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit, of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church.

  25. jared said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Reed,

    You ask, “Aren’t you missing the notion that the Spirits work of regeneration is not tied to the time of the Church’s administration of baptism?” and I answer: no, I don’t think I’m missing that notion. I questioned whether regeneration could/should be associated with baptism and it seems that the answer is yes and no (as it often is with many theological issues). Berkhof seems to be saying that the “specific end” of baptism is regeneration and ingrafting, which puts him in line with Calvin and some (many?) of the early Reformers and (apparently) FV advocates as well. I’m not entirely sure how the quote is supposed to be anti-FV in this regard.

    As for WCF 18.6, I don’t think there is biblical warrant for such a qualification. There is nothing in Scripture which says, implies, or suggests that the benefit(s) of baptism aren’t tied to the actual event. I’m not sure if John 3:5, 8 is applicable here since v. 5 says one must be born of both water and Spirit (which seems to imply the necessity of water baptism for salvation) and v. 8 describes those who are born of the Spirit. I’m not entirely sure it is biblically accurate or acceptable even to separate the water and the Spirit. How would baptism be a sacrement at all if the Spirit were not present and operating to some degree?

  26. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Ref. #27:

    Jared, where is the biblical warrant that the Spirit’s work is expressly tied to the Church’s administration? This sounds much like a mechanistic understanding of the Spirit’s use of the means of grace. If I knew my Latin, I’d
    try and change ex opera operato to note this distinction.

    I don’t see where Scripture teaches this.

  27. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Oops, no. 29 references #28. Sorry Jim.

  28. Daniel Kok said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Re #12:

    Jm – Steve Wilkins admitted to holding a baptismal view that is not Reformed in his 2002 AAPC lectures:

    “Now, you see, given this perspective, there is no presumption necessary when it comes to baptized people. Traditionally, the reformed have said, we have to view our children as presumptively elect or presumptively regenerate. And therefore, Christian, if we are willing to take the scriptures at face value, there is no presumption necessary. Just take the Bible. And this is true, of course, because by the baptism, by baptism the Spirit joins us to Christ since he is the elect one and the Church is the elect people, we are joined to his body. We therefore are elect. Since he is the justified one, we are justified in him. Since he is the beloved one, we are beloved in him. Since he was saved from sin in death, in the sense that Hebrews 5 says, “who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death and was heard because of his godly fear,” he was saved from sin and death, so are we.”

  29. Daniel Kok said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Sorry; the quotation in #31 comes from Steve’s lectured entitled “The Legacy of the Half-Way Covenant”.

    And the first sentence should read “lecture” (sg.) not “lectures” (pl.)

  30. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Ref. #31:

    Daniel, this quote seems to demonstrate a weakness in the FV’s sacramental understanding. It appears that Rev. Wilkins equates the sign with the thing signified. I.e., there is no recognition of sacramental union:

    > the Baptism administered by the Church IS baptism administered by the Holy Spirit, vs.,

    > Baptism administered by the Church is the SIGN of baptism administered by the Holy Spirit.

    Am I reading too much in to Rev. Wilkins here?

  31. Daniel Kok said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    No Reed I think your reading is fair. John Barach says similar things in his speech as well.

  32. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Ref. #34:

    Does anyone know if FV proponents interact with sacramental union, for or against?

  33. jared said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Reed,

    The WCF, as you have pointed out, notes that there is a sacremental union between the sign and the thing signified so that they can be (and are) used one in place of the other. Does this not imply that they cannot be properly separated? The union of the sign and the thing signified seems to necessitate that, though they may occur at separate and distinct times, they are not, therefore, to be considered separate(d). In other words, having one is the same as having the other. Besides, it is Berkhof who says here that the end of baptism is regeneration and ingrafting into Christ. Given these things, does not baptism immediately (and necessarily) tie the recipient to Jesus?

  34. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:34 pm

    Ref. #36:

    No Jared, you’re reading into the use of the word union here. You are arguing for a union of essence, one is the same as the other. The union in view is one of connection, one infers the other.

    An example I use with my children: the apple tree has a union with the apple – one infers the other. Yet both can, and in some manners must, be understood in distinction to the other.

    Baptism administered by the Church is the sign; baptism administered by the Spirit is the thing signified. By definition the sign IS NOT the thing signified. The issue then, is to define the nature of the union.

    In this case, the sign points to, represents, the thing signified. The example of Abraham and circumcision, an example of sign application POST-thing signified application, demonstrates adequately the nature of the union.

    In focus here is the point that there is not necessity of temporal union between applications, in order for there to be sacramental union – the Spirit’s usage of the sign. An analogy (carefully used) might be the union that exists between Christ’s death to sin on the cross and our death to sin when regenerated (united) to him. To require a temporal union obviously creates all sorts of problems.

    Another example is seen in the Lutheran insistance on the uniquitous nature of Christ’s body and blood in the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. This is an error of requiring spatial union between the sign and the thing signified.

    Both errors, temporal union or spatial union, are avoided by the biblical example of sacramental union. The essence of the union is Spiritual – the Spirit begin God avoids the necessity of temporal, spatial, and any other non-bliblical inferred union, in that the Spirit can work and does work when, where and how He chooses.

    The example of Abraham (Rom 4:11) demonstrates that temporal union IS NOT essential in the administration of baptism.

    Sacramental union only has in view that the sign is so closely connected (Spiritual union) to the thing signified, that the Scriptures use the sign as a referant when the thing signified is in view. (Another good example is Peter’s reference to Moses and Israel’s baptism into him – the sign is different, but a Spiritual union is in view).

  35. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    18: Reed:

    I get the comparison. I just want to emphasize the discontinuities between circ and baptism because 1) they are there 2) they tend towards baptism not being seen as any kind of work at all, but a communication of the Word/Christ. Lutherans who hold to JBF+nothing have no problem with putting Baptism front and center, because for them, Baptism isn’t different than the gospel itself.

    I’m still curious about anyone who can tell me what the difference is with baptists and zwinglians who see baptism as a “mere sign”. Do they deny that the sign communicates? Do they deny that faith is increased and strengthened through baptism? Really?

  36. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Can I wear a cross around neck and be reminded of Jesus, and thus, increase faith. And so the cross on my neck is a means of grace?

  37. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Ref. #39:

    Paul:

    Just to offer some observations moving towards an answer. Sometime ago a piece by R. Scott Clark (I think, Scott?), demonstrated that there is a significant difference between Zwingli’s position and the Zwinglian position. I could be wrong, but it probably best to observe that like many 1st generation reformers, Zwingli’s views were not necessarily fully developed, and his descendants took them in a direction that he himself might not fullly agree with.

    That aside, I’ve found that most heritages holding a “Zwinglian” position actually hold to an unexamined position. E.g., on the one hand they will affirm mere signs, mere memorial for the sacraments (ordinances to them). On the other hand I’ve seen many of them argue for some sort of spiritual blessing dimension to the use of the signs. I.O.W. it appears to me that they are unknowingly making a “means of grace” argument for the sacraments.

    Regardless, this seems to be the biggest distinction. The Zwinglian view does not (in general) recognize a means of grace emphasis in the sacraments where as the biblical (reformed) does.

    It is interesting to note that this is one of the consistent criticisms of FV proponents about what appears to them to be the general understanding of sacraments in reformed churches – they (FV proponents) believe they (reformed churches) tend to hold a Zwinglian view of the sacraments.

    I think they are on to something if they observe this is common (mis) understanding among laymen, but not so much officers. Still, I am not sure how the FV sacramental view is a better solution to the traditional reformed position.

  38. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Ref. #41:

    Paul, what do you think? Is this consistent with the biblical understanding of the means of grace?

  39. Reed DePace said,

    November 28, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Ref. #43:

    Rey, you are still ignoring the biblical principle of sacramental union. Again, see my comments at no. 15. This principle substantially effects responses to your challenges. You may have missed my previous comment calling this to your attention. Reviewing it and interacting with it will help you advance the discussion here.

  40. Xon said,

    November 28, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Sorry, Lane (and David G.). I’m still not used to the idea that this isn’t solely your blog anymore.

    David G. said:

    To be super-brief: what is objectionable is the idea of the “thing signified” by baptism being conveyed ex opere operato, not the signing and sealing of the “thing signified.”

    What “thing signified” are you talking about here? Justification/salvation/eternal life/irrevocable grace/etc.? If that’s what you’re thinking of, then what FVer teaches that this is conveyed eoo by baptism? Nobody that I can tell. And you got a 100 on my ‘quiz’ from back in September, David, so I know you won’t try to pull such a teaching out of the Wilkins article from the FV book. :-)

    Baptism sets us apart as the covenant community of God. That’s not a thing it ‘signifies,’ it’s a thing it actually does. Baptism also signifies our ingrafting into the ‘invisible’ Church, etc., but obviously none of that happens ex opere operato and no FVers says it does.

    Arguing that we are already in some sense in the covenant, and so that’s why we baptize (as Andy G. argues above), seems beside the point. I am talking about a visible tangible historically-ebb-and-flowing community here (you know, like all other communities). Not some ‘invisible’ community of people who are elect to go to Heaven when they die but who have not yet been joined to Christ in any visible way whatsoever. I agree that an elect infant who dies without being baptized, for instance, remains elect (obviously). We baptize them because we expect that they are elect already, b/c the promise is to us and to our children, as I argued above. But when I or Scripture (I would argue my view here is Scriptural) speak of the ‘covenant community’ (in whatever terms), what is being referred to is the tangible visible flesh-and-blood group of people who are identifiable as wearing the name ‘Christian’ before the watching world. And the time a person (ordinarily) enters this tangible visible flesh-and-blood group of people is when they are baptized.

    I’m up against it on time here. That will have to do for now.

  41. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    44:

    Its not consistent with what i’ve been told is the “reformed position”

    but I’m having a tough time spotting the formal distinction between water on the head (or *being told about it*) reminding you of Jesus and a metal cross reminding you. One was explicitly authorized by Jesus of course. But why wouldn’t it “work” the exact same way?

    Now that we have video cameras, shouldn’t we videotape baptisms of infants so that the grown kids may get even more benefit from the sign?

    We could argue that, since baptism is authorized and crosses (or icthuses) “aren’t” that there is some subtle danger lurking in what you might mistakenly start believing about the efficacy of crosses. But the whole FV debate is testimony to the fact that everyone believes that we can make just as many, perhaps more serious errors in what we think about the efficacy of baptism itself. “Jesus’ dangerous idea”, as it were.

    +

    <><

    Clearly the transjordanian tribes were benefited by their altar copy when they looked at it, but they didn’t have the same benefit that was achieved when sacrifices were offered at the temple.

    But wait, the temple sacrifices didn’t really “acheive” anything anyway (did they?) So what *was* the difference?

    If a substitute sign is as effective a reminder as the original sign (grape juice, anyone?) can the effectiveness of it as a means of grace be any less?

  42. Xon said,

    November 28, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Oh, one quick thing though. Folks are wondering about how FVers ‘deal’ with the idea of a sacramental union. They have said LOTS of stuff on this, and in fact they use the concept in their own arguments. After all, a sacramental union is a union. Earlier Reed used the example of a sign telling you a stop light is coming and the stop light itself. Sign and thing signified.

    But there is no union between this sign-signified pair. We cannot speak of the sign for the stop light as though it is the stop light, etc. I may be misunderstanding, but it seems that Reed and others here are speaking of the the sacramental union as though it does nothing more than introduce a convention that lets us speak of sign and thing signified in similar terms. But this is not a genuine ‘union’ at all. My reading of the Standards on this point is that they are telling us that when it comes to sacraments the sign and the thing signified are so joined together, are really united in some mysterious way, that this is why we can speak of them interchangeably. It’s not just a convention of speech; it is a genuine union that gives rise to the interchangeable speech.

    Because my wife and I are united in marriage, we are both now “Hostetters.” Because the head is united to the arm, both can be called the ‘body.’ These are not merely conventions of how we talk.

    Likewise, the sacrametnal sign and the thing it signifies are genuinely united in some way. And this is why we can speak of them as interchangeable.

    Yet, they are not so united that there is a 1-to-1 correspondence b/w every occurrence of the sign and all the things the sign signifies. Right, but nobody teaches that this is the case, either.

  43. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    What i observe is in the PCA, the officers spend a lot of time reminding their 30% baptist attendees what infant baptism doesn’t do.

    And officers who agree that other famous officers have weak sacramental theologies say things like “all the baby meets in baptism is water and a strange man who isn’t their father, not Jesus”

  44. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 28, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    reyjacobs (#7) — are you the same as rey? –

    This language is used only once, and that only of Abraham’s circumcision (and in opposition to everyone else’s circumcision!).

    I believe this is a misreading of Romans 4.

    And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

    Abraham’s circumcision is not contrasted with everyone else’s; it is contrasted with the circumcision of the unbelieving Jew. For those Jews who believed, circumcision means what it says: the cutting away of the sin nature. Likewise, now that the promised seed has come, for those who are baptized and believe, the baptism means what it says: sins are washed away and the HS is poured out.

    And for those baptized and not believing — whether as adults on “profession of faith” or as children — the baptism functions exactly as circumcision. It simply bears witness to the enormity of their unbelief.

    Jeff Cagle

  45. David Weiner said,

    November 28, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Rey,

    I is such a pleasure to see somebody actually reading (not reading into) Scripture. Keep it up.

  46. jared said,

    November 28, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Reed,

    You say,

    No Jared, you’re reading into the use of the word union here. You are arguing for a union of essence, one is the same as the other. The union in view is one of connection, one infers the other.

    An example I use with my children: the apple tree has a union with the apple – one infers the other. Yet both can, and in some manners must, be understood in distinction to the other.

