Grace Not as Amazing as Once Thought or “I once was Lost, then I was Found, But Now I’m Lost Forever”

Posted By Andrew Webb

In a recent reply to me entitled “The Demands of the System” Doug Wilson once again shows the FV tendency to attempt to set the Reformed Confessions against scripture, alleging that those opposed to the ever-developing Federal Vision theology use them as a “Procrustean bed for Bible verses” where “Verses are stretched or lopped off in order to fit their idea of the system.

He then produces bible verses he believes prove that I and my crusty old confessions are wrong and that some reprobates are genuinely united to Christ and saved “in some sense” and then later cut off. Presumably Wilson believes that I, and the Confessions, were unaware of these verses or that I simply chose to “chop them off” in order to make them fit my preconceived notions about salvation. I want to assure Pastor Wilson that both I and the men who composed the Reformed Confessions I was referring to had encountered those verses before. In fact, I’ve even had them produced triumphantly to prove that I am wrong to believe that all who are genuinely united to Christ and Justified will persevere in the faith. The only difference being that in the past the people producing them to prove that the “perseverance of the saints” was baloney did not for a moment claim to be Reformed, they were either Arminians or Roman Catholics (not that Arminians have never claimed to be Reformed, Arminius did not call himself an Arminian, he called himself Reformed, and he pastored Reformed churches and taught in a Reformed seminary.) I should be grateful to Pastor Wilson in that he didn’t produce other verses I’m used to seeing like Ezekiel 18:24-29 and Hebrews 6:4-6.

In any event, because Wilson isn’t impressed with Reformed Confessions which are supposed to express the agreement of Reformed believers regarding the teaching of scripture, nor is he impressed much with what Reformed theologians like Calvin and Owen have to say about the verses he brings out, I’m forced to go the same route one does when defending the the teaching of the scriptures to those outside the Reformed faith, i.e. a re-exegeting and explanation of the scriptures. I don’t mind doing that even though I don’t really have the time because I love the Word of God, but the sad fact is that nothing is likely to be gained from this, as I have no doubt Wilson will be no more likely to agree with my exegesis of the main scripture he refers to (John 15:1-2, 6) than that of Owen, Calvin, or the Westminster divines. Incidentally, I didn’t originally come to the conclusion that those truly united to Christ persevere from reading the Westminster Confession or from Calvin, I got it from reading the bible where I rejoiced in the assurance given by scriptures like Romans 8:29-39, John 10:27-30, and Phil. 1:6 For that matter I wasn’t raised in the Reformed faith, or the church at all, nor was I nurtured under the teachings of the Confession, but can honestly answer that although it was Sproul who first pointed out to me that what I was coming to believe about the teaching of the bible was Reformed, like Whitefield I got my Calvinism not from Calvin but from the Bible.

JOHN 15:1-6

This parable gives us the last of Christ’s many “I am” statements which include “the bread of life”, “the light of the world”, “the door”, “the good shepherd”, “the resurrection and the life”, “the way the truth and the life,” and finally here “the true vine.” Not to be forgotten in this list however, is Christ’s definitive statement from John 8:58 that He is the I AM (ego eimi), a clear statement of His Divinity hearkening back to God’s self-revelation of Himself to Moses in Exodus 3. Each of these statements couples Christ’s declaration of His divinity with a great truth about Himself and His mission. There is always a great danger of forgetting, however, that these statements are allegories and usually couched in parables, so in interpreting them we must ever keep his central point in view and not try to squeeze teachings out of the lesser details that Christ did not intend and which would contradict His teachings elsewhere. The great rule we must always apply is that scripture interprets scripture, and where a doctrine is uncertain in one portion of scripture, we should go to other areas where it that doctrine is more clearly taught on. Above all, we should strive not to atomistically interpret a verse so that it contradicts other clearer verses.

In these verses Christ declares that He is the True Vine, the emphasis on “true” almost certainly pointing us back to the fact that Israel in the Old Testament was frequently pictured as a Vine (Is. 5:1-7, etc.) and the father as the Vinedresser. A quick review of the vine texts in the OT however, reveals that the vine God planted and had hoped would be fruitful usually turned out to be faithless and fruitless, but now Christ the true Vine that Israel foreshadowed has come, and those truly in Him will never prove to be fruitless for they are vitally united to Him and He is the source of their fruitfulness. [Interestingly, the source of this union with Christ, is nowhere identified in the parable as baptism, rather if any explanation is to be had for its inauguration we would find it identified by Christ in verse 3 as being “because of the word which I have spoken to you.” And indeed in the gospel of John, union with Christ (being in Him) is always effected via regeneration (being born again from above) and faith, not baptism.] However, some of the branches in the parable are devoid of this power and therefore fruitless, there is no vital union between them and Christ, they are only externally in the vine but not part of it, they are “dead branches” that the Divine Vinedresser removes.

At this point, no doubt Pastor Wilson and the other FV men will insist that I cannot assert that these branches that were cut off never had a vital, or living union with Christ, because he says they were “in me.” After perusing no less than 12 Reformed commentaries on the passage dating from the 16th century to the 21st, I have found that they all essentially answer the objection by stating what should be obvious; namely that this is a parable, that it is clearly addressing the issue from the “man’s eye perspective,” that all true believers bear good fruit (John 15:16, Luke 6:43, etc.), that this would contradict clearer passages, and so on. But since it clearly isn’t obvious to Doug Wilson, I’ll go ahead and quote one of the many able commentators, D.A. Carson, on the subject:

“But the latter view, that these dead branches are apostate Christians, must confront the strong evidence within John that true disciples are preserved to the end (e.g. notes on 6:37-40; 10:28). It is more satisfactory to recognize that asking the in me language to settle such disputes is to push the vine imagery too far. The transparent purpose of the verse is to insist that there are no true Christians without some measure of fruit. Fruitfulness is an infallible mark of true Christianity; the alternative is dead wood, and the exigencies of the vine metaphor make it necessary that such wood be connected to the vine.”

[D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Eerdmans, 1991, p.515]

Now, while I was unable to find any Reformed commentators who agreed with Doug Wilson’s take on these verses, that is not to say that there aren’t any commentators who don’t agree with him. For instance, this commentator appears to track perfectly with Wilson’s exegesis:

“Every branch in Me, &c., i.e., every Christian who by faith and baptism has been as it were a vine-branch grafted into Me, if he bear not the fruit of good works, God the Father will take him away, i.e., will cut off from the Vine the unfruitful and worthless branch. This He does both by secretly severing him from the communication of the Spirit and grace of Christ, and also by publicly separating him from Christ by means of excommunication, or by permitting him to fall into heresy. And thus in death He separates him from the company of Christ and His saints.” – CORNELIUS À LAPIDE

Even Arminian commentators like Wesley, while agreeing that the branches were once truly united to Christ, do not point to the sacrament of baptism as the means by which they were truly united to Him. To find that kind of agreement one must go back to the Roman Catholic commentators.

Apart from being able to counter the notion that John 15:1-2, 6 teaches that those truly united to Christ and enjoying the benefits of his redemption may be cut off with verses like the much clearer John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” or John 10:27-29 one can also appeal to Christ’s own words from Matthew 7:23 to church members who although they did many works in his name never bore good fruits (and that would be precisely those branches that are cut off in the parable) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Is Pastor Wilson really ready to support the notion although they were supposedly “really united to Christ” and thus “His Sheep” via their baptism and membership in the church, they were none-the-less NEVER KNOWN BY HIM? What then do we make of John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”

I could go on to note all the problems inherent in assuming that those for whom Christ died might someday be lost, for as John Owen reminds us “No person, therefore, whatever, who hath not been made partaker of the washing of regeneration and the renovation of the Holy Ghost, can possibly have any union with Christ.” and how those united and cut off would have a right to cry out “For what are we condemned? Was not the blood of Christ that cleansed us sufficient to atone for all our sins?” But I’ll leave that for another post.

Instead, let me leave with a comment from a genuinely Reformed commentator on the subject of apostates who makes a simple point that anyone who understands and affirms the true nature of Union with Christ can probably immediately grasp:

“There are myriads of professing Christians in every Church whose union with Christ is only outward and formal. Some of them are joined to Christ by baptism and Church-membership. Some of them go even further than this, and are regular communicants and loud talkers about religion. But they all lack the one thing needful. Notwithstanding services, and sermons, and sacrament, they have no grace in their hearts, no faith, no inward work of the Holy Spirit. They are not one with Christ, and Christ in them. Their union with Him is only nominal, and not real. They have “a name to live,” but in the sight of God they are dead.” – J.C. Ryle

About these ads

271 Comments

  1. its.reed said,

    December 22, 2007 at 8:23 am

    Andy:

    A simple thanks. This kind of comprehensive response serves both sides of the debate well.

    I look forward to hearing responses from FV advocates, as they will necessarily need to focus and clarify their arguments. I admit the possibility this won’t happen, but I hope for better.

  2. Mark T. said,

    December 22, 2007 at 10:17 am

    The original pretext for the Federal Vision was assurance. Dr. Beisner put it this way in his Introduction to Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros and Cons: “One of the Federal Visionists’ driving motivations is clearly to give badly needed comfort and assurance to Christians plagued by unnecessary fears about their salvation.”

    Now, however, we see the so-called champions of assurance touting the Arminians’ favorite text to disprove the Calvinistic understanding of assurance. Totally bizarre.

    Off point, but in a strange way this reminds me of a line from John Prine,

    “They say that love
    Is like a Christmas card,
    You decorate a tree,
    And throw it in the yard.”

    Thank you.

  3. Dave Sarafolean said,

    December 22, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Dr. D.A. Carson is a ‘reformed theologian.’ He is a member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and as such affirms the 5 Solas of the Reformation. Specifically he comes from a Baptistic tradition but he is solidly reformed.

  4. anneivy said,

    December 22, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Marvelously explained, Pr. Webb! Thank you so much. These days such a clear, comprehensible, succinct summary of a basic Reformed doctrine is exceedingly valuable.

    And Mark T.-whoever-he-may-be is correct in that when I first began hearing from and about the FV, increased assurance was the most commonly-provided objective.

    Which used to puzzle the daylights out of me, as telling people it’s possible they could lose their “union to Christ” struck me as a backwards sort of way to go about providing someone with assurance. Not to mention which, if our final justification is indeed dependent upon our living a righteous, obedient life, since perfect holiness is the standard, I couldn’t understand how this wouldn’t wind up with heaven as empty as a mall on Christmas day.

    I wish I’d bookmarked or Clipmarked or de.li.cious’d it, but I read an FV explanation of how this works in practice, which is that the level of righteousness we must attain and maintain isn’t perfect, such as Christ lived, but a much lower standard which we are quite capable of achieving.

    Makes sense, for otherwise no one has any hope at all, if our final justification is dependent upon our works.

    Trouble is, then one stubs ones toes on Matthew 7:23 up there. Those folk never repudiated Christ, and presumably had works coming out their ears, yet Christ denied having ever known them.

    How that squares with FV theology baffles me.

    Anne

  5. Ronnie said,

    December 22, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Of course Doug Wilson now claims he only meant union in the sense of a member of the church, intellectual assent, and other things that he takes from the quote of J.C. Ryles. One wonders if he agrees with how J.C. Ryles define this external union as “… they have no grace in their hearts, no faith, no inward work of the Holy Spirit.” So it seems to me even though both Doug and J.C. Ryles would both refer to union outside of saving union their definition of this union would differ. J.C. Ryles is defining this as no more than outward participation in the means of graces and other things without any positive inward benefit. Surely this not what the FVers have been arguing all along?

  6. markhorne said,

    December 22, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    It is what Doug Wilson has been strenuously arguing for. It was the reason he believed Steve Wilkins was innocent of charges: because Wilkins confesses a qualitative difference between the elect and non-elect, in their union with Christ.

    Doug has unwaveringly confessed and believed exactly what Andy accuses him of not believing. But the only way he can make the case is by using “absolute negatives” that have the (seemingly rather slight) inconvenience of being contrary to Scripture. Then, when Scripture is pointed out, he, far from attempting to “rescue the absolute negatives,” stops using them and slides back into Biblical discourse. (This, I should point out, is to his credit; he didn’t try to pretend the Bible didn’t say what it says.)

    We are now about to enter the seventh year of this fracas and we still see the same old tired false portrayals dredged up for a public burning. For how many more years are we going to see the Ant-FV brigade switch back and forth from clearly rejecting what Scripture says (no union in any sense at any level) to better formulations which don’t produce the needed verdicts (“not what I really meant”) and then back to the unscriptural formulations since we must never give up our pursuit of those verdicts?

  7. anneivy said,

    December 22, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Re: #6, wherein Pr. Horne wrote: “It is what Doug Wilson has been strenuously arguing for. It was the reason he believed Steve Wilkins was innocent of charges: because Wilkins confesses a qualitative difference between the elect and non-elect, in their union with Christ.”

    There IS no union with Christ for the reprobate, whether qualitative, or in duration, or any other modifier. It doesn’t make sense for FV’ers to continually protest “That’s what we’ve been saying….there’s a qualitative difference between the elect and non-elect’s union with Christ!” since the traditional Reformed view is that there IS no union with Christ for the non-elect.

    Of course, I suppose one could say “non-existence” is itself a quality. If non-existence is the distinguishing quality of the non-elect’s “union with Christ”, then by jingo, we’re all in agreement.

    I’ve a suspicion that’s not what y’all mean, though. ;-)

    Anne

  8. Andrew Webb said,

    December 22, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    I’m about to give up here, I haven’t changed any part of my original declaration. Read the last PART of the Ryle quote:

    “But they all lack the one thing needful. Notwithstanding services, and sermons, and sacrament, they have no grace in their hearts, no faith, no inward work of the Holy Spirit. They are not one with Christ, and Christ in them. Their union with Him is only nominal, and not real. They have “a name to live,” but in the sight of God they are dead.”

    Nominal means “in name only”. FV-Guys, when you baptize a “non-elect” (i.e. reprobate) child of believing parents do you acknowledge that all of the above is true of them. They are NOT ONE WITH CHRIST, they have no grace in their hearts, no inward work of the Holy Spirit. They have “a name to live” but are still spiritually dead? Would you affirm that? Tell parents that might indeed be a possibility, as non-FV pastors do and that we have no right to say that they are joined to Christ until they believe?

    Would you then also affirm a longer quotation from Ryle:

    “I am aware that many do not admit the truth of what I have just said. Some tell us that all baptized people are members of Christ by virtue of their baptism. Others tell us that where there is a head knowledge we have no right to question a person’s interest in Christ. To these views I have only one plain answer. The Bible forbids us to say that any man is joined to Christ until he believes. Baptism is no proof that we are joined to Christ. Simon Magus was baptized, and yet was distinctly told that he had “no part or lot in this matter” (Acts 8:21). Head-knowledge is no proof that we are joined to Christ. The devils know Christ well enough, but have no portion in Him. God knows, no doubt, who are His from all eternity. But man knows nothing of anyone’s justification until he believes. The grand question is: “Do we believe?” It is written, “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” “He that believeth not shall be damned” (John 3:36; Mark 16:16). If Bible words mean anything, to be without faith is to be “without Christ.””

    Come on guys, we’ve always affirmed that the baptized child of believers is part of the visible church and part of the covenant community but to be in this situation is not the same as being saved, only those who come to true saving faith in Jesus Christ within the Visible church are saved, and the only people who will ever do that are the effectually called, and only the elect are effectually called.

  9. its.reed said,

    December 22, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Ref. #6:

    Mark,

    I for one am tired of being told either I can’t read or I deliberately want to misrepresent others. I’ve read and listened carefully to the FV advocates since the first Auburn Avenue conference. And I am still persuaded it is wrong.

    If all you care to do is offer accusations of either stupidity or nefariousness on the part of us who disagree AND are willing to talk, then do not talk with with us. Please keep your accusations to yourself.

    Rev. Reed DePace
    PCA, Elkton MD

  10. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Anne,

    I’m trying to understand how you can say this in #7,

    There IS no union with Christ for the reprobate, whether qualitative, or in duration, or any other modifier. …the traditional Reformed view is that there IS no union with Christ for the non-elect. [bold emphasis mine]

    when we’ve just read Bishop Ryle statement that says

    There are myriads of professing Christians in every Church whose <b<union with Christ is only outward and formal. Some of them are joined to Christ by baptism and Church-membership. Some of them go even further than this, and are regular communicants and loud talkers about religion. But they all lack the one thing needful. Notwithstanding services, and sermons, and sacrament, they have no grace in their hearts, no faith, no inward work of the Holy Spirit. They are not one with Christ, and Christ in them. Their union with Him is only nominal, and not real. They have “a name to live,” but in the sight of God they are dead.” – [bold emphasis mine]

    You have no room for any modifiers for the union the reprobate have with Christ even though Bishop Ryle has plenty of room. Why is it so hard to see that Wilson and others are not arguing that the reprobate and elect have the SAME union with Christ, when all they’ve been saying is that the reprobate do have some type of union, yet qualitatively different?

  11. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Pastor Webb,

    Is the visible church and the covenant community joined to Christ in any sense?

    When you say that to be baptized is not the same as to be saved, I don’t think you’ll find much disagreement from those in the FV, if by “saved” you mean, “vital union” with Christ. I think the objection comes when you say that there is ABSOLUTELY NO UNION whatsoever between the NECM and Christ.

  12. anneivy said,

    December 22, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    Nominal, Andy. From the vantage point of fellow church members they’re united to Christ, but “in the sight of God they are DEAD.” [capitalization mine]

    Is the FV is saying the baptized reprobate are dead in His sight from the moment of baptism until death, no matter how active they might have been in churchly activities?

    Considering how they interpret John 15:1-6, that would be extremely surprising.

  13. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Anne,

    There is a difference between speaking about sheeps and goats from an ultimate perspective, and the historical perspective. Does God consider the NECM “dead” in his sight? Yes, ultimately speaking. But, there is also a sense in which he views them as having truly been a covenant member, albeit non-elect, during history, and therefore deserving of greater punishment. For example,

    How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” [emphasis mine]

    In your opinion, who exactly are HIS people that will be judged more severely? And why are they deserving of greater punishment?

  14. its.reed said,

    December 22, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Ref. #10:

    A. Dollahite, wrong.

    Your use of “union” here follows the argument that a given word has a seminatical range. Of course this is true.

    But that is neither what Andy is critiquing, nor Anne denying. The FV does, to be sure, suggest that the word union has a biblical semantic range that is not limited to the classic reformed use of the word. In principle this is no big deal. The problem comes in when the FV defines what it means by union, especially in this key biblical text.

    From the beginning the FV argument has been that the reprobate Church members have a real, a vital union with Christ, in which they experience all the same benefits that the elect Church member does. The FV advocates insist that this experience is the same except for one one key distinction, the reprobate’s experience is temporary, whereas the elect’s is not. According to the FV what differentiates the two is that one (the elect) is given the gift of perseverance, whereas the other (the reprobate) is not.

