None of this is New Under the Sun

Posted by Andrew Webb

“Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.”
(Eccles. 1:10)

Although the FV is sometimes presented by its advocates as something of a “new Reformation” a quick review of the history of the church will quickly indicate that movements emphasizing reliance on membership in the corporate church, ritual, and sacraments rather than personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ are nothing particularly new. We see it in Israel just prior to going into exile and again at the time of Christ’s birth. We see it abundantly manifested in the medieval church and we see it cropping up again and again in the Reformed Churches since the 16th century.

One of the most obvious examples of this was phenomenon was a movement in the Church of England in the mid-19th century described variously as the “Oxford Movement”, “Tractarian Movement” or sometimes “the Liturgical Revival.” The leaders of this movement were by no means liberals. Men like Bishops Pusey and Newman were both bible scholars and strong believers in inerrancy and conservative doctrinally. At times they even argued that their movement, which advocated “sacramental efficacy” and a revival of all the ancient traditions and rituals of the church, would be a bulwark against modernism and the loss of faith. Although the movement was begun in the Anglican church, I have frequently been struck by the similarities in doctrine and argument between the FV and the Tractarians. The only possible difference being that the Tractarians weren’t concerned to reconcile their movement with the Westminster Confession.

Then as now, this Liturgical Revival was vigorously opposed by evangelicals in the Church of England like Bishop J.C. Ryle. Many of his popular works are shot through with warnings against the errors inherent in the movement as he rightly felt the “liturgical revival” to be irreconcilable with, and potentially fatal to, the gospel revival he was striving and praying for. Because of this Ryle was frequently lambasted by his enemies as a “Low Churchman” and various other equivalents of the modern charges of being “baptistic.”

As an example of how little practical difference there is between Ryle’s struggle with the “Liturgical Revivalists” in the Anglican Church and the FV advocates in the PCA, OPC, etc. please allow me to share a section from the chapter entitled “Visible Churches Warned” in Ryle’s Holiness where he is commenting on the Lord’s warnings to the Seven Churches in Asia. Compare his two systems of Christianity below and his final conclusions, and you will see that the current quarrel really is “nothing new under the sun.”

“I ask my readers to observe that the Lord Jesus, in all the seven epistles, speaks of nothing but matters of doctrine, practice, warning and promise.

I ask you to look over these seven epistles to the churches, quietly and at your leisure, and you will soon see what I mean.
You will observe that the Lord Jesus sometimes finds fault with false doctrines and ungodly inconsistent practices, and rebukes them sharply.

You will observe that He sometimes praises faith, patience, work, labor, perseverance and bestows on these graces high commendation.

You will sometimes find Him enjoining repentance, amendment, return to the first love, renewed application to Himself, and the like.

But I want you to observe that you will not find the Lord, in any of the epistles, dwelling upon church government or ceremonies. He says nothing about sacraments or ordinances. He makes no mention of liturgies or forms. He does not instruct John to write one word about baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, or the apostolical succession of ministers. In short, the leading principles of what may be called ‘the sacramental system’ are not brought forward in any one of the seven epistles from first to last.

Now why do I dwell on this? I do it because many professing Christians in the present day would have us believe these things are of first, of cardinal, of paramount importance.

There are not a few who seem to hold that there can be no church without a bishop, and no godliness without a liturgy. They appear to believe that to teach the value of the sacraments is the first work of a minister, and to keep to their parish church the first business of a people.

Now let no man misunderstand me when I say this. Do not run away with the notion that I see no importance in sacraments. On the contrary, I regard them as great blessings to all who receive them ‘rightly, worthily and with faith’. Do not fancy that I attach no value to episcopacy, a liturgy and the parochial system. On the contrary, I consider that a church well administered, which has these three things, and an evangelical ministry, is a far more complete and useful church than one in which they are not to be found.

But this I say, that sacraments, church government, the use of a liturgy, the observance of ceremonies and forms, are all as nothing compared to faith, repentance and holiness. And my authority for so saying is the whole tenor of our Lord’s words to the seven churches.

I never can believe, if a certain form of church government was so very important as some say, that the great Head of the church would have said nothing about it here. I should have expected to have found something said about it to Sardis and Laodicea. But I find nothing at all. And I think that silence is a great fact.

I cannot help remarking just the same fact in Paul’s parting words to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:27–35). He was then leaving them for ever. He was giving his last charge on earth, and spoke as one who would see the faces of his hearers no more. And yet there is not a word in the charge about the sacraments and church government. If ever there was a time for speaking of them, it was then. But he says nothing at all, and I believe it was an intentional silence.

Now here lies one reason why we who, rightly or wrongly, are called evangelical clergy, do not preach about bishops, and the Prayer Book, and ordinances more than we do. It is not because we do not value them, in their place, proportion and way. We do value them as really and truly as any, and are thankful for them. But we believe that repentance towards God, faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ and a holy conversation are subjects of far more importance to men’s souls. Without these no man can be saved. These are the first and most weighty matters, and therefore on these we dwell.

Here again lies one reason why we so often urge on men not to be content with the mere outward part of religion. You must have observed that we often warn you not to rest on church membership and church privileges. We tell you not to be satisfied all is right because you come to church on Sunday, and come up to the Lord’s table. We often urge you to remember, that he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, that you must be ‘born again,’ that you must have a ‘faith that worketh by love,’ that there must be a ‘new creation’ by the Spirit in your heart. We do it because this seems to us the mind of Christ. These are the kind of things He dwells upon, when writing seven times over to seven different churches. We feel that if we follow Him we cannot greatly err.

I am aware that men charge us with taking ‘low views’ of the subjects to which I have adverted. It is a small thing that our views are thought ‘low,’ so long as our consciences tell us they are scriptural. High ground, as it is called, is not always safe ground. What Balaam said must be our answer ‘What the Lord saith, that will I speak’ (Num. 24:13).

The plain truth is, there are two distinct and separate systems of Christianity in England at the present day. It is useless to deny it. Their existence is a great fact and one that cannot be too clearly known.

According to one system, religion is a mere corporate business. You are to belong to a certain body of people. By virtue of your membership of this body, vast privileges, both for time and eternity, are conferred upon you. It matters little what you are and what you feel. You are not to try yourself by your feelings. You are a member of a great ecclesiastical corporation. Then all its privileges and immunities are your own. Do you belong to the one true visible ecclesiastical corporation? That is the grand question.

According to the other system, religion is eminently a personal business between yourself and Christ. It will not save your soul to be an outward member of any ecclesiastical body whatever, however sound that body may be. Such membership will not wash away one sin, or give you confidence in the day of judgment. There must be personal faith in Christ, personal dealings between yourself and God, personal felt communion between your own heart and the Holy Spirit. Have you this personal faith? Have you this felt work of the Spirit in your soul? This is the grand question. If not you will be lost.

This last system is the system which those who are called evangelical ministers cleave to and teach. They do so, because they are satisfied that it is the system of Holy Scripture. They do so, because they are convinced that any other system is productive of most dangerous consequences, and calculated to delude men fatally as to their actual state. They do so because they believe it to be the only system of teaching which God will bless, and that no church will flourish so much as that in which repentance, faith, conversion and the work of the Spirit are the grand subjects of the minister’s sermon.

[J.C. Ryle, Holiness, Charles Nolan Publishers (2001) p.274-277]

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117 Comments

  1. Sam Steinmann said,

    December 13, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Yes, this is no new controversy. But it is probably worth noting that “according to the other system, religion is eminently a personal business between yourself and Christ” is a pietistic, and not a Reformed view. “One cannot have God for a father who does not have the church for a mother” is a Reformed, not a Roman Catholic statement.

  2. Jeff Moss said,

    December 13, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    Any movement rooted and grounded in a reaction to something else is subject to great dangers. While modernism was busy rejecting supernaturalism, tradition, and the Sacraments, the Tractarian movement attempted to save the Church from these ills by emphasizing those traditions and rituals that were going by the wayside. In turn, Bishop Ryle reacted against the excesses of the Tractarians by arguing that “religion is eminently a personal business between yourself and Christ” — a claim that would have sounded almost bizarre to any of the writers of the New Testament.

    My own sympathies lie with the Federal Vision, but I do not see this approach as immune to the dangers that threaten all reactions. The best expressions of “Federal Vision” theology are those that hold tightly to the glorious truths of evangelical and Presbyterian/Reformed theology even while they point out ways in which the Church must continue to be reformed (ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda). To the extent that Federal Vision advocates are doing this, they are following in the footsteps of the original Protestant Reformers. Great men like Luther, Calvin, and Bucer did not reject doctrines or practices merely because they were “Romanist”; rather, they sought to glorify God and build up the Church along the lines of whatever was good, true, and Scriptural. For this, Luther himself and his Wittenberg allies were described as the “new papists” by the likes of Radical Reformer Andreas Karlstadt. (Once again, nothing is new under the sun.)

    On the other side, there is great danger in a reaction against the Federal Vision that opposes everything in it except what is already comfortable and familiar. In their fierce opposition to the Federal Vision, some have drifted into what is almost an ecclesiological Docetism. The Docetist heretics taught that the presence of Christ on earth was only an appearance, a phantom, and the real substance of Him was all ethereal and invisible; some are now saying that there is no substance in the visible church, no special benefit in belonging to it — that this is only a kind of phantom appearance of a church, while the reality is all spiritual, “invisible,” and other-worldly.

    May all the parties to this discussion seek out the “old paths, the good way,” that we may walk in it. And may we all recognize that some of the old paths may be on our opponents’ side of the boundary, and be humble enough not to rail at once against their entire position just because we think we see errors at certain points.

    On both sides of the Federal Vision debate are disciples of one and the same Lord, members together of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. Let us not denigrate one aspect of the Truth in our zeal to uphold another. Let us not force our brethren and our children to choose between James and Paul, between the Old Testament and the New, between faith and good works, between membership in the visible church and participation in eternal life, between Christ’s righteousness imputed to us and His righteousness performed in us, between the Word and the Sacraments. All of these are ours in Christ (1 Cor. 3:21-23) — all equally and gloriously ours! — and only a great fool would claim that participation in some of these makes the others unimportant. Is Christ divided?

  3. Robert K. said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    You read that Ryle excerpt and you respond like that?

    Ryle’s ‘reaction’ notice is back to the Word of God. Which was what the Reformation was about. Sacerdotalism is a departure from the Word of God.

    May I request all FVists reading this to go down on your knees, suppress your desire to mock and show vain disdain, and ask God to give you understanding. It would be a good beginning.

  4. David Gray said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    >May I request all FVists reading this to go down on your knees, suppress your desire to mock and show vain disdain, and ask God to give you understanding. It would be a good beginning.

    Sounds like good advice for all Christians.

  5. pduggie said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    “He says nothing about sacraments or ordinances. He makes no mention of liturgies or forms. He does not instruct John to write one word about baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, or the apostolical succession of ministers.”