    What does that mean, that “one infers the other”? The apple tree is helpful. Where there are apples, obviously there must be (or have been) a tree but the reverse is not necessarily the case; apple trees do not always produce apples (i.e. they can be barren). I do not dispute the point here, that they are differentiated; I’ve not argued otherwise. So, I do dispute your reading of my argument as support for viewing the union of the sign and the signified as one of essence. I know that Scripture allows for having the signified (the Spirit) before receiving the sign (the water), but I do not think Scripture allows for the sign to be given without the, presumed or otherwise, presence of the signified to some extent. Doing so would be like having an apple while being unsure as to the existence of apple trees; there’s an inconsistency here that I can’t quite place my finger on. You are saying we can give infants the sign while maintaining that the signified is no where around presently but it may manifest later in the infant’s life? How is that not deceitful?

  47. Andy Gilman said,

    November 28, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Xon said:

    Baptism sets us apart as the covenant community of God. That’s not a thing it ’signifies,’ it’s a thing it actually does.

    You may think this is what the Bible teaches Xon, but the Westminster Standards’ explanation of what the Bible teaches, differs from yours.

  48. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    55:

    Solemn admission.

    ‘Nuff said.

  49. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    rey (#52)
    And HE received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that HE had by faith while HE was still uncircumcised.

    The argument only applies to HE not to anyone else. Abraham alone is in view here. Even as the question at the beginning of the chapter says “What can we say Abraham our father according to the flesh obtained?”

    Now rey, it’s entirely appropriate to ask folk to cite Scripture. But it should be reasonable to expect them to cite the entire verse, at least!

    I quote again, hopefully with better tag results:

    And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. — Rom. 4.11-12

    Romans 4 is not simply an argument about Abraham; it is an argument about all of us who believe. Namely (v. 2), that justification comes through faith (rather than through works).

    The problem with arguing that infants shouldn’t be baptized is that the logic of those arguments would have to apply with equal force to circumcising infants in the OT. And it clearly doesn’t.

    Pduggie (#49):

    What i observe is in the PCA, the officers spend a lot of time reminding their 30% baptist attendees what infant baptism doesn’t do.

    And officers who agree that other famous officers have weak sacramental theologies say things like “all the baby meets in baptism is water and a strange man who isn’t their father, not Jesus”

    ?! You’re kidding! Not at our church. I have video footage of the baptism of our two daughters, and ain’t nuthin in there like that! Is that what happens at 10th Pres.?

    Jeff Cagle

  50. Andy Gilman said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Xon says:

    Arguing that we are already in some sense in the covenant, and so that’s why we baptize (as Andy G. argues above), seems beside the point.

    But it is exactly the point. You make baptism into something which establishes or defines the “covenant community.” Our standards tell us that baptism is applied to those who are already in the “covenant community.”

  51. Andy Gilman said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Paul said:

    Solemn admission.

    ‘Nuff said.

    Yes, solemn admission into the visible church, not into the “covenant community.”

  52. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Jared (#54): …but I do not think Scripture allows for the sign to be given without the, presumed or otherwise, presence of the signified to some extent.

    Hm. I’ve suggested to Jeff Meyers that Scripture not only allows for such but *requires* us to understand such with respect to circumcision.

    What did circumcision signify? The cutting away of the flesh? No. The cutting away of the sin nature (Rom. 2.25-29). And yet, it was a plain fact that many among the Jews had received the sign, yet not received the thing signified by the sign (Luke 3.8,9; John 8.33-41). This is not simply an interesting fact about circumcision; it is crucial to understanding the anti-Judaizing arguments of Galatians and Romans.

    How then, if we are Confessional and believe WCoF 27.5, “The sacraments of the old testament in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new”, could we argue that baptism must always be accompanied by the giving of the Spirit?

    So unless I’m misunderstanding what you mean, it seems like circumcision stands as a clear counter-example.

    Jeff Cagle

  53. jared said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Andy Gilman,

    What is the “covenant community” if not the visible church?

  54. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    I wasn’t understanding Andy’s point before, but I do now. Consider the Hebrews in Joshua 5, who were “circumcised again” — that is, the males who had not yet been circumcised received the sign.

    Were they outside of the covenant community prior to their circumcision? OR, did they receive circumcision as a “sign and seal” of belonging?

    Did Abraham receive circumcision as an entrance into the covenant? OR, did he receive circumcision because he had previously entered into the covenant?

    Do we baptize our children in order to bring them into the covenant community? OR, do we baptize them because they are covenant children?

    I was a covenant child. I grew up believing in God and believing, as soon as I knew of it, of Jesus’ death for me. Funny thing: my parents are Baptists, and I didn’t get baptized until I was 11. But I’m pretty sure I was a Christian long before then.

    Jeff Cagle

  55. Andy Gilman said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Jared said:

    What is the “covenant community” if not the visible church?

    Please see my reply in #20.

  56. jared said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Jeff Cagle,

    Except that circumcision isn’t baptism and there is not a 1:1 correspondence between the two signs. There’s still something not right and, as I said, I don’t know enough (yet) to quite put my finger on it.

  57. David Gray said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    >Our standards tell us that baptism is applied to those who are already in the “covenant community.”

    So Andy you would understand all children of believers to be members of the covenant community?

  58. jared said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Andy,

    That comment isn’t particularly helpful. The Covenant community is composed of believers and their children. What is the visble church composed of? Only of those who are baptised?

  59. Keith LaMothe said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Andy, Xon,

    I have some terminology questions for you both.

    From the WLC:

    Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?

    A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.
    ” (emphasis mine)

    Xon, given the second bolded phrase, is it not clear that those infants are to be baptized because they are already in the covenant? Andy already mentioned this in #20.

    Andy, given the first bolded phrase, does it not seem that those who “are out of the visible church” are not to be baptized (I’m not sure how this squares with “solemn admission … into the visible Church” terminology in WCF XXVII.I), and further that those who “are out of the visible church” are “so” (as in “thus”) “strangers from the covenant of promise”?

    I’m not trying to run with that terminology, seems a bit weird to me, but if we’re going for accordance with the Standards it seems worth discussing.

    Thanks,
    Keith

  60. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Jacob owned the birthright when Esau sold it to him, but he didn’t receive the birthright until Isaac actually laid hands and blessed him.

    There are 2 presbyterian positions on “covenant community” and entrance. There’s Gibson, who says

    “children born to at least one believing parent are born members of the external covenant community. They are born in a state of being part of that covenant community and baptism is given to them because they already have a right to it being in the covenant because of their believing parent(s). They are born “holy” federally and thus have a right to have the sign of the covenant placed on them. They are already thus “in” the church and are not brought into a new relationship through their baptism.”

    and then there’s guys like Beattie and Thomas Blake who say

    “the seed of believers, thus by birth-right-privilege baptized, have a large and full right to all the ordinances of God and privileges of the Church appertaining to members, as they shall be capable of their use, wheresoever by the providence of God they are cast. The consequence is evident: They now visibly belong to Christ, they through him are dedicated to God, they have therefore title to all his visible ordinances. They are now of the household of God and of the citizens of the saints orderly admitted. Scripture knows no other admission than Baptism, no church-covenants intervening.”

  61. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    (Jeff Cagle #57):

    “The problem with arguing that infants shouldn’t be baptized is that the logic of those arguments would have to apply with equal force to circumcising infants in the OT.”

    (Rey #62):
    Not according to Hebrews 8:11, which says that one of the main differences between the OT and NT is that in the NT “no longer shall every man teach his neighbor and everyman his brother saying ‘know the Lord’ for they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest of them.” How was it under the OT that everyman in the covenant had to be told ‘know the Lord’ and yet in the NT nobody in the covenant will need to be told ‘know the Lord’ because they’ll all already know him? Because the OT had infant covenant membership and the NT don’t.

    I’ll make this my last post on the subject, because I don’t want to get into protracted debate on this with you, brother Rey.

    But here’s my final point: You and I agree that Hebrews clearly teaches that the Old Covenant was satisfied in Christ and that we are therefore no longer under Law. We also agree that the New Covenant is superior to the Old in that the giving of the Holy Spirit causes us to be more fruitfully attached to Christ.

    But now, in all of the Reformed baptist literature I’ve read, a fundamental error is perpetuated: circumcision is associated with the Old Covenant. Hence, it is argued that circumcision has passed away with the rest of the Law and is entirely unrelated to baptism.

    This argument is based on a factual error. Circumcision was given to Abraham, not Moses. Circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham, 400 years prior to the giving of the Law. Circumcision is simply *not* one of those things that has passed away with the passing of the Mosaic Law; it was not a feature of the Old Covenant.

    Instead, circumcision has been upgraded with the coming of Christ. What now is the sign of being included in the covenant God made with Abraham? Baptism. See Galatians 3.26-29 on this and consider three questions:

    (1) If circumcision and baptism are completely unrelated, then how is it that they mean the same thing: the cutting/washing away of sins?

    (2) If circumcision and baptism are unrelated, then why do believers in Christ, who are *clearly* children of Abraham, no longer receive the sign of circumcision? Nowhere in Scripture is the command in Genesis 17 rescinded … except when Paul argues that those who are baptized have no need of circumcision. See Colossians 2.11-12.

    (3) You stated that Because the OT had infant covenant membership and the NT [did]n’t. Infant covenant membership was a feature of the covenant God made with Abraham, long before the Law was given. And in fact, that covenant, which *was* intended to bring salvation and justification through faith (Gen. 15, Rom. 4), is precisely the covenant that you and I, as believers, are a part of. See again Galatians 3. So here’s the question: since you belong to the covenant God made with Abraham, is there any difference between your children and Jacob’s?

    In short, OT != Old Covenant. Just because the Law passed away does not in any way imply that what came before it is also gone.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  62. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Jared (#65):

    Except that circumcision isn’t baptism and there is not a 1:1 correspondence between the two signs. There’s still something not right and, as I said, I don’t know enough (yet) to quite put my finger on it.

    That’s fair. But although I view baptism as “circumcision 2.0″, it’s not actually an essential feature of my argument. It suffices that circumcision was a “sign and seal” that was nevertheless applied to some who did not receive the grace that it signified.

    Its exact relationship to baptism could make the argument stronger (for those who accept the WCoF on this point), but the argument stands without it.

    Jeff Cagle

  63. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Pduggie (#70):

    Sorry I couldn’t catch you for coffee over Thanksgiving. As I read the two quotes above, it strikes me that they are talking about two different things. Gibson is appealing to the ontological reality of their holiness as per 1 Cor 7.

    The other guy (Beattie? Blake? Pduggie?) is speaking explicitly of “visibly belonging to Christ.” That is, the point under discussion is phenomenology: who has a right to participate in the Sacraments? Note in the first sentence, this “admission” is predicated on a birth-right.

    That birth-right comes about because of what Gibson is saying!

    So I could affirm both of these quotes without conflict.

    Jeff Cagle

  64. its.reed said,

    November 28, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Re. #48:

    Xon, I understand where it might that all I am referring to in sacramental union is a convention notion. See my comments in no. 36 on this thread and you will see that this is not what I understand sacremental union.

    With you, I agree there is some real union. Also with you (I think from what you’ve said) that it is a matter of identifying the nature of the union in view, as defined by the Bible.

    In no. 36 I try to note that the union in view (IMO) biblically is a Spiritual union, not a temporal union nor a spatial union. This seems to me msot compatible with the breadth of biblical data.

    So, yes the stop light sign is merely a convention pointing to the stop light; and no, the biblical idea of sacramental union is more than this. The problem with the analogy is that it is a finite limited example intended to analogize an infinite based reality. I.O.W., the analogy only was intended to illustrate the basic “distinction” between sign and thing signified, not to express comprehensively the nature of their “union.”

    Hope this helps.

  65. its.reed said,

    November 28, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Ref. 3 54:

    Jared, with reference to:

    “… but I do not think Scripture allows for the sign to be given without the, presumed or otherwise, presence of the signified to some extent.”

    O.k. what biblical data does this flow from in your understanding? If I am reading you right, are you saying that the thing signified must always accompany the sign’s administration?

  66. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Blake is explicit though: THUS by baptism (which is theirs by birth-right) they are admitted. They are NOW of the household. Community with a Capital C. The visible church is the Kingdom. The covenant community of which unbaptized children are members is what? This tertium quid?

    Beattie talks about the ground of baptism being the covenant relation of the PARENTs not that of the child in him self. Gibson says the ground is the child’s covenant membership himself.

    Gibson is saying the ground of their baptism is the right that they have which has a ground in membership in the covenant community, which has a ground in their parent’s status. [What a compelling and clear theology of infant baptism. Baptists will surely be impressed.] Beattie is saying that the ground of their baptism is their believing parents.

    I favor Beattie and Blake here.

    Gibson oddly says “holy” in scare quotes, so it doesn’t’ look too ontological to me.

    I guess I’d be willing to talk about a “community” that unbaptized kids are members of ( a mere “set”), but the crucial community for them is the one they actually join by baptism, not the one they have via birth. That’s the community where the promises are operative, and where the signs function.

    Thanksgiving was busy. Maybe Christmas? :-)

  67. pduggie said,

    November 28, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    71: there’s an interesting case Klineans make about Abe’s circ

    He was only given circumcision after falling with Hagar. Circumcision represents a fleshly works-oriented secondary covenant phase for Abraham.

    Not saying I buy it, but that’s out there.

  68. Andrew said,

    November 28, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    As an aside, Berkhof mentions ‘a small number of Reformed scholars’ with whom he disagrees. I gain the impression (perhaps wrongly) that David G. understands their position to be similar to the FV one.

    Would David then consider the FV to be part of the Reformed tradition, albeit a minority one?

  69. Andy Gilman said,

    November 28, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    Keith L. wrote:

    Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?

    A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.
    ” (emphasis mine)

    Xon, given the second bolded phrase, is it not clear that those infants are to be baptized because they are already in the covenant? Andy already mentioned this in #20.

    Andy, given the first bolded phrase, does it not seem that those who “are out of the visible church” are not to be baptized (I’m not sure how this squares with “solemn admission … into the visible Church” terminology in WCF XXVII.I), and further that those who “are out of the visible church” are “so” (as in “thus”) “strangers from the covenant of promise”?