    The word “union” as used in classical reformed expression and by the FV is a word that at least means some vital – some living – some real experience of Christ and his salvific benefits.

    Classical reformed understanding of what the Bible teaches recognizes only one kind of union in which there is any real experience of Christ and his benefits – it is a permanent spiritual attachment to the Savior.

    The FV argues for a second category of biblical union, a real experience of Christ and his benefits – one that is merely temporary.

    This latter union is not what Ryle is rightly acknowledging, nor Andy expounding on, nor Anne emphasizing. What you call union (Ryle carefully calls joining) is not the biblical notion of a real experience of Christ and his beneifts. It is mere outward profession of an inward absence. If the FV were to be merely using “union” in this manner, then yes all those of us opposed to the FV would be guilty of the kinds of things Mark Horne accuses us of.

    Go back and read Andy’s post again. Then compare it to what the FV says. Then compare it to Scripture. Are there more than one real, spiritual, vital unions, or is there only one? The FV says there are two and this is not consistent with the reformed understanding. Plain and very, very simple.

  15. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Sorry, omitted the reference to the scripture passage. I’m sure everyone knows it by heart anyway, but for good measure it can be found in Heb. 10:29-30.

  16. R. F. White said,

    December 22, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    10 A. Dollarhite,

    You ask, ‘Why is it so hard to see that Wilson and others are not arguing that the reprobate and elect have the SAME union with Christ, when all they’ve been saying is that the reprobate do have some type of union, yet qualitatively different?’

    My answer would include these observations: it is hard to see what you assert because Wilson and others have not been monolithic in their affirmations about the nature of the union between Christ and the reprobate and because the affirmations that they do make about the nature of that union do not clearly square with the affirmations of the Bible or the Westminster Standards.

  17. its.reed said,

    December 22, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Ref. #13:

    A. Dollahite (may I use your first name?),

    You say to Anne, “Does God consider the NECM “dead” in his sight? Yes, ultimately speaking.”

    Your use of the qualifier “ultimately” seems inappropriate. Are we all not dead in sin, dead in the sight of God prior to regeneration. Does not Ezekial’s valley of dry bones demonstrate that this equally applies to those in/out of covenant?

    To be in covenant is merely to be under obligation with a correspoding right . It does not mean that one has either fulfilled the obligation or exercised the right. A dead non-covenant member has the same problem as a dead covenant member – no life because no union with the Source of Life.

  18. David Gray said,

    December 22, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    >A dead non-covenant member has the same problem as a dead covenant member – no life because no union with the Source of Life.

    Arguably a dead covenant member, with the proviso that they are not elect as then you would live at some point in the future, is worse off than the dead non-covenant member. (ultimately)

  19. December 22, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    God hated Esau before Esau was born. Esau was a covenant member. Was Esau saved in a sense at some point in time? Was Esau a branch in a saving Union w/ Christ beyond the sense of ‘in name only?’

    Mark Horne?

  20. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Pastor De Pace,

    I’ve found you a very irenic person on this blog, so I don’t mean to be argumentative. That said, I think you’d find a lot of the FV men objecting to the following statement,

    From the beginning the FV argument has been that the reprobate Church members have a real, a vital union with Christ, in which they experience all the same benefits that the elect Church member does. The FV advocates insist that this experience is the same except for one one key distinction, the reprobate’s experience is temporary, whereas the elect’s is not. According to the FV what differentiates the two is that one (the elect) is given the gift of perseverance, whereas the other (the reprobate) is not.

    This is not what the FV have been saying from the beginning. For example, in the Wilson blog post Andy Webb is responding to here, Doug writes the following, countering what you just said about the FV’s position.

    So the claim I was responding to was that the reprobate covenant member never had any kind of union with Christ, not that he didn’t have a vital union. I agree that those who are cut off never had a vital union with Christ, as I argued over the course of three chapters in “Reformed” Is Not Enough. Not only do I agree that they don’t have vital union at the time they were cut off, I have also gone out of my way to teach that there is a vital union that they never had. Something was wrong with them from the beginning.

    Wilson claims he’s been saying there ‘s more that just the gift of perseverance that distinguishes ECM from NECM since at least the writing of RINE, which dates to 2002. I’ll be glad to admit that the some of the things the FV men said early in this discussion were probably poorly qualified and nuanced, a mistake they’ve paid a dear price for (sometimes fairly, other times unjustly). But as the debate has gone on they’ve been careful to explain that they do differentiate in qualitative ways between what the elect and the non-elect covenant members receive as members of the covenant.

    To remain focused on the main point of the thread, do you, Andy, and Anne still maintain that there is ABSOLUTELY NO UNION OF ANY KIND between the NECM and Christ?

  21. December 22, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Was there an union of any kind between Esau (A NECM), whom God hated before he was born, and Christ?

  22. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Dr. White,

    I appreciate your perspective in #16. I think the clarity of the FV position has been at times less than perfect, to their own detriment. I alluded to this in #19.

    You say that their affirmations do not square with Westminster and the Bible. As if my words here will have any weight, but I wonder when exactly have these men been given a genuine hearing? When have their accusers met them face to face? When have they been given a trial? What I’ve seen from a distance is a number of reports condemn their supposed views, yet many of these reports were written without one single real interaction with the accused. You would think a single telephone call could have been made at some point along the process. That seems like the minimal courtesy to be offered to people I’m about to throw out of my denomination. It’s not that these reports couldn’t actually be true, but I’d give them way more weight if they had actually taken the time to speak face to face with them men who are now said to be out of accord with the confessions, and more importantly, the Bible. But this is sure to take us down the rabbit hole, isn’t it?

  23. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Pastor De Pace,

    My name is Andy Dollahite. I used to have a user name here as “Andy Dollahite,” but one day it just stopped working, so I switched to this one.

  24. Tim Harris said,

    December 22, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Wilson’s recurrent mistake is one of basic linguistic understanding. It is a typical problem of the self-educated man: he has strengths, because his reading is self-motivated; but he has weaknesses, in that he hasn’t had to submit his thoughts to the correction of anyone. The problem with respect to the vine metaphor cannot be stated better than the quote of Carson given by Rev Webb:

    It is more satisfactory to recognize that asking the in me language to settle such disputes is to push the vine imagery too far. The transparent purpose of the verse is to insist that there are no true Christians without some measure of fruit. Fruitfulness is an infallible mark of true Christianity; the alternative is dead wood, and the exigencies of the vine metaphor make it necessary that such wood be connected to the vine.

    Memorize that, everyone.

    The denial of existence sometimes has to be expressed using a name, as Anne observed. This can confuse the inexperienced. It is like the twists that medievals and some German idealists got themselves into over the term nothing. “If you say ‘nothing is colorless,’ then you are really saying that ‘nothing’ is something, thus there is something that is colorless.”

  25. Gabe Martini said,

    December 22, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Baptism initiates one as a member of the covenant community.

    The covenant community is the visible church.

    The visible church is the body of Christ.

    Christ is the head of his church, which is his body.

    This “union” thing is pretty simple. You can see how one can “in some sense” be united to Christ and fall away from it. This isn’t about the effectual call and personal regeneration.

  26. Ronnie said,

    December 22, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Andy said:
    “Come on guys, we’ve always affirmed that the baptized child of believers is part of the visible church and part of the covenant community …”

    Exactly. If all Doug Wilson and the FV proponents mean by the reprobate being in union with Christ is that they may externally participate in the means of grace then why describe it as “union with Christ” because it leads to so much confusion?

  27. December 22, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    So, Gabe, NECM are United to the covenant community which is United to Christ but being united to the covenant community which is in union w/ Christ is not the same as being individually in union with Christ except in the sense of name only.

    Is that correct?

    Bret

  28. Robert K. said,

    December 22, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Notice how Doug Wilson and his cohorts wake up every morning, no matter what has occured the day before, actually thinking he is going to supplant Reformed Theology with his sacerdotal, Romanist-in-training-wheels-ism doctrine?

    This is the power and irrationality of sin. It makes one think they can defeat God Himself.

  29. Robert K. said,

    December 22, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    The above comment in on topic because I just read Wilson’s latest blog post where he engages in the usual yanking of chains, in this case of Andy Webb. Really better not to even invoke Doug Wilson’s name. It’s like being a professor of philosophy and engaging in endless debate with Borat.

  30. anneivy said,

    December 22, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Re: #19

    Using the term “union” the way the FV frequently does, I absolutely stand by my statement. For instance, in the Summary Statement of AAPC’s Position on Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation (Revised), point 11 says:

    “Jesus spoke of those in the new covenant who were united to Him, but then cut off because they did not persevere in the fruit-bearing that is the evidence of a lively faith, by which we abide in Christ (John 15). Whatever the precise complexion and content of that union for those who do not persevere, nonetheless, if Jesus Himself is salvation, must we not conclude that being cut off from Him means being cut off the from source of salvation and, in that specific sense, from salvation itself?”

    This is wrong. You cannot have someone “united” to Him in any meaningful sense who winds up being cut off because their faith wasn’t sufficiently lively. The way the above reads, whether or not one remains united to Christ depends upon their “persevering in fruit-bearing”, in contrast to the Reformed doctrine that one perseveres in fruit-bearing because one is united to Christ.

    And yes, I’m quite well aware there are other sentences and statements that appear to jibe with traditional Reformed thought, which is what drives everyone absolutely bonkers. If the FV is anything at all, it’s wildly inconsistent.

  31. December 22, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    [...] Webb has been in the batting cage at Green Bagginses and the pitch that keeps coming is their claim that: “We’re the one’s following [...]

  32. Machaira said,

    December 22, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    . . . but I wonder when exactly have these men been given a genuine hearing? When have their accusers met them face to face?

    A. Dollahite,

    Before you ask that question, you may want look into the 2003 AAPC, entitled, “The Federal Vision Examined.” Disputants from both sides of this issue were in attendance and engaged in “face to face” meeting.

  33. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Anne,

    Who are the people the Lord will take vengeance on and will judge more severely that are described as “his” people in Heb. 10:30?

  34. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Re #28. Thanks, I will.

  35. Tim Harris said,

    December 22, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    A– “his people” would be by analogy to OT references to Israel, the collective reference to the people of God. (And since quotation marks are very very important to FVers, you should have asked who are “his people,” not, who are “his” people.)

    Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel.

  36. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    Tim,

    Are the people of God united to Him in any sense?

  37. Gabe Martini said,

    December 22, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Once again, the overwhelming amount of Baptist exegesis astounds.

  38. Machaira said,

    December 22, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    Tim Harris quoted:

    Romans 9:6 But it is not as though the word of God hath come to nought. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel.

    Thanks Tim.

    When you look at verses like Romans 9:6 along with 1 John 2:19 & Matthew 7:23, I think it’s easy to see that J.C. Ryle is correct about NECM.

    Their union with Him is only nominal, and not real.

    1Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

    Mat 7:23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

  39. anneivy said,

    December 22, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Re: #29

    Those who have been given the opportunity to hear the Word expounded, to live cheek-by-jowl with the saints, who participated in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but who never truly turned to Christ in faith. The LORD provided them with opportunities denied to the majority of the people on the planet, so naturally their condemnation will be be in proportion to the opportunities received.

    I realize the FV considers those people to have “union with Christ”, but they don’t.

    BTW, to scamper back up to #19 again, it occurs to me there’s a problem with the cited quote: “Not only do I agree that they don’t have vital union at the time they were cut off, I have also gone out of my way to teach that there is a vital union that they never had. Something was wrong with them from the beginning.” (bolding mine)

    Well, of course something was wrong with them from the beginning. The same something that is wrong with every single one of us from the beginning, which is that we’re born dead in our sins, naturally disposed to hate our Creator.

    There isn’t anything unusual or uniquely “wrong” with them, that they did not persevere or bear fruit while others did. To suggest there was something peculiarly wrong with them is to make the difference between salvation and damnation something innate in them, as opposed to the bestowal of grace by the LORD. Wouldn’t this pretty much lead to the prayer of the guy who contentedly observed in Luke 18:11, “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector”?

  40. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Anne,

    I think we both agree that the people being judged by God in Heb. 10 are being condemned because they do not share a real, vital union with Christ. Furthermore, we both agree that at no point in their lives did they have this real, vital union. And BTW, I think Wilson’s point about something being wrong with them from the beginning is simply to reiterate that he’s not proposing the loss of a real, vital union. He’s not a closet Arminian.

    Where we seem to diverge is here: I think these people shared in some connection/union to God, albeit a connection that is qualitatively different than the connection that ultimately saves. This connection is the reason they had greater opportunities, as you put it. And it is because of this connection they will suffer greater punishment. I understand you to have repeatedly said that these people never had any kind of connection/union to God in any sense that could ever be imagined. This does not make sense to me based on the Scripture. The Hebrews text (others could be listed) is clear that these people have been sanctified by the blood of the covenant and are therefore “his people.” They are being distinguished from the run-of-the-mill unregenerate pagan who is never “sanctified” in any sense and is not part of “his people.” To speak analogically, these people are not Egyptians, they are Israelites, but not true Israelites. Does it make the Bible inconsistent to speak like this? I don’t think so. Paul is free to say that not all Israel is of Israel because he recognizes at least three groups of people… faithful covenant people, unfaithful covenant covenant people, and non-covenant people. And before too many alarm bells start ringing, allow me to say that all of this is by God’s sovereign and perfect plan, only by grace, so that all the faithful covenant people give glory to God for His work in their lives.

    What do you think?

  41. its.reed said,

    December 22, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Ref. #20:

    Andy (thanks),

    Hopefully my irenic spirit will be maintained even though I dispute your observation that many FV advocates would talke offense at my summary of the FV union position.

    As has been noted elsewhere, one of the frustrating things about the FV is that it is continually evolving. That aside, my summary here is nothing more than what was summarized by FV advocates on this blogsite on a recent thread.

    I did not put words in their mouths. I repeated what they said.

    If Rev. Wilson et.al. wants to help reduce the friction of what is supposedly the anti FV’ers misunderstanding, all they need do is clarify and qualify:

    > What is the same between the union the elect and the reprobate visible Church (their preference “historical”)?

    > What is different between the union of these two groups in the visible Church?

    > Document this biblically.

    This is not hard to do. And I recognize that the response, “we’ve done it a thousand times already,” should be expected. I’ve also listened sympathetically to the claim, “you’re not getting it because you’re seing it through the wrong paradigm.”

    I’ve listened carefully, humbly, peacefully, and with willingness that remains unabatted today to be as one with my FV brothers. And this is what I’ve heard, more specifically, this is what I’ve seen careful written by them:

    > The union the elect and reprobate Church members have with Christ is the same in that both have a real union.
    > By real it is meant that they both partake, really and truly, of Christ and the benefits of the covenant of grace.
    > This really and truly partaking flows from a real presence of the Spirit, operating in them both.
    > The only distinction is that what the elect experience is a permanent presence and work of the Spirit, whereas the reprobate experience only a temporary presence and work of the Spirit.
    > Thus it can be said that the reprobate really and truly experience justification, sanctfication, et.al., up to but not including perseverance.
    > The reprobate have not been given perseverance by the Spirit, and this is the fatal flaw that marks them as different from the elect.

    If FV advocates want to deny this, then they need not begin by telling me I am either misreading them or putting words in their mouths. They need to either repent of their own words, or call on their fellow FV’ers who say such things to repent.

    Again, there is no rancor in my words. We need to strive for clarity if we are ever going to solve this dilemma. It will do no good Andy to either deny or ignore what has been said, and what positions have been taken. It will be a shame if FV advocates were to look at my summary of their expressions and use that as evidence of yet “another” anti FV who is unkind and unwilling to deal fairly with their arguments.

    If that is the attitude adopted, then there is no hope for conversation. In such a case, it won’t be me who has stopped the conversation.

  42. Gabe Martini said,

    December 22, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Allow me to quote the English delegates to the Synod of Dort, who said:

    We ourselves think that this doctrine is contrary to Holy Scriptures, but whether it is expedient to condemn it in these our canons needs great deliberation. On the contrary, it would appear:

    1. That Augustine, Prosper and the other Fathers who propounded the doctrine of absolute predestination and who opposed the Pelagians, seem to have conceded that certain of those who are not predestinated can attain the state of regeneration and justification. Indeed, they use this very argument as an illustration of the deep mystery of predestination; which cannot be unknown to those who have even a modest acquaintance with their writings.

    2. That we ought not without grave cause to give offence to the Lutheran churches, who in this matter, it is clear, think differently.

    3. That (which is of greater significance) in the Reformed churches themselves, many learned and saintly men who are at one with us in defending absolute predestination, nevertheless think that certain of those who are truly regenerated and justified, are able to fall from that state and to perish and that this happens eventually to all those, whom God has not ordained in the decree of election infallibly to eternal life. Finally we cannot deny that there are some places in Scripture which apparently support this opinion, and which have persuaded learned and pious men, not without great probability.

    In other words, the difference between the union of reprobates and the union of the elect is in perseverence, according to THESE REFORMED MEN of history, who participated in the authorship of the Dort canons.

    That doesn’t mean I agree with them, nor do I agree with every jot and tittle of the words you quoted above, brother reed, but sufficed to say: This is not necessarily an a-historical or nuanced viewpoint in Reformed theology’s colorful history.

  43. anneivy said,

    December 22, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    I rather thought the goal of synods and councils and the like was to try to sift the doctrinal wheat from the chaff. Doesn’t seem much point in having them if the viewpoints that are eventually left on the cutting room floor (so to speak) are later held to have as much validity as the findings of the synods and councils themselves.

  44. Machaira said,

    December 22, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    Didn’t Doug Wilson just go out of his way to say essentially, “Hey, what are you guys complaining about. I agree with you?” Look at this combox exchange over on Blog & Mablog:

    Are you saying…That this union is “in some sense” real? If so, in what sense are you in agreement with Ryles view and in what sense not? Thanks – Richard

    Richard, actually it is true that in some sense Clinton did not have relations with Monica. But the reason his evasion is so funny is that it was a distinction that didn’t make any difference. – Douglas Wilson

    Am I misunderstanding something here?

  45. Machaira said,

    December 22, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Sorry, “Am I misunderstanding something here?” found in my previous post is my comment and not supposed to be in italics.

  46. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    Pastor De Pace,

    I’ve read through the post you linked to in #41 (I did skip over a few posts that didn’t seem pertinent to our discussion here) and I’m hard pressed to see where it is that you claim FV supporters are arguing that the union between the ECM and God, and the union between NECM and God is the *same* union, the only distinction being perseverance.

    Xon argues repeatedly that they are different unions (one he labels X, the other Y), yet both subsets of a broader category (labeled Z) called salvation. For example, in comment #20 of the thread linked to he says,

    Reed, Z is ’salvation’, at least in the argument I’m currently working on in this conversation. That seems fairly straightforward.