    That’s

    1. Not really true, since Jesus then goes on to speak of standing at the door an knocking, and coming in to eat with those who answer

    2. Really irrelevant, and limited in scope, since Revelation is FILLED with ceremonial actions

  6. Gabe Martini said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Every “movement” has been a reaction to something, and usually goes too far in the other direction. The truth is always somewhere in the middle, unfortunately. And that truth is Christ.

  7. Jeff Moss said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Robert, I love Bishop Ryle’s book Holiness for its warm Christian faith and many wonderful gems of spiritual truth. From what I have read, the Tractarian movement that he was responding to was deeply flawed and needed to hear a rebuke.

    I only wanted to point out that Ryle’s approach too has a dangerous imbalance in it. It seems to be pushing for a choice between corporate Christianity, on the one hand, and individual Christianity, on the other. But if you choose either of these to the neglect of the other, you will be far poorer for it.

  8. Gabe Martini said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Good point, Jeff. It is the “one and the many.” Trinitarian thinking. Both/and, never either/or. Salvation is all in Christ. We enjoy God’s blessings both as individuals and as part of the Body of Christ, the Church, as a whole.

  9. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Robert, I agree with Jeff Moss in this sense: Ryle’s answer is substantially incomplete. It gives a passing tip o’ th’ hat to the visible church.

    Which doesn’t mean that’s the sum of his thoughts. Rather, it means that once Ryle turned those thoughts loose in that form, it became possible for those persuaded by him to take his emphasis and go a little further.

    In his day, it might have been less imaginable that there would be folk who can claim the name of Christ and despise the visible church.

    But in our day, that’s a live problem. All that JM is pleading, and all that I would plead as well (though he and I lean oppositely wrt the FV), is that in our haste to oppose, may we seek out fully robust, Biblical solutions instead of partial reactionary solutions.

    Jeff Cagle

  10. Mark T. said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Jeff Moss writes,

    Any movement rooted and grounded in a reaction to something else is subject to great dangers.

    I remind him that the Federal Visionists gave birth to their Vision as “a reaction to” Enlightenment influences on the Church (or was it Gnostic influences?), which exist by the FVists’ mere assertion.

    Therefore, I invite Mr. Moss to outline for us the the “great dangers” presented by the FV.

    Thank you.

  11. Gabe Martini said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Putting an end to the seeker-sensitive movement? Oh wait, that would be a GOOD thing.

  12. Robert K. said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    Again, Ryle’s reaction is back to the Word of God. Sacerdotalism, to any degree, is a movement away from the Word of God.

  13. Jeff Moss said,

    December 13, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    Mark T. (#10),

    First of all, I thought that contributors to this blog were supposed to give their real names, so that we would all know who we’re actually talking to. But with that said…

    I think that some of the current opposition to the Federal Vision is more about reaction than the Federal Vision itself has ever been. The FV started as a basically conservative and consolidating stream within Reformed Christendom — an attempt to re-establish certain Biblical and Reformational emphases that according to the FV men were being obscured in many quarters of the contemporary American church.

    At the same time, to the extent that the FV itself is a reaction to Enlightenment and Gnostic-style influences, it does have inherent dangers of its own. This recovery of the Biblical teaching about visible means of grace could be corrupted into a dead formalism; the emphasis on the Biblical teaching about judgment according to works (Romans 2:6-16, etc.) could be twisted into a self-reliant arrogance; and so on. But that’s why I hear pastors in the Federal Vision camp reminding us over and over that all of the blessings of the covenant are made real and effective to us only by God’s grace, through faith. They know the dangers and are seeking, to the best of their ability, to fight against them.

  14. Robert K. said,

    December 13, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    >The FV started as a basically conservative and consolidating stream within Reformed Christendom — an attempt to re-establish certain Biblical and Reformational emphases that according to the FV men were being obscured in many quarters of the contemporary American church.

    Yes, without the courage to define their doctrine, choosing to be a parasite on Reformed confessions and communions. So, Reformed Christians are left to consider their motives. Their motives don’t look good. They seem to be the same as resentful, ungrateful, satanically self-righteous Muslims in Europe. Taking advantage of other people’s domain while harboring hatred for it and a desire to destroy it.

  15. David Gray said,

    December 13, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    >So, Reformed Christians are left to consider their motives.

    Perhaps you should leave that to Reformed Christians. Last time I checked FV wasn’t a big issue amongst Baptists.

  16. Jeff Moss said,

    December 13, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    Robert (#14), one more comment and then I need to go…

    Why do you say that the FV men are “without the courage to define their doctrine”? Please read the Federal Vision joint statement for a public, honest definition of their doctrine. At the same time, given the caveats expressed in this statement, they still usually see their doctrine as consistent with the system of teaching found in all the great Reformed confessions.

  17. Jeff Moss said,

    December 13, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    David Gray, while I appreciate many of your comments, I don’t think your constant harping on Robert’s Baptist convictions is doing much to help the dialogue along.

  18. Robert K. said,

    December 13, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    That’s alright, by his position Ryle is a baptist as well. As is Calvin, with his embarrassing ‘born again’ experience. As if individuals experience any such thing…

  19. Daniel Kok said,

    December 13, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    Re: #2

    “I think that some of the current opposition to the Federal Vision is more about reaction than the Federal Vision itself has ever been. The FV started as a basically conservative and consolidating stream within Reformed Christendom — an attempt to re-establish certain Biblical and Reformational emphases that according to the FV men were being obscured in many quarters of the contemporary American church.”

    The criticisms these men identified were problems which the so-called ‘TRs’ have been harping on for years. This was manifestly evident after the meeting in 2003 and the publishing of the book “The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros & Cons”. Though both shared these concerns, there were two opposing answers: one Reformed and the other an aberration of Reformed theology.

    If you haven’t read this book yet please do so. Many of the men that wrote in that book are (were?) friends of men in the FV movement but have rejected it, not out of spite or jealousy, but because it undermines much of which our forefathers bled and died for.

    Or you can just listen to the original AAPC (2002) lectures and hear Steve Schlissel call Southern Presbyterian theology an abomination and no one bats an eye or wags a finger. In fact (imo) everyone of the lectures is an attack (subliminally or otherwise) on Reformed theology.

  20. Andrew Webb said,

    December 13, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    This isn’t a response to anything, just a comment. How on earth does one keep up with the stream here without being logged on constantly?? Just two days after being given access I’m exhausted from reading, and already miles behind. Don’t you guys have homes, jobs, families, etc.? Sleep? Don’t you need to sleep? Man, I thought email lists were difficult to stay up with, but this is something else entirely. Anyway, being just a bear of little brain, I’m going to read a a couple of nice little books filled with baptistic revivalist enthusiasm (John’s Gospel and Murray’s “The Old Evangelicalism” – a great read if you are a Presbyterian baptist like Murray and me btw) and then turn in…

  21. Kyle said,

    December 13, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Jeff, re: 16,

    IMO, if nothing else, the “Apostasy” section in the joint statement ruins the clarity of the whole document. In that section we have baptized Christians who are “united with Christ in His covenantal life,” whatever that means. I guess this is supposed to be analogous with the “union to Christ” which baptism effects “The Sacrament of Baptism.” But is it same as mere “union with Christ,” which is described in the section “Union with Christ and Imputation”? If it is the same, obviously there are serious difficulties reconciling the joint statement with any supposed compatibility with Reformed confessional standards, even with the explicit exceptions. We also have these baptized Christians “falling from grace,” which “grace” is never really defined. Is this the same “grace” by which we are justified in the section “Assurance of Salvation”? Or is it the “grace” which would have bestowed glorification on Adam “by faith alone” in the section “Covenant of Life”? (Speaking of which, what does it mean that Adam would have been glorified “by faith alone”? Do they believe Adam was called to trust in the finished work of Christ alone for his glorification? And what on earth does that make of Christ’s work as the Last Adam?) Then we have this idea of the “apostate Christian” not having “a merely external connection” to Christ. Well, beyond the fact that the apostate no longer has any connection to Christ by definition, and is therefore no longer a “Christian” in any sense, what sort of “not merely external” connection do they postulate that reprobate-church-members-turned-apostates actually have? Are the signees still conversing amongst themselves about this one?

    I also always find it frankly bizarre that the FV feels the constant need to harp about the livingness of faith, as they do in “Justification by Faith Alone.” Do they really think that the Reformed church is filled to the brim with latent Sandemanians? Are they responding to the Reformed church at all? And it alarms me the number of times on this site that FVers or sympathizers have said that the livingness of faith consists in works, or that faithful obedience is a constituent of saving faith, with the ever-useful citation of James 2! (I’d have to go back several months now to find the exact statements I’m thinking of, so you’ll have to take my word for it, I suppose.)

    Others more perceptive than I could point out other problems, I’m sure. I won’t even touch the section “The Divine Decress” where the clarity regarding “decretal” as opposed to “covenantal” election is just about null. And certainly there are things which are clear but on which I simply disagree. But I think that the joint statement, while it may have been an honest attempt, does not honestly help define much of anything. And how could it, when even one of its prominent signees, Jim Jordan, strenuously and publicly denied the existence of a “Federal Vision” movement after signing the document?

  22. Kyle said,

    December 13, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Speaking of the Federal Vision Joint Statement, two of the Green Bagginses did review it. Links to all of Lane’s series of reviews can be found here. Bob Mattes’ review starts here.

  23. Lee said,

    December 13, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    Nice article. There is nothing new under the sun. Let me suggest another movement of that same century that I think is a little closer to the Federal Vision. I believe it is the Mercersburg Theology of Schaff and Nevin. I think the PCA can learn a lot from a quick glance at the Mercersburg – Old Reformed war that took place from the 1840’s to the 1880’s in the RCUS.

  24. Scott Bauer said,

    December 13, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    Greetings Jeff,

    I’m new to this list and new to understanding the FV.

    Why do FVs so adamantly deny the “imputation of the active obedience of Christ”. What is at stake here?

    What uniquely are FVs claiming regarding the nature of the atonement for *real* Christians?

    Scott

    P.S. We can talk about this Saturday if you would like.

  25. Grover Gunn said,

    December 14, 2007 at 12:34 am

    True religion lies between the errors of corporate sacerdotalism and individualized evangelicalism. I assume that if Bishop Ryle were writing today, he would word his second option a little differently to avoid its possible misuse by those who today profess to be Christians but have no use for any form of the visible church. Perhaps he would today describe the errors on both sides of the truth rather than using a simple dichotomy. He was, after all, speaking in an earlier historical context with its differences from as well as its similarities to our own.

    Jeff, would you agree that the doctrines which the nine declarations recently adopted by a PCA General Assembly identify as contrary to the fundamentals of the Westminster Standards are indeed contrary to those fundamentals? Would you agree that the nine declarations are not distortions of Westminster theology due to over-reaction?