    Adults outside of the visible church are not to be baptized and should be considered strangers to the covenant of promise
    till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him.
    Infants descending from a professing parent are not to be treated as strangers to the covenant of promise. They ought to be baptized because they are not strangers to the covenant of promise. So, the newly professing adult is, by virtue of his profession, no longer a stranger to the covenant of promise and therefore ought to be baptized. The infant is not a stranger to the covenant of promise, by virtue of his parent’s profession, and therefore ought to be baptized.

  70. Andy Gilman said,

    November 28, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    The problem is that the FV agenda is to make “covenant of promise” and “visible church” one and the same thing. Our Standards clearly do not do that.

  71. Xon said,

    November 28, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Jeff Cagle, hi. You said:

    I was a covenant child. I grew up believing in God and believing, as soon as I knew of it, of Jesus’ death for me. Funny thing: my parents are Baptists, and I didn’t get baptized until I was 11. But I’m pretty sure I was a Christian long before then.

    Right, this is an illustration of the Standards’ teaching that the sign and the thing signified are not so inexorably connected that they always happen at the same time. But ordinarily, baptism is the ‘joining the church’ moment. And if it’s not, then what is it? A ‘sign and seal’, which means what exactly? Remember, we aren’t just taking the ‘symbolic’ view of the Zwinglians, supposedly. So we can’t just be ‘reminding’ ourselves, or providing a ‘picture’ of the fact that we are already in the covenant. There must be something else going on, or else we’re mere symbolists, aren’t we?

    Reed,

    I.O.W., the analogy only was intended to illustrate the basic “distinction” between sign and thing signified, not to express comprehensively the nature of their “union.”

    Hope this helps.

    It does, but this is why I questioned your suggestion that FVers are neglecting the conecpt of sacramental union. It seemed that what you were really suggesting is that they/we (I don’t know how to speak of myself in relation to FV…I’m not a leader or much of anybody really…yet obviously my views are in that camp) neglect the distinction b/w sign and thing signified. But I don’t think FV does that at all. That distinction is clear and uncontroversial enough. The idea of the sacramental union, as we seem to agree, is something more than this. And, I would argue, if anything it makes more ‘hay’ for an FV perspective than for the critics.

    In your #38 (which I guess I missed originally; sorry!) you say first that

    “Baptism administered by the Church is the sign; baptism administered by the Spirit is the thing signified. By definition the sign IS NOT the thing signified. The issue then, is to define the nature of the union.”

    I find this particular way of formulating things problematic, but I need to reflect more on why. Saying that baptism signifies another baptism is where I’m having the problem…though of course if the concept is Biblical I will acquiesce.

    You also say that

    The issue then, is to define the nature of the union.

    In this case, the sign points to, represents, the thing signified.

    But surely this is nothing more than the sign/traffic light again. Any road sign ‘represents’ the ‘thing signified.’ In fact, any semiotic relationship is one of representation. Representation is a bare-bones characterization, and doesn’t really help clarify the nature of the union at all. In common English usage, it makes it seem like the sacrament is just a symbol after all. This is all a ‘representation’ really is, isn’t it?

    In a less common English usage, perhaps you are investing ‘represent’ with a more metaphysical meaning…This would be intriguing, but then I’d bet we might not be so far apart if we discussed it further.

    But then later you describe this union as “Spiritual”, which seems better b/c it at least sounds like it is more than mere ‘representation’:

    Both errors, temporal union or spatial union, are avoided by the biblical example of sacramental union. The essence of the union is Spiritual – the Spirit begin God avoids the necessity of temporal, spatial, and any other non-bliblical inferred union, in that the Spirit can work and does work when, where and how He chooses.

    I agree that the Spirit is not bound to either time or space, which is why the Standards use words like ‘ordinary’ to describe the way things work. Ordinary implies a regular and temporal and spatial application, but not one that is unable to transcend the temporal and the spatial. Certainly the Spirit does not always do things in the ‘ordinary’ way, but the point is that there is an ordinary way. Ordinarily, we are supposed to baptize our children, raise them in the faith, never doubt that they are God’s, teach them to trust that they are His by preaching the Gospel (and all the Scriptures) to them, taking them to Church, remind them of their baptisms so that they can improve upon them, etc., and the ‘result’ is that they are indeed elect. That’s the ordinary way. But someone is raised in a Baptist home, or their parents don’t believe in church at all, or they grow up on a desert island, or they get hit by a bus on their way to be baptised, or they are the thief on the cross, well the Spirit works in those people too. The Spirit blows where He wants, but when He does it in an ‘extraordinary’ way that doesn’t change the significance or regularity of the ‘ordinary’ way.

    The problem here is that you are defining ‘Spiritual’ union purely in terms of what it is not. It is not temporal and it is not spatial. Is this a deliberate apophatic turn by anti-FVers? :-) That’s fine with me, but if we are going to leave the positive nature of the union mysterious then it is hard to pin some kind of ‘error’ on FVers at this point. Especially since FVers also deny that the union is either temporal or spatial in nature.

    But you do offer something a little closer to a positive definition here:

    Sacramental union only has in view that the sign is so closely connected (Spiritual union) to the thing signified, that the Scriptures use the sign as a referant when the thing signified is in view. (Another good example is Peter’s reference to Moses and Israel’s baptism into him – the sign is different, but a Spiritual union is in view).

    But again this is really vague, isn’t it? It is “so closely connected”? How connected? What does this mean? Well, it means that it is not a temporal connection or a spatial connection, but a ‘Spiritual’ connection.

    I’m not coming down on you, honestly. We are treading on holy ground here. Let’s all take our shoes off and show some respect. If you want to hang it on a mystery, then I’ll sign up with you. But I’m trying to understand how it is that FV supposedly violates the Confessional teaching on this point. That’s my hang-up, not the fact that you are having trouble offering a positive account of something that does not exactly permit humans to give it a positive account.

    This all comes back to faith, doesn’t it? The Spirit blows where He wants, yet ordinarily it is people who hear the Gospel who believe as opposed to people who never hear. He works in His own mysteriously way, yet outside the Church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. We cannot catch the wind, yet when the cold front of baptism meets the warm front of faith, salvation tends to happen. The Spirit does what He wants, yet what He wants is apparently to save every baptized person. The only ones for whom that is not true is those who didn’t believe. Which is not an argument against ‘FV’ sacramentology; it’s an argument against unbelief! Believe, and these things really are true of you, sinner! When the Spirit baptised you, He made you a promise. But how do you know that the Spirit baptised you, instead of some dude at the front of a church? B/c that dude at the front of the church is the ordinary way that the Spirit baptizes people! It’s not just a ritual that ‘represents’ the real baptism that happens to gosh-who-knows-who. It’s a sign in which God has promised to be present to His people. God’s promises; that’s the foundation of a ‘sacramental union’ between sign and thing signified. God can do what He wants, but He has ‘bound’ Himself to be ordinarily with us when we do these silly little signs like preaching and administering the sacraments. And the flip side of God’s promise to be with us in these signs–to unite the sign and the thing signified under ordinary circumstances–is our faith that God can be trusted to do what He promises to do. If we believe that this sacramental union is true, then it is! If our children believe that God, not just a dude up front in church, actually ‘did’ something to them the day they were baptized, this is not presumption or sacerdotalism. It is simply believing that God is present in the way He says He will be present for us. He is present in preaching, and He is present in the sacraments. Our job is not to constantly tear apart this genuine ‘presence’ in these sacramentally-united signs and things signified thorugh qualificaitons and thieves-on-the-cross-reminders and anecdotes about our Disciples of Christ upbringing and getting dipped in the lake at the revival (in my own case). Our job is to believe. That’s the, if I may dare a pun, twist of faith involved in sacramentology for all who wish to be faithful to the Scriptures and to the Spirit who applies them to our hearts.

  72. Xon said,

    November 28, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Andy, I’m not sure why we are having so much trouble communicating here, but please take me through it slowly, like I’m a 4 year old. To me, ‘visible church’ is at least synonymous (if not equivalent) with ‘covenant community.’ You say the Standards teach against this view, but it’s not clear to me how they do so. You reference an earlier comment, but others have already asked you to follow up further because they find that comment insufficient to clear up the question. Please enlighten?

  73. Xon said,

    November 28, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Keith L:

    Q. 166. Unto whom is baptism to be administered?

    A. Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, and so strangers from the covenant of promise, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but infants descending from parents, either both, or but one of them, professing faith in Christ, and obedience to him, are in that respect within the covenant, and to be baptized.
    ” (emphasis mine)

    Xon, given the second bolded phrase, is it not clear that those infants are to be baptized because they are already in the covenant? Andy already mentioned this in #20.

    It’s a good question, but I do think I already answered it reasonably well in # 46. I don’t say that b/c I’m impatient, in fact I’m happy to go through it again. But I do want the context of what has already been said to be somewhat clear.

    There I said the following:

    “I am talking about a visible tangible historically-ebb-and-flowing community here (you know, like all other communities). Not some ‘invisible’ community of people who are elect to go to Heaven when they die but who have not yet been joined to Christ in any visible way whatsoever. I agree that an elect infant who dies without being baptized, for instance, remains elect (obviously). We baptize them because we expect that they are elect already, b/c the promise is to us and to our children, as I argued above. But when I or Scripture (I would argue my view here is Scriptural) speak of the ‘covenant community’ (in whatever terms), what is being referred to is the tangible visible flesh-and-blood group of people who are identifiable as wearing the name ‘Christian’ before the watching world. And the time a person (ordinarily) enters this tangible visible flesh-and-blood group of people is when they are baptized.”

    Andy is drawing some sort of distinction between ‘in the covenant’ and ‘visible church.’ So I’m not sure what ‘in the covenant’ means for Andy. Does it refer only to those who ‘invisibly’ belong to God? I am genuinely unclear on his meaning, and I have asked him to clarify so I don’t want to go on about it before he does.

    WLC 166 says that infants of believers are ‘in that respect in the covenant’, and therefore to be baptized. I am not convinced that this establishes some sort of chronology: i.e., “are” indicates that they are ‘already’ in the covenant, and so baptism merely symbolies the fact of what already is. It seems to me that there are other ways to read it, especially since the Standards say elsewhere that baptism is a solemn admission into…something.

    But let’s say that 166 is establishing a chronology. Baby is already a member of the covenant, and so we baptize him afterwards to more-than-symbolically do something in remembrance of that fact (whatever that means…to me this is still the big hangup in David G’s original post. I have no idea what this extra-symbolic Reformed position on the sacraments is, much less how it is that FVers are alleged to run afoul of it). My question then is what sense of ‘in the covenant’ are we talking about? Visibly or ‘invisibly’? Surely it’s not visibly, since they aren’t members of the church yet, are they? If it’s invisibly, then who would disagree?

    But maybe it is meant ‘visibly.’ After all, the new family member is very much visible. Obviously there is a new person being brought to church on Sundays, etc. So perhaps 166 is saying that that’s all that is required to be ‘in the visible church’/’in the covenant’ (Again, Andy seems to think these are not the same, but I’m waiting on him to explain the distinction). Baby is already in the visible covenant community even before he is baptized, b/c there he is, living his life as a member of a family that is within the visible covenant community.

    Even on this reading, though, it seems to me that there is a difference between being ‘in’ the group without having been formally initiated and being in the group after your initiation. Baptism is about a formal rite of initiation, at which time you are ‘officially’ admitted into the covenant community in a way that you were not before. At least, that seems a reasonable, and non-Westminster-contradicting, view to me. Thoughts?

  74. Jeff Moss said,

    November 28, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    After reading through the whole list of comments to this post, I think one of the keys to this set of issues (and to the whole Federal Vision debate) has not yet been mentioned here.

    David wrote: “…we should conclude that, likewise, baptism cannot be an instrumental means, alongside of faith, by which we lay hold of Christ’s righteousness unto justification.… Such an idea would be directly contrary to the Reformational doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide).” (emphasis mine)

    David, I want to ask in all seriousness: Have you ever heard anyone associated with “Federal Vision” theology teach that “baptism [is] an instrumental means, alongside of faith, by which we lay hold of Christ’s righteousness unto justification”? Pastor Wilkins and others say many other things about baptism, but I don’t think you’ll ever find them saying this. Rather, their theological opponents take other things that they say and unsympathetically deduce from them that they must mean this. But it ain’t necessarily so.

    It’s just as clear to the FV men as it is to any other Reformed theologian that baptism and faith are two very different things. For you to talk as though even the most ardent FV’er puts them in the same undifferentiated category, as “instrumental means” of justification, is simply misleading.

    I understand the FV position to include the following: Baptism joins a person, objectively, to Christ. Since every baptized person is in Christ, then what is true of Christ is true of all baptized people corporately. Christ is righteous, all of Him; thus His body the Church is righteous, with all its members. Christ is holy; thus, Christ’s body is holy, every member of it (in more or less the same way that the children of one believing parent are holy, because they are joined to Christ by covenant, 1 Cor. 7:14). It is for this reason that the Apostles speak to churches as they do–for example, 1 Cor. 1:2, where “the church of God which is at Corinth” equals “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus” (despite the Corinthians’ obvious personal unholiness!). So everyone who is in Christ objectively (i.e., in the Church through baptism) is just as objectively “justified” and “sanctified,” because they are in Christ, and He is perfectly righteous and holy.

    BUT at the same time (and who in the FV would deny this?) the righteousness that we have objectively in Christ has to be taken to heart, lived out and made permanent, or it ultimately becomes worthless. Christ’s justification and sanctification become ours in baptism, but we must still make them ours through faith and good works, both of which are gifts of God’s free grace alone in accordance with His eternal decrees. These are the justification and sanctification that bear fruit for eternal life.

    To sum up: Baptism brings us into Christ, the Righteous and Holy One. To belong to Him is to be (covenantally?) justified and sanctified. But we also need to believe on Christ. It this faith in the heart that leads to justification of the sort that is personally owned by the faithful Christian. Baptism grants us a share in Christ’s justification; faith applies His justification to us. Each one allows us to say that we are “justified,” and legitimately so, but from different perspectives and with different results.