    The elect experience something in the here-and-now which we call ’salvation’. The baptized non-elect experience something in the here-and-now which is very similar to that here-and-now experience had by the elect. Thus, tentatively (depending upon how ’strong’ the similarities actually are and whether there are any overriding dissimilarities), the non-elect also experience ’salvation’ in the here-and-now.

    The experiences of the elect and the baptized non-elect are X and Y. Z is salvation. This is the claim, algebraically-considered, of (5) and (6).

    And in #39 he says,

    But there is an ambiguity in a phrase like “the same thing.” If we ask whether two things are “the same”, what exactly are we asking?

    1. Are they identical; i.e., literally the same object? (This is the classic definition of ‘identity’). Clark Kent and Superman are the same thing. John and the apostle who died at Ephesus are (arguably) the same thing. Etc.

    2. Are they two carbon-copies of one another, with nearly-identical characteristics except that they are two distinct things? Identical twins are ‘the same’ in this way.

    3. Are they both members of some class. Dogs and cats are both mammals. People and angels are both intelligences. Astroids and stars are both celestial bodies. They are ‘the same’ in that they certain characteristics in common which are necessary characteristics to be a member of some class.

    And there are other possibilities as well. My position is along the lines of (3). I am not saying that the experience of ECMs (that’s Elect Covenant Members) and NECMs (that’s Non-Elect Covenant Members) are the same in any sense like identity (1) or in the way that carbon copies are the same (2).

    Now, I also realize that you disagreed with Xon and would have liked to have seen his argument sustained by careful exegesis. I think that’s fair – the appeal for exegesis. But, I think it’s unfair to portray the FV position as one that states the ECM and NECM share identical experiences excluding perseverance.

  47. anneivy said,

    December 22, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Re: #40

    Well, we’re probably going to have to agree to disagree. Your definition of “union” is clearly different than mine, we’re each attached to our own, and we are equally convinced our respective positions are biblical.

    This is likely a strange way to look at it, but ISTM for Christ to have any type of viable union with the reprobate would violate the “do not be unequally yoked” admonishment given by Paul to the church at Corinth. He yokes or binds Himself to those who are given to Him, and who are in Him and covered by His righteousness, but how can He similarly yoke or bind Himself to the reprobate? “….what fellowship has light with darkness?” the apostle rhetorically asks. The elect are the “light of the world”, so due to their union with Christ they are not unequally yoked, and Light is in fellowship with “light.”

    It seems to me that insisting that Christ is in similar fellowship with the spiritually dark is a mistake.

  48. R. F. White said,

    December 22, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    22 Andy,

    As to whether FVers have gotten/will get a fair hearing, I can only tell you this: in the last session of the 2003 Knox Colloquium, the FV advocates were asked by the FV critics (of which I was one) if they believed they had been heard. They answered in the affirmative — at least, those who spoke up said that they had been heard. Since that time, I take it that they have reconsidered and changed their view. Certainly they are entitled to reconsider, but, for one moment, fleeting though it turned out to be, it seemed there was indeed a place at which they were willing to say, ‘here we were heard.’

  49. Tim Harris said,

    December 22, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    A (#36) — To answer that in a way that would scratch where this discussion itches, would require making the very distinctions (e.g. visible/invisible and others), as well as more linguistic points, that are the things being challenged by the FVers, and thus would not move the discussion forward. .

    Gabe (#37) — letting Scripture interpret Scipture — including controlling our words and concepts by the analogy of Scripture — is not a baptistic notion.

    Gabe (#42) — all of that might be an interesting subject for a discussion in the church history department. Here, the question is what the Reformed church is going to confess on the basis of the word of God.

    A (#46) — Xon’s distinctions are another rabbit trail. You can always find a class that spans any two things — if nothing else, the class of “existent things.” That’s not helpful. The question is whether “being regenerate,” “in Christ,” etc are class markers shared by elect and non-elect by virtue of their baptism. Dragging out set theory is not going to help here I don’t think.

  50. Mark T. said,

    December 22, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Andy,

    Comment 46, please note:

    In fact, covenant is a real relationship, consisting of real communion with the triune God through union with Christ. The covenant is not some thing that exists apart from Christ or in addition to Him (another means of grace) — rather, the covenant is union with Christ. Thus, being in covenant gives all the blessings of being united to Christ. There is no salvation apart from covenant simply because there is no salvation apart from union with Christ. And without union with Christ there is no covenant at all. . . . All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ. If they persevere in faith to the end, they enjoy these mercies eternally. If they fall away in unbelief, they lose these blessings and receive a greater condemnation than Sodom and Gomorrah. Covenant can be broken by unbelief and rebellion, but until it is, those in covenant with God belong to Him and are His. If they do not persevere, they lose the blessings that were given to them (and all of this works out according to God’s eternal decree which He ordained before the foundation of the world). . . . The apostate fails to persevere in the grace of God and, thus, has his name removed from the book of life (Revelation 3:5: “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”). The book of life is the book of the covenant (see also Exodus 32:31–33; Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). Those who “take away from the words of the book” will in turn be “taken away” from the Book of Life (Revelation 22:19). . . . The apostate, thus, forsakes the grace of God that was given to him by virtue of his union with Christ. It is not accurate to say that they only “appeared” to have these things but did not actually have them — if that were so, there would be nothing to “forsake” and apostasy is bled of its horror and severity. That which makes apostasy so horrendous is that these blessings actually belonged to the apostates — though they only had them temporarily they had them no less truly. The apostate doesn’t forfeit “apparent blessings” that were never his in reality, but real blessings that were his in covenant with God. (Steve Wilkins, Auburn Ave. Theology: Pros and Cons, pages 262–264, emphasis original)

    Now, the possibility exists that Steve Wilkins didn’t actually write these words, however they bear his name as the author. More importantly, these words attributed to Steve Wilkins appear to contradict your disagreement that “FV supporters are arguing that the union between the ECM and God, and the union between NECM and God is the *same* union, the only distinction being perseverance.”

    Thank you.

  51. A. Dollahite said,

    December 22, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Anne,

    I’m not sure what you mean by our definitions being clearly different. I’m simply trying to look at the scriptures and ask who are these people that are “sanctified by the blood of the covenant,” “drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ,” “have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” and yet find greater and sorer punishment at the judgment. These people clearly have had some type of relationship with God, although I’ve already clearly said that it’s not the same relationship those that ultimately go to be with the Father in Heaven have. You seem to want to dismiss their experience as undifferentiated from the pagan who dies never hearing the gospel. Am I wrong?

  52. anneivy said,

    December 22, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Re: #51

    I’m at a loss as to how what I wrote here: “Those who have been given the opportunity to hear the Word expounded, to live cheek-by-jowl with the saints, who participated in baptism and the Lord’s Supper, but who never truly turned to Christ in faith. The LORD provided them with opportunities denied to the majority of the people on the planet, so naturally their condemnation will be be in proportion to the opportunities received” could be construed to mean I “seem to want to dismiss their experience as undifferentiated from the pagan who dies never hearing the gospel.”

    The LORD did more for the reprobate in the church, but that doesn’t signify He’s in any special union with them.

    I gave a few bucks to a homeless man the other day, while there are other homeless men I’ve passed by.

    Doesn’t mean I had any special “union” with that particular homeless man, just because I gave him something I didn’t give another homeless man.

  53. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 22, 2007 at 9:59 pm

    Gabe M (#25):

    Baptism initiates one as a member of the covenant community.
    The covenant community is the visible church.
    The visible church is the body of Christ.
    Christ is the head of his church, which is his body.

    Gabe, let’s admit up front that the challenge posed by FV theology is found precisely in the fact that the visible church is sometimes presented in Scripture and even (as Mark Horne pointed out) in the standards as “the body of Christ.” So I can figure out some sense in which the objective covenant language could be true.

    In fact, on my first read of “The Federal Vision”, it took me a while to figure out that Wilkins wasn’t simply talking about a Judgment of Charity. It wasn’t until I specifically noticed that he was rejecting that view that I started to say, “Wait…a…second….!”

    So anyways, the Scriptural and standards language would certainly imply relationship to Christ “in some sense.”

    Now for the devilish details:

    (1) In what sense, exactly?
    (2) The *invisible* church is also presented in Scripture and in the standards as “the body of Christ.” How does that qualify our understanding of (1)?
    (3) Does the “sense” in (1) conform to the description in Scriptures and in the standards of the non-elect within the church?

    Here are my specific points of dissatisfaction with the FV answer to this question:

    (a) Question (1) has not been answered very carefully anywhere that I have been able to find. Yet, it is (arguably) the most important question of the entire issue.

    It has been answered, don’t get me wrong. But the answers have all been incomplete or ambiguous. Xon’s description above is probably the *most* precise description I’ve read. And yet…what do we really know about the NECMs from this statement:

    The baptized non-elect experience something in the here-and-now which is very similar to that here-and-now experience had by the elect. Thus, tentatively (depending upon how ’strong’ the similarities actually are and whether there are any overriding dissimilarities), the non-elect also experience ’salvation’ in the here-and-now.

    ?

    Not much. We know there are similarities to the elect. Perhaps those similarities are strong enough to say that NECMs experience ‘salvation’ (in hedge-quotes). Or perhaps not.

    Contrast that with, say, Calvin’s words concerning the reprobate:

    I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption. — Inst. 3.2.10

    Here, Calvin distinguishes clearly: the reprobate experience something that looks like faith (a) externally, and (b) to themselves, but not (c) to God.

    If this were what the FV meant, then I would simply say, OK, they believe in the Judgment of Charity but are allergic to the term itself. No problem.

    But it seems to be a hobby horse of Wilkins to deny that the NECMs experience is a false one. And at that point, he appears to stand over against any Reformed teachers I know of, with the exception of Luther.

    So if the three questions above can be answered clearly, and from Scriptures, then my red alert with regards to the doctrine of the Objective Covenant can stand down.

    And I should add — whether FV doctrine is ultimately accepted “in some sense” by the PCA or not, the three questions above should be asked by anyone listening to FV-like teaching so as to establish some boundary points.

    For even if Mark Horne is right and FV doctrine really is just classic Reformed theology in disguise, it does not follow that second-generation FV teachers will remain within orthodox bounds. The confusing nature of the FV expositions can easily lend itself to doctrinal evolution.

    Jeff Cagle

  54. Jessica S. said,

    December 22, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    Hello Pastor Lane,

    I’m glad to visit your blog today! Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your book recommendation Zanchius’ Absolute Predestination. I really appreciate it. I’m sure my blog visitors will benefit from that as well. I’m also honored that you would link to my blog…thank you! I like to visit back your blog again (and have added it to my blogroll). There’s so much I learn from reading your posts.

    Have a wonderful day of worship on the Lord’s Day tomorrow. May the Lord bless you.

  55. R. F. White said,

    December 22, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Andrew Webb,

    I agree with the fundamental concern that you are pursuing in your post, but there is a key feature to your thesis that you leave unsubstantiated. It is expressed in the following sentence: “And indeed in the gospel of John, union with Christ (being in Him) is always effected via regeneration (being born again from above) and faith, not baptism.”

    In the vine-branches analogy of John 15, the Father differentiates between fruitful and fruitless branches in [on] Jesus, and Jesus differentiates between abiding and non-abiding branches in Him. Hence, for John, “being in Him” — or, better, being branches in Him — does not necessarily imply vital (life-giving) union.

    So, I would argue that we need to modify your assertion cited above. That is, ‘being branches in Jesus’ is not always effected through regeneration via being born again from above. Such a reality is necessarily and expressly identified only with the abiding, fruitful branches in Jesus and is expressly not true of all the branches in Him. We can restate your sentence as follows: “And indeed in the gospel of John, union with Christ (being BRANCHES in Him) THAT RESULTS IN ABIDING AND FRUITBEARING is always effected via regeneration (being born again from above) and faith, not baptism.”

    The abiding, fruitful branches, then, are the locus of your concern. And, in this light, the vine-branches analogy in John 15 can be seen an extended metaphor of covenantal association and community, not vital union only.

  56. Andrew Webb said,

    December 22, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Hi All,

    I haven’t read through most of the responses, I’ll try to on Monday but I must admit this arguing back and forth doesn’t do much for my own personal sanctification and leaves me distracted when I should be concentrating on my duties to my own flock (both the one at home and the larger one at the church). Anyway, so I was doing a little pre-sabbath devotional reading in Watson’s “Body of Divinity” and providentially came to this little reminder, which I hope will be a source of assurance to you, especially as you enter into worship tomorrow possibly dogged by your own doubts and fears and of course the murmurings of the deceiver who endeavors to get up to his worst just when the saints are assembling to get up to their best (small wonder that our worst arguments are just before or even on the way to church, eh?):

    Justification is inamissibilis; it is a fixed permanent thing, it can never be lost. The Arminians hold an apostasy from justification; to-day justified, tomorrow unjustified; to-day a Peter, to-morrow a Judas; today a member of Christ, to-morrow a limb of Satan. This is a most uncomfortable doctrine. Justified persons may fall from degrees of grace, they may leave their first love, they may lose God’s favor for a time, but not lose their justification. If they are justified they are elected; and they can no more fall from their justification than from their election. If they are justified they have union with Christ, and can a member of Christ be broken off? If one justified person may fall away from Christ, all may; and so Christ would be a head without a body.

    Have a blessed Lord’s Day,

    Andy

  57. Seth Foster said,

    December 22, 2007 at 11:11 pm

    Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world.
    The Children’s catechism asks if we can see God and the simple answer is no because God is a Spirit.
    What’s my point? The visible church possesses nothing without the invisible reality of union with Christ. For true union with Christ is spiritual – invisible. The so-called outward union is merely the scaffolding. There are thousands of visible churches practicing the outward ceremonies and rituals but they are as dead as doornails when it comes to spiritual union with Christ.

    The FV is an attempt to destroy a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s because many of its adherents do not have one. They are satisfied with just the scaffolding. Take a look at their lives and ministries. Do you see any of the fruit of the Spirit? They can only attempt to build an earthly kingdom which has no spiritual reality. That’s why they have to make room for this crazy category labeled NECM. A majority of them fit into this category and are pretending to be something they are not. I believe that is called hypocrisy.

  58. Kyle said,

    December 22, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Folks,

    Again the question to the Federal Visionaries is, “What, then, is the ‘union’ which reprobate members of the visible church experience?” And again the response is, “It’s different from that experienced by the elect, but none the less it is real.”

    Can someone please tell me how much longer we should take these men seriously? They’re merely acting as a thorn in the side, equivocating in their teaching on the basis of semantic range, throwing in a “covenantal” adjective here or there for good measure. Hence their “Joint Statement” has it that “through our union with Him we partake of the benefits of His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at the right hand of God the Father,” while at the same time apostates “are united with Christ in His covenantal life, and so those who fall from that position of grace are indeed falling from grace.”

    And here on this blog we even have one of them plugging for water baptism as the ordinary instrument of our justification, and proclaiming this to be the traditional Reformed position and the teaching of the Westminster Standards.

    At what point is enough enough?

  59. A. Dollahite said,

    December 23, 2007 at 2:07 am

    After returning from seeing a film with my wife I thought I’d put a few final thoughts down to finish the day.

    Pastor De Pace… Thanks for the gracious interaction.

    Re #50 – Mark T… why should I give note to your comments when you don’t have the courage to put your name to them? Come out from the dark and I’ll be happy to answer your questions. If someone else with a real name wants to talk about the Wilkins essay from The Federal Vision then I’ll be happy to converse. As I’ve said previously on this thread, I think there have been statements made by leaders in the FV that were not as helpful as others.

    Re #52 – Anne, thanks for the responses. I think, if nothing else, that our interaction has proven to me that talking face to face would be much more efficient than typing it all out. I didn’t mean to ignore or twist your argument that their condemnation was greater because of their greater revelation. As far as that is concerned, we agree. However, in the end, I still think your metaphor falls short of describing their interaction with Jesus. Giving a few bucks to a homeless man hardly compares to the descriptions of the benefits that are provided by the scriptural texts… “sanctified by the blood of the covenant, (Heb 10:29)” “drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ, (1 Cor 10:4)” “have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 2:20).” These are benefits to real people because of something that ties them to Jesus Christ. You don’t like that I call this a union, but it seems to me that you are too quickly discounting something more that throwing a few bucks to a homeless man.

    Re #53 – I think I have great sympathy for your position, especially the “devilish details” as you put it. What I want to see discussed are the texts of scripture themselves.

    Re $55 – Amen, and amen.

    Re #57 – Where can I buy the glasses to see all of the “invisible reality” that you can?

  60. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Ref. #46:

    Andy:

    Just one more comment on this point. I understood from the beginning of our discussion that Xon was referring to his distinction no. 3. I recognize he was arguing for a union definition for the elect and a union definition for the reprobate. I understood that he was sayinig that while they shared similarities, they were NOT the same.

    To use the algebraic language that drove some participants in that discussion nuts,

    > Xon was not saying that these were 2 different versions of the same thing, not X1 (union of elect) and X2 (union of reprobate).
    > Xon was saying that these were two different things, X (union of elect) and Y (union of reprobate).

    I do not have a problem with this structure, and am complete comfortable with this distinction. I fully understand and accept that the FV is not saying that the union the reprobate experience is merely a temporary version of the union the elect experience.

    As Jeff has said in #53, those devilish details are what matters.

    Note what is the same about both unions proposed by the FV:

    > They both apply only to professing members of the Church.
    > They both initiate in the monergistic work of the Spirit.
    > They both give a real relationship with Christ,
    > They both give a real experience of at least some of benefits of the covenant of grace.

    Note what is different between the two unions:

    > The union of elect is permanent, whereas the union of reprobate is temporary.
    > The union of elect includes experiencing the grace of perseverance, wheras the union of the reprobate excludes the grace of perseverance.

    Admittedly this is the minimal set to which most (all) FV advocates would say yes. I.O.W., there may be other distinctions that some would add, but not all would agree with. At the very least most (all) agree with this summary.

    Honestly, I am not sure why there is debate about whether or not this is a fair understanding of what the FV is saying. How I wish we could once again experience what Dr. White reminds us happened at the Knox Colloqium and all FV advocates would simply say, “yes, that’s what we mean by union-elect vs. union-reprobate.”

    I’ve left out one similarity that is critical to the thread here:

    > To the Church Historic (to use the FV’s preferred term for the Church Visible and ignoring the nuancing differences because here they do not apply), BOTH OF THESE UNIONS ARE INDISTINGUISHABLE.

    They look the same. They function the same. They feel, taste, smell the same. To the human observer – it appears that there is no difference, that there is only ONE type of union in view. This conclusion of the FV exegesis that Andrew Webb is critiquing in his poost on this thread.

    According to the FV, it is only in the eye of God at present and in the eyes of all at the end of time that it is apparent that there really are only two different unions, and not one. This is why FV advocates are so insistent on the idea of faithfulness and the warning passages are so important to them.