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  26. Patrick Poole said,

    December 14, 2007 at 12:54 am

    Steve Steinmann says (#1):

    “One cannot have God for a father who does not have the church for a mother” is a Reformed, not a Roman Catholic statement.

    Unfortunately, this is Cyprian speaking, not Calvin. Very much a Roman Catholic statement. Sorry if someone had already mentioned this previously.

    There are two other previous “movements” that the FV draws from. The first are the Pelagians, specifically Pelagius’ Commentary on Romans, criticized by Augustine in his On the Letter and the Spirit. The second are the Caroline Anglican Moralists, which Neil Lettinga summarizes as follows in his article, “Covenant Theology Turned Upside Down: Henry Hammond and the Caroline Anglican Moralists, 1643-1660″ (Sixteenth Century Journal, 24/3 (Autumn 1993):

    “Henry Hammond and the Caroline Anglican Moralists developed a new and powerful Anglican theology by borrowing the puritan doctrine of the Covenant of Grace and radically reinterpreting it. They held that all who were baptized, not only the elect, were enrolled in the Covenant and that salvation was given only to those who fulfilled its conditions – repentence, faith, and obedience. Though they did not believe that obedience earned salvation, their contractual understanding of salvation led them to focus Christianity on morality and duty, a view of Christianity which dominated the Church of England from the Restoration to the Evangelical Revival of the eighteenth century.”

    See also C.F. Allison, The Rise of Moralism: The Proclamation of the Gospel from Hooker to Baxter, coincidentally, a book reviewed by Peter Leithart for Contra Mundum many moon ago (perhaps Tim Wilder could comment here?).

    As for the roots of the FV in Mercersburg movement (particularly Jeffrey Meyers, Mark Horne and James Jordan, who are especially endebted to it), it would offer my own humble contributions, “Nevin, Hodge, Dabney and Mark Horne“, “Mercersburg Theology: A Warning From History” and “<a href=”http://patrickpoole.blogspot.com/2006/03/mercersburg-on-atonement-part-1.html”Mercersburg on the Atonement, Part 1“, in addition to Hodge’s devastating criticisms of both Schaff and Nevin in the Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review and the respective critical works by B.S. Schneck, J.H.A. Bomberger (originally one of Nevin’s chief defenders), and J.I. Good (historian of the German Reformed Church).

  27. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 12:59 am

    >those who today profess to be Christians but have no use for any form of the visible church

    This is impossible. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Evangelization is done by the visible church. Once regenerated and then converted a believer is part of the visible church and is led by the Spirit to do the work – various work – of the visible church. And a believer has communion with other believers naturally, drawn or drawing. The call that was effectual for Calvin was made by the visible church. Calvin was a Roman Catholic at the time, in the church of the antichrist, not the Church of which Christ is King. My gift is evangelization in ‘new age’ environments. I represent the visible church when I do this. I speak their language and can communicate with them. I make sure they get an undiluted dose of the Word of God, so that God’s Word will be planted in them and be able to grow, and if not it won’t be because it wasn’t planted boldly and clearly and directly.

    Again, Ryle is just simply talking about the Word of God. He isn’t reacting in some ‘dichotomous’ way (i.e. he wasn’t bart of some pendulum swing of different, though authentic, or understandable, positions), as if sacerdotalism is some relevant or equal position with the biblical position. There is the Word of God and there is departure from the Word of God. False teachings always want to affect as if they are on a par with the standard, i.e. just another ‘reaction’ or angle or aspect of the standard, when what false teachings are is a departure from the Word of God.

  28. David Gadbois said,

    December 14, 2007 at 1:44 am

    Andy W. – to answer your question, it is all about being very, *very* selective. I’ll scan, at a fairly quick pace, dozens and dozens of comments, and my “spidey sense” tells me which ones I should stop and read in their entirety (or read with more care and time), and of that I will only care to respond to a small fraction.

  29. Patrick Poole said,

    December 14, 2007 at 1:58 am

    Apologies for the broken link above. Here it is again: “Mercersburg on the Atonement, Part 1

  30. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 4:00 am

    >That’s alright, by his position Ryle is a baptist as well. As is Calvin, with his embarrassing ‘born again’ experience.

    If Calvin is a baptist while insisting on infant baptism and his teaching on the evil of neglecting the sacrament then pigs can fly.

  31. Jeff Moss said,

    December 14, 2007 at 4:07 am

    Grover (#24),

    Jeff, would you agree that the doctrines which the nine declarations recently adopted by a PCA General Assembly identify as contrary to the fundamentals of the Westminster Standards are indeed contrary to those fundamentals? Would you agree that the nine declarations are not distortions of Westminster theology due to over-reaction?

    You may not like this very much, but my answer to these questions would have to be “Yes and no.” :-) I think the nine declarations are flawed to some extent by their ambiguous use of key words which they do not define, by their failure to address some of the FV views that they are intended to address, and by the fact that there is some contradiction between the declarations themselves and the Westminster Standards. I myself am not bound by the Westminster Standards, and I see them as generally true but inconsistent with Scripture at several points.

    I started answering your questions in more detail, but that response ran to more than 1,000 words, so I decided just to post a summary response on this site. You can read my more complete response on my blog, here.

  32. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 4:28 am

    David Gray, I’m considering the fact now that you may be someone who is a little different than I maybe assumed. When you stated in another thread that the Westminster Confession of Faith was an Anglican document, and now when you kind of miss the irony started in this thread in declaring Reformed theologians like Calvin ‘baptists’ and so on it gives me the impression you are here to defend personalities that you are fond of, for one reason or another, and maybe not because you are up on the history or doctrine being discussed.

    Let me just say this: the main reason Doug Wilson and the others who identify as ‘Federal Vision’ are spoken of the way they are is simply because they are wearing the uniform of an army they don’t belong to, which is not something any army can tolerate. Even if they consider themselves not to be the total enemies of the communions that are coming down against them the British don’t wear the uniforms of the Americans in Iraq. Federal Vision people have to stop pretending to be something they are not. It is game-playing and it forces their opposition to mark them and deal with them. On Doug Wilson’s part he doesn’t want Federal Vision to be off on its own because he fears – rightfully – that it will be ignored and no different from any number of religious groups with bad doctrine.

  33. Grover Gunn said,

    December 14, 2007 at 5:15 am

    #29
    Thanks, Jeff, for the candid response. According to the longer response on your blog, you both have your disagreements with the Westminster Standards and regard the nine declarations as, at least in part, distortions of the doctrines of the Standards as you understand them. I believe this sort of candor is helpful. It is better to acknowlege that we have different convictions than to pretend otherwise.

    On your blog, you state that a minister should be held accountable to the Westminster Standards “to the extent that they depend on and accurately represent the teaching of Scripture.” When a man takes the PCA ordination vows, he is affirming that the Westminster Standards do indeed contain the system of doctrine found in Scripture as he interprets and understands Scripture. A man could believe that the Scriptures teach anything and honestly say the he agrees with any confession to the extent that that confession agrees with his own interpretations of Scripture. Such a statement is a truism (I agree with it to the extent that it agrees with me) and really doesn’t tell us anything about a person’s doctrinal convictions.

    You mention the last last sentence of WCF 24.4 as an example of your disagreement with the confession, and you give Deut. 25:5 as a proof text, but I still don’t understand your disagreement with WCF 24.4.

    Grover

  34. its.reed said,

    December 14, 2007 at 7:00 am

    Ref. #20:

    Andy – the short answer – No :)

    Longer answer – if yur admonition were heeded by all we surely wouldn’t be in as big a brou-haha. Imagine what would have happened if the major FV propopenents really had kept their conversation private between themselves and within their own congregations.

  35. GLW Johnson said,

    December 14, 2007 at 7:48 am

    I personally appreciate Jeff Moss’ candid admission about his sentiments on the Westminster Standards. This kind of transparency is as rare as hen’s teeth among the FV and their sympathizers. Andy Webb recently highlighted on this blog Rich Lusk’s half-dozen or so ‘exceptions’ to the WS that he took before the LA presbytery-and got by! James Jordon, in the discussion that took place over at De Regno Christi on the FV, made the bald assertion that back in the 80’s practically everybody took an ‘exception’ before their presbytery to the Cov. of Works as set forth in the WS. And of course, following Norman Shepherd, the FV has beat a well worn warpath around their denial at the very suggestion that doctrine of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ has any confessional ‘merit’. With the ‘exception’ of their ardent advocacy of paedo communion,( which even the most hard-core FVers admits has no support in Calvin and the Reformed confessions) the FV is constantly conducting a scavenger hunt back through Reformed and Presbyterian history trying to find some inking of support for their views. But, the cold hard fact is that one Reformed denomination after another have rejected their claims to be within the bounds of the Reformed confessions. Norman Shepherd, after years of contending that his views were in harmony with the WS, finally admitted that they were not, and even suggested that the WS be replaced with the Three Forms of Unity ( under the misguided assumption in my humble opinion, that his veiws are compatible with the 3FU).Given the present situation in denominations like the OPC and PCA I am, like Andy Webb and many others, left wondering outloud why the FVers in those two Presbyterians communions do not leave and go off and join the CREC were their views would be warmly received. Since they refused to go and are prepared to go to any lenghts to thwart the ecceslesiatical process that would force them out, there appears to be some sort of agenda in all of this. I know that the word ‘conspiracy’ has met with a great deal of snorting and pawing the ground by those on the FV side of the fence at this suggestion, but there also appears to be an organised effort or game-plan if you will,on the part of the FV to gain sympathy and acceptance in the OPC and especially the PCA at all cost. This stratagem, which is what it is, boils down to whether or not subscription to the WS really matters. If the FV men are allowed to remain in the Reformed denominations like the OPC and PCA it will , for all practical purposes, send a loud message to all who have ears to hear that the WS are mere window dressing and no more. Then we can all stand back and watch these two Reformed churches go the way of the PCUSA.

  36. anneivy said,

    December 14, 2007 at 9:35 am

    This isn’t in response to any specific post, but rather a couple of thoughts triggered by various posts and comments….

    First, I get muddled regarding precisely which target the FV is presumably trying to hit. Are they trying to push their own respective denominations back on track, where they believe those denominations have gone off the rails? Or are they trying to “fix” the visible church as a whole?

    A few times recently I’ve read FV adherents/sympathizers allude to how there’s an increasing disdain for the visible church, suggesting this is one of the problems the FV is trying to fix.

    Well, okay, maybe among those who listen to whatshisname, Hank Handegraff or whatever his name is….the one who insists the church as an institution/organization is dead as the dodo, but if the FV is addressing either their own denominations or evangelical megachurches, this protest of theirs seems empty.

    For all their ills and deficiencies, people attending megachurches are attending church, so clearly the “trying to be saved apart from the visible church” accusation isn’t applicable. Ditto for those in the pews in their own denominations.