    In any case, baptism and faith are alike in this: Both are the good work of God within His people. His grace is everything.

    (NOTE: This thread already has a glut of comments. If anyone would like to discuss these things with me further, you can do so on my blog at http://www.oneflockoneshepherd.blogspot.com/ .)

  75. Jeff Moss said,

    November 28, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    And I agree with Xon. But I hadn’t seen his latest comments yet when I started to write mine, and in any case I think my comment answers somewhat different questions than his.

  76. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 28, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Hi Xon,

    I just shot you an e-mail. You wrote (#82): But ordinarily, baptism is the ‘joining the church’ moment. And if it’s not, then what is it? A ’sign and seal’, which means what exactly? Remember, we aren’t just taking the ’symbolic’ view of the Zwinglians, supposedly. So we can’t just be ‘reminding’ ourselves, or providing a ‘picture’ of the fact that we are already in the covenant. There must be something else going on, or else we’re mere symbolists, aren’t we?

    Before I go and agree with you in a moment, I want to first stress that symbolism *is* a large element in baptism. The washing with water is not literally washing particles of sin off of me. The waters of the flood were symbolic of the cleansing from sin; why not the waters of baptism, too? The Holy Spirit is poured out at Pentacost, just as the water is poured over the baptizee.

    OK, but now to agree with you: something does happen in baptism. BUT — that thing may not happen at the same time that I’m baptized! Let me explain the absurdity.

    I’ve argued elsewhere that when James discusses works in chapter 2, the works that “are working together with faith” (Jas. 2.22) occur roughly 30 years *after* the faith that justifies. Paul takes a similar approach when he attributes Abraham’s faith in conceiving Isaac as the reason that A’s faith was credited as righteousness 25 years prior (Rom. 4.18-25).

    In other words, there appears to be in Scripture some kind of “perfective aspect” to our faith and its relationship to things like works and the sacraments. That is to say, the Scriptures appear to associate one and the other as if they happened all together, even though (historically) they didn’t. Or put another way, only persevering faith is salvific; but the perseverance (which is in NO WAY the ground of justification) occurs after the faith has already saved.

    The same appears to be true of baptism. Over and over it is stressed: all who believe are saved, forgiven, made children of God. Faith is the sole ground of justification, prior to the sign of righteousness being applied (Rom 4.10).

    And yet, Scripture also attributes our cleansing to baptism (1 Pet 3.21, Romans 6.3-4, Col. 2.12).

    Which is it? Am I justified by faith or cleansed by baptism? I mean, we could take a complex sacramental view and say that our cleansing happens when we are baptized as an act of faith. But that misses the real question: when *in time* am I justified and cleansed?

    The answer is clear: when I believe. There simply is no way to maintain that cleansing waits for baptism in the face of Rom. 4.10.

    So why then does Scripture attribute cleansing to the baptism? Aren’t we then walking down the road of saying that baptism is just a symbol of what has already happened?

    I believe the answer is this: Scripture attributes cleansing to baptism in the same sense that WCoF 27.2 and 28.6 assert that the grace of baptism is really conferred, but *not necessarily at the moment of baptism*!

    The cleansing is dischronologized from the actual moment of baptism: the washing of sins happens perhaps after, perhaps prior to the moment when the baptism occurs.

    In God’s economy, for whatever reason, baptism is a real cleansing that signs and seals my salvation — when I believe.

    How’s that for novel and weird? But I’m fairly convinced that this is what Paul has in mind, taking Rom 4 and 6 together, and putting them in light of the other passages I mentioned above.

    Jeff Cagle

  77. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 29, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Jeff Moss (#85):

    David, I want to ask in all seriousness: Have you ever heard anyone associated with “Federal Vision” theology teach that “baptism [is] an instrumental means, alongside of faith, by which we lay hold of Christ’s righteousness unto justification”? Pastor Wilkins and others say many other things about baptism, but I don’t think you’ll ever find them saying this.

    I agree.

    I understand the FV position to include the following: Baptism joins a person, objectively, to Christ. Since every baptized person is in Christ, then what is true of Christ is true of all baptized people corporately … So everyone who is in Christ objectively (i.e., in the Church through baptism) is just as objectively “justified” and “sanctified,” because they are in Christ, and He is perfectly righteous and holy.

    I also agree (that the FV position includes this). Here are the problems:

    (1) What does “objective justification” mean?

    (2) It seems really clear that baptism is, for the FV position, an instrumental means of securing objective justification. That is to say, all who receive baptism receive OJ, and receive it at the moment of baptism, and receive it *because* they have been baptized.

    (3) So then, since faith is the instrumental means of receiving the kind of justification that the decretally elect receive, but baptism is the instrumental means of receiving objective justification, it follows that we have two separate kinds of justification going on here. Not one type of justification, which might or might not last, but two types: one, received upon faith; the other, received upon baptism.

    (4) Which just is simply not taught in the Bible anywhere. And is denied by the FV position, to boot.

    So as far as I can tell, the FV position on baptism is incoherent. Maybe that’s my fault, but that’s how I see it at the moment. Xon has promised to set me straight on some of this.

    Jeff Cagle

  78. Xon said,

    November 29, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Jeff Cagle, I don’t think what you say is all that ‘novel and weird’ at all. I think almost you become an FVer!

  79. Xon said,

    November 29, 2007 at 1:26 am

    That last was in response to 88. Here’s a quick response to 89.

    So then, since faith is the instrumental means of receiving the kind of justification that the decretally elect receive, but baptism is the instrumental means of receiving objective justification, it follows that we have two separate kinds of justification going on here. Not one type of justification, which might or might not last, but two types: one, received upon faith; the other, received upon baptism.

    Not quite. Faith is instrumental for BOTH kinds of baptism, or at least it is instrumental to remaining in both kinds of baptism.

    The moment the ceremony is over, the dude is married. But he has to remain ‘faithful’ (not a direct comparison of ‘faithful’ to ‘faith’, just a similar word for the sake of analogy) to the marriage. If he cheats during the reception and is caught, then his new covenantal reality brought about by the ceremony won’t last very long at all. If he cheats for a long time and doesn’t get caught, then….well, the analogy breaks down b/c in marriage there won’t be an official cutting-off from the covenant if he never gets caught. But in God’s covenant community there is an official cutting-off for those who lack faith. It happens at the last judgment, or before (excommunication). But it happens.

    And if we allow for a notion of anullment, then it is possible to say that, if the dude never really was ‘into’ the marriage in the first place, and this is somehow found out, then we call the whole thing off. If a guy gets baptized but has his ‘fingers crossed’, and this is somehow realized at some point, then I’m okay with saying that he was not really put into the covenant, in some sense. Faith is non-negotiable.

    If I’m a pastor and a person comes to me and says he is now a Muslim, then assuming all the proper qualifications blah blah blah, we will initiate excommunication procedure against him. I don’t tell him that he’s covenantally justified forever, b/c he was baptized. He only remains covenantally justified by grace through faith, and apparently he no longer has the faith.

    If a baptized person loses faith, then they are cut off. Sooner or later. But you have to have faith to remain ‘justified’ in BOTH the covenantal and the ‘eternal life’ sense. Of course, if you have justification in the eternal life sense, then by definition you will remain faithful and you will never lose that justification, b/c God has decreed you never to lose it. But, if you are justified only in the ‘covenantal’ sense, and you are salvifically non-elect, then you will be cut out of the covenant at some point. You will lose even your covenantal justification. And the reason will be b/c you didn’t have faith. Faith is always the essence of this thing..

  80. Xon said,

    November 29, 2007 at 1:26 am

    “Not quite. Faith is instrumental for BOTH kinds of baptism, or at least it is instrumental to remaining in both kinds of baptism.”

    Ugh. Time for bed! ‘baptism’ should be replaced in both instances with ‘justification.’

  81. Robert K. said,

    November 29, 2007 at 1:57 am

    In the above thread FVists have here and there challenged the Reformed/Presbyterians (the paedo-baptists) that either their view of Baptism is going to be Romish or it’s going to be default Baptist while pretending to be something else. My question is why do FVists default to the Romish side? The Westminster Confession itself states that regeneration – THE MAIN THING – is effected, when it is, by the Word and the Spirit.

    And I’ll repeat my famous line that has crushed FVists from one end of the world to the other: the Roman Catholic church burned Bibles and murdered people who attempted to bring the Word of God to people – YET – they called people to be baptised all day long

    Antichrist knows what regenerates God’s own…

  82. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 29, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Jeff Cagle, I don’t think what you say is all that ‘novel and weird’ at all. I think almost you become an FVer!

    As you know, I have very strong sales resistance to the FV. For one thing, my position rejects the idea of subsequent justifications a la Lusk. For another, I am attributing the “efficacy of baptism” to faith at the time of God’s choosing, not to the moment at which it occurs. And for another, I don’t accept the notion that NECMs are “in Christ” in any sense other than something like Lane’s “administrative sense.”

    But I’m glad that we can have some points of contact!

    Jeff Cagle

  83. pduggie said,

    November 29, 2007 at 8:13 am

    the FV position can be best stated this way:

    “nor does the efficacy OF A SACRAMENT depend upon the piety or intention of him that does administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers”

  84. Xon said,

    November 29, 2007 at 9:49 am

    Don’t ever confuse a refusal to engage in fruitless argumentation with being ‘crushed’, Robert.

    Jeff Cagle said:

    For another, I am attributing the “efficacy of baptism” to faith at the time of God’s choosing, not to the moment at which it occurs.

    FVers do this too, though. This is why I said you almost sound like one of us! FVers do not insist that the efficacy of baptism always happens right when it is administered. Faith is required. But, when does God give faith? Ordinarily, say the FVers, He gives it to the person who is baptized (or just before…the point is that a baptized baby has faith). But this is not to say that it always happens right then.

    Also, baptism is effective at the moment it is performed in one sense –to whatever extent baptism is the initiation rite into the visible church, then baptism is effective at…effecting that initiation. But that doesn’t mean it is effective at regenerating you at that vfery moment, or anything like that.

  85. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 29, 2007 at 9:59 am

    First, I should note that your explanations here sound *very different* from the explanations Steve Wilkins gave. I can accept the language above as Confessional (especially the part that’s quoted from the Confession ;))

    Second, another significant difference between my understanding of Scripture and my understanding of FV is that I would hold that there are baptisms that are not effective (except administratively), just as there were circumcisions (like Esau’s) that were not effective. In this, I would agree with Kuyper: there can be baptisms that are mere wettings, just as there were (and still are!) circumcisions that are mere cuttings away of the flesh.

    It is my understanding of the FV that it teaches there are no such “false baptisms”; indeed, Lusk (IIRC — no book in front of me) explicitly denies this in “The Federal Vision.”

    Jeff Cagle

  86. Robert K. said,

    November 29, 2007 at 10:29 am

    >”the FV position can be best stated this way:
    “nor does the efficacy OF A SACRAMENT depend upon the piety or intention of him that does administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers”

    The FV wishes WCF 10 could be excised.

    And see Calvin in his 40th sermon on Ephesians as to whether the Word involved in regeneration is the actual hearing/reading of the Word of God or the formulaic intonations of clerics in the midst of performing ritual. (We’ve been through this before…)

    And this still goes unanswered:

    The Roman Catholic church burned Bibles and murdered people who attempted to bring the Word of God to people – YET – they called people to be baptised all day long…

    Antichrist knows what regenerates God’s own…

    Somebody may all you FVists come into understanding of why the Reformation occured and what it recovered and why it was worth dying for…

  87. Keith LaMothe said,

    November 29, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Andy, Xon, thanks for the response.

    Xon, I hadn’t heard of not taking WLC 166 in a chronological sense, but I suppose stranger things have happened.

    If a baby is born to Christian parents, and they don’t baptize the baby, is he in the covenant?

    You may have already answered this…

    Thanks,
    Keith

  88. Andy Gilman said,

    November 29, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Xon said:

    Andy, I’m not sure why we are having so much trouble communicating here, but please take me through it slowly, like I’m a 4 year old. To me, ‘visible church’ is at least synonymous (if not equivalent) with ‘covenant community.’ You say the Standards teach against this view, but it’s not clear to me how they do so. You reference an earlier comment, but others have already asked you to follow up further because they find that comment insufficient to clear up the question. Please enlighten?

    I’m going to be away most of the day but will try to comment later in the evening. But the short answer is that if you go through the Standards and look at how the word “covenant” and the phrase “visible church” are used, you will see that they are not equivalent. Being “in the covenant” or being a “member of the covenant” is not the same thing as having an “interest in the covenant.” In fact, the Standards tell us that the covenant is made with Christ, and in him all of the elect. Or, possibly, in a broader sense, the covenant is made with “all mankind” in that the free offer of the gospel is made to all sinners; but never is “solemn admission into the visible church” equated with being made a “member of the covenant.”

    That will have to do for now.

  89. November 29, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Jeff Moss,

    Welcome to the blog.

    Jeff M. and Xon: you are both wondering where I am getting the idea that at least some of the FV would disagree with me concerning the efficacy of baptism in justification. I’m answering that right now in the form of a new post. It will hopefully be up in just a few minutes.

  90. November 29, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    Robert K said “Somebody may all you FVists come into understanding of why the Reformation occured and what it recovered and why it was worth dying for…”

    Indeed. FV is very often nearly ambivalent on sola fide. It ought to be no impediment to their ecumenical “catholicity” and their decadent costume party they call “liturgical reform”.

    Indeed, FV is decadence, the product of a failure to remember the First Things and why the Reformation was forged in blood. The super-high, quasi-Anglican liturgical emphasis, the ecumenical spirit, and the endless nuancing, re-envisionings, tinkerings, and speculations with theology, and the “maximalist” James Jordanian biblical theology that turns the Bible into the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

  91. jared said,

    November 29, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Reed,

    Ref. #75

    You say,

    Jared, with reference to:

    “… but I do not think Scripture allows for the sign to be given without the, presumed or otherwise, presence of the signified to some extent.”