    In the end Andy, all we have from the FV is a theoretical difference between these two unions. It is so theoretical that no experiment could be devised to demonstrate the reality of the difference.

    It is so theoretical that the FV itself says we are to treat possessors of both unions the same, calling on both of them to pursue faithfulness, until it really doesn’t matter anymore because the reprobate will have learned that the FV’s answer didn’t do them any more good than the reformed one they replaced it with.

  61. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 9:23 am

    Ref. #42:

    Gabe, Anne responded to you already on this. As well, I’m aware you sought to make this same point on another thread here, although I do not remember you responding to the challenges offered you.

    I’ll just summarize here: the English delegates’ views were discussed (your observation), yet there position was not, in the end, adopted carte blanche.

    “Canons of Dort, Perseverance, errors Rejected, Paragraph 7:

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

    For Christ Himself, in Matt. 13:20, Luke 8:13, and in other places, evidently notes, besides this duration, a threefold difference between those who believe only for a time and true believers, when He declares that the former receive the seed in stony ground, but the latter in the good ground or heart; that the former are without root, but the latter have a firm root; that the former are without fruit, but that the latter bring forth their fruit in various measure, with constancy and steadfastness.”

    It is not accurate to say that the position of the English delegates was an accepted position in historic reformed theology. It is fairer to say that it was a position that was presented, discussed, clarified, and then reflected (positively or negatively) in the Canons. The above quote suggests that IF the English delegate’s position was positively recieved, it was heavily modified, so much so that it apears to have been rejected.

    Please Gabe, use a little more care in supporting your points. As well, as you rightly note, the real issue is Scripture.

  62. anneivy said,

    December 23, 2007 at 9:30 am

    Pr. DePace wrote: “It is so theoretical that the FV itself says we are to treat possessors of both unions the same, calling on both of them to pursue faithfulness, until it really doesn’t matter anymore because the reprobate will have learned that the FV’s answer didn’t do them any more good than the reformed one they replaced it with.”

    [appreciatively] Bah-dah-BING!

    Exactly! One of the most frustrating aspects of the entire fracas caused by the FV is that when one gets right down to brass tacks, the doctrinal changes they’re pushing for are, by the FV’s own implicit admission, of no eternal value to anyone. The elect are actively predestined to eternal glory, while the non-elect are effectively predestined to eternal damnation.

    It’s been utterly fascinating to see the roiling in the Reformed world over the FV’s striving to establish to its satisfaction the precise nature of the NECM’s relationship to the invisible Church by using newly imprecise terminology (once upon a time there was no disagreement as to what was meant by “union with Christ”, justification, adoption, salvation, etc.). All this fuss and feathers over a particular subset of the reprobate, i.e. the NECM!

    You know what? One way or another, the reprobate cause a lot of trouble.

  63. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Ref. # 59:

    One final thought Andy: you note the desire to see this in Scripture. This is exactly what Andrew Webb is doing here.

    Now that we’ve established (hopefully) that we are fairly and accurately unnderstanding what the FV means when it talks about “covenantal union” in John 15:1-6, let’s turn to examining whether this is what the Scripture says.

    Does John 15:1-6 lend itself to a two distinct union view, or does it lend itself to an undifferentiated one union view? Clearly the latter.

    The issue then is to explain the cutting away. The classic position, as Andrew has presented, rests on the distinctions between visible-invisible, internal-external, outward possession of covenant signs only – inward possession of covenant signs as well. These are the distinctions that fit this passage AND the rest of Scripture on such issues (following the only rule of interpretation, Scripture interprets Scripture).

    The FV rejects this classic position and proposes its two union theory, undifferentiated in history, only apparent eschatolgically. In my view, this position fails to consistently deal with the Scriptures, and in fatal ways.

    P.S. please, call me Reed.

  64. GLW Johnson said,

    December 23, 2007 at 9:35 am

    Gabe got his information from our young second year seminary student-and his seminary professors should not be held accountable since he does not pay any attention to them because they are-to a man- not sympathetic to the FV. Makes you wonder why he choose that seminary in the first place.

  65. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Ref. #58:

    Kyle, much, much sympathy. For me, I answer in this manner:

    > At some point I must say to FV advocates, “I will no longer engage in this debate with you, as it is no longer edifying to you, me, or anyone else to whom I owe the blessing of edification.”

    > I may never reject these men out of hand as brothers, and accordingly interact with them to whatever degree I can, aside from the FV issues.

    > Even IF there were a point at which I concluded that holding to the FV puts one outside the Church, I would still be willing to engage them, as I would any soul in need of simple faith to cling to Jesus. (Don’t misread me here any FV sympathizer; keep the IF in view).

    > I will always need stay up on the FV to somme degree in that I must always be prepared to graciously and humbly point sheep away from these errors in teaching, just as I would any other less than biblical theology they might fall into. I am not convinced that the FV is Romanism-lite. I am convinced that a Christian ordering his life by the FV will experience less of Christ. Thus, I must be a workman approved in this manner.

    All that aside, I will admit my flesh easily gets frustrated. I’m so grateful for Christ who either keeps me from my own sin, or grants me repentance when I give in.

  66. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 9:49 am

    I second comment #57, even though it may get the roving pro-FV police on his case.

    Interesting that the response to #57 made by #59 is once again the classic sense-oriented, all outward-directed all the time atheism 101.

  67. Todd Bordow said,

    December 23, 2007 at 11:29 am

    A number of you are uncomfortable describing the DW/FV movement as cult-like, but if you have worked with cults you will recognize the two similarities listed below, and don’t worry, you will see as you read that this is on topic.

    1. People quitting their jobs to relocate to Moscow, ID, not because DW preaches the gospel clearly, but for other reasons; i.e., joining the law-abiding spiritually “elite.” This elitist feeling of being among the faithful few is intoxicating and addicting.

    2. Once committing emotionally to the movement, whether because you need the guarantee of faithful children unstained by the world, or DW’s antagonistic and critical outlook toward unbelievers and the majority of churches resonates with you (both common cult characteristics), you are forced to justify and explain away the most ridiculous claims made by the leaders – anyone remember Harold Camping?

    For example, consider the claim by DW that God not only justifies and sanctifies individuals, but justifies and sanctifies his visible church, even though some within it might not be inwardly justified and sanctified. Think about how irrational and nonsensical that is. How is an entity “forgiven and declared righteous” while people within it not really forgiven and declared righteous? How do you take this stuff seriously? You do so when you are emotionally attached to the movement, and since in this movement a clear gospel message is not valued, followers are willing to allow the gospel to be obfuscated for the sake of continuing the movement and justifying its leaders. That is why no matter the logic or facts used to correct the statements of the FV leaders, the FV supporters continue on unabashed. Most true Christians in this movement need to crash first before they are courageous enough to walk away from the movement and still know they are okay spiritually.

    Blessings,

    Todd Bordow
    Pastor – Covenant Presbyterian Church of Fort Worth (OPC)
    Fort Worth, TX

  68. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 11:51 am

    Following on Todd Bordow’s comment above I also see in the cult aspect that DW’s followers – I mean the ones in Moscow now – don’t seem to fully know why their leader is always tangling with mainstream churches and church leaders and seminary professors and denominations and what not. They jump into these debates somewhat dislocated and mainly only wanting to defend their pastor but not really knowing what the doctrinal issues are or why they are important. I sense in some of them who appear here and there on these various sites that they are saying: “Pastor, why are you paying any attention to them, we are above them, they don’t understand us, leave them to the world!” They don’t realize DW and his movement exists not just to set up a separate cult but to actually attempt to supplant Calvinism and Reformed Theology. This larger goals is part of the current anti-Christ uprising we are seeing around the world. The goals are much bigger for them now.

    Because God uses everything for His end the FV movement will have the effect of luring and hardening those who can will be hardened to the truth of God’s Word while further identifying the always-present and existing remnant.

    In fact, if there becomes less resistance to calling Federal Vision a cult then Christians can shift into the more important and necessary mode of evangelization and counsel and so on towards it’s members and potential members.

    Dealing with FVism and it’s leaders and supporters as if they present serious doctrinal challenges is an empty – eternally empty – activity. It’s like taking Mormon doctrine seriously. They need to be evangelized.

  69. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Ref. #57 &66:

    Brothers, you need to stop imputing motive and goal to those you oppose, at least on this blog. Whether you are right or not is not the issue. Plain and simple, Lane’s intention for this blog is to engender dialog between advocates and opponents of the FV. The imputing of personal motive, aside from one’s utter inability to without error do so, is categorically off topic here.

    Please stop.

    Now this does not mean that you are to refrain from what you believe are necessary conclusions of the comments you are interacting with.

    > It is wrong to say to your opponent, “you are saying this because you deliberately want to trick people into hell.”

    > It is perfectly appropriate to say, “it may not be your intention, but people who buy into this may find themselves tricked into hell.”

    The latter draws out what you believe are necessary results of a given comment. The former imputes motives which you cannot know. This is not the setting for using language such as Christ uses against the Pharisees in John 8. You may already believe that day has arrived, but the owner of this blog does not wish to engage in such language.

    Show the respect I know you both profess to posess because of your relationship with Christ.

    With you I believe the FV is dangerous. With you I believe there may indeed be wolves among the sheep. But against you, I disagree with your imputing motive. No more, please.

  70. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Ref . #67 & 68:

    Brothers, these comments are way off topic of this thread, and therefore not appropriate in advancing the discussion of the author’s original comment. My rebuke here has nothing to do with the relative merits or demerits of your comments.

    If one of the editors chooses to start a thread with this as a topic, than by all means make such comments there. But until then, at least here, please stay on topic.

  71. Seth Foster said,

    December 23, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    69 and 70:
    Paul exhorts Christians to stand fast in the liberty where with Christ has set us free and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.
    If the FV folks are teaching any or all of the nine errors as stated in the GA report, then their motive is clear – they want to put believers back into bondage under a false gospel of works. Only those who are in bondage themselves want to put others in bondage with them.

    And, Paul warns us in Galatians not to tolerate false teaching for even an hour. It seems to me that we have had to tolerate this false teaching for a whole lot longer than an hour – more like seven years. I thought the purpose of this blog was to edify believers. One of the ways we can do this is to warn others of the dangers of the FV. Their errors have been brought to light in the GA report along with many other reports. It is time to face up to these errors and expose this darkness to the light. Paul also warns us not to have fellowship with darkness but rather to expose it. If the purpose of this blog is to have fellowship with darkness, then I’m outta here.

  72. markhorne said,

    December 23, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Maybe people quit their jobs and relocated to get away from pharisaical OPC churches. Just as possible and just as permissible to mention if these comments are open to such suggestions as Todd makes.

  73. A. Dollahite said,

    December 23, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Re #71 – Put your machine gun away and go read the PCA report on page 2 where it states, “The committee also affirms that we view NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ.”

    You may not like that sentence, but it’s there. It’s a good thing the PCA has men like Reed who aren’t so quick to shot at his brothers.

  74. A. Dollahite said,

    December 23, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    Mark,

    Reed just told Todd and Robert that it isn’t permissible… #70.

  75. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    >Put your machine gun away and go read the PCA report on page 2 where it states, “The committee also affirms that we view NPP and FV proponents in the PCA as brothers in Christ.”

    Reports aren’t Scripture. And again, this is where Calvin knew he needed to throw in a dog or filthy swine here and there to keep false teachers from claiming exoneration from diplomatic tag lines.

  76. David Gray said,

    December 23, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    >And again, this is where Calvin knew he needed to throw in a dog or filthy swine here and there to keep false teachers from claiming exoneration from diplomatic tag lines

    You are behaving like a dog…

    Please behave like the Christian you confess to be (and I assume are)…

  77. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    I am or Calvin was? Have the courage to say which. The courage of your convictions.

  78. December 23, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Point of order? Who is moderating this thread? Is the allegation that Christ Church is cult-like within the bounds that have been set for discussion here?

    But as long as we are on the subject, you may rest assured that if you attend a church where the sanctuary is emptied two minutes after the benediction, and the parking lot is empty five minutes after that, you will never have to answer the charge of a cultish love for one another.

  79. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    The Council of Trent pronounces me anathema.

  80. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    >Point of order? Who is moderating this thread? Is the allegation that Christ Church is cult-like within the bounds that have been set for discussion here?

    Moderators don’t cave to the policing demands of these false teachers. They play to the Old Man in all of us that desires to be ‘good’ in the eyes of man while denying the truth of God, or facilitating the denial of the truth of God.

  81. A. Dollahite said,

    December 23, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    Reed,

    I’d like to go back to your points about the scriptures being examined here. You say in #63:

    Now that we’ve established (hopefully) that we are fairly and accurately unnderstanding [sic] what the FV means when it talks about “covenantal union” in John 15:1-6,

    If you could point me to where this was done with respect to John 15 in this thread I’d appreciate it. As it stands from my perspective, you are distinguishing the FV view of “covenantal union” from what is normally called “decretal union.” That is, you recognize that the FV does in fact have two different unions in mind when referring to ECM and NECM.

    I understand Pastor Webb to have interpreted John 15 as if Jesus is discussing a “decretal union” with himself. From this perspective it makes no sense for the FV to say people are genuinely united to Christ in a decretal sense and then to be pruned out for unfaithfulness. If Jesus is speaking decretally, then the FV is conflict with the text.

    On the other hand, when I look at John 15, it seems clear to me that when Jesus says that branches are “in him” he is discussing a “covenantal union” and not a “decretal union.” This also appears to be what Dr. White asserts in #55 above:

    Hence, for John, “being in Him” — or, better, being branches in Him — does not necessarily imply vital (life-giving) union.

    That is, ‘being branches in Jesus’ is not always effected through regeneration via being born again from above. Such a reality is necessarily and expressly identified only with the abiding, fruitful branches in Jesus and is expressly not true of all the branches in Him.

    in this light, the vine-branches analogy in John 15 can be seen an extended metaphor of covenantal association and community, not vital union only.

    [All bold emphasis mine]

    If it is clear that Jesus is talking about a covenantal union, then I think it’s unfair to label the FV interpretation as inconsistent with the text itself. These branches Jesus discusses are “in him” and yet are pruned out because they are fruitless. In no way does this change the FV view that those who are vitally connected to Jesus will never lose that connection because of God’s persevering grace in their hearts.

  82. David Gray said,

    December 23, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    >I am or Calvin was?

    You, Robert Kagan, obviously…

  83. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Roman Catholics call me anathema, and FVists call me dog. See a pattern?

  84. A. Dollahite said,

    December 23, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    David,

    Would you mind shooting me an email at adollahite AT gmail DOT com?

  85. David Gray said,

    December 23, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    >FVists call me dog

    Actually I called you a Christian. I merely observed you are behaving like a dog and I would like you to behave as what you confess to be.

  86. David Gray said,

    December 23, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    Besides I’m not an FVist. But I am awake.

  87. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    I wouldn’t be a Christian if I didn’t confront false teaching and false teachers directly and boldly. This is what I’m doing, and this is what angers you. Whether you are in Doug Wilson’s ‘family’ or you are an admirer from afar, walk away from that darkness, David. Fear God, not man, it is the beginning of wisdom.

  88. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    The Federal Vision Family doesn’t want anyone reading comment #81. Read it and recall much of the testimony of former members of the Family.

  89. Tim Harris said,

    December 23, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    Although I have often referred to the “Wilson cult” in informal settings, and regular readers of his blog will quickly observe a cult-like “amen-corner” of responders, nevertheless:

    The same could be said of many independent American churches that hang out a shingle and get a following. Think of all the mega-me-churches in southern California. Who was that guy at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, the name slips me, but he certainly had an equally fanatical cult-following; yet people in our circles tended not to call them a bona fide cult.

    There are plenty of heretics in the world. I’ve often wondered, why do we focus on Wilson’s so much? The only answer I can think of is that he says, and says very loudly and repeatedly, “I [Wilson] am Reformed.”

    But there should be more needed to gain that credential than saying, “I am Reformed.”

    For starters, how about this: joining a Reformed church.

  90. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    Robert and Seth, shame on you for ignoring the rules of this blog, especially after being warned about.

    Your comments in no. 71 Seth are just so much self-serving justification. The simple fact is that your posts are not on topic – a violation of Lane’s rules. How to do square with Scripture open stealing from the owner of this blog? And then you have the nerve to accuse us willing to engage FV advocates with the motive of fellowship with darkness? I’ll stand by Christ outside the gate any day instead of you with such arrogant comments that twist Scripture to serve your own sinfulness.

    Robert, shame you you. I know you know better. You’ve chosen to ignore, once again, the reasonable demands that posts be on topic. That does not mean you offer anything you want to say, and end up saying the same thing, to wit, FV advocates are deliberately, knowingly, wicked men hell bent on tricking others into hell. Don;t bother disagreeing with my characterization of your comments. You’ve demonstrated already thay my opinion means nothing to you.

    Others, please stop responding to these men. They’ve demonstrated they have no self control. The best thing we can do for such brothers is not put an stumbling blocks in front of them, and instead quietly pray for them.

    No further comments about cult like characteristics – it is not the point of this thread. End of story – end of warnings.

  91. Todd Bordow said,

    December 23, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    I never quite understood the idea that we can never question motives. I don’t mean on this blog, which is free to enforce any rule it likes, but generally. There are so many examples of the Apsotles questioning motives, thinking of two quick examples; Phil 1:15 and Gal 6:12. I guess you could argue that only the inspired Apostles could know motives, but I’m not convinced they discerned motives based upon special revelation. They, knowing the fruit the gospel produces, both in those who preach it and those who hear it, were able to discern false motives based upon fruit. Granted we must do this carefully, but can we not use the Apostles’ insights as we evaluate ministries? I mean, it is not as if DW is in fraternal relations with our denominations. Would it be wrong to question the motives of Joel Olsteen, Brian McClaren or Benny Hinn? If not, why does DW get a free pass? I don’t mind if my motives are questioned by those I criticize either – fair game – I am content that God knows my heart. But I sincerely want to know biblically why motive questioning is not considered Christian in these cases?

    Thank you,

    Todd Bordow

  92. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    I had just written on Mark T.’s blog this comment regarding the moderating over here:

    “I know, just when it gets interesting people start to get slapped on the wrist. There’s order and diplomacy, and there’s lukewarmness. Though having moderated forums before, and being the ultimate anything-goes moderator, I know how people will exploit the freedoms to mess the environment up if they see things they don’t want to be made public, and so rules have to be applied and effective for all sides. So, I guess I have to say I respect the job they have and do. I’ll probably post this over there so they know I know I’m walking a razor’s edge… Kudos to Seth Foster, whoever he is. He’s written some good comments over there…”

    Well… Mr. Reed, methinks you’re both in the right for enforcing the stated rules but also maybe a bit, perhaps unintentionally, an abettor of the FVists…in this sense: with these types there is a pattern of them always attempting to get things back to ‘even’, even when it’s a fake even, and when they get on the ropes it never seems to fail that people from the anti-FV side with jump in and save them. This has been such a repeated pattern that they factor it in in their tactics and strategy as a weapon they have to use.