    And those who aren’t attending any church at all most likely aren’t paying much attention to the FV, so aren’t hearing the criticism and – let’s face it – wouldn’t be interested if they did hear it.

    Is a disdain for the visible church a real problem in the PCA, OPC, etc.? I can’t say as how I’d noticed that, but then I’m not Presbyterian so perhaps I’m missing it. Frankly, though, it’d surprise me.

    Second, it’s really pretty funny to read how often the FV’ers complain about “individualism”.

    Have they looked in a mirror recently?

    The ones who are doggedly and stubbornly staying in denominations that have gone on record as rejecting the FV’s theological distinctives are displaying American individualism to the top of their bent. By jingo, ain’t nobody gonna tell THEM what to do and what to believe! They’ll believe whatever they jolly well want to believe, and teach whatever they jolly well want to teach, and if their theological authorities have a problem with that, then doom on them. Too bad. Deal with it. They’ll leave when they’re good and ready and not ten minutes before.

    Put bluntly, I’m not prepared to listen to lectures from them on the subject of Individualism Rampant In the Churches, unless the lectures are in favor of same.

    No one attending Willow Creek or Saddleback could be exhibiting any greater degree of hyperindividualism than the FV’ers who are clinging to the door frames of the PCA, OPC, etc.

    Anne

  37. David R. McCrory said,

    December 14, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Is this whole debate not basically posing the question, “What is God doing with those in the visible church who are not elect”?

    This controversy doesn’t appear overly concerned with those outside the church, nor those who we grant are elect of God. But rather it is examing the exact nature of the relationship between the person who finds himself among the Body of Christ, yet strangly not participating in it the way others (the elect) are capable.

    Is the question simply not, does God’s disposition towards the unregenerate covenant members rise above that of the rank pagan, but yet remain below that of His beloved whom He chose before the salvation of the world?

    It would seem then, the only issue at hand then is what constitutes this relationship between God and the NECM? What is it’s essence? What can we say it involves and what must we say it doesn’t involve.

    I think if we could bring resolve to this particular matter, maybe many more things would fall into place.

  38. David R. McCrory said,

    December 14, 2007 at 10:16 am

    …foundation of the world”

    Sorry.

  39. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 10:57 am

    #35

    Well said.

  40. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 14, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Is this whole debate not basically posing the question, “What is God doing with those in the visible church who are not elect”?

    To a large extent, that’s been the direction my analysis is taking. If that were the only issue at stake, however, then we might agree to not care. Why bother arguing about the precise status of people who aren’t going to be saved anyways?

    But now, the concern for the anti-FV is whether there might be “election leakage”; that is, if we stipulate certain things about the “NECMs” and then further stipulate that we can’t tell who is who, then we might pragmatically have to act as if our whole church consists of NECMs.

    And, the NECM theology is quite Arminian in flavor (God elects a group, membership in the group can come and go, continued membership is dependent upon perseverance) if not precise content. Hence, the concern is that our posture towards our flocks might be — or become over time — Arminian. Folk such as Robert are convinced that the FV is already there.

    I still can’t say whether that’s an entirely valid concern (I strongly lean towards “yes”), but that’s the concern.

    Now…another way to try to handle the question is to stipulate that we will try to “vet” the visible church so that it is a close approximation of the invisible. That’s the Baptist solution.

    The problem with that solution is that it turns out to require either (a) mistakenly lumping the Covenant with Abraham with the Old Covenant — an error I’ve seen in more than one Reformed Baptist tract — or (b) stipulating that we are children of Abraham (cf. Gal. 3 and Rom. 4) in only a “spiritual” sense, so that the terms of Abraham’s covenant do not apply to us.

    Neither of those birds really fly; the first is a factual error, and the second is adding an extraBiblical assumption to the text.

    A second problem for the Baptist solution is what to do with our flock once they are members. The “in-the-door” theology assumes that all are converted; the reality is that not all are. So now what? We’re stuck with the same problem as the Presbies, except that our solution (credo-baptism) was supposed to fix the problem. Oops.

    So we’re stuck, I think, with affirming that we *are* children of Abraham; hence, the terms of the covenant really do apply to us; hence, we receive our children and any who profess faith to be a part of our number.

    At the same time, following Genesis closely, we also understand that not all who are a part of us are really of us (to use the language of I John). And that’s the precise point where the FV and I part company. Theirs’ is a simpler solution on the front end (everyone belongs), but it appears to me to lead to insoluble problems on the back end. My view is thorny on the front end (everyone belongs *normatively* but not *genuinely*), but it appears to be more consistent with Scripture, to my understanding.

    Jeff Cagle

  41. David R. McCrory said,

    December 14, 2007 at 11:48 am

    >Why bother arguing about the precise status of people who aren’t going to be saved anyways?

    ~ This is what I’ve seen taking place here an overwhelming majority of the time. ISTM people labeled as “Covenantally Justified”, “Objectively in the Covenant”, “Washed in the Regenration”, “In Christ”, “In the visible church” etc. yet who are acknowledged as not decretally elect, are the topic which drives most of the conversation and tangents into other areas of discourse. This whole controversy is bring approched with a shotgun, maybe the tool of choice should be the scalple. I’d begin with having the FV define what exactly constitutes the nature of the relationship between God and the NECM in their system of theology.

  42. anneivy said,

    December 14, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    DRM said: “I’d begin with having the FV define what exactly constitutes the nature of the relationship between God and the NECM in their system of theology.”

    If you could get even one of them to do so, the rest of us would be ever so grateful.

    Thus far it’s been like pulling teeth. Teeth with loooong roots.

    And impacted, to boot.

    I’m convinced the FV – on the whole, albeit with an exception or two – does not technically teach salvation by works, but ISTM it’s the FV’s concentration upon the “Lord, Lord” group that makes it appear as if it does, since the difference between the ECM and the NECM seems to be works, with the former doing more than the latter.

    If the FV isn’t intending to communicate a works-righteous theology, it’s certainly going about it an odd way.

  43. David R. McCrory said,

    December 14, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Anne,

    It’s just when dealing with systematics, the idea is to be as exacting as you possibly can. Terminology such as being saved “in some sense” is not worthy of scholarship until it is defined. This is why antiFV’ers need to pin down the language of the FV. Any theologian worth his salt should love nothing more than boring us with every finite nauance he can find in describing what “in some sense” means. We have to comprehend the language. Unless this occurs, no real constructive dialog can really take place.

  44. Mark T. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    David,

    Try this:

    In order to pin a liar down, words must be defined in the most careful manner available. In this context, the only man who needs to be more precise than a liar is the man who would catch the liar.” (Douglas Wilson, Angels in the Architecture, A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth [Moscow: Canon Press, 1998], 193)

    Thank you.

  45. Matt B. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Quoting Sam Steinmann, [“One cannot have God for a father who does not have the church for a mother” is a Reformed, not a Roman Catholic statement.] Patrick Poole (#26) sayeth: “Unfortunately, this is Cyprian speaking, not Calvin. Very much a Roman Catholic statement. Sorry if someone had already mentioned this previously.”

    Let’s hear it directly from John Calvin himself (Institutes 4.1.1): “I will begin with the Church, into whose bosom God is pleased to collect his children, not only that by her aid and ministry they may be nourished so long as they are babes and children, but may also be guided by her maternal care until they grow up to manhood, and, finally, attain to the perfection of faith. What God has thus joined, let not man put asunder (Mark 10:9): TO THOSE TO WHOM HE IS A FATHER, THE CHURCH MUST ALSO BE A MOTHER. (Caps mine – MB)

    At the risk of oversimplification, it would appear that a great deal of the fracas may be attributed to Mr. Poole’s categorical statement that “One cannot have God for a father who does not have the church for a mother” is Roman Catholic, not a Protestant, description/conception of the Church. Calvin is, of course, alluding to Cyprian (as the Battles’ translation of the Institutes, which I do not have on hand, make clear), but he alludes approvingly it would appear, does he not?

    This reader would value Mr. Poole’s making clear how Calvin’s sentiment (reflecting Cyprian) is a Roman Catholic and not a Protestant one.

    Thanks.

  46. Matt B. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Sorry – “Matt B.” is Matt Beatty.

  47. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 14, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Reflecting on #45:

    This reader would value Mr. Poole’s making clear how Calvin’s sentiment (reflecting Cyprian) is a Roman Catholic and not a Protestant one.

    This reader is confused. Irony? A claim that Calvin was really a Catholic? A request for further argument?

    Anyways:

    Patrick (#26): Ephesians 4 and 1 Cor 12 connect the visible and invisible churches in this way: all who belong to Christ have an obligation to participate as members in a visible way. Hence, none who refuse the earthly bonds of the visible body of Christ can simultaneously claim to be connected to the head (because they are, prima facie, disobeying his commands).

    In that sense, “One cannot have God for a father who does not have the church for a mother.”

    Though in general, Cyprian is my least favorite of the church fathers.

    Jeff Cagle

  48. David R. McCrory said,

    December 14, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    When someone comes on the scene offering a “new paradigm” (DW’s words) in Christian and Reformed theology, the least that can be done is to place these ideas in a context understandable to those who might inquire into it.

    Salvation “in some sense” might satisfy the people in the pew in large measure, but if you’re going to claim subscription to a certain system of doctrine (such as the WCF), it behooves you to demonstrate the consistency of your new paradigm with the existing teachings of the system of doctrine you profess to (already) hold to.

    Five hundred years of reformational history deserve more than the lack of clarity and vagueness we’ve seen thus far. Christ’s church deserves more.

  49. Jeff Moss said,

    December 14, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Scott (#24),

    I must have missed your comment earlier. Nice to see you here. (I’ve noticed before that comments don’t always show up on this blog in the order in which they were posted.)

    Why do FVs so adamantly deny the “imputation of the active obedience of Christ”. What is at stake here?

    Actually, this is one of the issues over which FV advocates differ, as noted in the “Points of Intramural Disagreement” section of the Joint Federal Vision Statement. Since my primary source for knowledge of FV theology is Doug Wilson and he stoutly affirms the imputation of Christ’s active obedience, I’m not very well-versed in the reasons why some would deny it. The most common argument seems to be that it’s superfluous, that anyone who is in Christ is a participant in everything that He is and does, and therefore does not need to have the “works” of Christ (the righteous acts that He performed during His earthly life) imputed to him by a separate action. Someone who denies the imputation of Christ’s active obedience would probably say that the danger of believing it lies in its implication that merely belonging to Christ isn’t enough, that we need to have these additional transactions made — over and above “merely” belonging to Christ — in order to be confident of salvation.

    What uniquely are FVs claiming regarding the nature of the atonement for *real* Christians?