    O.k. what biblical data does this flow from in your understanding? If I am reading you right, are you saying that the thing signified must always accompany the sign’s administration?

    What I am saying is that normally the thing signified always accompanies the sign. What sort of sign would it be otherwise? What good is a sign if the thing signfied is far removed or removed completely? Romans 6, in baptism we are buried with Christ. Is Paul talking about the sign or the thing signified? Why can’t he be speaking of both? My understanding of baptism is that it is, for all intents and purposes, a preparatory washing. If I get washed and am still dirty, what sort of washing is that? If I am symbolically washed yet am still symbolically dirty, what good is the washing? If you come across a sign that warns of a stop light and there is no stop light, what good is the sign? Perhaps more importantly, how long/far will you drive cautiously until you decide the sign was mistaken?

    In Acts 2, Peter responds to the crowd’s question of what they should do after hearing about the crucified Jesus: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” and then the words all Presbyterians know, “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” From Acts 10:47-48 we can see that if you have the Spirit then you should be baptized; neither of us disagree on this point. This also shows that you can have the signified prior to the sign, which neither of us disagree about. However, we later find Ananias telling Paul “be baptised, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16) Paul, after describing those who won’t inherit the kingdom, tells the Corinthians that “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11) He tells the Galatians, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ… And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s decendants, heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:25-27, 29).

    What I find most interesting is that the baptism of Jesus (or into Jesus) is distinguished from the baptism of John (Acts 19:1-5), so there’s something going on in one that isn’t going on in the other. There is something about ritual as John did it that is contrasted with the ritual as Jesus has told us to perform it. By all accounts it is the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit, either beforehand or very shortly thereafter (as in, immediately). But I don’t think you will find anywhere in Scripture where the work of the Spirit in baptism isn’t effected until some undetermined point (perhaps even decades) down the road. From Scripture it seems clear there are two views: (1) you have the Spirit and are to be baptised or (2) you have been baptised and, consequently, receive the Spirit. There’s no (3) in which you are baptised and then maybe you receive the Spirit, at least there is no support for such a view from Scripture. Keeping in mind, of course, that this is how things normally work.

    David Gadbois,

    If Bob, Jeff and Reed aren’t “allowed” to badmouth FV in such a manner, neither are you.

  92. David Gray said,

    November 29, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    >The super-high, quasi-Anglican liturgical emphasis

    It was good enough for Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer before Rome torched them…

  93. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 29, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    There’s no (3) in which you are baptised and then maybe you receive the Spirit, at least there is no support for such a view from Scripture. Keeping in mind, of course, that this is how things normally work.

    I hope I can repeat myself without being obnoxious, but the Scriptural support for such a view is the fact that myriads of Jews were circumcised without being circumcised of heart. Perhaps at times, even a majority of the Jews in Israel were in such a condition.

    And yet, Abraham’s circumcision is a “sign and seal” of his faith, that is to be applied to his progeny (it “is” the covenant, in the language of Gen. 17), many of whom nevertheless were in unbelief.

    That tells me that signs and seals need not accompany that which they represent, neither in time, nor in logical necessity.

    If I am symbolically washed yet am still symbolically dirty, what good is the washing?

    That’s an interesting question, but so is this one: if I receive eternal life and yet lose it, what good is calling the life “eternal”?

    If baptism really does wash in every case, or even almost every case, and if many of those who are baptized later prove to be unbelievers — how did they have “eternal life”? How were they “sealed with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance”?

    And, did Jesus die for their sins, or not?

    For me, those questions drive me to affirm that some receive the sign of washing without having been washed, just as some received the sign of cutting away of the sin nature, without receiving the reality thereof.

    For those people, we can’t and don’t say they have been washed at all, but rather that the wrath of God remains on them.

    And that line of reasoning drives me away from “covenant objectivity.”

    Jeff Cagle

  94. jared said,

    November 29, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Jeff,

    You say,

    That’s an interesting question, but so is this one: if I receive eternal life and yet lose it, what good is calling the life “eternal”?

    If baptism really does wash in every case, or even almost every case, and if many of those who are baptized later prove to be unbelievers — how did they have “eternal life”? How were they “sealed with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance”?

    I don’t think I ever said baptism confers eternal life, so I’m not sure how that question is relevant. I’m pretty sure eternal life can’t be lost, but maybe the promise of it can be nullified? So, I suppose those NECM (or RMVC, as some prefer) have the promise of eternal life, just as ECM have it, but since they will not remain faithful, as the ECM will remain faithful, the promise (which is covenantal) is nullified.

    You say,

    For me, those questions drive me to affirm that some receive the sign of washing without having been washed, just as some received the sign of cutting away of the sin nature, without receiving the reality thereof.

    Those questions drive to affirm that some get washed, just not all the way, just as some get planted but don’t grow, or grow very little before dying. Of course, this line of reasoning lends, I think, support to the concept of covenant objectivity.

  95. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 29, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    I can see where the various “plant” analogies could lend support to the idea of a semi- or quasi-salvation. They could also lend support to the idea of an apparent salvation without any real prospect of growth.

    But getting partially washed … that seems to require that Jesus partially died on their behalf …

    I don’t think I can go there.

    Jeff C

  96. November 29, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Standby. I’ll have to finish the promised post (see #101) later tonight. Too much to do between designing airplanes in my day job and planning for a wedding at night!

  97. Roger Mann said,

    November 29, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    100: Andy wrote:

    But the short answer is that if you go through the Standards and look at how the word “covenant” and the phrase “visible church” are used, you will see that they are not equivalent. Being “in the covenant” or being a “member of the covenant” is not the same thing as having an “interest in the covenant.” In fact, the Standards tell us that the covenant is made with Christ, and in him all of the elect…never is “solemn admission into the visible church” equated with being made a “member of the covenant.”

    Absolutely! Finally someone states it clearly. To be specific, WLC 31 states:

    Question 31: With whom was the covenant of grace made?

    Answer: The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

    This is straightforward, unambiguous, and decisive. Both Scripture and the Westminster Standards clearly teach that only the elect are genuine covenant members. The covenant of grace is not made with our non-elect children or reprobate members of the visible church — period. According to WLC 31, God the Father and Christ the Mediator are the contracting parties in the covenant of grace, and only the elect “in him” are genuine members thereof. Other relevant portions of the Westminster Standards teach the very same thing (e.g., WSC 20; WLC 30-32, 57-59, etc.) — that the “promise” of the covenant of grace pertains to the elect alone. Indeed, in the covenant of grace the Lord Himself promises “to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.” (WCF 7.3). Thus, saving “faith” is a benefit or blessing of the covenant of grace (see Jer. 31:31-34; 32:40; Ezek. 36:25-27; Eph. 2:1-10; Heb. 8:10-12; etc.), not a condition that we must somehow fulfill in order to secure or maintain our covenant status.

  98. pduggie said,

    November 29, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    But the WCF says that all saints *by profession* are in real community and communion. I have community with you, even though I don’t know your actual elect and saved status.

    “covenant community” is not to my knowledge a confessional term. But communion of saints is. Our children participate in communion with us, as visible saints, rendering spiritual service to each other. And the only reason this community exists is because of the covenant.

  99. Jeff Moss said,

    November 30, 2007 at 12:18 am

    I see that it’ll be hard for me to keep up with this discussion, given the limited time that I have on the Web, and the number of comments growing at the speed of light. But here’s a stab at it (with an unserrated edge, really…) to go along with what Xon already wrote at #91-92.

    Jeff Cagle (#89):

    (1) What does “objective justification” mean?

    It means that Christ is righteous; and if we are included in His Church through baptism, then we are in Him; and if we are in Him, we are both counted righteous for His sake (“justified”) and called to live righteously, lest we be cut off.

    (2) It seems really clear that baptism is, for the FV position, an instrumental means of securing objective justification. That is to say, all who receive baptism receive OJ, and receive it at the moment of baptism, and receive it *because* they have been baptized.

    Not quite. FV people seem to enjoy quoting WCF 28.1 in support of their own position: “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ…” That is to say, baptism is an instrumental means of solemn admission into the visible Church. As the next logical step, membership in the Church (which is Christ’s body) means that the baptized person is incorporated into all that Christ is, including His righteousness. This is what I (somewhat clumsily) described as “objective justification.”

    This justification is in and through Christ, not in and through baptism. Maybe you think this is a distinction without a difference, but I think it makes all the difference in the world. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Not “in baptism,” but “in Christ.” “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

    Baptism is only the door to the house where Christ is the Host. It would be very odd, to say the least, to call a door “the instrumental means of hospitality.”

    (3) So then, since faith is the instrumental means of receiving the kind of justification that the decretally elect receive, but baptism is the instrumental means of receiving objective justification, it follows that we have two separate kinds of justification going on here. Not one type of justification, which might or might not last, but two types: one, received upon faith; the other, received upon baptism.

    Since I’ve already argued that baptism is NOT the “instrumental means” of receiving justification, even on what I think is a standard FV view, let me answer the rest of this fairly quickly. There are not two kinds of justification, but there are different angles on, and differences of status with regard to, this one reality. What is the difference between baptism and faith, relative to justification? The connection between baptism and justification is indirect: baptism joins us to Christ, and in Him we are righteous. The connection between faith and justification, however, is direct: “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:9). Righteousness–complete and lasting justification that transforms first a man’s standing before God, and finally his entire spirit, soul, and body–is made available to us through our union with Christ in baptism; but it is truly claimed and owned by our believing response to what God has already done in our baptism. Baptism is God’s doing, faith is ours, but both are equally a gift of His grace, so that no man may boast in His presence. To Him be all glory forever and ever! Amen.

  100. Robert K. said,

    November 30, 2007 at 12:49 am

    Jeff Moss, check the Larger Catechism #66 (not to mention WCF 10). Constantine can baptise ten thousand pagans in one day, and it doesn’t join them to Christ. Effectual calling (i.e. regeneration) – by the Word and the Spirit – is what joins one to Christ. The WCF has a whole separate chapter on it. And WLC #66 is rather explicit.

    Antichrist burns the Word of God and murders any who bring the Word of God to people (when antichrist has the power to do it, and go into a Muslim land today to get a taste of what it was like when Rome held tyranny over its domains). That same antichrist in Rome had no problem with people being ritually baptised all day and all night.

    To teach that it is ritual that joins you to Christ is to teach what the Beast and the Kingdom of Darkness wants taught. It is a teaching that keeps people from engaging the Word in a serious and humble manner, and from evangelizing the Word in a serious and zealous manner. There is a reason God says He rewards those who evangelize many people. It’s because in God’s Plan His elect need a shock they can’t give to themselves. They need an external shock that is delivered by the Word of God.

    The WCF doesn’t confess ritualism to any degree, and the Puritans who took part in drawing it up would not have signed off on it if it had. Puritans knew regeneration (and the spiritual warfare that follows from it), and knew it was the main thing. And they knew it is effected by the Word and the Spirit, as much as man demands to be in control, the Westminster Confession of Faith is a document that says otherwise. If you demand a paint-by-numbers regeneration I’d suggest you first realize it doesn’t exist, then humble yourself to the Word of God.

  101. Robert K. said,

    November 30, 2007 at 12:51 am

    >”Indeed, FV is decadence, the product of a failure to remember the First Things and why the Reformation was forged in blood.”

    Decadence is such an apt word for Federal Vision revision of apostolic biblical doctrine. It’s the first time I’ve seen the word invoked in connection to FV, and it hits the mark dead on.

  102. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 30, 2007 at 8:42 am

    PDuggie (#110):

    But the WCF says that all saints *by profession* are in real community and communion. I have community with you, even though I don’t know your actual elect and saved status.

    “covenant community” is not to my knowledge a confessional term. But communion of saints is. Our children participate in communion with us, as visible saints, rendering spiritual service to each other. And the only reason this community exists is because of the covenant.

    Let’s admit up front that the Scripture provides a somewhat paradoxical way of looking at the Church and the Kingdom. The Gospel of John consistently provides an image of two kingdoms (light, dark), in which believers are saved and unbelievers are damned. Paul uses this same language frequently.

    But also, Paul speaks of our children as “holy.” And several other passages indicate that what we *observe* can lead us to believe that, say, people who have been “sanctified” can turn around and trample on the Son of God.

    And several other passages (Matt 13) seem to indicate that the kingdom contains two types which are externally indistinguishable but ontologically different.

    OK, so the paradox is there. My problem is that the FV solution to this paradox seems to be, in the word of Arch van Devender, “overreaching.” It seems to attribute *too much* to the NECMs.

    Jeff Moss (#111):

    Thanks for the response. Clearly, there are some things that I don’t yet understand about the FV. Unfortunately, I don’t understand your response, either. :(.

    That is to say, baptism is an instrumental means of solemn admission into the visible Church. As the next logical step, membership in the Church (which is Christ’s body) means that the baptized person is incorporated into all that Christ is, including His righteousness. This is what I (somewhat clumsily) described as “objective justification.”

    I can’t distinguish this from “Baptism is an instrumental means of objective justification.” The door analogy doesn’t work, inasmuch as the door doesn’t do anything to bring someone inside; baptism (on the FV account) apparently does: it washes one of their sins, regardless of whether one is (decretally) elect or not.

    This justification is in and through Christ, not in and through baptism. Maybe you think this is a distinction without a difference, but I think it makes all the difference in the world.

    It does make a difference. But is it really true? I mean, justification is *in* Christ, but it is also *through* faith. So what preposition shall we use for baptism, wrt to the FV view?

    There are not two kinds of justification, but there are different angles on, and differences of status with regard to, this one reality. What is the difference between baptism and faith, relative to justification? The connection between baptism and justification is indirect: baptism joins us to Christ, and in Him we are righteous.

    I’m lost. This idea needs more precision for me to understand it (sorry!). For example, if NECMs experience “temporary justification”, and it is the same *kind* of justification as that experienced by ECMs, then that would seem to entail the shedding of Christ’s blood on their behalf, which would (according to Dort Canon 2) seem to entail that the NECMs are actually ECMs.