    The stage of dialogue with the FVists is long over. That’s been done rather diligently. It’s all become Alice-in-Wonderland now. The stage that this should be in now is the intervention. You know, where you confront the person with the problem by being open with them that they have a problem. Right now everybody is still pretending that the drug addict, so to speak, is still sort of normal and ‘one of us.’ As their behaviour gets worse the longer you go before confronting them boldly with the truth of what they are the more sick and chaotic the situation becomes.

  93. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Ref. #91:

    Rev. Bordow, where did anyone say anything against questioning motives?

    Take a look at the comments I for one am tired of having to police and rebuke. Correct me if I am wrong, but do not question statements end with question marks?

    The rebuke is not directed at questioning motives, it is directed at imputing motives. I know from reading your comments that you are sharp enough to understand this.

    Accordingly, your question here does not apply. I’ve not said there is a biblical injunction against questioning motives. Surely you do not need me to outline the biblical injunctions against imputing motive.

    An aside, and yet relevant, perhaps you could enlighten me how your comment #67 is on the topic of this thread. What does observing the cult like qualities of Rev. Wilson’s church have to do with the exegesis Andrew Webb has offered on John 15:1-6?

    Let me engage in questioning motives here. Were you aware of Lane’s rule that comments be on topic? If you were not, now you know. But if you were, how do you square posting a comment so off topic?

  94. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    The rule against questioning motives has been established with much harangue by the FVists themselves from the beginning when they began to be confronted. They got the rule in effect by using such language over and over as “You’re impugning men in good standing…?” “Is this how you behave towards pastors in good standing with their congregations?” It was all language intended to effect people who by nature don’t enjoy conflict, and it was also the typical appeal to the fear/reverence of man that unfortunately lingers wherever ‘Old Man’ human nature is at play.

    You mention the apostles, but notice the magisterial reformers didn’t have any problem with discerning motives either.

    Truth is not a hall of mirrors, and what the FVists do with doctrine and with language itself is not exactly difficult to discern.

  95. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    Ref. #92:

    Robert, you may very well be correct about the stage of discussion being over. But with reference to this blog neither your opinion or mine on that subject really matters. Only Lane’s does, and he wishes to continue the conversation at this point.

    If you’re done discussing then why in the world do you want to post on a blog which continnues the discussion? What motivates you to do something so fraught with potential for problems?

    An aside, there are other valid reasons for continuing conversation, even when you believe the opponent is past dealing with. If you’d like to discuss those private (not on topic here) please email me at pastor dot reed at gmail dot com.

    As to my abetting, I appreciate the warning and take it with the good will I know you intend it. I do hear you and am not ignoring it.

  96. A. Dollahite said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Reed,

    With the flurry of posts did you get a chance to see my response to you in #81?

  97. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Ref. #94:

    Robert, refer to #93 and tell me when was the last time you actually questioned a motive, instead of assuming you had it all figured out?

    Appeals to the apostles and the magisterial reformers sound an awful lot like the same kinds of appeals to authority that I disregard when I hear FV advocates try to prove their points.

  98. Todd Bordow said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    Reed,

    Okay, “questioning” may have been too innocuous a word. The two passages I cited have Paul “imputing” motives, as you phrased it. These passages do not end with a question mark. So my question is still; is this not an example for us, or was it only for the Apostles to do?

    Thanks,

    Todd Bordow

  99. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Ref. #96:

    Andy, yes I did. I apologize for not responding yet. My mind is a little wrapped around hopefully securing some cooperation from some who give the appearance of being bent on taking over Lane’s blog for their own purposes.

    I’m neither imputing or questioning motives here, just merely describing the behavior.

    I promise to engage your comments constructively shortly, most likely tomorrow.

  100. A. Dollahite said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks in advance.

  101. Todd Bordow said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Reed,

    To answer your other question on # 67, I was attempting to shed light on why the FV supporters are not convinced by Andy’s clear repudiation of their system with solid exegesis. I was trying to make the point that there is an emotional element to this debate that keeps the supporters from feeling free to be convinced by logical arguments, which is seen from the FV responses to Andy. But I understand if you want to stay on the doctrinal point; I can respect that, and I won’t even question your motives :-)

    Todd

  102. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    Ref. #98:

    Todd, fair enough.

    Philippians 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.

    Galatians 6:12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.

    My initial response is that I am very, very hesitant to take as normative for my behavior such contentless summary comments. We do not know how much interaction and discussion with these opponents backed up Paul’s conclusions. Further, the issue of inspiration comes into view as well. I am not saying we cannot use these examples, merely that we should do so cautiously.

    Another example, possibly even starker, might be Jesus’ comments to the Pharisees in John 8 – much harsher.

    And my concerns for patterning my own behavior after such unexamined examples remain. I have no problem with such statements as “get behind me Satan,” in which Jesus is directing his harshest criticism not at Peter’s motives, but the Satanic end his actions served. In fact, I much prefer such stark result oriented terms.

    On another thread here, much to the frustration of some FV advocates, I labeled the FV positions were were discussing as “Arminian,” meaning not that this was the intended goal of the advocates, but the necessary result of the positions. I was not bothered either by the misunderstanding by some who accused me of unjust harshness is using the Arminian slur (as they perceived it – I meant no slur, but a sincere warning).

    Not knowing all the circumstances in which Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, made his motive declarations in Phil 1:15 and Gal 6:12, I think it unwise to use them alone to establish for myself a pattern of how to treat those who I believer are in error.

    Instead, I find the express command of this verse much more compelling, and one which I am more sure of Christ’s pleasure to affirm and bless my efforts,

    2 Timothy 2:24-26 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

    I am firmly persuaded that you can make the harshest criticisms, and validly so, of the FV, and never need impute motives to men you’ve only interacted with on a limited basis. All you need do is follow Paul’s express advice here.

  103. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Ref. #101:

    Todd, thanks for your explanation. No disrespect intended in my criticism, but your comments in #67 seem a poor effort to make the point you intended to make, as you did not reference Andrew’s exegesis or the FV advocates rejection of it once.

    Sincerely, I think you’ve could have made your point clearer, and at the same time demonstrated that it truly was on topic.

  104. Kyle said,

    December 23, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Reed, re: 65,

    I do appreciate your tremendous patience. But I wonder how long we can continue to beat around the same bush. How many years has it been, and has any clear answer come from these men? Certainly it does not count to say, “We affirm the Standards,” while also teaching apparently contrary things. They’ve done little more than produce greater confusion in an already greatly confused Christian landscape. They accuse “TRs” of being modernist, individualist Baptists in Reformed drag. They loudly protest when the church proclaims certain teachings associated with them to be in error, and rather than humbly submitting to the judgment of their brethren they continue to teach and preach precisely that which has been declared to be in error. They go on to denounce the court of a Reformed church and impute to it viciousness and political motivation when that court pursues action against the continued teaching and reception of their error. And we even have one, at least, who promotes a doctrine of baptismal justification, which is nothing short of damnable heresy.

    Frankly, my patience has run dry with the lot of them.

  105. its.reed said,

    December 23, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Ref. #104:

    Kyle, I laugh every time I hear the FV advocates call me (a somewhat typcial FV critic) a TR. As any truly TR TR’s would tell you, I don’t come close to qualifying. Of course, their use of the TR label is just silly given the vote at the PCA GA this summer – surely they do not think that the vast marjority of the PCA is TR.

    As to the observations you make and the frustration you feel – lots of sympathy. Remember in the dust up with Rev. Wilson (your church court reference) I was one of primary corresponders trying to secure his goodwill in his words (to no avail).

    That notwithstanding, I am still convinced that there is a benefit in continuing the conversation. If you wish to examine this with me more, email me at pastor dot reed at gmail dot com.

  106. Seth Foster said,

    December 23, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    re: #90

    Is that comment an example of 2 Timothy 2:24-26? Go figure.

    Anyway, I am going to break another of Lane’s rules and get off topic by wishing you, Mr. Reed, a blessed and wonderful Christmas filled with His peace and joy.
    Don’t misunderstand my motive – I truly and sincerely mean it.

  107. Seth Foster said,

    December 23, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    re: #90

    Is that comment an example of 2 Timothy 2:24-26? Go figure.

    Anyway, I am going to break another of Lane’s rules and get off topic by wishing you, Mr. Reed, a blessed and wonderful Christmas filled with His peace and joy.
    Don’t misunderstand my motive – I truly and sincerely mean it.

  108. Seth Foster said,

    December 23, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    Sorry for the repeat – I didn’t think the first one went through.
    But double Christmas blessings to you all!

  109. Robert K. said,

    December 23, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    The Gog blog doesn’t have links for comments, so here is one in full. It is from a person who states he was in a Federal Vision church. It gets to the heart of the false teaching, and it’s on topic:

    No, I’m really not wanting to mock. Xon, I was in a church where such ambiguity and “tension” was held, admittedly as pastoral device to maintain the threatenings and curses of the Covenant. In other words, “keep ‘em wondering if they’re saved really or saved temporary”. My questions must seem like a shot from the cheap seats, but they come from one who was battered by this confusing teaching. I had my babies in those pews and I thank God I am away from the confusion. I refuse to embrace confusion and paradox. I seek light not heat in this discussion. “In a sense” the reprobate are saved, “in a sense”, believers may fall away” brings no light. As much as fV language is trying to be true to the Word, it distorts the true meaning of it. I need, my family needs, the world needs knowledge that their only hope is to cling to God’s mercy and Jesus, our only hope. Hope that explains my position Xon. I ask here to understand, not mock, but I know that my experience with it has left me a little angry at um..lack of precision.

  110. Gabe Martini said,

    December 24, 2007 at 1:09 am

    “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”
    Zechariah 7:9-10

  111. Travis said,

    December 24, 2007 at 7:55 am

    I could go on to note all the problems inherent in assuming that those for whom Christ died might someday be lost, for as John Owen reminds us “No person, therefore, whatever, who hath not been made partaker of the washing of regeneration and the renovation of the Holy Ghost, can possibly have any union with Christ.” and how those united and cut off would have a right to cry out “For what are we condemned? Was not the blood of Christ that cleansed us sufficient to atone for all our sins?” But I’ll leave that for another post.

    No, let us deal with it here.

    The answer would be,
    “For apostasy. That is your condemnation. That is the sin unto death. For that there is no remedy. Here is your condemnation in outline form:
    A) You were washed, you reconciled, you were baptised into Christ at the font
    B) Having been washed you were now fit for service in the kingdom
    C) Believing for the time you did, you failed and stumbled in all your areas of weakness but when you did so I was there to receive you as the prodigal you are and we ate together
    D) In all those times of sin and debauchery, you were never lost, there was fruit of repentance when you felt my prick and your assurance was in your faith
    E) But in the end your soil was not as it should have been; alas, you did not persevere but you left me though I was a husband to you; though it was I who took care of you, indeed, hear my words from Hosea:

    ‘Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God,
    for you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
    Take with you words
    and return to the Lord;
    say to him,
    “Take away all iniquity;
    accept what is good,
    and we will pay with bulls
    the vows of our lips.
    Assyria shall not save us;
    we will not ride on horses;
    and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’
    to the work of our hands.
    In you the orphan finds mercy.”

    I will heal their apostasy;
    I will love them freely,
    for my anger has turned from them.
    I will be like the dew to Israel;
    he shall blossom like the lily;
    he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
    his shoots shall spread out;
    his beauty shall be like the olive,
    and his fragrance like Lebanon.
    They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
    they shall flourish like the grain;
    they shall blossom like the vine;
    their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

    O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols?
    It is I who answer and look after you.
    I am like an evergreen cypress;
    from me comes your fruit.
    Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
    whoever is discerning, let him know them;
    for the ways of the Lord are right,
    and the upright walk in them,
    but transgressors stumble in them.’

    Now, note, you who stand condemned, you who did not heed my words: you are the transgressors who stumbled. You fell and did not rise. Simply b/c I held out hope for the apostates (that it is I who would heal [note that healing tacitly requires repentance]) does not mean that all would be healed. You stand condemned here this day not b/c my grace is not amazing but b/c you failed to continue in your amazement of it.”

    TmF

  112. Travis said,

    December 24, 2007 at 8:18 am

    #109
    My questions must seem like a shot from the cheap seats, but they come from one who was battered by this confusing teaching. I had my babies in those pews and I thank God I am away from the confusion. I refuse to embrace confusion and paradox. I seek light not heat in this discussion. “In a sense” the reprobate are saved, “in a sense”, believers may fall away” brings no light.

    This is unfortunate but I believe it has come from all of this required objective precision. Heretofore (ie anteFV, 2002), how did these men speak to their flocks? Biblically I’d imagine. I know of one PCA man who says he has taught these things (ahem, biblical, covenantal union [ok, FV union]) since his call at his present church. Now, is his flock confused? Are they unsure about their hope and calling? No. Why? B/c he is able to speak biblically to them and allow that to stand.
    Now, all of a sudden there is a need to “qualify.” And as any good student of Pratt can attest, “One cannot say everything, else one says nothing”; or “Fact up, fuzz up.” I fear that this parent in the quote above has had to endure the unfortunate death of 1000 qualifications. This need not be. Speak biblically (not always systematically) and the people will be biblical.
    As a Reformed Christian, I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I committed unto him against that day if I continue in the faith, steadfast and not moved away from my confession.
    I am not confused nor am I unsure of what or who I am and this from someone who likes what he sees and hears from “them”.

  113. greenbaggins said,

    December 24, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Doug, please see comments 69 and 70. Robert K, you have consistently ignored the pleas of both Reed and myself. And to all readers of this blog, Reed has read my mind as perfectly as possible for someone who doesn’t have telepathy. He has interpreted my intentions completely and utterly faithfully. Robert, you have never provided a valid email address so that I could address you privately, which would have been much better. As entertaining as many of your comment have been, they simply have not been in line with the tone I want this blog to have. I assure you that your banning from this blog is not something I do lightly (indeed, I have agonized over this for months), and it is not something I did under pressure from FV folk, since I got just as much pressure from FV **critics** to ban you. Even so, I do nothing from pressure from anyone. I do this because I want logical, step-by-step argumentation on both sides that addresses the theological issues without any personal attack. I know perfectly well that the Reformers did not stop with politeness. However, they were fighting for their physical lives. We are not. I know that you love Jesus, and you love the church. That is plain. You want to protect the flock from wolves. That is plain also. You don’t give an inch to falsehood. That is plain. However, there are more ways than one to fight falsehood without giving an inch. Trying to convince by more gentle means, i.e., logical argument even while being polite does not mean that one is giving an inch. Persuasion does not happen by name-calling or bullying. If we are willing to celebrate what we have in common with Roman Catholics (and we do have some things in common with them, such as Trinitarian theology, God-man Christology, belief in the infallibility of Scriptures), why then can we not *start* with what we have in common with the FV’ers, which is surely more than we have in common with Rome. In our desparate bid to protect the truth, let us not forget what we have in common. That is the only bridge of persuasion open to us.

    Robert, you are forthwith banned from this blog. I say it with no rejoicing, but rather with a heavy heart. Nevertheless, I believe it is in the best interests of this blog.

  114. Robert K. said,

    December 24, 2007 at 10:59 am

    >Robert, you have never provided a valid email address so that I could address you privately, which would have been much better

    Then why am I in possession of an email from you (as well as one or two from Mr. Reed)? You’ve just forgotten that you were given a valid email address.

  115. greenbaggins said,

    December 24, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Okay, my memory oftentimes fails me. So what? That isn’t going to change my decision, Robert.

  116. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 24, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Travis (#112):

    I know of one PCA man who says he has taught these things (ahem, biblical, covenantal union [ok, FV union]) since his call at his present church.

    How does he know? Perhaps he’s been teaching Judgment of Charity and has it confused with Federal Vision. Without precision, we aren’t even sure if what I teach is the same as or different from what you teach…

    Here is your condemnation in outline form:
    A) You were washed, you reconciled, you were baptised into Christ at the font
    B) Having been washed you were now fit for service in the kingdom
    C) Believing for the time you did, you failed and stumbled in all your areas of weakness but when you did so I was there to receive you as the prodigal you are and we ate together
    D) In all those times of sin and debauchery, you were never lost, there was fruit of repentance when you felt my prick and your assurance was in your faith
    E) But in the end your soil was not as it should have been; alas, you did not persevere but you left me though I was a husband to you; though it was I who took care of you, indeed, hear my words from Hosea…

    A major distinction between the Old Covenant and the New is that in the NC, the Holy Spirit is given to its participants to write the Law of God on their hearts and to *prevent apostasy*. The Holy Spirit is given as a seal guaranteeing our inheritance and giving us a new nature, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. This is what Murray termed “definitive sanctification” and Calvin termed “regeneration.” And while the Holy Spirit was certainly in operation in the OT, and even served some of these functions, He was not present in his fullness in the same way as today.

    In short, the New Covenant exists in order to solve the Hosea problem. And the Ezekiel problem. And the Isaiah problem. And the Zechariah problem.

    Thus, Dort says that all who receive the gift of justification will indeed persevere to the end:

    Dort V, Article 1: The Regenerate Not Entirely Free from Sin

    Those people whom God according to his purpose calls into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, he also sets free from the reign and slavery of sin, though in this life not entirely from the flesh and from the body of sin…

    Article 3: God’s Preservation of the Converted

    Because of these remnants of sin dwelling in them and also because of the temptations of the world and Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in this grace if left to their own resources. But God is faithful, mercifully strengthening them in the grace once conferred on them and powerfully preserving them in it to the end…

    Article 6: God’s Saving Intervention

    For God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election does not take his Holy Spirit from his own completely, even when they fall grievously. Neither does he let them fall down so far that they forfeit the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit the sin which leads to death (the sin against the Holy Spirit), and plunge themselves, entirely forsaken by him, into eternal ruin…

    Article 9: The Assurance of This Preservation

    Concerning this preservation of those chosen to salvation and concerning the perseverance of true believers in faith, believers themselves can and do become assured in accordance with the measure of their faith, by which they firmly believe that they are and always will remain true and living members of the church, and that they have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

    And the Confession:

    17.1 They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

    You may not be intending this, but what you appear to say is this: “Those who persevere are the truly elect.”

    But the entire Reformed theology is built on this: “Those who are elect, persevere.” And that theology is built upon the study of election *as that word is used in Scripture.*

    You’re probably aware that Calvin intended the Institutes and Commentaries to be read side-by-side. There it is: systematic and biblical theology hand-in-hand. And yet, he leaves no room for a genuine believer to apostasize. He simply doesn’t read the conditionals the same way you do.