    The primary difference here — and this is relevant to some of the recent comments on this thread — is that FV advocates see the benefits of the Atonement being applied to people in ways that are objective and visible, not just subjective and spiritual (although that is present too). When faced with the question, “Am I saved? Do I truly belong to Christ?”, a non-FV evangelical might tell the questioner to examine his own faith to see if it’s genuine. A proponent of the FV, on the other hand, might begin with something along the lines of the catechism used by John Calvin’s church in Strasbourg —

    Q: Are you, my son, a Christian in fact as well as in name?”
    A: Yes, my father.
    Q: How do you know yourself to be?
    A: Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    — and would go on to tell the questioner to believe in God’s promise to save those who trust in Christ, using his baptism as the objective sign that he has been joined to Christ.

  50. Patrick Poole said,

    December 14, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Matt says (#45):

    “At the risk of oversimplification, it would appear that a great deal of the fracas may be attributed to Mr. Poole’s categorical statement that “One cannot have God for a father who does not have the church for a mother” is Roman Catholic, not a Protestant, description/conception of the Church. Calvin is, of course, alluding to Cyprian (as the Battles’ translation of the Institutes, which I do not have on hand, make clear), but he alludes approvingly it would appear, does he not?”

    Well, I certainly appreciate that Matt attributes “a great deal of the fracas” to me, but I think he is greatly exaggerating the case. It is curious that Matt stops his quotation where he does, because two sentences later Calvin describes who the Church is (Institutes 4.1.2):

    “The article in the Creed in which we profess to “belive the church” refers not only to the visible church (our present topic) but also to all of God’s elect, in whose number are also included the dead.”

    Calvin is flatly contradicting Cyprian here by recognizing that God’s elect is not contained exclusively within the bounds of the visible church, but extends beyond, thereby making a distinction between visible and invisible. Cyprian would loudly protest, unless Matt wants to claim that Cyprian has been vastly misunderstood by the RCC for 1700 years and is in fact a proto-Reformer that somehow anticipated the visible/invisible distinction.

    And how Matt believes that I’m contending that Calvin’s view is a Roman Catholic one, and not a Protestant one, is quite frankly beyond me. I made exactly the opposite case.

  51. Jeff Moss said,

    December 14, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Patrick (#26),

    >“One cannot have God for a father who does not have the church for a mother” is a Reformed, not a Roman Catholic statement.

    Unfortunately, this is Cyprian speaking, not Calvin. Very much a Roman Catholic statement. Sorry if someone had already mentioned this previously.

    You must have missed this from Calvin’s Institutes, IV.1.1:
    “I will begin with the Church, into whose bosom God is pleased to collect his children, not only that by her aid and ministry they may be nourished so long as they are babes and children, but may also be guided by her maternal care until they grow up to manhood, and, finally, attain to the perfection of faith. What God has thus joined, let not man put asunder (Mark 10:9): to those to whom he is a Father, the Church must also be a mother.”

  52. Jeff Moss said,

    December 14, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    I hadn’t seen comments #45, 47, 50 when I posted #51. Sorry.

  53. Matt B. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Patrick,

    My attribution should’ve not been limited to you, but to those who wish to portray FV/AA authors as crypto Romanists, even though Roman Catholics won’t own them. No one I’ve read (and I haven’t read everything, by any means) has denied the existence of the so-called invisible church. The issue is one of perspective. No one doubts that such a body of saints exists; the question is an epistemic one: how would you identify them as such? So, in space and time, all we have is the Church (visible).

    And how did I know that you would object to a simply, very straightforward rebuttal of your assertion that Sam’s statement (quoting Calvin quoting Cyprian)? YOU neglected to give the larger context of Calvin’s quote when initially rebutting Sam, not me.

    My point (which wasn’t clear – my fault) was for you to tell me (and Sam) how saying, “He who has God for His father must have the Church for his mother” is Roman Catholic and not perfectly consonant with Protestant theology, ala Calvin? Do I mean there is a perfect identity between Cyprian’s ecclesiology and Calvin’s? Of course not. Can Calvin quote him approvingly? Sure.

    But you say its all Roman? Why?

  54. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 14, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Scott (#24), Jeff M (#49): Why do FVs so adamantly deny the “imputation of the active obedience of Christ”. What is at stake here?

    Tentatively, I would say that James Jordan is probably the one who least likes IAOX, on these grounds:

    (1) Christ’s death provides a righteous status, not a strict accounting of works, and (as Jeff Moss noted),
    (2) We are imputed Christ’s righteousness as a part of our union, NOT as a separate bare legal transaction.

    The prize appears to be to stave off two errors at once: to hedge the notion of imputation so that we are not granting some kind of autonomous righteousness, AND to create a situation in which “merit” is conceived of as “righteousness points.” That is, we want to avoid this:

    Joe Schmoe: I received Jesus, and now I’m saved!
    Pastor Bob: Well, what’s your relationship with Him like?
    JS: relationship? I don’t need a relationship. I have His righteousness and I’m going to heaven.

    which we recognize as (a caricature of?) anti-Lordship theology.

    But we also want to avoid this:

    Joe Schmoe: I received Jesus, and now I’m saved!
    Priest Bob: have you received sufficient merit to cover your sins?
    JS: …?

    So to try to avoid both, the FV wishes to stipulate that righteousness is a matter of status, not merit; and that status is found in federal union with Christ, not a bare legal transaction (which would lead to autonomy).

    To which I say, OK. But the Confessional teaching and its modern updates (Kline, Murray) simply don’t suffer from those problems, so the fuss is … ?

    I’m not overly stressed about the FV take on IAOX *as long as* we all agree that Hebrews teaches that the active obedience of Christ on earth is the basis for his sufficiency as our sacrifice.

    And I think FVers all do agree to that.

    Actually, it may be the case that denial of the IOAX entails the loss of definitive sanctification, in which case I would be concerned. But that’s not clear to me.

    Jeff Cagle

  55. Roger Mann said,

    December 14, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    43: David wrote,

    It’s just when dealing with systematics, the idea is to be as exacting as you possibly can. Terminology such as being saved “in some sense” is not worthy of scholarship until it is defined. This is why antiFV’ers need to pin down the language of the FV.

    Good luck on that one! The FV proponents will never clearly “define” what being saved “in some sense” actually means (ambiguity is always an ally when introducing heretical doctrines), and thus the antiFV’ers will never be able to “pin down the language of the FV.” And if you ever think that you’ve pinned them down, they’ll just protest (read: “whine”) that you’ve misunderstood and/or misrepresented them.

  56. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 14, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Patrick Poole (#50):

    …two sentences later Calvin describes who the Church is (Institutes 4.1.2):

    “The article in the Creed in which we profess to “belive the church” refers not only to the visible church (our present topic) but also to all of God’s elect, in whose number are also included the dead.”

    Calvin is flatly contradicting Cyprian here by recognizing that God’s elect is not contained exclusively within the bounds of the visible church, but extends beyond, thereby making a distinction between visible and invisible. Cyprian would loudly protest, unless Matt wants to claim that Cyprian has been vastly misunderstood by the RCC for 1700 years and is in fact a proto-Reformer that somehow anticipated the visible/invisible distinction.

    That’s not how I’m reading Calvin. He does indeed distinguish between visible and invisible, and yes, Cyprian would probably howl. But ISTM that he joins Cyprian in affirming that no one can claim God as a father unless he claims *the visible church* (“which is our present topic”, says Calvin) as his mother.

    …unless Matt wants to claim that Cyprian has been vastly misunderstood by the RCC for 1700 years and is in fact a proto-Reformer that somehow anticipated the visible/invisible distinction.

    Well, Augustine did. That’s where Calvin got the idea (well, him + Scripture). And I’ll cheerfully claim the whole day long that the RCC misunderstood Augustine. Except concerning relics. :)

    Jeff Cagle

  57. Sam Steinmann said,

    December 14, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Patrick,

    My point, in quoting Calvin quoting Cyprian, is that Calvin–and, by extension, the Reformed tradition as a whole–has agreed with the Roman Catholics, and disagreed with the pietists, on the importance of the VISIBLE church.

    AnneIvy,

    I think you are asking the wrong question. “Here’s my systematics–I’ll ignore this verse unless it fits in” is a BAD approach to theology. If the Scripture says that Christ is the Saviour of all, the first step is to say “Christ is the Saviour of all”; the next step is to say, What does that mean.

  58. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 14, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    In defense AnneIvy and systematics, doesn’t some kind of hermeneutical spiral occur in trying to get the story straight?

    I mean, it’s not like I can say:

    Paul: “Christ is the Savior of all, especially for those who believe”
    Me: “What does that mean in isolation from the rest of the passage, the book, the Bible?”

    And once I start to try to understand it in light of the rest of the Bible — POOF — I’m doing systematics.

    I don’t see another viable approach, really. Do you?

    Jeff Cagle

  59. Andrew Webb said,

    December 14, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    A quick note: FV Proponent and PCA Pastor Mark Horne has responded to this post on his blog:

    Apparently, some people are worried about the tractarians/ Puseyites/ Oxford movement even though that Anglican phenomenon is long gone. At least, in the case of this nineteenth-century movement, we have a real heterodox error to deal with, unlike the halucinatory rabidness against Reformed pastors who are persecuted under the label of the so-called “Federal Vision.” Unlike the “FV,” the participants in the Anglican movement of the nineteenth century actually rejected the Reformation, ultimately, and threw away justification by faith alone. I suspect some self-made defenders of orthodoxy wish it were still around to fight. But, as I said, it is long gone.

    I hope Mark won’t mind being corrected by a rabid hallucinator, but I was actually born in England and know several real-life Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican church who attend actual Anglo-Catholic churches there. For instance, St. Mary Magdalene in Oxford proudly commemorates its continuing connection to the Oxford Movement. Mark may even have met Jeff Steele, his fellow former PCA FVer who has since gone on to become Father Jeff Steele in the Anglo-Catholic church. True, the Anglo-Catholic tradition has considerably diminished since the hey-days of Pusey and Newman, but what Mark has failed to note is that this is because many of them followed Newman into the Roman Catholic Church, and most of the rest of the congregations eventually embraced liberalism, like all the other churches that embraced Nominalism and Ritualism in the 19th century. That’s one heartening thing about the FV incidentally – while its a headache for us, at least it won’t be for our grandchildren.

    Anyway, apparently Mark missed Ryle’s point, he didn’t say that there are currently the Anglo-Catholics and the orthodox, he made the point that I was trying to make namely that There are TWO SYSTEMS opposed to one another:

    “(SYSTEM 1:) According to one system, religion is a mere corporate business. You are to belong to a certain body of people. By virtue of your membership of this body, vast privileges, both for time and eternity, are conferred upon you. It matters little what you are and what you feel. You are not to try yourself by your feelings. You are a member of a great ecclesiastical corporation. Then all its privileges and immunities are your own. Do you belong to the one true visible ecclesiastical corporation? That is the grand question.