    I just don’t *get* what “aspects of justification” might mean. Help?

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

  103. jared said,

    November 30, 2007 at 9:24 am

    Robert K.,

    You say,

    Antichrist burns the Word of God and murders any who bring the Word of God to people (when antichrist has the power to do it, and go into a Muslim land today to get a taste of what it was like when Rome held tyranny over its domains). That same antichrist in Rome had no problem with people being ritually baptised all day and all night.

    It’s a good thing FV isn’t doing that then, isn’t it.

    You say,

    To teach that it is ritual that joins you to Christ is to teach what the Beast and the Kingdom of Darkness wants taught. It is a teaching that keeps people from engaging the Word in a serious and humble manner, and from evangelizing the Word in a serious and zealous manner.

    It’s a good thing FV doesn’t teach that then, isn’t it.

  104. Robert K. said,

    November 30, 2007 at 10:10 am

    When words are stripped of context (a favorite move – and necessary move – of Federal Visionists)…

    The subject is the exalting of ritual and clerics (sacerdotalism) above the Word and the Spirit. FV wants to put man in the place of God and apply a putative regeneration in a paint-by-numbers fashion. Man in control. If the regeneration is not real, who cares, they say, just pretend like it is. This is all Kingdom of Darkness nonsense.

    The Westminster Confession of Faith speaks of effectual calling (WCF 10, and Larger Catechism #66). Effectual calling and regeneration are basically the same thing. It is effected, when it is, by the Word and the Spirit.

    There’s more than one way to burn the Word of God or to murder God’s elect. There’s the crude way (when antichrist has power to do it), but then there are less crude but just as effective ways. Convince people to look to ritual as evidence for their union with Christ rather than their being effectually called and regenerated by the Word and the Spirit; and change the truth of sound biblical doctrine by the favorite method of tyrannies, the degradation and redefining of language, so that God’s elect can’t proclaim it or teach it. If you can’t murder Christians who know the truth you can at least muck up the language and meaning of what is a nickname for apostolic biblical doctrine: Reformed Theology.

  105. jared said,

    November 30, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Robert K.,

    You say,

    The subject is the exalting of ritual and clerics (sacerdotalism) above the Word and the Spirit. FV wants to put man in the place of God and apply a putative regeneration in a paint-by-numbers fashion. Man in control. If the regeneration is not real, who cares, they say, just pretend like it is. This is all Kingdom of Darkness nonsense.

    I repeat, it’s a good thing FV doesn’t do this, isn’t it.

    You say,

    There’s more than one way to burn the Word of God or to murder God’s elect. There’s the crude way (when antichrist has power to do it), but then there are less crude but just as effective ways. Convince people to look to ritual as evidence for their union with Christ rather than their being effectually called and regenerated by the Word and the Spirit; and change the truth of sound biblical doctrine by the favorite method of tyrannies, the degradation and redefining of language, so that God’s elect can’t proclaim it or teach it. If you can’t murder Christians who know the truth you can at least muck up the language and meaning of what is a nickname for apostolic biblical doctrine: Reformed Theology.

    I agree, and it’s a good thing that FV doesn’t do this.

  106. greenbaggins said,

    November 30, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Jared and Robert. Please provide more argumentation, and less bare assertion.

  107. Andy Gilman said,

    November 30, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Paul D. said:

    But the WCF says that all saints *by profession* are in real community and communion. I have community with you, even though I don’t know your actual elect and saved status.

    “covenant community” is not to my knowledge a confessional term. But communion of saints is. Our children participate in communion with us, as visible saints, rendering spiritual service to each other. And the only reason this community exists is because of the covenant.

    I agree with Paul’s statement above. Beginning with my reply to Xon in #20, I have always used the phrase “covenant community” in quotes, seeing it as a non confessional term. But I took issue with Xon’s statement:

    But whether I have faith or not, my baptism does place me in the covenant community. And that’s not nothing. That is “doing something.”

    Xon, and many other FV advocates, want to make ritual baptism something which makes the person baptized a “covenant member,” or adds the person baptized to the “covenant community.” I’m arguing that ritual baptism is not a mechanism for transferring a person from “without the covenant” to “within the covenant,” or for adding a new “member” to “the covenant of grace.” The covenant of grace is made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed. All adults who profess faith in Christ, or infants who have a professing parent, are said to have an “interest in the covenant,” BEFORE they are baptized.

    Faith (personal faith for adults and parental faith for infants) is what gives a person an “interest in the covenant,” or “an interest in him” (Christ), and a right to the sign and seal of the covenant. The sacraments are signs and seals of the covenant of grace (which is made with Christ and with the elect in him), to represent Christ and to confirm our “interest in him (which is by faith);” and to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the CHURCH (notice it doesn’t say “belong unto the COVENANT”) and the rest of the world (see WCF 27:1). The sacraments visibly differentiate the community of faith, which is the visible church, from the rest of the world; but the benefit of the sacraments is only to “worthy receivers,” i.e., those who trust in Christ.

    I agree, as Paul says, that “the community exists because of the covenant,” but the community is not the covenant.

  108. Xon said,

    November 30, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Jeff C:

    In this, I would agree with Kuyper: there can be baptisms that are mere wettings, just as there were (and still are!) circumcisions that are mere cuttings away of the flesh.

    It is my understanding of the FV that it teaches there are no such “false baptisms”…

    Yes this is a disagreement b/w you and FVers (Barach clearly spoke against Kuyper’s ‘false baptisms’ view at the original 2002 AAPC conference, too). But as you yourself noted, the view you agree with is Kuyper’s, not necessarily the Confession’s.

  109. Robert K. said,

    November 30, 2007 at 11:02 am

    >But as you yourself noted, the view you agree with is Kuyper’s, not necessarily the Confession’s.

    Yes necessarily the Confession’s: WCF 28.5.

  110. Xon said,

    November 30, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Andy said:

    Faith (personal faith for adults and parental faith for infants) is what gives a person an “interest in the covenant,” or “an interest in him” (Christ), and a right to the sign and seal of the covenant.

    Where is the infant’s faith in all this?

    On another but related note, there are several anti-FV folks commenting in this thread and I don’t want to jumble all of their comments together into one monolithic position. But that said, I detect a peculiar set of propositions from comments that have been made here and elsewhere and I think it’s problematic. Here’s the set:

    1. The visible church and the ‘invisible church’ are different aspects of the same thing. There are not ‘two’ churches, but one. (See lots of discussions on this blog, especially comments from Lane and David G. from much earlier this year–probably January/February)
    2. Baptism admits to the visible church.
    3. But being admitted to the visible church is not to be connected to the body of Christ. Only being in the invisible church is to be connected to the body of Christ.

    It seems to me that every, or nearly every, anti-FV commenter on this blog would affirm 1-3. It also seems to me that 1-3 are an inconsistent set. You may believe any two of them and remain consistent, but you may not believe all 3.

    Thoughts?

  111. jared said,

    November 30, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Lane,

    Thanks.

  112. Travis said,

    November 30, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    As I truly have nothing to lose (except, mebbe…my….gasp!!) as my ordination is coming upon its statutes of limitation I will venture out into the “foot-in-mouth” arena.
    OK, then. How does God’s Spirit work efficaciously through the sacraments? What does, specifically, baptism do?

    Indeed. This is the question. As GB mentioned the ever nemesitic (? r-musings?) Romans 4 passage has to be dealt with. I should like to say “something” of the “sign” aspect.

    A sign is, what? Not empty and yet not full either. We are not Zwinglians and yet we smell like [all] wet Baptists for we deny the power of God therein. To be brief:

    A sign is an act of God. It is a demonstrative demonstration (!) of what God is doing. When God communicates Christ to a new convert what is he saying?
    Can we hear the echo of WCF 27.2? How many of the benefits are left out of the sign? I say none and yet when I link our adoption (see Calvin ch. 14) to our baptism I get censored.

    So, let me ask,
    What does (and where do we get this authority to alter it thus; for surely as I have studied the WCF I cannot find it. For after describing what baptism is for an adult, it teaches that infants too are to be baptised. And that with no qualifications. No, “But for the infant it is not this but only that.” It is merely “Yes, they too are to be baptised.”) baptism mean for the adult baptised at 11 AM and her infant at 11.02?

  113. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 30, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    A sign is an act of God. It is a demonstrative demonstration (!) of what God is doing. When God communicates Christ to a new convert what is he saying?
    Can we hear the echo of WCF 27.2? How many of the benefits are left out of the sign?

    That’s a powerful rhetorical argument, and yet the fact that circumcisions were not always “effective” stands in clear opposition to it. However we want to understand baptismal efficacy — and there are certainly some puzzles to be unraveled — it seems clear that S: “the sign can’t be separated from the thing signified” is simply not a Biblical way to cut the cake.

    Leave out the Confession for a moment … the *Bible* doesn’t teach S, and positively teaches against it. As far as I can tell.

    Jeff C

  114. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 30, 2007 at 3:14 pm

    1. The visible church and the ‘invisible church’ are different aspects of the same thing. There are not ‘two’ churches, but one. (See lots of discussions on this blog, especially comments from Lane and David G. from much earlier this year–probably January/February)
    2. Baptism admits to the visible church.
    3. But being admitted to the visible church is not to be connected to the body of Christ. Only being in the invisible church is to be connected to the body of Christ.

    I agree, Xon. One cannot affirm all three in the same sense. The problem that we have is that we use the words in different senses.

    So using set-theory language, there *are* two churches … and *everyone* admits as much by using language like “visible” and “invisible”, or “historical” and “eschatological.”

    That is to say, there are some X within the historical church who will not be in the kingdom at the judgment. And because the church is not an empty container, but people, it therefore follows that all such X are in the historical church but not the eschatological church. Thus, the set of people called “the historical church” does not equal the set of people called “the eschatological church.” There are two churches.

    OR

    There are some X who are in the visible church, but not believers. Hence, they are not in the invisible church. Thus, the set of people … I don’t need to say it.

    Using the language of sets, there are most definitely two churches. And in fact, this was Augustine’s discovery that allowed him to resolve the Donatist controversy.

    So let’s call the two churches V and I.

    BUT

    As Murray notes, we cannot divorce those two sets so as to imagine that people in V but not in I have any right to be there. He makes this explicit in Ch.3 of “Christian Baptism.” Nor can we imagine that people in I can lawfully refuse membership in V. The two sets belong together.

    Thus, we can reasonably insist that V and I are “aspects” of one set. But we should understand that language to be the language of norms: all those in V *should* belong to I, and all those in I *should* belong to V.

    If we reason concerning the *set* of people called “the church”, we have to, IMO, use the V/I distinction.

    So using the terms of set language, I deny 1 and affirm 2 and 3; using the language of norms, I affirm 1 and 2 and deny 3. Equivocation is a tricky beast!

    Jeff Cagle

  115. November 30, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    [...] few people have questioned, in the comments section of my last post, whether or not I was fair in my insinuations concerning the Federal Vision’s doctrine of [...]

  116. Travis said,

    November 30, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Leave out the Confession for a moment … the *Bible* doesn’t teach S, and positively teaches against it. As far as I can tell.

    I wonder, wouldn’t this fall under your own “JoC”? That is, he has the sign, ergo, he has the reality; he does not have the sign, ergo he is not “in.” I do think that the Scc teach that A=A and non A= non A (normatively). Moses explicitly warns those who do no partake of the feasts that they are cut off. Therefore, not to participate is not to belong.
    See here for fodder.

  117. Travis said,

    November 30, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    There are some X who are in the visible church, but not believers. Hence, they are not in the invisible church.

    This is a false premise. One cannot be in the visible church w/o belief and subsequent baptism.
    A= the visible church is made up of baptised believers and their children
    B= X has not professed faith nor is baptised
    C= X is not A

    A2= ditto
    B2= X has professed (true or false?? Hmmmmm the WCF does not say) faith and is baptised.
    C2= X is A2

  118. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 30, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    One cannot be in the visible church w/o belief and subsequent baptism.

    Hi Travis. I question this claim on Scriptural, historical, and Confessional grounds. The parable of the wheat and tares seems to fairly clearly indicate otherwise. Jesus’ and Jude’s teachings about false teachers, who are within the visible church but are not believers, indicate otherwise.

    Those two examples alone (and more are available…2 Cor 6 and 12 come to mind) are sufficient to establish this: even if we grant (and I wouldn’t) that all within the visible church came in through belief, at any given instant in time, there are some within the visible church who are not believers.

    Historically, several of the pre-Reformation popes were clearly within the visible church and just as clearly not believers.

    And Confessionally, WCoF 28.5-6 are fairly clear that not all who are baptized are regenerate.

    The language that you cite, “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion…” (25.2) seems to be intended to distinguish the visible church from the invisible as cited in 25.1.

    Notice also that the language of 25.1, “The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all”, incorporates all believers into it.

    If therefore the visible were a subset of the invisible (i.e., all in the visible are also believers), then there would be no need to distinguish it.

    So I stand by the premise for now: There are some X who are in the visible church, but not believers.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff C

  119. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 30, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    (JRC): Leave out the Confession for a moment … the *Bible* doesn’t teach S, and positively teaches against it. As far as I can tell.

    (TMF): I wonder, wouldn’t this fall under your own “JoC”? That is, he has the sign, ergo, he has the reality; he does not have the sign, ergo he is not “in.”

    Fair question. I would put it like this: being a member of the invisible church is, as I see it, a question of “how does God see people? Regenerate or otherwise?” It’s in many ways an ontological question.

    Being a member of the visible church is a question of “how do we see people?” It’s in many ways an epistemological question.

    So the JoC is entirely compatible with S above.

    Jeff Cagle

  120. Jeff Moss said,

    December 1, 2007 at 3:36 am

    Robert K. (#112),

    I am truly grateful for your citations from the Westminster Standards and your impassioned arguments that draw on them. However, like Luther, I am compelled to say that my conscience is held captive to the Word of God, not to the Westminster Standards or any other mere traditions of the Church, past, present, or future.