    Jeff Cagle

    P.S. Despite the disagreement, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

  117. Todd Bordow said,

    December 24, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Reed,

    Fair criticism, I was not clear on how my point was on topic. Anyway, I am returning to lurker status for another few years. Not a big blog guy anyway, but this is one of the few I read.

    Blessings,

    Todd Bordow

  118. December 24, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Lane, thanks very much. I honor your efforts to keep things on track, and have a great deal of respect for you.

    And, speaking of what we have in common, a Merry Christmas to everyone.

  119. greenbaggins said,

    December 24, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    And a Merry Christmas to you too, Doug.

  120. R. F. White said,

    December 24, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Andrew Webb,

    Way back in 55, I expressed my support for your overall thesis, but my criticism of an unsubstantiated feature of your argument, to wit, your claim that “in the gospel of John, union with Christ (being in Him) is always effected via regeneration (being born again from above) and faith, not baptism.” If you get around to responding to that point, it may help to have some historical context.

    Having now re-read DW’s exchanges with you on this topic, I think it is fair to say that he has not changed his personal views on this matter since at least 2003. At the Knox Colloquium, he and I agreed that all the branches in John 15 and Rom 11 are truly joined to the vine/tree, and I affirmed with him that this association is the case through God’s covenant. In other words, all the branches are covenantally united to the vine/tree. He and I even agreed that there is a division of elect and reprobate among the covenantally united branches. At that time, his willingness to see such a division among the branches put him at odds with several of his FV group, most notably Steve Wilkins, and this disagreement within the FV group was not a matter of indifference. The extent to which there is still a disagreement among the FV men on this point is another matter.

    As I see it, the seeds of agreement on this point are in a common acknowledgement that John 15 and Rom 11 are addressing the status of branches on [in] the vine/tree from the “man’s eye perspective.” This kind of language puts us in the realm of the visible church. On the other hand, the seeds of disagreement persist over what it means to be covenantally joined/united to Christ. The challenge of definition is compounded because the Bible doesn’t use the relevant terms in only one sense. Hence, DW uses the term ‘union’ with a broad sense; you are using it, here at least, in a narrow sense. In addition, both uses have Biblical textual support.

    It may be somewhat better to speak of covenantal association and vital union, but that distinction does not forestall all objections. It’s still necessary to argue that covenant and election are not coextensive — which is just to say with John 15 and Rom 11 in mind that being a branch and being an abiding, fruitful branch are not the same.

  121. Machaira said,

    December 24, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Merry Christmas to all! :)

  122. its.reed said,

    December 24, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Ref. #81:

    Andy, probably a simple response here, but maybe it will advance things somewhat.

    I am comfortable with the kinds of distinctions that Dr. White makes in #120. Yes, nI understand FV advocates to distinguish between a decretal union and a covenantal union. I am even willing to use the same terminology, provided we are careful to define the differences between the two. In this vein I have at least two categories of problems with FV advocates usage of these terms:

    1. The rejection of accepted distinctions makes it difficult to clarify exactly what the FV means and does not mean by the use of these terms for union. Phrases such as invisible vs. visible Church, inward vs. outward, real vital union engendered by the Spirit vs. mere external covenantal union engendered by man, have a documented, hammered out and accepted usage that eliminates confusion.

    2. When what FV advocates mean by these two union terms is probed for clarity the result is, at some point, equivocation. I am not saying this is intentional. Rather, I get the impression that the FV advocates themselves haven’t worked all the kinks out of their system and such probing reveals such problems. Dr. White’s comment above about the lack of unity among FV advocates over even a basic distinction between decretal union and covenantal union demonstrates this second point.

    The key equivocation I hear time and time again revolves around the notion of what it means that both elect and reprobate have a “real” union with Christ and his benefits. To be fair, I haven’t run across many FV advocates who will define real as “vital.” Yet it appears that just about every other word used to describe decretal union is fair game for the FV’s understanding of covenantal union. Nevertheless almost all FV advocates want to maintain that covenantal union is a real experience of Christ and the benefits of the new covenant.

    It was expressly to be fair that I worked with Xon (and other commentators) to try and hammer out the definition of what can be called the FV doctrine of covenantal union. To be sure, not every FV advocate will sign on, or not in all the details. Yet, as I noted above, the summary I presented does seem to be at least the basics that most FV advocates will agree to.

    The FV understands covenantal union to be something both like and not like decretal union.

    > They both apply only to members of the Church (“professing” deleted from my previous version, as I suspect some most FV advocates would not agree, especially with infants in view).
    > They both initiate in the monergistic work of the Spirit.
    > They both give a real relationship with Christ,
    > They both give a real experience of at least some of benefits of the covenant of grace.

    The key differences are:

    > Decretal union of elect is permanent, whereas covenantal union of reprobate is temporary.
    > Decretal union of elect includes experiencing the grace of perseverance, whereas covenantal union of the reprobate excludes the grace of perseverance.

    I suggest that there is one element in the FV’s “alike” list that is the source of the problem at this point: both unions initiate in the monergistic work of the Spirit. It is here that some headway might be gained, if FV advocates are willing to differentiate the work of the Spirit in decretal union vs. covenantal union. So far Andy, all I’ve heard are the two difference already mentioned. A rather lengthy discussion on another thread in which I introduced the “common operations of the Spirit” doctrine did not avail.

    The problem here is that FV advocates are unwilling or possiblty simply unable to distinguish things further. They want to maintain that the covenantal union is not just some mere functions of the Church, a work of man. They want to maintain that some real-living-salvific relationship is entered into between God and a reprobate (visible) Church member. The only distinction they offer is that such a person does not persevere because it has not been granted to him. According to the FV the reprobate Church member has a real (covenantal) union with Christ through which he really and truly experiences (temporarily) Christ and the benefits of the covenant of grace.

    This is not what John 15 says. John 15 says that to sight both branches (elect and reprobate) have some relationship, some connection, some union (broadly understood) to Christ. There is not enough in this passage to get a full picture of the differences between these two different relationships-connections-unions. Other passages make it clear that what the FV calls a covenantal union was not in any manner the same as decretal union.

    Covenantal union is a union in name only (Dr. White’s “association”). There is no experience of Christ and his benefits like that experienced by the elect. There are no operations of the Spirit in a salvific manner in the reprobate that is eventually lost (which must be if the FV position is right). The branches cut off in John 15 were cut off because they were dead from the beginning, with no real-vital-life giving experience of Christ ever in their tenure in the covenant “objectively.”

    This is not what FV advocates want to say about John 15:1-6.

    To end with one significant (in my mind) criticism, the FV’s insistence on the objectivity of the covenant, the unwillingness to let decretal considerations come into view because they cannot be truly known until eternity, makes all the distingushing between decretal and covenantal union a pointless exercise. To sight (objectively) both branches look like they have a “real” union. The FV in this regard offers no hope to people. “Am I decretally or covenantally united? Well, I won’t be able to find out until I face the final judgment? So what is my hope now?”

    The FV answer of faithfulness (man’s efforts at perseverance couple with some vague notion of relying on Christ) simply does not cut it.

  123. Andy Gilman said,

    December 24, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Dr. White said:

    It’s still necessary to argue that covenant and election are not coextensive — which is just to say with John 15 and Rom 11 in mind that being a branch and being an abiding, fruitful branch are not the same.

    It’s unclear to me why it’s “necessary to argue that covenant and election are not coextensive.” Unless you want to say “covenant, ‘in one sense,’ and election are not coextensive.” Is it your view then that covenant and visible church are coextensive?

  124. A. Dollahite said,

    December 24, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    Dr. White,

    It seems to me that you have summarized at least my view of John 15 and Rom 11 well. The problem I keep encountering here on these threads is that when we move from understanding these texts as pictures of a covenantal union, to the conclusion that the branches of the vine/tree are therefore in some sense united to the vine/tree, many of the FV critics assert that we are out to lunch. It takes the form of statements like, “I realize the FV considers those people to have “union with Christ”, but they don’t.” When we come back to point out that the type of union we are describing is not the decretal/vital/salvific union of the elect, but a different one in quality, it doesn’t seem to matter. Where am I failing to communicate?

    P.S. The numbering on this thread is messed up now in some locations, but when you first addressed me back at the top (around #16) you called me “Dollarhite” instead of “Dollahite.” I had to smile because that seems to the most common mess up I get (along with Dollarhyde). I’m curious if you know anyone with those names, or was it just a strange slip?

  125. A. Dollahite said,

    December 24, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Reed,

    Wow, I’m starting to feel understood. And for what it’s worth, I do agree with the two categories of problems you point out about terminology and usage.

    A thought on #1 – Where is the balance between having to carefully nuance biblical terms with systematic precision?

    A thought on #2 – A definite weakness from my distant vantage point as well.

    A thought on the use of the term “real.” – The problem seems to be when FV people use the term “real = actually exists” and critics hear “real = savingly vital.” I would grant that the responsibility for this confusions rests on both sides of the discussion, and that the FV side has been cavalier at times in ways that I found unhelpful.

    Any feedback? Again, thanks so much.

  126. Travis said,

    December 24, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    #116
    A major distinction between the Old Covenant and the New is that in the NC, the Holy Spirit is given to its participants to write the Law of God on their hearts and to *prevent apostasy*.

    Jeff, do you have the Spirit? Any chance you will apostasize? I have yet to meet someone to answer this honestly.

    The Holy Spirit is given as a seal guaranteeing our inheritance and giving us a new nature, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. This is what Murray termed “definitive sanctification” and Calvin termed “regeneration.” And while the Holy Spirit was certainly in operation in the OT, and even served some of these functions, He was not present in his fullness in the same way as today.

    Okay. So, David did not have this? Abraham? Solomon? Nebukadnezzar?

    You may not be intending this, but what you appear to say is this: “Those who persevere are the truly elect.”

    But the entire Reformed theology is built on this: “Those who are elect, persevere.” And that theology is built upon the study of election *as that word is used in Scripture.*

    Poh-tah-toe, potatoe. You say “Merry Christmas” and I say “Happy Birth of our Lord Christ”

  127. its.reed said,

    December 24, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Ref. #125:

    Andy, just finished editing my response (you read a temporary version), so when you get a chance look at it again (#122).

    As to your question on #1 category, I think a simple respect for the existing terminology is the place to start. Then work out a carefully nuanced differentiation in your new terms. I don’t see the FV doing this very well. I would have some sympathy with the claim of some FV advocates that this is a “private” conversation and they’re still working things out. The problem is that since the 2002 AA conference they’ve kept this conversation about as private as the media keeps the nightly headlines.

    Referencing your question on the thought real: I recognize the distinction you are making and will agree that FV advocates heard at moments of clarity will make such a distinction. I’ll even ignore how unable they seem to be in maintaining a use of that distinction (a category #1 issue).

    Again my problem comes when I probe the distinction. No hyperbole intended but the best I end up hearing sounds to me like a variation of Arminianism (I’m not saying its merely Arminianism).

    Again, note the best clarity I’ve heard from the FV in distinguishing:

    > Savingly Vital: a real experience of Christ and the covenant of grace that is eternal.
    > Actually exists: a real experience of Chrisgt and the covenant of grace that is temporary.

    This is not sufficient.

  128. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 24, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Andy D. (#125):

    A thought on the use of the term “real.” – The problem seems to be when FV people use the term “real = actually exists” and critics hear “real = savingly vital.” I would grant that the responsibility for this confusions rests on both sides of the discussion, and that the FV side has been cavalier at times in ways that I found unhelpful.

    I agree. The term “real” made much more sense in the 16-18th centuries when most people were “realists.”

    My bottom line is that we must stipulate that the NECMs do not receive definitive sanctification (== “regeneration” in Calvin, Dort), and that all of those who are definitively sanctified will persevere. That is, *some* kind of ontological difference between the truly saved and the not truly saved appears to be a bare minimum Scriptural requirement.

    Apart from that, I have no problem saying that there is some kind of “external”, “non-saving”, etc. membership in the body of Christ.

    Jeff Cagle

  129. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 24, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Travis (#126):

    Jeff, do you have the Spirit? Any chance you will apostasize? I have yet to meet someone to answer this honestly.

    I hope to answer it honestly, at least.

    I have full faith in the promise of Christ that all who come to him, he will never cast out.

    Further, based on my cumulative experiences of God’s grace, I have a high degree of confidence that I have indeed come to him in faith. Stronger than that, I believe that if, for some reason, I have deceived myself on this point, then the only remedy is to believe right now. And thus I do.

    I’m not sure I fully understand WCoF 18.1, 2 on this point, when it speaks of an assurance” that is “not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation…”

    It may be that it speaks of precisely the kind of assurance I have, or it may be that there is some experience to come that I have not yet received.

    In any event — I trust Jesus.

    And thus, yes, I have the Spirit, in all likelihood. And thus, I would assess my chances of apostasizing to be remote. Not because I’m a perseverin’ kinduva guy, but because Jesus is faithful to his promises.

    In short, my assessment that I have the Spirit is grounded not in an internal salvation-o-meter but in the promises of God.

    Okay. So, David did not have this? Abraham? Solomon? Nebukadnezzar?

    Reed, Wes, Andrew, others: What are your thoughts on this?

    Specifically, I see a tension in my own understanding. Certainly, Abraham received the Spirit (cf. Gal. 3). And certainly, God preserved a remnant within Israel. And certainly, salvation has always been by grace through faith. As the Confession says, “The justification of believers under the old testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the new testament.”

    And clearly, perseverance was no more possible to fallen men in the OT than in the New, so that we have to say that some kind of regeneration took place amongst the OT believers.

    And yet:

    * David was nervous about the possibility of losing the Spirit.
    * The promise of the New Covenant comes with the promise of a greater work of the Spirit (Joel 2) so as to guarantee perseverance (Ezek 37).

    So: what can be said about the differences between the experiences of believers in the Old and New Testaments?

    Jeff Cagle

  130. A. Dollahite said,

    December 24, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Reed,

    It must be nice to be able to go back and edit your posts. Wish I knew how to/had the ability to do that… :-)

    You said in your edited #122:

    The branches cut off in John 15 were cut off because they were dead from the beginning, with no real-vital-life giving experience of Christ ever in their tenure in the covenant “objectively.”

    This is not what FV advocates want to say about John 15:1-6.

    Yet, isn’t this exactly what Wilson has said about those branches in the post under examination by Pastor Webb, where he states the following:

    So the claim I was responding to was that the reprobate covenant member never had any kind of union with Christ, not that he didn’t have a vital union. I agree that those who are cut off never had a vital union with Christ, as I argued over the course of three chapters in “Reformed” Is Not Enough. Not only do I agree that they don’t have vital union at the time they were cut off, I have also gone out of my way to teach that there is a vital union that they never had. Something was wrong with them from the beginning.

    The end result is a sprinkled heart. The result of this theology is confidence before the throne of God. The blood of Jesus has opened the veil to the Holy of Holies, which is the flesh of Jesus. Now we have a High Priest forever, and we are exhorted to draw near with full assurance. Our hearts have been sprinkled with the blood, and our bodies have been washed in baptism. So we are to hold fast, not so that we can be faithful, but rather because He is faithful. This and only this is the basis of love, good works and church attendance (vv. 24-25).

  131. A. Dollahite said,

    December 24, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Oops, the part after the “(to be continued…)” got stuck in there from a draft I’m working on, so just ignore it for now. Perhaps you could edit it out for me :-)

  132. R. F. White said,

    December 24, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    123 Andy Gillman,

    You are right. I left unstated the reason why, in my view, it’s “necessary to argue that covenant and election are not coextensive.” Covenant and visible church are coextensive: the visible church is the covenant community.

  133. its.reed said,

    December 24, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Ref. #130:

    Andy,

    Yes, Rev. Wilson is saying the reprobate Church member never had a decretal (vital) union with Christ. Yes, Rev. Wilson is only saying that the reprobate Church member only has a covenantal (real) union with Christ.

    Again, I understand and I am not confusing my criticism, basing it on a faulty assumption that the FV is talking about decretal union when it is only talking about covenantal union.

    Again, my criticism is in how covenantal union is differentiated from decretal union. In my opinion, the FV equivocates here, so that in the end the distinctions it makes between decretal and covenantal unions are insufficient for the Bible’s presentation.

  134. A. Dollahite said,

    December 24, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Reed,

    (To continue from #130.)

    You also said in #122:

    To end with one significant (in my mind) criticism, the FV’s insistence on the objectivity of the covenant, the unwillingness to let decretal considerations come into view because they cannot be truly known until eternity, makes all the distingushing between decretal and covenantal union a pointless exercise.

    FV leaders can speak for themselves.

    But I wonder just how helpful it is for the non-FV pastor to speak from the pulpit to his congregation with constantly qualified statements. As I understand it, part of the reason the FV speaks the way it does is because it seems pointless to tell a congregation that God’s love will persevere for them *if* they are decretally elect. Well, that’s nice, but how do I know if I’m decretally elect? If my pastor is constantly speaking about a idealistic class of people that in the here and now can’t really be fully identified, so that I spend my time wondering if I’m really elect, then the whole exercise comes across as rather academic rather than personal. I think the point of the FV is to say, “Look Christian, God has claimed you as his, now hold fast to his promises.” I have more below to say about this.

    You continue:

    To sight (objectively) both branches look like they have a “real” union. The FV in this regard offers no hope to people. “Am I decretally or covenantally united? Well, I won’t be able to find out until I face the final judgment? So what is my hope now?”

    Our hope is never in anything about us. Even under the non-FV system an elect person isn’t walking around with a stripe down his back making his identity perfectly known. Instead, our hope is always and only in Christ and in his faithfulness. This is what we are exhorted to hold fast to for our hope. This is also how I interpret what Pastor Wilson is saying here:

    The end result is a sprinkled heart. The result of this theology is confidence before the throne of God. The blood of Jesus has opened the veil to the Holy of Holies, which is the flesh of Jesus. Now we have a High Priest forever, and we are exhorted to draw near with full assurance. Our hearts have been sprinkled with the blood, and our bodies have been washed in baptism. So we are to hold fast, not so that we can be faithful, but rather because He is faithful. This and only this is the basis of love, good works and church attendance (vv. 24-25). [Blog and Mablog, "Covenant Boldness and Covenant Fear," posted on 3/10/2006]

    Finally, I notice you concluded in #122 as follows:

    The FV answer of faithfulness (man’s efforts at perseverance couple with some vague notion of relying on Christ) simply does not cut it.

    It would take time, and I’d be willing to do it, but I don’t think it’s a fair assessment of the FV to say that their exhortation to covenant members is “Be faithful, be faithful, be faithful… oh, and by-the-way, it would be good to rely on Christ.” If that was really what they were saying then I would agree wholeheartedly with you, but with the years I’ve been following this debate (primarily through Doug Wilson) this is most certainly not what they are saying.

    Well, I’m about to get on the road to see family. I’ll perhaps have time to interact more, as I’m quite sure that you will have corrections and clarifications for me. Until then, or until glory.