    (SYSTEM 2:) According to the other system, religion is eminently a personal business between yourself and Christ. It will not save your soul to be an outward member of any ecclesiastical body whatever, however sound that body may be. Such membership will not wash away one sin, or give you confidence in the day of judgment. There must be personal faith in Christ, personal dealings between yourself and God, personal felt communion between your own heart and the Holy Spirit. Have you this personal faith? Have you this felt work of the Spirit in your soul? This is the grand question. If not you will be lost.”
    Anglo-Catholicism is just one permutation of System 1, the FV is another. They have been arguing strongly for all the distinctives of this system here and elsewhere for years and it is why they have few problems moving from one example of system 1 (the FV) to any other (Anglo Catholicism, Roman Catholicism, etc.) Hodge for instance declared that the baneful influence of system 1 was the cause of the decline of the church following the Apostolic era: “During the apostolic age, and in the apostolic form of religion, truth stood immeasurably above external rites. The apostasy of the church consisted in making rites more important than truth.” Obviously the decline Hodge speaks of occurred years before the Oxford movement. Any time ritual and membership trumps the preaching of the word, personal conversion and heart religion you have the same decline and apostasy going on regardless of the current moniker it carries. As for throwing away the Reformation and rejecting Sola Fide yes the Anglo-Catholics did that openly, but I can think of three DENOMINATIONAL REPORTS that conclude the FV does that while maintaining it doesn’t.

    Incidentally, was the book Mark contributed to called “The So-Called Federal Vision?” The copy I was given just says THE FEDERAL VISION in big proud letters on the front. Anyone else tired of “we are a movement” “we aren’t a movement” “we are the Westminster Confession”, “we aren’t the Westminster Confession we are better because we scriptural where it isn’t”?

    The statements change more often than the weather, do I have to give a catalog? As for as the final quip about “wishing it was around to fight”, it is, but I don’t go looking for a fight with men in the Anglican church or other Communions generally. You don’t see me out looking for fights with any other group over minor matters, but when it comes to the essentials being denied and system one being spread in my own denomination (and both the PCA and OPC reports say this is what the FV is doing AND I DIDN’T WRITE THOSE REPORTS) not to fight for the truth would be sinful. For that matter it wasnt the industrious spreading of the “Experimental Calvinist Vision”via books and conferences that got this whole ball of wax rolling. I just want to get done with this and get on with being a Pastor which is my first love.

    The whole post just points to the fact that there is no way Mark and I can coexist in the same communion and the PCA GA has essentially done the arbitrating on who should leave. Had their report said the FV was orthodox, or had the PCA not adopted a report condemning the FV, I would have left. System 1 and System 2 cannot operate side by side in the same denomination without truth falling by the wayside.

  60. Patrick Poole said,

    December 14, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    To Jeff, Matt, Sam, et al.,

    I think it’s a simple question I’m getting at regarding the “One cannot have God for a father who does not have the church for a mother” quote from Cyprian and Calvin’s later use of the same: are they talking about the same thing when they use “the church”?

    If your respective points have been to merely point out that Calvin repeated the phrase, but making no equation in meaning between the two, then bully for you. You win. But if your claim is that Calvin bought into Cyprian’s definition of “the Church” by using that phrase, you’re clearly wrong, as the quote from Institutes I noted previously (#50) is explicitly clear on. When using “the church”, Calvin himself says that he has more in mind than just the visible church. Jeff admits (#56) that Cyprian would howl at Calvin’s use and understanding of Cyprian’s own words. Read the 4.1.2 quote again. It really isn’t that complicated.

    Anyone trying to use Cyprian’s phrase and Calvin’s repetition of it to claim that they mean the same thing, ergo that the RCC definition of “the Church” and the Reformers understanding of “the church” are identical, is on a fool’s errand.

    No, Matt, I don’t think any use of it is “all Roman”. If you agree with Calvin (which I would) that the church is broader than the confines of the visible church, that clearly is Reformed.

    But I took Sam to mean (who I was originally responding to) that he was using it in Cyprian’s sense of being limited exclusively to the “institutional” church, which is “all Roman”, and contrary to the Reformation teaching. Westminster (WCF XXV, 2) also uses a very different definition of the “visible church”, one that would also make Cyprian howl. It might also make Sam howl for its “pietism”.

  61. Gabe Martini said,

    December 14, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    In response to Andy in regards to Puseyism, Oxford Movement, etc., Allow me to share with you some quotes from one of my personal heroes of the faith, Philip Schaff:

    “As to Romanism, so to Puseyism also, there is wanting the true idea of development altogether. It regards the church as a system handed down under a given and complete form, that must remain perpetually the same. It confounds with Christianity itself, which we may never and can never transcend, and which is always equally perfect, the measure of its apprehension on the part of mankind, or its appropriation into the consciousness of the church, which like the life of the spirit universally, from first to last, has the character of a genesis or process, and passes through different stages of growth.”

    “Puseyism then looks backward; we look forward. It tends toward Rome, and is there in spirit already, even though it should never outwardly complete the transition.”

    “This is a second point on which we differ from them [Puseyites]; and where we come into collision also with the stiff confessionists … they will not allow the development of the church to extend beyond this point. Whatever progress may have had place before, all must be considered complete with the orthodoxy of the sixteenth century … they make Lutheranism to be the same thing with the ideal or absolute church itself, and fall thus into an error as bad as that of Rome, to whose view all that lies beyond its own borders is but damnable heresy and schism.”

    I think Schaff would say the TR’s, not the FV, are on the road to Rome. The TR’s or strict-confessionists, would be compared to Rome, not the FV. This is ironic, considering how much the FV is told that it is “on the road to Rome” or compared to Puseyism or the Oxford Movement — two movements which had as their essential presupposition the opposite mind and spirit that the Federal Vision has portrayed; that is, one of progress in thought and a greater apprehension of the Truth of Christianity.

    Peace,
    Gabe M

  62. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    Read Calvin’s reply to Sadoleto to see how Calvin viewed the Church in contra-distinction to Roman Catholicism.

    Calvin was a Protestant. He was in the presence of the visible church when he was evangelized by Protestants at the time of his effectual calling and regeneration.

    Did I need to say Calvin was a Protestant? Yes, because we are in the presence of FVers… (I actually think they, somewhere deep in their psyche, consider Calvin to be a Roman Catholic. I actually see that in them…)

  63. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    >I think Schaff would say the TR’s, not the FV, are on the road to Rome.

    Well that settles it.

    Gabe, not all appeals to authority are identical. Some appeal to the authority of the word of man. Some appeal to the authority of the Word of God.

    If you and the FV consider the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity to not represent the authority of the Word of God then move on, by all means. Go, go! Be free!

  64. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    >If you and the FV consider the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity to not represent the authority of the Word of God then move on, by all means. Go, go! Be free!

    Do you consider them to represent the authority of the Word of God?

  65. Mark T. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    I that the point Mark fails to understand is hidden in this quote:

    Unlike the “FV,” the participants in the Anglican movement of the nineteenth century actually rejected the Reformation, ultimately, and threw away justification by faith alone.

    The difference here is that the Tractarians overtly rejected the Reformation whereas the Federal Visionists covertly reject the Reformation.

    Well, there is one other difference. The Puseyites (great word) were honest enough to admit their convictions without tampering with the English language and accusing everyone else of misunderstanding them.

  66. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    Actually that sounds like the same difference. If it were true…

  67. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    >Do you consider them to represent the authority of the Word of God?

    David Gray, did you go to the library yet and find out that the Westminster Confession of Faith is not, in fact, an “Anglican document”?

    And yes I do consider the WCF (I’m more familiar with the Westminster Standards because of the covenant theology contained therein) to represent what the Bible calls ‘sound doctrine.’ Even on baptism, because the WS are careful to guard against baptismal regeneration.

    Have you made any headway on the Moscow Declaration?

  68. Gabe Martini said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Robert, I consider the Word of God to represent the authority of the Word of God.

    I think the Confessions are helpful and *necessary* tools the Church can use at certain times to show catholicity of belief.

    The Westminster Assembly was an ecumenical Reformed assembly, and its documents represent CONSENSUS beliefs, not “this is the only way you can say this” beliefs. This is an historical fact. The Standards were written in such a way to allow both low-church Presbyterians and high-church Presbyterians to subscribe to the same document (something, by way of emphasis, Calvin refused to EVER do… he wouldn’t even subscribe to the Apostle’s Creed). There was quite a variety of attendees and contributors to the Assembly, and others that would’ve made it even more interesting had they shown up (who were invited). You know, Anglicans and stuff.

    There is a special place in my heart for the WCF, and I agree with most of what it says. However, given the progress of theological thought, as well as language, it would be insane for us to continue on another century without a revision of at least its language, if not also some of its content itself. For example, Sabbath regulations that EVERYONE takes an exception to at Presbytery.

    Peace,
    Gabe

  69. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    >Have you made any headway on the Moscow Declaration?

    Weird question.

  70. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    The more losses the FVists rack up the more they divulge their charming character…

  71. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Robert, how about a deal. You don’t call me an FVist and I won’t call you an Arminian. That way we’d both be accurate, honest and less annoying. Deal?

  72. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    >Robert, I consider the Word of God to represent the authority of the Word of God.

    Ahh… So it’s the authority of the Word of God that says the non-elect are saved ‘in some sense’… I see…

  73. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    >Robert, how about a deal. You don’t call me an FVist

    What are you, in the context of these discussions?

  74. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    >What are you, in the context of these discussions?

    A Presbyterian.

    A Presbyterian who thinks people who are FV have some good points to make and some may prove to require admonishment in areas. But if that admonishment is required it ought be done in a squeaky clean fashion and with regret, not with glee. It should also be done without overblown rhetoric or foolish talk impugning motives which can’t be read or demonstrated. Isn’t it enough to point out a man’s error, if such it be, without feeling the need to slip a knee into his groin? I think so, and if done in the right spirit and with the right fear of the Lord both sides may be the better for it when done. At least that is what we should pray for.

  75. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    Well, consider that the FVists have demonstrated a rather gleeful petulance regarding their being teachable or their respecting any of the decisions or documents handed down thus far (high churchmen though they claim to be). We are not in the same stage when their errors have been, with great diligence, elucidated and confronted. We are in a later stage now. Frankly at this point they don’t deserve the time of day. It’s all repetition now. Vain repetition. They have been reduced to engaging in nothing but what can accurately be called troll activity. They’ll die out, eventually. As Theonomists (their most recent incarnation) they caused trouble for a season then eventually went away. They’ll no doubt return in different dress in the future. Probably near future. And the watchmen will be waiting for their slightest movement out there in the darkness and the tall grass and caves…

  76. markhorne said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    Andy, I parted ways with Jeff a long time ago–admittedly without animosity, but he was long gone from the PCA before I learned of any differences he had with the constitution. As far as the title “father,” is concerned, I consider that a matter of convention, capable of both good use and abuse. It is not a convention I want or am comfortable with, but I’m not going to condemn people for it, by itself.