    Constantine can baptise ten thousand pagans in one day, and it doesn’t join them to Christ.

    Well then, I ask, what does it do? In Holy Scripture it is written, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29). The Word of God expects no conflict between baptism and faith. The proclamation here is that all who were baptized into the Name have put on Christ AND that they are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus; clearly, the community of the baptized and the community of faith are intended to be essentially the same people, and so great things are affirmed of both baptism and faith. As I’ve said before, the difference between the two is simply that baptism is an act of God through His appointed servants, faith is an act of man, but both are gifts of God’s grace.

    The WCF doesn’t confess ritualism to any degree, and the Puritans who took part in drawing it up would not have signed off on it if it had.

    And neither do I confess ritualism, I hope and pray. Ritualism, no. Rituals, yes–and so does the WCF, emphatically. WCF 7.5, 7.6, 8.6, 14.1, 19.3, 21.1-8, 22.1-7, 24.3-6, 25.3-5, 27, 28, 29, 30.2-4, 31, and probably other places as well, all speak about various kinds of rituals of the Christian religion. Ritual is deeply ingrained in who we are as human beings, and it is no surprise that God intended ritual to take such a large part in our worship of Him and our life before Him. Only may we always obey Him fully in our rituals, not only with outward works but with our whole hearts!

  121. Jeff Moss said,

    December 1, 2007 at 4:02 am

    Jeff C. (#114):

    You wrote:
    The door analogy doesn’t work, inasmuch as the door doesn’t do anything to bring someone inside; baptism (on the FV account) apparently does: it washes one of their sins, regardless of whether one is (decretally) elect or not.

    Then let us say that this is a revolving door that actually carries the person into the house. It would still be just as inaccurate to call the door, active though it may be, an “instrumental means” of the host’s gracious hospitality to the guest.

    What many in the FV camp (and many outside it, too) are trying to get back to is the personalism of Biblical living. Membership in the New Covenant is a personal relationship with Him who is the Head of the Body and the Mediator of the Covenant. If you are personally related to Him, then this relationship must take an objective, time-and-space form, like all personal relationships. We are not disembodied intelligences; we are living beings made up of spirit, soul, and body joined in a mysterious union that affects all we do until the moment of physical death, and beyond. God grants us the Spirit to speak to our spirits, eternal life to delight our souls (at the juncture between spirit and body), and baptism to cleanse our bodies, along with bread and wine to feed them. And then these Sacraments work their way through our souls and spirits as well, as means of God’s grace to us in everything that we are. If we “successfully” break any of these connections, if we deny the promises to us that are inherent in the Sacraments, the result is simply death — spiritual and physical, physical and spiritual, ending at the ultimate death in the lake of fire that burns forever and ever.

    I just don’t *get* what “aspects of justification” might mean. Help?

    It’s late — even out here in the Pacific Time Zone — and I find that I am dealing with “great matters” (Psalm 131), but let me suggest the following: Justification is granted by God when He causes us to be baptized into Christ; it is accepted by us when He causes us to exercise faith in Christ.

    Thus, once again,
    Baptism is the work of God through His appointed servants;
    faith is the work of man in response to God’s initiative;
    both are gifts of God’s grace, and for both we owe Him thanks and praise.

  122. Travis said,

    December 1, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Jesus’ and Jude’s teachings about false teachers, who are within the visible church but are not believers, indicate otherwise.

    Is the text this clear (i.e that the tares are not believers(!) [I know])? Are there disclaimers or are u imposing upon the text?

    there are some within the visible church who are not believers.

    I think again that “covenant” overrides our presuppositions. Merely b/c one is not a “believer” in the truest-est sense, that does not negate the covenant obligations entered in upon by one’s baptism. Again, no baptism= no covenant relationship; baptised = covenant.

    And Confessionally, WCoF 28.5-6 are fairly clear that not all who are baptized are regenerate.

    This brings me back to my initial query about the *sign*. To whom does the sign belong? To those who have professed faith and are *presumed [read JoC]* to be regenerate. Baptists say only those who have faith get the sign [JoC] as do we….so then upon what basis are infants baptised. Lusk argues well for Luther and Calvin when he says, “If an infant is not regenerate he does not deserve the sign.”
    ttyl

  123. Robert K. said,

    December 1, 2007 at 11:37 am

    >”I am truly grateful for your citations from the Westminster Standards and your impassioned arguments that draw on them. However, like Luther, I am compelled to say that my conscience is held captive to the Word of God, not to the Westminster Standards or any other mere traditions of the Church, past, present, or future.”

    As everyone can see from the above quote we are dealing with, regarding the followers of Federal Vision leaders, individuals who are a bit ‘not up to speed’ as to what is going on… The Federal Visionists prey upon the innocent… The above quote is like hearing a young political liberal tell you that if we tax people more there will be more money to go around for social projects. Right, now I have to explain the Wealth of Nations to this person before I can make a simple point on the subject at hand…

  124. Robert K. said,

    December 1, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Do I sense, I say as an aside, a movement in the direction of Luther among the Federal Visionists lately…?

    Do you think it’s possible they’ve just discovered Lutheranism?

    As Monty Python (or the famous Josh S., the Pirate) might say: “Nobody ever expects Lutheranism!”

  125. its.reed said,

    December 1, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    Ref. #136:

    Lutheranism, no; the Spanish Inquisition, yes ;-)

  126. David Gray said,

    December 1, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    >The Federal Visionists prey upon the innocent…

    By night?

    With fangs?

    Unless protected by garlic?

  127. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 1, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Jeff Moss (#133):

    What many in the FV camp (and many outside it, too) are trying to get back to is the personalism of Biblical living.

    I believe this. I understand that at least some among the FVaries want to provide solutions for the problems of assurance, covenantal relationship within the church, and a consistent way of encouraging Godly living.

    I just think the solution (as I currently understand it) is flawed.

    And that’s why I think there’s a “death match” going on within the PCA. The anti-FV sees the flaws as theologically dangerous (I somewhat agree wrt the objectivity of the covenant). And the FV is not willing to shift their terminology, not just because they think they’re right, but also because the terminology solves the above problems for them. And abandoning the theory would entail returning to the problems.

    I don’t know that my analysis is correct here; it’s just an intuitive hunch.

    My hope is that we can sketch out better solutions. I think better solutions are available.

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  128. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 1, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    Travis (#134):

    JRC: Jesus’ and Jude’s teachings about false teachers, who are within the visible church but are not believers, indicate otherwise.

    TMF: Is the text this clear (i.e that the tares are not believers(!) [I know])? Are there disclaimers or are u imposing upon the text?

    The Apostle Jude: In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

    I’m quite clear on this passage, I think. The false teachers in Jude are members of the V and not members of I.

    TMF: To whom does the sign belong? To those who have professed faith and are *presumed [read JoC]* to be regenerate. Baptists say only those who have faith get the sign [JoC] as do we….so then upon what basis are infants baptised.

    This actually the false dichotomy that the Baptists raise. The rules for baptism follow the rules for circumcision because it means and accomplishes the same thing. So: to whom does the sign belong? To professed believers and their children. To answer your question, the children are baptized on the basis of Genesis 17.

    Now the harder question is, what does baptism then *mean*? Well, whatever it means needs to be congruent with the meaning of circumcision. So we can strike from consideration immediately the idea that all who are baptized are therefore regenerate, or believers BECAUSE Romans 2 and 3 eliminate that option. If Lusk’s quote means what the words say (i.e., without knowledge of context), then he’s incorrect. On that view, Isaac should never have circumcised Esau.

    But we can also strike from consideration that baptism is just “an outward sign of an inward change”, to quote the famous Baptist aphorism (that was pronounced at my baptism, no less :)). Why? Because baptism is attributed in Scriptures the efficacy to wash away sins (1 Peter 3.21, Rom 6, Acts 22).

    So: no ex-operato; no pure symbolism; where are we now? I have recently been enamored with the concept of “perfective aspect”: that the efficacy of baptism is attributed to the moment of faith, no matter which comes first or when. But that’s only my best hypothesis.

    See, I think it’s a mistake to assert that such-and-so meaning of baptism is the only grounds for baptizing children. It’s a mistake because baptizing children is actually *clearer* in Scriptures than the precise meaning and effect of baptism! (Note to my Baptist brothers: it’s a similar mistake to assert that a certain meaning of baptism is the reason we *don’t baptize* children. The same Scriptural problem applies).

    I can guarantee that this is a crock, though! :)

    Jeff Cagle

  129. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 1, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    strike “apostle”, sub “brother of James”. *blush*

  130. Travis said,

    December 1, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Jeff,

    I hear your rhetoric about Romans 2ff but consider only the WCF. What is says is true for the baptised believer it says is applied to the infant with no qualifiers.

    the concept of “perfective aspect”: that the efficacy of baptism is attributed to the moment of faith

    Whence cometh?

  131. Jeff Moss said,

    December 1, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Robert K. (#136):

    In Calvin’s Institutes, he describes Martin Luther as an “apostle” who was raised up by God to point the Church back from corruption to the truth.

    Yet nowadays Reformed, Calvinist Christians who sound a little “Lutheran” on one or two points are suspected of heresy.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    I don’t believe the “Federal Visionists” are moving toward Lutheranism. I do believe, however, that we are rediscovering the riches of historic and contemporary Christendom. The Body of Christ is a lot bigger than just the PCA, OPC, and URC. Reformed Christians can learn from their own fathers and brothers in the Faith who are not Calvinists, and still be Reformed. In fact, if they refuse to do so, they are already sectarians, and are in grave danger of falling into real heresy — like all isolationist splinter groups.

  132. Robert K. said,

    December 1, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    There’s a difference between being Lutheran (or Eastern Orthodox, or Mormon, or Roman Catholic) and being Lutheran (et al) and still calling yourself Reformed.

    I was not wholly serious about the trend towards Lutheranism by FVists. I know that is not their program. Their program is to get into the camp of Reformed Theology and redefine it because that is where the true still resides. They look at the landscape and see that, hey, over there they are still holding to apostolic biblical doctrine. That is where our work must be done. Deconstructionists, defilers of truth, defilers of language, to the camps of Reformedville! They have absolutely NO interest in calling themselves anything other than Calvinist/Reformed. Just as Popular Front Stalinists had absolutely no interest in calling themselves anything other than democrats or ‘freedom fighters’.

  133. Xon said,

    December 1, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    Jeff, Re: 126,

    Xon said: 1. The visible church and the ‘invisible church’ are different aspects of the same thing. There are not ‘two’ churches, but one. (See lots of discussions on this blog, especially comments from Lane and David G. from much earlier this year–probably January/February)
    2. Baptism admits to the visible church.
    3. But being admitted to the visible church is not to be connected to the body of Christ. Only being in the invisible church is to be connected to the body of Christ.

    Jeff said: I agree, Xon. One cannot affirm all three in the same sense. The problem that we have is that we use the words in different senses.

    I appreciate your candid and thoughtful response, Jeff. Admitting that the three are not compatible, if the words are used univocally, is all I was asking for.

    It seems to me that your own way of arguing against FV ideas is not the same, and is quite possibly incompatible with, the more dominant forms those arguments take on this blog. Anti-FVers do not agree among themselves what the problem with FV actually is. I am just pointing this out, and using my 3 proposition set above to help some folks who advocate certain kinds of argument to feel the pressure of their own rhetoric. All in the name of advancing good discussion.

    Now, as to your own choices regarding the inconsistency, I don’t think your ‘language of norms’ really applies at all. I mean, you can speak that way and I have no problem with that, but I was not using those phrases in that way when I posed the inconsistency. I think that many FV critics here on this blog have advocated all three of those propositions in the ‘set theoretical’ sense you discuss.

    Regarding your denial of (1) under the ‘set theoretical’ definition, I find this problematic and it is pretty much the sort of error we Reformed folks make when thinking about the Church which Douglas Wilson’s talks were trying to offer an alternative to at the original 2002 AAPC. There when Wilson proposed ‘historical’ and ‘eschatological’ as alternative formulations to the classic ‘visible’ / ‘invisible’ church distinction, he was trying to find a way out of a thorny problem for traditional Reformed theology, understood in a certain way. The vis/invis church distinction, as it is often explained and understood, ends up undermining catholicity (the kind we confess in the Apostle’s Creed) by putting forth two different churches rather than one. I think this is a grave mistake. Wilson’s concerns in those talks was that if we think of these churches as two separate bodies (different membership roles, as Wilson says), both existing in the present, then you are forced to answer the question, “Which is the true Church?” And of course the Reformed will answer that question by siding with the invisible church, and all the visible covenantal community stuff that the Church historical has placed a lot of value on is out the window. We are down fundamentally to the collection of individuals who believe in Jesus in their hearts, and that is the Kingdom of God full stop. Not to mention that the Christian Church historically confesses that here is only one Church, which will be presented without blemish at the last day. Now we Reformeds have introduced the ‘real’ church within the church, and it’s no wonder that this leads to all the evangelical silliness we see today.

    “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”–Keith Green, heir of the Reformation?

  134. Robert K. said,

    December 1, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    >”In Calvin’s Institutes, he describes Martin Luther as an “apostle” who was raised up by God to point the Church back from corruption to the truth. Yet nowadays Reformed, Calvinist Christians who sound a little “Lutheran” on one or two points are suspected of heresy.”

    Jeff, FV hardly sounds “a little Lutheran” with its Norman Shepherd justification by works formulas. FVists are playing with you. (This is why God says He comes down harder on false teachers, because they play with innocence.) FVists are no different than any other false teachers of the past who are after the doctrine of justification by faith alone. They go after it from many different angles, then when pinned they talk about baptism.

    Their advantage is this: most Christians – even those who self-identify as Calvinist/Reformed – don’t have an experiential understanding of the doctrine they hold to. It’s all still mere words and intellectual constructs that they see as being bandied about. When apostolic biblical doctrine is attacked they say, “Well, wait a minute, what’s the big deal afterall?”