  135. A. Dollahite said,

    December 24, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    I should have said in #134, “FV leaders can speak for themselves.” I wasn’t intending to be condescending.

  136. R. F. White said,

    December 24, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    124 Andy Dollahite (sometimes I can’t type, read, or either at the same time when I hurry!)

    You ask, “Where am I failing to communicate?” Three observations. One, I wouldn’t assume that you have failed to communicate. Continuing disagreement may be proof that you have communicated. The hardest part, for me at least, is figuring out why the disagreement continues: is it an issue of evidence or conclusions? Who has correct and complete evidence and who has reached consistent and complete conclusions? Two, the use of traditional terms in non-traditional ways is almost always a serious obstacle to agreement. Three, I think it’s fair to say that a failure to communicate happens generally because of lack of shared definitions at some point. For what it’s wort …

  137. R. F. White said,

    December 24, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    133 Reed, would you agree that the equivocation you mention includes attributing the benefits of union with Christ to both elect and reprobate but qualifying their duration for the reprobate, for example, as in “temporary” justification of the reprobate?

    134 Andy Dollahite, when I, as a non-FVer, minister the Word, I do so knowing that the new covenant community is not now fully differentiated as either the elect (the seed of Christ; Isa 53) or the reprobate. Hence, with the biblical writers, I am bound to speak to the church of both blessing (salvation) promised and curse (judgment) threatened in the covenant, as required by the text from which I’m ministering. On the premise that the faith of my hearers is credible, I ascribe to them all sorts of blessedness and describe them by all manner of title bespeaking their election. On the premise that the faith of my hearers is undifferentiated from non-saving faiths, I exhort them to perseverance, particularly in response to temptation and trial, with promises of everlasting blessing for perseverance and warnings of everlasting curse for apostasy. Meanwhile, I keep in mind passages like 2 Tim 2:17-18, where I learn that Paul did not concede the reversibility of election simply because some defect, but said, “nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his’” (2 Timothy 2:19 NAS95).

  138. its.reed said,

    December 24, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    O.k., now the only ones who should posting for the next 36 hours are truly dyed in the soul puritans. To them I wish a blessed continuing experience of Christ and all His benefits.

    The rest of you will have to settle for a Merry Christmas. Now no posting – go hug the wife, kids, dog, etc. (Anne, you hug all the grandkids!) :)

  139. anneivy said,

    December 24, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Aye, aye, sir! ;-)

    It’s a tough assignment, but I do believe I’m up to the task. ;^)

    Merry Christmas, y’all!

    Anne

  140. im.steve said,

    December 25, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Merry Christmas to all – in union with Christ and only by his merit!!

  141. David Gray said,

    December 25, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Happy Christmas to all the brethren!

  142. magma2 said,

    December 26, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Todd wrote:

    . . .I was attempting to shed light on why the FV supporters are not convinced by Andy’s clear repudiation of their system with solid exegesis. I was trying to make the point that there is an emotional element to this debate that keeps the supporters from feeling free to be convinced by logical arguments, which is seen from the FV responses to Andy. But I understand if you want to stay on the doctrinal point; I can respect that, and I won’t even question your motives

    I’m a bit late to the game, but at this point I don’t know whether I’m on topic or off, but there is a good reason why FV men like Wilson will never be convinced by logical argument, that’s because they see the laws of logic as a creation of Greek pagans. They don’t believe, as Gordon Clark once wrote, that “God is a rational, thinking being whose thought exhibits the structure of Aristotelian logic” and that the forms of logic are part of the innate apriori equipment all men possess by virtue of being created in God’s image.

    Gordon Clark also said that “God is a rational being, the architecture of whose mind is logic”. Now, contrast this high view logic with something Wilson’s crony Doug Jones wrote in Screamenda:

    “Why would God reveal Himself with all the poetry and imagery in Scripture, but then expect us to wait for Aristotle before we could create the sort of sentences that really satisfy His head? God would be divided against Himself. On the one hand He speaks in music, stories, and metaphor, but, in another part of His head, His in-built syllogisms would only count as important to the thinnest mathematical propositions.

    Perhaps even more pitiful is the fact that, though syllogisms appear to do so much for rationality, they can really only tell us about the relations of ideas and propositions. They don’t tell us how to connect bricks and zebras and people, only ideas about those things, only shadows of reality: “We are asking about a relation between two lots of propositions: on the one hand the premises, on the other hand the conclusion.” In order to make these machines say anything about reality, you have to assume some radically rationalistic assumption from Parmenides, Spinoza, or Hegel, like “the real is the rational.” But then the game is up, and logic doesn’t look so neutral or Christian anymore.”

    Jones also wrote:”I have this deepening suspicion that future Christians will pity us for our naive approach to traditional logic. ” Evidently for some in Idaho, the future is now. But it does explain a lot.

  143. its.reed said,

    December 26, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Ref. #142:

    Sean, actually way off topic. Please see the post at the beginning of the thread. This topic is not about Rev. Wilson’s failings, whatever those may be.

    Thanks.

  144. its.reed said,

    December 26, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Gabe, please don’t respond to off topic comments. You’ve now suggested a burden to Sean that he answer you. But to respect the rules of the blog here he can’t.

    Thanks for understanding.

  145. R. F. White said,

    December 26, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Reed, any thoughts on my question in 137?

  146. its.reed said,

    December 26, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    Ref. #137:

    Dr. White, you ask, “would you agree that the equivocation you mention includes attributing the benefits of union with Christ to both elect and reprobate but qualifying their duration for the reprobate, for example, as in “temporary” justification of the reprobate?”

    Yes, although this seems to be a second order equivocation. I.e., it appears to me that FV advocates will propose at least parts of a “covenantal” (following their notion) ordo salutis, in order to fill out the system and/or address any conundrums their system has created. Or course the covenantal ordo salutis items cannot be the “same” as the decretal, and so the same pattern of equivocation occurs.

    I’ll admit I may be missing verses that support such notions, but my failure is not for lack of searching. Where does the Bible teach the reprobate experience anything even akin (similar, not same) to justification, sanctification, etc.? Heb 6:4-6 is not a proof text, as one has to approach that passage with FV presuppositions in place in order to intepret (eisegete) such notions into it.

    Your thoughts?

  147. R. F. White said,

    December 26, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    Yes, I agree that the qualification of the duration on the benefits of union with Christ is a second-order phenomenon. Perhaps the following is another way to describe what you are getting at:

    The system of doctrine that FVers see taught in the Bible shares terminology with the Westminster system of doctrine (such that FVers can affirm Westminster and be in dialog with it), but that terminology, as used by FVers, does not consistently and predictably share the meaning assigned to it in the Westminster system of doctrine.

    I acknowledge that the FVers’ preferred system shares key terminology with the system taught in the Westminster Standards. My observation is, however, that the key terminology has different meanings in the two systems, so that they are not interchangeable between systems without wholesale exchanges of meanings.

    What is crucial to note, it seems to me, is that the two systems are clearly not coordinate in FV thinking. The lack of coordination can be seen in their treatment of various texts (e.g., John 15) and doctrines (such as election, union with Christ, etc.). I don’t doubt that FVers highly prize Westminster’s system, but they generally see it as a narrower and lesser way to express the system of doctrine in Scripture. As a lesser expression of Scripture’s system of doctrine, they believe that the Westminster’s system, at important points, has materially deprived Scripture of much of its force in teaching God’s people about the blessings of covenant membership. For these reasons, the FV system is to be preferred to the lesser Westminster system, and when the application of one to the interpretation of a passage or a doctrine would conflict with the application of the other, the FV system trumps the Westminster system.

  148. its.reed said,

    December 26, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Ref. #147:

    Exceptionally well summarized. Thanks!

    With reference to your observation about the FV system trumping in interpretation would you say that FV system essentially serves as THE interpretive gride? If so, does it seem fair to say that for FV advocates the Westminster system only applies secondarily, and at that only when asked? I.e., isn’t the trumping going on rather absolute in nature?

    To the extent these are fair observations it seems to me that the FV is best understood as a meta-system, in that it proposes to be a fuller explanation of the system of Scripture. It proposes to subsume the Westminster system, and in doing so eliminate “contradictions” at least as much by authority of position as by actual exegesis.

    There are a host of concerns running around in my head right now concerning this, but they won’t slow down enough for me to identify them separately yet. Suffice to say, if this is an accurate understanding I cannot in good conscious agree that the FV system is consistent with the Westminster system. Even more, I am at a loss to see how this dilemma can ever be worked out.

  149. December 26, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Dr. White, I agree with much of your last post, with the exception of saying that we see Westminster as a “lesser expression” of Scripture’s system (and the part that says we do not see the systems as coordinate). We do see it as narrower, but that is not a bad thing, depending on the what the subject under discussion is. If the discussion is about soteriology and the individual, then Westminster is a narrow, but superior, way of expressing the truth. But if we are talking about some of the broader issues that Westminster doesn’t address (like Christ being the founder of a new humanity), seeking a scriptural way of speaking about these things that is consistent with Westminster does not constitute a rejection of Westminster.

    And if #142 is off-topic, would it also be off-topic to point out that I co-authored a logic textbook, published by Canon Press with Doug Jones at the helm, and that in that logic text, I identified the basic “laws” of logic as actually being attributes of God? Because if it is off-topic, never mind.

  150. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 26, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Doug (#149):

    But if we are talking about some of the broader issues that Westminster doesn’t address (like Christ being the founder of a new humanity), seeking a scriptural way of speaking about these things that is consistent with Westminster does not constitute a rejection of Westminster.

    So here’s the sticky wicket — what if FV proponents talk about things that they don’t believe that WCoF addresses, but others believe it does?

    High on the list would of course be the nature and experience of NECMs.

    Many would read WCoF as stipulating that regeneration occurs irreversibly to the elect and only the elect. Some FV proponents – not you, but James Jordan – would deny this (comment 8/24/07 3:03).

    And it seems to many that Steve Wilkins’ position that the cut-off branches in John 15 could and should have been fruitful because they experience vital union with Christ cannot be coherently held together with WCoF 16.2 and 7.

    So while I might appreciate that the FV wishes to broaden the range of Reformed theology to include Mark Horne’s “verses in the wild”, at the same time I’m concerned that the FV’s broader system is not sufficiently coherent with the Reformed system it builds upon.

    Jeff Cagle

  151. its.reed said,

    December 26, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Ref. #149:

    Rev. Wilson, yes, if I chastize someone else for responding to an off-topic comment (no. 144), I likewise must chastize you.

    I appreciate the feeling to put things right with such comments, but in the future please don’t. Something as silly as this comment is evident to most of us already. The rest of us will catch up in time.

    All, if there is a really egregious comment that is off topic, Lane’s desire is that you email the author of the original post offline and ask him to address the issue. This will reduce the back and forth – wasting the time of those of us who are interested in the topic – that some feel compelled to engage in.

    If for some reason you can’t get in touch with the author of a post, then feel free to email me at pastor dot reed at gmail dot com.

  152. its.reed said,

    December 26, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Ref. #149:

    Rev. Wilson, in principle I have no quibbles with what you’ve described. E.g., WCF chapter on end times is well known for being basic. Obviously we need to go beyond the details of this chapter in seeking a comprehensive understanding of this topic in the Bible.

    Respectfully, I think the FV system goes way beyond this. Jeff (#150) has offered some examples. I think the discussion here has demonstrated a number of other examples.

  153. R. F. White said,

    December 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    148 Reed, I agree.

    149 Douglas,

    Good to hear from you on this aspect of the discussion. Your comment about soteriology and the individual helps me see that my “narrower and lesser” statement may well be too sweeping, too generalized to be applicable beyond a particular subject or set of subjects. Taking, then, your point about “depending on what the subject under discussion is,” would it be accurate to say this: on the subjects of covenant, church, union with Christ, and sacraments, the FV system is to be preferred to the Westminster system?

  154. December 26, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Dr. White, on the topics you list, I would put it something like this:
    1. Covenant (decretal), Westminster preferred, FV in the back seat;
    2. Covenant (historical), FV preferred;
    3. Church (invisible, eschatological), Westminster preferred;
    4. Church (historical), FV preferred;
    5. Union with Christ, FV preferred;
    6. Sacraments, Westminster preferred; Bapteryianism in the back seat

  155. R. F. White said,

    December 26, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    154 DW,

    That delineation of preferences is helpful to me; thanks. I hope it is to others. I take some comfort from the fact that I might have predicted them, even #6. If that sounds patronizing, I apologize; I can’t figure out how better to say it. I hope that it means I’m actually understanding you, lest my disagreements be simply rudeness, or ignorance, or both.

    Now a further clarification would help me: what do you take the defining trait/s of Bapteryianism to be (without planting your tongue firmly in your cheek, that is! :-) If you’ve done this already somewhere on your site, a link would be enough.

  156. Mark T. said,

    December 26, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Dr. White,

    If I may interrupt: The word “Bapteryianism” denotes a system of doctrines held by a confederation of independent churches that have adopted a baptismal agreement between Baptists and presbyterians, which allows Baptists to join the federation in good conscience, and that also call themselves a “presbytery” despite the absence of any demonstrable presbyterian polity in their constitution.

    Thank you.

  157. December 26, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Dr. White, from our interactions, I would take your predictions as nothing other than having read what I have been writing carefully.

    What I mean by Bapteryian is not ecumenism between Baptists and Presbyterians, which is entirely a good thing, and something I try to practice, but rather the quiet adoption of certain key baptistic doctrines on the part of presbyterians, without knowing that this is what they are doing. From the Second Great Awakening on, the prevailing ethos among American evangelicals has been baptistic. Many Presbyterian churches have accommodated themselves to this prevailing ethos. So I would define a Bapteryian church as one in which the children of the covenant, dutifully baptized in infancy, are expected to undergo a radical, crisis conversion later in life. Note that I am not questioning the need for everyone to be converted, but rather questioning the Damascus road model for covenant children.

  158. R. F. White said,

    December 26, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    154 Additional questions: in the three areas where the FV system is preferable to the W system, is it not accurate to say that the former trumps the latter and that the former and the latter are not coordinate? If not, why not? What is it that makes the former preferable to the latter?

  159. R. F. White said,

    December 27, 2007 at 12:09 am

    157 Douglas, you posted as I was writing 158. Thanks for the additional clarification on Bapteryian/ism. Perhaps more later.

  160. R. F. White said,

    December 27, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    157 Douglas,

    Your remark about “the quiet adoption of certain key baptistic doctrines on the part of presbyterians, without knowing that this is what they are doing” highlights the problem with which Andrew Webb started this thread. What I mean is this: I can hear him saying that his concern is over “the quiet adoption of certain key Romish doctrines on the part of FVers, without knowing that this is what they are doing.”

    Both sides issue their denials and protests, as well they should. After all the clamor dies down, however, perhaps it escapes our notice that the two sides do not regard the concerns as equally threatening. That is, presumably we could all declare, “Well, since Rome has anathematized the gospel, it’s better to be found baptistic than Romish.”

    Anyway, if we’re still talking at the end of the clamor, the rub is still there: what does “covenantal union” mean and how does it differ from “vital union”? If we can’t answer those questions, we leave the branches confused.

  161. December 27, 2007 at 6:21 pm

    #158 Dr. White, my assumption (and I think I have all this worked out in my head) is that the doctrines of Westminster and FV are coordinate when they are talking about same thing, and consistent when they are talking about different things. Where I prefer FV language, with the exception of paedo-communion, I believe that FV language is functioning in a manner consistent with Westminster. All the refutations of FV I have read that maintain an FV/Westminster contradiction generally get that result by misrepresenting what FV is saying, or Westminster, or both.

  162. December 27, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    #160 Dr. White, I actually agree. I would much rather go back to being an evangelical Baptist than to go over to Rome. Fortunately, the Westminster Confession presented me with an alternative — which my baptist friends all thought was heading to Rome.

    Vital union with Christ means that the effectual call has occurred, and the branch attached to Christ in this way cannot fall away, or fail to produce fruit. Covenantal union is something which vital branches and dead branches hold in common. In TR terminology, covenantal union is simply membership in the visible Church. The problem is raised again when an FV guy tries to remind us that the visible Church is the Church of Christ, and that members of it are therefore members of Him in some sense. And that is what this whole thing is about, imo.

  163. anneivy said,

    December 27, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    “In some sense” effectively amounts to “haven’t the foggiest”, is the problem. The first sentence of #162′s second paragraph is clear and comprehensible. The remainder of the paragraph is fuzzy, barring the “In TR terminology” sentence.

    It seems as if the FV cannot – or will not, I’m not sure which – explain with any degree of clarity just what the FV’s “covenantal union” is, then uses that very lack of clarity to protest that it’s unfair to say it’s in conflict with the Westminster Confession.

    Anne in Fort Worth

  164. jstellman said,

    December 27, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    In the light of our confessional nomenclature which states that “union” is an inseparable and special benefit that members of the invisible church have with Christ, why will not FV’ists simply coin some new term to denote membership in the visible church?

    It seems to me that if we’re ever to get anywhere, some concessions need to be made on this point. And given the professed high churchmanship of many FV advocates, asking them to concede some language to the confessional tradition and pronouncements of seven Reformed denominations hardly seems unreasonable.

    How ’bout it fellas?

  165. A. Dollahite said,

    December 27, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    Anne,

    I think it is fair for you and others to continue to ask for further clarification of what is meant by “in some sense.” I’d also like to see more flesh to that phrase. The problem, however, comes when impatience for an answer turns into a default assumption that what they mean must be in conflict with the WCF and other Reformed confessions. That conclusion needs to be proved (I’ve seen some attempts, but have not been persuaded thus far), not assumed. And it bears repeating that it’s not fair to prove the FV is in conflict with the WCF by assuming that in the FV “covenantal=decretal,” which seems to be the most common path.

    Over the course of this thread I have seen multiple people recognize that the FV distinguishes between covenantal union (visible church membership) and decretal union. To be fair, they also think the FV then fails to further explain the differences, such that the FV eventually ends up retreating to equivocate between the two. For my part though, I am quite certain that “in some sense” does not mean “the same as decretal union.” I think the discussion on this point can and must continue, and I am very encouraged by the small interaction between Doug and Dr. White on this thread.

    Longing for more discussion,

    Andy Dollahite in Dinuba, CA

  166. December 27, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    Doug,

    From #161

    the doctrines of Westminster and FV are coordinate when they are talking about same thing, and consistent when they are talking about different things. Where I prefer FV language, with the exception of paedo-communion, I believe that FV language is functioning in a manner consistent with Westminster.

    From #162:

    The problem is raised again when an FV guy tries to remind us that the visible Church is the Church of Christ, and that members of it are therefore members of Him in some sense. And that is what this whole thing is about, imo.

    The problem with what you say in these two comments is that the Westminster Standards spell out precisely what benefits the unregenerate have as members of the visible church:

    WLC Q. 63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?