    But, if you are going to make connections, Jeff left CTS in the middle of his time (perhaps even in the middle of a semester, though I might be misremembering) because it wasn’t Reformed enough in his eyes. So he went to RTS Jackson to get the real thing from Lig Duncan. Guilt by association is a fun game, precisely because it allows for such creative reasoning.

    Beyond that, I’ll simply state that I agree with the Westminster Confessions and Catechisms especially on issues such as faith, baptism, justification, covenant conditionalism, and imputation. And this is not a private opinion but an ecclesiastical fact as well. On the other hand, I never took vows to abide by the opinions of Ryle. So it doesn’t matter to me what he said.

  77. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Robert, the PCA has declared these men your brothers in Christ. Consider that when you write such words.

  78. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    >Robert, the PCA has declared these men your brothers in Christ. Consider that when you write such words.

    They also see fundamentalist baptists as brothers in Christ. The brothers in Christ is not a synonym for ‘holding to Westminsterian doctrine’.

    And when that document FIRST came out (I mean within seconds of its availability) I wrote (where people were commenting most at that time) that that exact phrase would be used by the FVists – seized on immediately – to imply they have been absolved. FVists are game-players. They don’t care about truth. They want to fool people. Engage in sophistry. “Oh, looky here, they done called us brothers in Christ…oops! their mistake, eh? ha ha ha…”

  79. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    >The brothers in Christ is not a synonym for ‘holding to Westminsterian doctrine’.

    No, which is why we can apply it to Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, etc. as well.

  80. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    >They want to fool people.

    Robert, you don’t KNOW that. You may suspect it. Theoretically you could be right. But you don’t KNOW it. Ponder that before you say it again.

  81. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    Mark Horne, your picture makes you look really young. But you say you just turned 40. Do I see an analogy here…?

  82. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    >No, which is why we can apply it to Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, etc. as well.

    The big difference, though, David Gray (I keep repeating your last name because there are many Davids here) is fundamentalist baptists and Lutherans and Methodists, etc., aren’t pretending to hold to the Westminster Standards. They aren’t wolves in sheep’s clothing. They aren’t wearing any uniform of an army they don’t belong to.

    >They want to fool people.

    Robert, you don’t KNOW that. You may suspect it. Theoretically you could be right. But you don’t KNOW it. Ponder that before you say it again.

    Yes, I do know it. When people adopt a conscienceless use of language and speak out of both sides of their mouth as repeatedly as Federal Vision people do they are trying to fool people. They know God’s elect can see them at work, but their prey is the innocents out there and the individuals still ignorant of Reformed Theology. They want to grab them, hold him in the illusions and darkness, and bondage of their communions of death, because they think by doing this they can defeat God. Rebellion to God and sin are irrational to the core. They actually think they can defeat Gods plan of redemption. Just as the devil actually thought he could tempt Jesus in the desert. But they can only play for time. They can annoy God’s plan, but they can’t defeat God’s plan.

  83. David Gray said,

    December 14, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    >They actually think they can defeat Gods plan of redemption.

    You think FV advocates believe they can defeat God’s plan of redemption?

  84. markhorne said,

    December 14, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    “According to one system, religion is a mere corporate business. You are to belong to a certain body of people. By virtue of your membership of this body, vast privileges, both for time and eternity, are conferred upon you. It matters little what you are and what you feel. ”

    I should ask, did the Puseyites believe anything so monstrous? Did they really think hypocrites and unbelievers would be saved in the Church?

    I don’t think so. If this form of religion is so awful, then why shouldn’t it appear awful enough when portrayed accurately? Why the purposeful misrepresentation?

    According to the Westminster Catechisms, being involved in externals, making “diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation” is required for eternal salvation. Can anyone doubt reading the comments on this post that many are insisting that the Westminster set of conditions are on the Puseyite side?

    Is that the actual position of this blog? I don’t think so. Yet that seems to be the overwhelming “anti-FV” consensus in the comments. And it gets a free pass, as far as I can see.

  85. Scott Bauer said,

    December 14, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Matt B. (#54) (Epistemic Issue)

    Matt B. wrote [in part] in response to Patrick:

    No one I’ve read (and I haven’t read everything, by any means) has denied the existence of the so-called invisible church. The issue is one of perspective. No one doubts that such a body of saints exists; the question is an epistemic one: how would you identify them as such? So, in space and time, all we have is the Church (visible). [emphasis added]

    Matt, are you suggesting that the FV “Visible-Invisible Christian Distinction” exists because a *real* institutional church, unlike a *real* Christian can be identified a priori?

    Personally Matt, I am on at least equal footing identifying a *real* Christian brother/sister as I am a *real* Christian church.

    One is often in a much better epistemic position to observe the evidence of Christ’s presence in a real person than an abstract institution.

    What identity criteria are FV proponents applying to define a *visible Church*? What observables constitute their data?

    Good teaching and deeds? Aren’t these the same fruit one would inspect to identify a *real* Christian or authentic prophet? Why not a *real* Church?
    Scott

  86. Robert K. said,

    December 14, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    >”According to the Westminster Catechisms, being involved in externals, making “diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation” is required for eternal salvation.”

    WLC 71 – “God…requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith…”

    ‘Effectual means of salvation” does not refer to “required for eternal salvation”, ***SNIP***

    Edited to remove inappropriate comment.

  87. December 14, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Robert K.,

    Please refrain from imputing motives to people and making comments about netting slaves for the Kingdom of Death or its leader. We all feel strongly about these issues, but let’s stick to the theology. Comments about someone’s picture and age add nothing to the discussion. I already warned you on another thread, but I’m repeating it here in case you missed it. Thank you.

  88. Kyle said,

    December 14, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    Re: 61,

    In response to Andy in regards to Puseyism, Oxford Movement, etc., Allow me to share with you some quotes from one of my personal heroes of the faith, Philip Schaff:

    Does anyone else find it ironic that Gabe here cites Philip Schaff, a master of Mercersburg?

  89. Grover Gunn said,

    December 15, 2007 at 12:43 am

    GWL Johnson in #35 mentioned that, like the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity are not friendly to the FV. Last week when I had some time in an airport, I read through the three documents. I took special note of the following “rejection of error” (paragraph 7) in chapter 5 of the Canons of Dort:

    “Who teach: That the faith of those who believe for a time does not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in duration.”

    Grover Gunn

  90. Robert K. said,

    December 15, 2007 at 1:03 am

    The Canons of Dordt

    Concerning the Teaching of the Perseverance of the Saints

    Having set forth the orthodox teaching, the Synod rejects the errors of those

    Who teach that the faith of those who believe only temporarily does not differ from justifying and saving faith except in duration alone.

    For Christ himself in Matthew 13:20ff. and Luke 8:13ff. clearly defines these further differences between temporary and true believers: he says that the former receive the seed on rocky ground, and the latter receive it in good ground, or a good heart; the former have no root, and the latter are firmly rooted; the former have no fruit, and the latter produce fruit in varying measure, with steadfastness, or perseverance.

  91. markhorne said,

    December 15, 2007 at 1:37 am

    Grover Gunn,

    Steve Wilkins (and many others, including myself) have explicitly denied that the difference between saving and non-saving faith is merely duration.

    So, if you have someone in mind, let’s step up and make an accusation rather than just smearing a group without cause.

  92. markhorne said,

    December 15, 2007 at 1:41 am

    #91

    Totally too inflammatory. Sorry.

    But I do think that is the effect of claiming this is relevant to “FV” or anything else in general. I think it would be good to make this specific.

    On the duration, issue, I do think it is worth pointing out that this was directed at people who denied monergism and denied unconditional election. Even though I don’t believe the position, I don’t think the error would be rise to the level of “heresy” in someone who confessed both monergism and unconditional election.

    Again, I apologize for any indication in my comment that you were deliberately smearing anyone. I meant to point out the effects, not any intentions on your part.

    Mark

  93. markhorne said,

    December 15, 2007 at 1:46 am

    #86

    Q. 153. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law?
    A. That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.

    Q. 154. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?
    A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.

    ———————-

    So the requirements are for escaping God’s wrath on our transgression of the law.

    Since true faith is the only justifying faith, and true faith produces repentance and the diligence mentioned, there is no contradiction in the Standards.

    So we agree! :)

    Cool.

  94. GLW Johnson said,

    December 15, 2007 at 7:01 am

    Kyle
    I also took note of Gabe’s comment (#61). If you take time to read my chapter , ” Warfield and C.A. Briggs: Their Polemics and Legacy” in the book I edited for P&R earlier this year ( ‘B.B.Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought’) I cite in a footnote on p.221 Warfield’s assessment of Schaff. He wrote, “We have all long known that Dr.Schaff was no Calvinist. He represents himself as an adherent of the ‘Evangelical Union Theology’-or ‘the Mediating Theology’-which he thinks occupies a position so much above that of Lutherianism and Calvinism, and even of Rationalism and Supranaturaturalism, that they are reconciled in it. The only Calvinism for which he felt sympathy was that which he describes as ‘moderate or progressive’, telling us that it ‘omits or softens the five knotty points of Dord’-i.e.,of course, has ceased to be Calvinism at all. Calvinists, it seems, what calls itself-in some sense at least, Calvinistic; and a ‘moderate or progressive’ party,which rejects every distinguishing doctrine which characterized ecumenical Calvinism!” Warfield defines the distinquishing features of this ‘Mediating Theology’ in his article on ‘Frederic Godet The Commentator’ (in ‘Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield’ I,P&R,1970) where he again specifically mentions Schaff. Now I am well aware that citing Warfield will do little, if anything, to impress the folks who are pro FV since the leading figures in the FV are on record accusing Old Princeton in general and BB Warfield in particular of ‘refried gnosticism’ but, for the rest of us ‘TRs’, BBW’s opinion carries a little clout.

  95. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 15, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Mark, Grover, Robert (#89-92):

    It’s worth noting that Xon has tentatively put forward the idea that the difference between saving and non-saving work of the Holy Spirit is merely duration.

    Further, the insistence of Wilkins on reading Ephesians 1 as a description of “covenantal salvation” leads one easily to believe that all of the things that we normally associate with saving faith could actually be lost, in his system.

    This is not a call to pitchforks, mind, but I’m just noting that those who read the FV in that way are not entirely without cause.

    See discussions: here and here.

    Jeff Cagle

  96. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 15, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Well, and just a further point: Schaff willingly agreed to be counsel for the defense at Brigg’s heresy trial. Which doesn’t mean that he necessarily agreed with Briggs — except that in this case, he pretty much thought Briggs was closer than the “Fundamentalists” (meaning Machen and the incipient OPC), whom he held in low regard.