    But for Calvinists/Reformed Christians who actually know why we are Calvinists/Reformed Christians (and who know Calvinist and Reformed are nicknames for apostolic biblical doctrine) we know what is being attacked is not just biblical truth put in books but is the leaven of truth that exists to be available to anybody who will eventually come into understanding of it, by the grace of God and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

    God always has His remnant to keep His truth alive for others to come into contact with when they are given the ability (and that it others in other churches and denominations and branches and atheists and agnostics and so on, not just people in Reformed churches). It is the devil’s job as he sees it – and his followers – to defile or bury that truth in darkness as much as he can.

    This is what these people calling themselves Federal Vision are doing. They are attempting to defile God’s leaven of truth so that it can’t effect people in the world (like it reached me, when I was no where near any Reformed church). This is why Calvinists are so ‘book oriented’ as in the writing of them. Books, publications, evangelization – yes, Calvinists are the all-time great evangelists of church history. It’s because Calvinism if apostolic biblical doctrine and Calvinists/Reformed Christian keep that flame alive. Federal Visionists are the latest group to attempt to come into the tent and pervert that truth.

  135. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 2, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Good interactions, Xon.

    Oddly enough, I would say that questions of catholicity *are* questions about norms!

    Consider: “Which is the true church?” usually means something like this: “which church should I obey as an authority?” or “which church should I participate in as a member?” Those are questions of ethical norms. So I would actually side with the visible church on that one, in most cases.

    Ditto for “Whom should I treat as my brother in Christ?” I would probably go with “anyone in V.”

    Now: My denial of (1) using set-language may be problematic, but I can’t see a way to refute it. It’s simply a fact that there are people in I who are not in V and vice-versa.

    Wilson’s recasting in terms of historical and eschatological churches simply trades my problems for new ones.

    Let H be the set of those who are baptized members of the church; let E be the set of those welcomed into the new Heavens and new Earth by God. It is clear that there are some in H who are not in E and some in E who are not in H. So which is the true church? What do you do if you (Martin Luther) suspect that the leadership of H have qualities that almost certainly prevent them from being in E? Which is the true church?

    We might imagine that at least with the H/E scheme, we don’t have to worry about more than one church at a time. But that creates a new problem, which I shall call “Colleen’s Riposte” after my dear wife who pointed this out:

    Being in H gives no assurance whatsoever of being in E, because I can’t guarantee that at some point in the future, I won’t apostasize.

    So the H/E scheme undercuts one of the key goals of the Federal Vision: to provide assurance of salvation.

    The only way to restore assurance is to smuggle V/I in through the back door: “Well, you haven’t apostasized so far, so that’s good evidence that you really have been decretally elected…” — that is, that you belong to I !

    An additional problem is that the basis for excommunication *is* the V/I distinction. We say to the excommunicant, “You have been a member with us, but your behavior is inconsistent with your profession of faith. Thus, you can no longer be a member of V.” It is *very* important that excommunication does not actually have the power to take salvation away from someone! Under the H/E scheme, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the excommunicant *is* damned, because there is no way to distinguish excommunication from apostasy.

    Jeff Cagle

  136. Jeff Moss said,

    December 2, 2007 at 3:03 am

    Robert K.,

    (#144) Their program is to get into the camp of Reformed Theology and redefine it because that is where the true still resides.

    Where? Where? And what is it about this “true still” that distinguishes it from all the other stills? It must make powerful stuff.

    (#146) FV hardly sounds “a little Lutheran” with its Norman Shepherd justification by works formulas.

    Maybe St. James was a follower of Shepherd too. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:21-26)

    So do you perhaps think of James as “a right strawy epistle” that “has no gospel character to it”? You might be a little Lutheran too. :-)

  137. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 2, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    For what it’s worth, I think James is being rhetorical here. Note about this passage that (1) his thesis is that “faith without works is dead”, (2) that the work (of offering up Isaac) is “working together” with the faith he had 30 years before!, and that (3) the work “completes the faith.”

    I take all of this to mean NOT that works justify, but that James, speaking in the grand tradition of wisdom writers, is exaggerating to get across the point that there is no saving faith that exists apart from works.

    The most viable alternative, to posit that James has in mind a subsequent justification, runs into real problems when one tries to cross-correlate with Romans 4.2.

    Jeff Cagle

  138. Roger Mann said,

    December 3, 2007 at 1:23 am

    134: Travis wrote:

    Again, no baptism = no covenant relationship; baptised = covenant.

    Receiving the covenant “sign” (circumcision/baptism) does not = covenant. While all of Abraham’s male seed received the covenant “sign” of circumcision, only his elect seed were genuine covenant members:

    For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac [not Ishmael] your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the [covenant] promise are counted as the seed. — Romans 9:6-8

    The same is true under the New Covenant. While all of our children are to receive the covenant “sign” of baptism, only our elect children are genuine covenant members:

    For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. — Acts 2:39

    The covenant “promise” is not to all of our children, nor to all who are afar off, but only to those whom the Lord our God will effectually “call” to saving faith in Jesus Christ — the elect (cf. Rom. 8:28-30; 1
    Cor. 1:26-31).

    Also, the covenant “promise” was often given prior to the elect recipient being either circumcised (Rom. 4:9-12) or baptized in water (Acts 10:44-48; cf. 11:15-18; 15:7-9). Therefore, Scripture is crystal clear on this subject: baptized does not = covenant.

  139. Robert K. said,

    December 3, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Jeff M, thanks for the Epistle of James reference. I hadn’t seen that. I’ll read it and get back to you…

    To the general audience: does anybody know if any Reformed theologians have dealt with this apparent James problem re sola fide? Did Calvin know of it? Turretin?

  140. Robert K. said,

    December 3, 2007 at 8:17 am

    Jeff M., I notice you refer to James as St. James. Protestants generally consider all Christians to be saints so don’t generally single any one Christian out with the appellation, but to each his own. Roman Catholics on the other hand…

  141. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 3, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Robert To the general audience: does anybody know if any Reformed theologians have dealt with this apparent James problem re sola fide? Did Calvin know of it? Turretin?

    Irony?

  142. Keith LaMothe said,

    December 3, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Re #153

    I think the word you’re looking for is sarcasm. I thought it was kind of funny.

    I remember the first time someone showed me James 2:21-26. My jaw hit the floor. I didn’t “run with it” completely (nor did the arminian Holiness preacher who showed me), but it sure through me for a loop. Doug Wilson was the one who set me straight, actually.

  143. Keith LaMothe said,

    December 3, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Re #152

    I’ve heard plenty of Protestants refer to “St. Paul” and the like. It’s just an honorific in that usage, to my knowledge. Kind of like saying “the apostle” when referring to Paul in a bible class or lecture. Keeps up a sense of gravity, or at least hopefully so.

  144. Robert K. said,

    December 3, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    I didn’t think I needed to use the sarcasm brackets for that one!

    So, Turretin actually covered that? He must have read the whole Bible…!

  145. Robert K. said,

    December 3, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Re the St. thing… OK, I was being a little picayune…

  146. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 3, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    I didn’t think I needed to use the sarcasm brackets for that one!

    It’s the IntarWeb!

    Keith: just curious — what’s Doug W’s take on James 2?

    Oh, and back on topic: One of the differences between Calvin and the FV on the sacraments appears to be that Calvin stresses that sacraments signify exactly what the word signifies; they are essentially “physical sermons.” Thus, believing the gospel and being “saved by baptism” are the *same thing*.

    As I read Lusk, it appears that believing the gospel and being cleansed by baptism are two separate actions, even if they both function by faith or something. I’m still a little fuzzy on that.

    Jeff Cagle

  147. Keith LaMothe said,

    December 3, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Re 158

    Jeff,

    I’ll desist with this due to topic drift, but to answer your question, Doug teaches that Paul and James are using different theological vocabularies because they’re opposing different errors. I heard him in an audio sermon, but he said something similar here.

    Keith

  148. Jeff Moss said,

    December 3, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Robert (#152),

    Actually, my use of “St. James” is indebted to Calvin, who writes in his Commentaries about “holy Noah” (on Gen. 6:13), “holy Abram” (on Gen. 14:19), etc. Of course, in Latin both “holy” and “saint” are sanctus. In English it’s more customary to say “saint” before a name than “holy,” but in either case Keith (#155) is right: the use of the word helps maintain a sense of honor and gravity for the greatness of our forefathers in the Faith.

  149. Jeff Moss said,

    December 3, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    Keith (#159),

    I agree with you, of course, on the response to Jeff C.: Doug Wilson is certainly not the first to point out that Paul and James are using different theological vocabularies to respond to different errors.

    My point in #148 was that “justification by works” doesn’t automatically disqualify a position as heretical; otherwise, the Bible (since it contains James’s epistle) is a heretical document! Anyone who asserts “justification by faith alone” should be prepared to show (sooner or later) that his teaching is consistent with James’s teaching about “justification by works and not by faith only”… and vice versa. Before simply throwing out the accusation that a man believes in “justification by works,” we ought to investigate what exactly he means by this, and what he believes about Paul’s presentation of the doctrine of justification.

    Which is to say that, depending on the context, a doctrine of “justification by faith alone” MAY be false and unbiblical (see James’s refutation of one such false doctrine). Likewise, SOME doctrines of “justification by works” (not James’s, of course, whatever he truly meant!) are false. In either case, mere soundbites don’t do much good.

  150. Robert K. said,

    December 3, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    I would suggest that any forefather in the faith with a good dose of the Spirit would tell you to be careful you don’t fear/revere man rather than God. To God alone be the glory. God is holy. Any holiness we find in ourselves is directly related to the obedience, suffering and death of Jesus Christ. I said I was being picayune, but joking aside, there’s a reason Roman Catholics can throw around the Saint appellation: it’s because they fear man more than they fear God.

  151. David Gray said,

    December 3, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    >there’s a reason Roman Catholics can throw around the Saint appellation: it’s because they fear man more than they fear God

    All of them? 95.6% of them? 51% of them?

  152. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 3, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    Agreed. The work of Ryrie and Zane Hodges comes to mind as an example of false “sola fide.”

    Jeff C

  153. pduggie said,

    December 3, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    Real hardcore protestants have no forefathers in the faith, because they know they are to “call no man father”.

  154. Xon said,

    December 3, 2007 at 11:39 pm

    Catholics! Booga booga!

  155. Robert K. said,

    December 4, 2007 at 11:09 am

    It doesn’t take long for Federal Visionists to show their loyalty to the Roman antichrist. I hear Moscow, Idaho is a big producer of Tiber waterwings…

  156. David Gray said,

    December 4, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    >It doesn’t take long for Federal Visionists to show their loyalty to the Roman antichrist.

    You lack credibility in invoking Rome as anti-Christ in this inter-confessional dispute. It might carry a bit of weight coming form somebody who’s suffered persecution under Rome’s auspices (I know such people) but not from the easy chair brigade.

  157. Keith LaMothe said,

    December 4, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    David Gray,

    Did you mean “intra-confessional”?

  158. David Gray said,

    December 4, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Keith,

    Good catch, thanks…

  159. its.reed said,

    December 4, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Ref. #167 & #168:

    Robert & David:

    With each exchange you’re veering further from the subject of this thread. I’m not saying you have yet. I am suggesting that if you keep these kinds of comments going towards one another, you’ll end up rather quickly violating the blog’s rules, and possibly offering unintended offense to others.

    Would you both consider how to bring your posts back on topic and provide substantive posts, rather than repartee’s toward one another?

    Thanks for your understanding.

  160. Robert K. said,

    December 4, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    David, per Reed’s request, I’ll just say: you perhaps aren’t yet aware every Roman Catholic apologist on the internet is gaga over Federal Vision for the ‘converts’ it’s bringing into their camp, and what they see as inevitably more converts in the future. And as a real Calvinist who knows the darkness of Rome and Roman Catholic doctrine (something Federal Visionists are blithely non-understanding of, or worse) and who knows the history of this planet and what the devil and his ministers and followers have been able to do on this planet I have to ask you to think hard before you ever attempt to take any high ground on a tough stance against Rome. Show you have some understanding of God’s truth first by coming out of the cultish darkness and bondage of the quasi-papist doctrine and practice of your ‘Federal Vision” …

  161. Robert K. said,

    December 4, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Anyway…

    >”You lack credibility in invoking Rome as anti-Christ in this inter-confessional dispute.”

    What does this mean, whether inter or intra…?

    Just because some denoms took the Pope is the antichrist out of the WCF doesn’t mean you get to insert papal works righteousness for sola fide into the same document. False teachers go after the heart of the gospel. The deity of Christ, justification by faith alone, one Mediator, etc. Identifying the Pope as the antichrist is not the heart of the Gospel. And you Federal Visionists very well know that.

  162. Travis said,

    December 8, 2007 at 7:11 am

    #58
    But it is exactly the point. You make baptism into something which establishes or defines the “covenant community.” Our standards tell us that baptism is applied to those who are already in the “covenant community.”

    Yes, but this is for the children of. What is it that establishes cov’t membership for an new convert?

  163. Travis said,

    December 8, 2007 at 7:31 am

    #146
    But for Calvinists/Reformed Christians who actually know why we are Calvinists/Reformed Christians (and who know Calvinist and Reformed are nicknames for apostolic biblical doctrine) we know what is being attacked

    I fit this genre and yet…and yet I love what you are opposing. Hmmmmm. I’ve read other posts as well wherein the “goodies” (who know what reformed really means) are your ilk but the “baddies” (who know RINE) are mine.

    I feel so…debased, sniff. Am I an ignorant sheep beguiled by a nice wolph? I don’t know what to believe, or who….where, oh, (or) whither shall I flee? Somebody save me!! Oh, wait! I’m baptised! Huh! Forgot about that. Never mind.

  164. December 18, 2007 at 2:22 am

    [...] all ties in to my comments from my previous post on baptism.   In Romans 4, we see that Abraham, an adult who was circumcised after his [...]


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