  97. Andrew Webb said,

    December 15, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Hello Gary,

    Thanks much for that quote. There used to be a time when I would have been amazed that anyone would cite as their “hero” one of the men who destroyed the RCUS, eliminated confessional subscription, moved them from Reformed worship to Anglo-Catholic liturgy, caused the formation of a new seminary (Ursinus) to avoid the errors he had introduced into Mercersburg (a situation almost exactly akin to the formation of Westminster to avoid Charles Erdman’s restructured Princeton) and promoted an eccumenism that eventually resulted in the UCC. Some hero. Of course while the changes that Schaff introduced promoted liberalism, humanism, and unbelief then, Schaff’s agenda will save the Reformed world from the baneful influence of evangelicalism today.

    Anyway it doesn’t surprise me anymore, there are no boundaries and no historical lessons in the FV. They just adopt whatever they like regardless of what it has produced in the past. When people object they become “TRs” (which when applied to the men on the SJC should be the joke of the century) and holding back new light as though the Reformed world hasn’t been dealing with the texts of scripture they appeal to as “new discoveries that have to be dealt with” for centuries. The fact that so many seminary students and freshly minted pastors are involved in the FV movement shouldn’t be a surprise either. Its amazing how in about the second year of seminary we all feel we know everything, and then the humbling process of pastoral ministry should begin to teach us how little we actually know.

  98. Andy Gilman said,

    December 15, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Mark Horne said:

    “Steve Wilkins (and many others, including myself) have explicitly denied that the difference between saving and non-saving faith is merely duration.”

    Yes, this is where the FV advocates give in one hand what they take away with the other. We have been pleading with the FV advocates to define the difference between the so-called ECM’s and NECM’s, in terms other than duration, and they simply cannot do it. They offer us “teleological ontology” in hopes that we will just walk away scratching our heads and marveling at their profundity, but in truth, they contradict the Standards and they attribute to the “NECM’s” the identical graces which the Standards reserve to the “ECM’s.” When we point that out, they begin their carefully choreographed, “but we mean ‘union,’ ‘justification,’ ‘clothed with Christ,’ all in a different sense,” dance, and pirouette around the stage a few more times.

  99. Grover Gunn said,

    December 15, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    As I said in #89, when I recently read the Canons of Dort, I took special note of the following “rejection of error” (paragraph 7) in chapter 5:

    “Who teach: That the faith of those who believe for a time does not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in duration.”

    I think Doug Wilson is on to something when he makes this speculation:

    “Perhaps some other FV guys might differ with some aspects of this, but I agree completely that the grace experienced by the apostate and the persevering grace experienced by the elect differ, and that they differ in the hearts of those concerned.” (The Knox Colliquium, 226)

    I believe that some FV guys have given us ample reason to think that they might indeed disagree with Doug Wilson on this point. Some FV guys have gone on to say that they believe that the salvation experienced by the decretively elect differs not only in duration but also in final outcome and in the unspecified quality which results in the final outcome. In spite of this explanation, which I regard as more semantics than substance, I still think that Doug Wilson is on to something.

    Grover Gunn

  100. Robert K. said,

    December 15, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Who cares what Wilson ever says. He’s the CAIR spokesman. If one of his ‘guys’ cuts the head off of an infidel in the Mall of America he’ll distance himself from such behaviour without condemning it, then turn the tables and blame American society for the whole thing.

  101. Robert K. said,

    December 15, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    For moderators concerned about my language above — it is an analogy, used before, and very accurate to describe Doug Wilson’s role for Federal Vision.

  102. David Gray said,

    December 15, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    >Who cares what Wilson ever says.

    Most reasonable people, even if they do disagree with him.

  103. Robert K. said,

    December 15, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    If you quote me like that quote the entire thought please. Don’t treat me like the FVists treat John Calvin. At least treat me better than that dog.

  104. Robert K. said,

    December 15, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    In an earlier thread I said that for me Reformed Theology has authority because it says what the Bible says. A Federal Visionist quoted me as saying “Reformed Theology has authority.” End of thought. FVists are charming types…

  105. David Gray said,

    December 15, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    >If you quote me like that quote the entire thought please.

    I was doing you a favour by not repeating the comparison with mouthpieces for Islamofascism.

  106. Grover Gunn said,

    December 15, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    #100

    I was responding to Mark Horne, and I assume he cares.

    Anyone who is truly apathetic about what Doug Wilson says would not comment when he is quoted.

    Grover

  107. Robert K. said,

    December 16, 2007 at 12:50 am

    All of this FV nonsense is the same as this: when did Keith Olbermann, a guy who wrote a book on baseball cards, decide he was capable of dictating to the United States what its military policy must be and how its political leaders must act, not to mention his mental disability level of self-righteousness regarding it all? In other words, when did it become a thing for individuals who really have no interest in something, no competence, no knowledge, no experience, no calling, no understanding, to make themselves the standard regarding that subject and the standard for everybody else? It’s a shamelessness that can only be explained using end times language (and of course we’ve been in the end times since the ascension of our Saviour). It also requires the dumbing down of a culture, like for instance the fact that Al Franken has a Harvard degree. My guess is what he had to pass to get it was 8th grade level standards maybe even one generation prior.

  108. GLW Johnson said,

    December 16, 2007 at 6:50 am

    Jeff #96
    Your reference to Schaff’s attitude toward Machen and the Fundamentalists is terribily anachronistic. Schaff died when Machen was only 13 years old! This was 9 years before Machen entered Princeton seminary in 1902 and almost two decades before the famous ‘Fundamentals’ were issued in 1910! Schaff served along side of Briggs at Union from 1874 until 1893 and Schaff, by Briggs own admission, influenced his view of the sacraments along line very similar to the Mercersburg school but became even more ‘high church ‘ towards the end of his life. Like Schaff, Briggs was pro-active in seeking to bring about a merger of Protestantism with Roman Catholicism and had a very truncated doctrine of justification. The similarities between Briggs and the FV are spelled out in my chapter in the Warfield book that I previously referenced.

  109. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 16, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Your reference to Schaff’s attitude toward Machen and the Fundamentalists is terribily anachronistic. Schaff died when Machen was only 13 years old!

    *blush* My mistake. I misremembered something read a while ago.

    Jeff Cagle

  110. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 16, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Ah. Here’s the skinny on Schaff.

    GLW, what was the relationship of Schaff to Old Princeton? It seems like Hodge was not entirely opposed to him.

    Jeff Cagle

  111. December 16, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    Jeff (#110):

    Do consider the source on that article. On page “7” it indicates “COPYRIGHT 1995 World Council of Churches.” You would expect it therefore to reflect their viewpoint and agenda, and so it should be weighed carefully.

    I can’t speak to Hodge’s view of Schaff, but J.J. Janeway was clearly opposed to the views of both Schaff and Nevin. Janeway was a close friend of Samuel Miller and was a pastor in Philadelphia, initially serving under Ashbel Green.

    He wrote several pieces later in life in reply to Schaff and Nevin:
    1852
    A contrast, between the erroneous assertions of Professor Schaf, and the testimony of credible ecclesiastical historians, in regard to the state of the Christian church in the Middle Ages (New-Brunswick, N.J.: Press of J. Terhune & Son, 1852), 37pp.

    1854
    Antidote to the poison of popery. In the publications of Professor Schaff. First in his essay and then in his history. (New-Brunswick, N.J., Press of J. Terhune and Son, 1854), 50pp.

    1856 – Antidote to the poison of popery in the writings and conduct of Professors Nevin & Schaff, professors in the German Reformed Church in the U.S. of America (New-Brunswick, N.J. : J. Terhune, 1856), 335pp. [An expansion of the arguments presented in the two previously published pamphlets.]

    Blessings,
    Wayne Sparkman
    PCA Historical Center

  112. Travis said,

    December 17, 2007 at 7:06 am

    emphasizing reliance on membership in the corporate church, ritual, and sacraments rather than personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ are nothing particularly new.

    Who denies faith? Bueller? Frye? Lusk? Leithart? Anyone? Cummon, guys. It’s all about faith these days. Whatta need? A refresher course?

    Really. Come, now.

  113. Travis said,

    December 17, 2007 at 7:18 am

    #3
    I think Robert is violating the rules of the site. Steeeeeeerike!!

    Puhleeze. Let’s both kneel together Robert. I for my sins and you for yours. Anyway, my plank is bigger than yours. So, I’ve been forgiven more, etc.

  114. Travis said,

    December 17, 2007 at 7:19 am

    #112
    *whattaya

  115. GLW Johnson said,

    December 17, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Jeff
    An honest lapse of memory mistake- I have made them myself, more time than I care to remember.It is interesting to note that Hodge and Schaff maintained a cordial relationship,despite their theological incongruities, throughout their careers. One significant way this was exemplifed occurred at the international meeting of the Evangelical Alliance in New York in 1873 ( just a few years before Hodge’s death in 1878). Schaff served as the acting corresponding secretary and was deputized by the Alliance in the U.S. in 1868 to travel abroad to extend personal invitations to dozens of leading figures who were in sympathy with the goals of the Alliance ( altogether 26 countries sent delegates, including Britain, Germany,France ,Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Hungary, even Turkey and India ). Schaff also co-edited with S.I. Prime the collected papers which were later published as ‘History, Essays, Oration, and other Documents of the Sixth General Conference of the Evangelical Alliance Held in New York, Oct.2-12,1873′ (Harper & Row,1874). This runs almost 800 pages! Hodge not only gave a plenary paper on Oct 4, entitled ‘The Unity of the Church Based on Personal Union with Christ’ ( by the way, contra those in the FV who posit the notion that NECM are ,by virtue of their baptism ,brought into a temporay ‘union with Christ’, Hodge declares that when the Bible speaks of this ‘mystical union’, “It is a vital, permanent and everlasting bond of connection between Christ and His people one with another’. He goes on to say that there is ‘no doctrine of the Bible more clearly ,frequently, or variously taught than this,” p.139)- but he opened the proceedings in prayer. Of paricular inerest-given Schaff’s own strong ecumenical leanings , were the papers given on Oct.8 under the heading ‘Romanism and Protestantism’. There are ten articles but the one that bears directly on the subject that swirls around the FV, was that of George David Cummins, ‘Romanism And Reformed Doctrines of Justification Contrasted’. Cummins affirms that the two doctrine are as different as night and day, particularly the erronous Romanist notion that good works factor into justification. . Cummins, as some of you may know, was the first bishop of the Reformed Episcopal Church.

  116. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 17, 2007 at 9:47 am

    Did not know that he was the first, but have attended services a couple of times at Bishop Cummins REC in Catonsville, MD.

  117. greenbaggins said,

    December 17, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Andy, regarding post 20, I don’t even bother anymore to read all the comments in detail. I can’t even keep up on my own blog! I do a fair bit of skimming, and read the authors I want to read.


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