    A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies;and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

    When FV advocates add to those benefits explicitly enumerated in the Standards and stray into the benefits reserved for the elect, they thereby conflict with the Standards and thus Scripture. That both the elect and reprobate share in the benefits enumerated in WLC Q.63, etc., is not in question; that FVers believe that the reprobate get more than that, or that the elect get less than the Standards say, is part of the problem. This is usually done by redefining key terms in the Standards, as well as the use of creative exegetical constructs.

    Also please remember that you are only one FV advocate. Others have explicitly denied things that you affirm. OTOH, you have written elsewhere that the reprobate in relation to John 15:2 get the same sap as the elect, which is what Andy refutes in this post and others, including me, have done in other posts, and orthodox Reformed theologians have denied since the Reformation.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  167. R. F. White said,

    December 27, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    Douglas, I can’t improve on the comments of Anne, Andy, and Bob. I think we’ve narrowed down the issue here: define the membership of dead branches. You can appreciate, can’t you, that there is not enough clarity in the phrase “in some sense” to promote understanding or agreement?

  168. December 27, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    Bob, there is only a conflict with Westminster if we denied some benefit to a NECM that Westminster grants, or granted them a benefit not listed, but which was inconsistent with something Westminster granted or withheld from them. But there is no necessary conflict if we assume that such lists in Westminster are not meant to be exhaustive. In other words, the contradiction still has to be shown.

    Anne, I am quite sure that all of us could be more clear in what we say. But assuming you are correct, lack of clarity over what covenantal union actually is is not the same thing as contradicting the Standards. At the most, it would just raise questions. I just want to say certain things to be true to the illustrations of Scripture, and I don’t want to press it too far, lest I “go beyond what is written.” One of the reasons I am unclear about the positive nature of the NECM’s union with Christ is that I don’t know what it is. I am clear about the fact of that union, and I am clear about the differences between that union and the union of the elect and regenerate covenant member. But I have a hard time getting my mind around “common operations of the Spirit,” or “common grace,” for that matter. How can a damned soul experience any kind of grace whatever? I don’t know, but he does.

    And Bob, the differences between me and other FV guys are one of the reasons why using the FV statement to critique us — that we all signed off on — would be the least confusing.

    With regard to the sap thing, I do not know how to conceptualize a branch that never had any sap. A fruitless branch is one that we all understand, and we understand equally why it is cut off. But no one in the history of the world has ever seen a sap-less branch. All I am trying to do is to point to some kind of functional union between Christ and the fruitless branch, a union that does not do violence to the parable. But there doesn’t need to be any conflict here. I am quite content to say that the sap that runs from Christ to the reprobate branch is “common operations of the Spirit sap” and not “vital union sap.” And I am not trying to be cute here — I really am happy to describe it that way.

  169. anneivy said,

    December 27, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    Pr. Wilson, the traditional interpretation of the WCF, if I’ve understood it aright, has been that there are not dual “unions” at work, but only one. To say there are differing types of union with Christ is a fairly significant change, and one that effectively contradicts the traditional Reformed reading of the WCF, so ISTM that when such a startling change is proposed, people have a right to expect an explanation providing more substance than “in some sense.”

    A need to fall back frequently on “in some sense” shows that the new doctrine isn’t yet ready for prime time, and is instead – and at best – a work in progress.

    And doctrinal works-in-progress ought not to be taught from a denomination’s pulpits, I don’t believe. Depending upon the denomination, naturally. The FV apparently fits the doctrinal parameters of the CREC, so it’s reasonable it’d be taught there.

    Anne

  170. R. F. White said,

    December 28, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Douglas, when you say that “One of the reasons I am unclear about the positive nature of the NECM’s union with Christ is that I don’t know what it is,” I’m confused.

    First, you say in 154 that you prefer the FV system to the Wesminster sytem on the subject of union with Christ. Are you saying that the FV system has not yet answered the question of what the positive nature of the NECM’s union with Christ is? Is this not a key component of what this whole thing is about?

    Second, in the absence of an FV answer to the question of what the positive nature of the NECM’s union with Christ is, does a citation such as WLC 63 help? Why is this answer not to be preferred to no answer?

  171. its.reed said,

    December 28, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Ref. #168:

    Rev. Wilson, you say, “But there is no necessary conflict if we assume that such lists in Westminster are not meant to be exhaustive.”

    This is, specifically here, with reference to WLCS 63′s list of benefits that the reprobate Church member has. I understand your point and see the basic soundness of the assumption. Of course, one needs to address the assumption for reasonableness.

    If we accept this assumption then must we not also assume that the lists of benefits of the elect Church member enumerated by the WLC (the Westminster system as a whole in the end) is equally not exhaustive? After all, the issue of contrast between the elect and reprobate is fundamental to the whole Westminster system.

    Yet doesn’t making this necessary secondary assumption demonstrate the error of the first? The Westminister system to be sure does not summarize all that Scripture says. Yet it does propose to comprehend the essentials of salvation rather comprehensively, does it not? Coming at the end of the reformed confessions writing period, it stands as the most comprehensive one, taking into view all the previous issues dealt with by prior confessional systems.

    What is in view in enumerating the benefits of the elect vs. the reprobate does not on the face of it seem a subject that is merely secondary, and one which the Westminster Divines were only worried about touching the high points. No, to stray into the subscription language, this topic is of the essence of the system.

    Taking into view the Canons of Dort codified prior in the same half century, the whole point of such lists was in fact to be comprehensive in all the essentials of salvation. It seems a wild stretch to suggest that the Westminster Divines would have left out something as important as a “union that looks like real thing but isn’t the real thing,” especially when they were well versed in the details of a system (Canons of Dort) that effectively addressed this matter.

    Such an ommission would not be insignificant, and would effectively make the Westminister system worthless for its purpose of providing unity based on clarity of the truth. After all, why bother scrapping the 39 Articles if all one intended to do was replace them with yet lengthier documents that in the end left substantial holes in essential matters gaping wide?

  172. kjsulli said,

    December 28, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Pr. Wilson, re: 168,

    One of the reasons I am unclear about the positive nature of the NECM’s union with Christ is that I don’t know what it is. I am clear about the fact of that union, and I am clear about the differences between that union and the union of the elect and regenerate covenant member.

    I guess this is a kind of apophatic covenantal theology. What are the differences between the two which you are clear about?

  173. Mark T. said,

    December 28, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Regarding the whole “sap” issue, Dr. Beisner wrote this on page xxii of his Introduction to Auburn Ave. Theology: Pros and Cons:

    There is no better justification for an appeal to “sap” as a sign that the fruitless branches had a “vital” union with Christ than there would be for an appeal to “bark” as a sign that all the branches enjoyed the immunity to disease and pests provided by bark and therefore none could apostatize. The parable mentions neither sap — much less “gracious sap” — nor bark. It is dangerous enough to draw doctrines from parables; it is more dangerous to draw doctrines from details within parables; it is exegetically fatal to draw doctrines from details that are not even there!

    Dr. Beisner’s argument should have ended this particular thread of the so-called Federal Vision “conversation,” because to my knowledge no one has refuted it. Nevertheless, I believe that Pastor Stellman may be on to something when he suggested that the “FV’ists simply coin some new term to denote membership in the visible church” (comment #164). After all, these men have spawned a great deal of confusion as they have replaced the precise language of Reformed theology with all sorts of sappy words, such as “non-decretal,” “Bapteryian,” “Federal Vision,” etc., which probably fall into Churchill’s category of “terminological inexactitude.”

    Therefore, to help the conversation along, I have coined the term “saptistic” to denote the “functional union [from baptism] between Christ and the fruitless branch,” to use the lead FVist’s words. Obviously this word joins the unbiblical word “sap” with the biblical word “baptism,” and resolves that vexing riddle raised by the non-existent “sap” of Holy Scripture. The Federal Visionists are “Saptists.”

    Thank you.

  174. December 28, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    So a person who insists that children who receive the sign of the covenant are in possession of all the covenant blessings would be a “paedosaptist”?

  175. Mark T. said,

    December 28, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Yes, and those souls who fall away from their paedosaptisms are called asaptates. It all makes perfect sense now.

  176. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 28, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Doug (#168):

    One of the reasons I am unclear about the positive nature of the NECM’s union with Christ is that I don’t know what it is. I am clear about the fact of that union, and I am clear about the differences between that union and the union of the elect and regenerate covenant member.

    Doug, this is a remarkable and remarkably healthy concession. Thank you for making it.

    At the same time, I would ask you to consider this: if it were entirely clear the differences between the union of the elect and regenerate covenant members, we would in principle be able to describe the nature of the union that NECMs experience.

    But we can’t — so perhaps those differences are not as clear as we imagine?

    And perhaps we could move ground to the realm of exegesis. Which passages in particular are descriptions of NECM-type union? We have John 15, which I grant. Let’s add Romans 11. Any others?

    And then finally, traditional Reformed theology starting at least with Calvin has described that union as “according to appearances only”, while granting that the appearances can be so life-like as to make it impossible to discern externally exactly who is truly elect.

    Why does the FV object to this formulation?

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

  177. Andy Gilman said,

    December 28, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Doug Wilson said:

    One of the reasons I am unclear about the positive nature of the NECM’s union with Christ is that I don’t know what it is. I am clear about the fact of that union, and I am clear about the differences between that union and the union of the elect and regenerate covenant member.

    The first sentence seems, initially, like a surprising admission, but then the second sentence contradicts the first. How can Wilson be “clear about the differences” between the union enjoyed by the so-called “NECM,” and that enjoyed by the “ECM,” without saying something about the “positive nature of the NECM’s union with Christ?”

    The FV initially asserted (and as far as I know Steve Wilkins still stands by his assertions made in the Knox Colloquium, and Wilson has made no effort to distance himself from Wilkins’ position), without nuance, that all who are ceremonially baptized are in union and communion with Christ, and enjoy all the blessings of being “in the covenant” and “in Christ.” After it was pointed out to them that this was a flagrant contradiction of the Westminster Standards, they began to nuance the argument.

    So we have Westminster saying that “ECMs”, and only “ECMs,” enjoy union and communion with Christ. And we have the FV saying, at least initially, that all who are ceremonially baptized, whether they are “ECMs” or “NECMs,” enjoy union and communion with Christ. When the bald contradiction is pointed out, the FV tells us that they don’t mean union and communion “in the same sense” that Westminster means it. But when asked to differentiate between the “sense” in which they mean union and communion, and Westminster’s well defined use of that phrase, they obfuscate and resort to intellectual dishonesty. The only “positive” difference they will give us between the “NECMs” union and the “ECMs” union, is that the “NECMs” union is only temporary. They will insist there are other differences, but they just can’t articulate them.

    Their initial statement clearly contradicts the Standards, and their later attempt to add “nuance” to the statement accomplishes nothing of the kind, because what they mean by “union” is inexpressable. So we are left with the FV saying, in effect, “just trust us, we are within the bounds and haven’t yet ditched our subscription vows.” We must trust that they are in possession of some ineffable knowledge which reconciles the contradiction.

  178. A. Dollahite said,

    December 28, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Re #173,

    This has been responded to previously, and since you missed it I’ll post it here. It bears repeating again that appealing to “sap” to prove a “vital=decretal” union between the NECM and Jesus was not the original point Wilson was making. He was simply showing that there was some connection between Jesus and the NECM, a connection that will be severed when they are pruned out.

    Here is Wilson’s response to Dr. Beisner:

    Excuse me if I have just a little bit of fun with this one.

    First, the point of the sap illustration was not to turn John 15 into a complex allegory, with the sap representing the internal motions of grace or something. The point of mentioning the sap was to emphasize something that Christ’s metaphor says explicitly, and which Reformed exegetes consistently run away from (in the best tradition of an Arminian in Romans 9), which is to say, the branchness of the branches that were broken off. Christ says nothing of sap, or bark, or leaves. But He does say that branches in Him were cut out of Him, and were then taken away and burned. He does say that. So, Mr. Reformed, what does it mean? What is taken away from the Vine which is Christ? They are branches, which had a branchy connection to Him. All I mean by sap in the branches is to say that they are true branches. A branch can be fruitless and still be a true branch — a branch that needs to be pruned. A branch cannot be sapless and still be a true branch. That was my only point in talking about sap, which leads to this next point.

    Waters chides me for mentioning sap in my discussion of this (although every branch I have ever seen has had sap), and then moves blithely on to talk about branches that are “outwardly related” to the Vine and branches that are “inwardly related.” Now I have never in all my born days seen a branch that is merely outwardly related to a vine or tree. We have never seen it in nature, and Christ makes no mention of it. But it is responsible Reformed exgesis to have outwardly related branches and inwardly related branches, but exegetically fatal to have branches with sap in them, that is to say, branchy branches.

    And third, Waters says, “Far less is it clear that the broken branches sustained the same relationship to Christ as those who prove to be decretally elect.” Well, of course not. They were cut out because they did not have the same relationship; one was fruitful and the other not. But in some sense, at some level (not in every sense, not on every level), they did have the same relationship to Christ. How’s that? They were both BRANCHES.

  179. A. Dollahite said,

    December 28, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    Andy Gilman,

    When the FV says that covenant members enjoy all the benefits of being in the covenant (and therefore in union with Christ), this is not the same as saying all covenant members enjoy the benefits of the decretally elect (which share a perfect union with Christ). This is a point that has been repeatedly pointed out in this thread alone, and recognized by many, including yourself it appears. You will admit that they differentiate the two, but only out of an intellectual dishonesty. This seems to be an accusation that bears proving, not merely asserting.

    You don’t like that the benefits of covenant union haven’t been very clearly enumerated, and I likewise would like to see this description expanded and fortified. But there are plenty of people within the larger Reformed community who have recognized some type of covenantal union. Recognizing a covenantal union does not necessitate a departure from the WCF, much less the damnable heresy some want to make it.

  180. its.reed said,

    December 28, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Ref. #179:

    Many in the reformed community recognize some type of covenantal union – defined as an appearance only union, not real, enjoining any salvific benefits to the reprobate Church member Andy. Let’s be sure that in our efforts to be clear in defense of the FV advocates, we do not allow for any equivocation.

    It is a huge problem that this one passage, which is very obviously less than clear on the exact nature of the covenant union, is the primary one used by FV advocates to insist that the reprobate Chuch member (RCM) have a real similar experience of salvific benefits – an experience that for all purposes looks, feels, tastes, smells the same, but in the end really isn’t after all.

    A very narrow and thin branch to be hanging such substantial doctrinal innovation from, don’t you think?

  181. its.reed said,

    December 28, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    P.S. Andy,

    I never got back to your previous response to me simply because of a lack of time. As it was, I’m not sure how your point followed what I was saying.

  182. Mark T. said,

    December 28, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Andy,

    Actually that’s his response to Dr. Waters. You’ll notice that it’s dated 7/28/2006, which is four years after RINE and three years after Auburn Ave. Theology: Pros and Cons. To my knowledge, he never replied to Dr. Beisner.

    Regardless, here are the words that generated this part of the controversy: “The cut-away branch has no fruit (which is why it was cut away) — but it has had sap (which is why it had to be cut away).” (RINE, page 132) So, Mr. Reformed, what hermeneutic permitted you to introduce and exegete the word “sap” in John 15?

    Now read these two posts written by a man with formal theological training:
    “Assurance, Apostasy, and Areas of Alternate Assertions”

    “John 15 and the Federal Vision”

    Thank you.

  183. A. Dollahite said,

    December 28, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Reed – Re #180:

    I would agree with your point that one passage is a rather thin branch (pun intended) to be hanging on to. (Of course, this assumes that branches, however thin they are, are actually connected to a tree;)) While I’ve been sticking to John 15 so as to abide by the rules of staying on topic, I don’t think that is the only passage to consider. As Jeff has pointed out, Rom. 11 is another to consider, as are Rom 9, 1 Cor. 10, Heb 6, 10 and 12, 2 Peter 2, Matt 13 and 21, Luke 8, and Rev. 22. There are others to ponder by less direct routes, but it’s not fair to say that John 15 is the only FV text.

    I also agree that there has been a tradition that views the NECM as only “externally” joined. I didn’t mean to equivocate. (Although absent from this discussion, Tim Prussic has routinely argued that Calvin had a robust view of covenantal union, albeit not exactly FV… but that argument is really beyond anything I’ve directly studied.) In some respect I am concerned that that tradition presents problems on two levels: 1) textually, and 2) pastorally.

    Concerning #1, while I appreciate the power a solid tradition can provide, I am more desirous of a solid scriptural basis for understanding the nature of the covenant (as I am sure you are to.) So let’s discuss the texts more than we discuss the tradition. (And yes, I know the tradition wasn’t formed in a vaccum. I still want to primarily and predominantly discuss the actual text.)

    Concerning #2, the problem with the tradition pastorally arises because we don’t know who is actually predestined to glory. The secret things belong to the Lord. Following this, if we believe that only the elect are those that are in covenant with God, then we really don’t know who in the here and now, flesh and blood world, is actually in covenant with God. By what right can you speak to another believer, or more directly, your children, and tell them with assurance that they are united to Christ and share in his benefits as covenant members? If the tradition is held consistently, it seems to me that the covenant has become invisible and strictly theoretical.

    (more to come… Lord willing)

  184. A. Dollahite said,

    December 28, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Re 182,

    Yes, #178 is most directly Wilson’s response to Waters. But the response to Waters had to do with Water’s use of Beisner’s critique. In effect, Wilson was responding to both at the same time. And the Wilson response still effectively explains why the Beisner critique misses the point of the original statement you quote in #182.

    BTW, I find it laughable that the anonymous “Mark T” wants to indirectly attack Pastor Wilson’s lack of formal theological training, as if no one in the FV has formal theological training. At least Wilson has the decency and courage to put his name to his work, something most of us learned to do back in grade school, much less graduate school.

  185. A. Dollahite said,

    December 28, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Reed – RE #181.

    Are you talking about my #130 and #132?

  186. its.reed said,

    December 28, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    who remembers

  187. Seth Foster said,

    December 28, 2007 at 9:44 pm

    All this discussion about NECMs. I think it is interesting that we are spending so much time defining what kind of union they have with Christ while at the same time we have absolutely no ability to even identify who they are in the visible church. Can anyone point to a non-elect member in their church?

    I think we would all agree that only God knows whom He has elected. Aren’t we poking our noses into territory that only belongs to God who alone sees into people’s hearts? While we are on this earth, our job is to plant and water, but only God gives the increase (1 Cor 3:6-8). If we are just planters and waterers, don’t you think it is a futile exercise to figure out what kind of sap, if any, runs through the branch of something we can’t even identify? Leave the sap testing to God and let’s tend to the business that God has given to us – that of proclaiming the Word and making disciples of all nations.

  188. Kyle said,

    December 28, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    Andy Dollahite, re: 183,

    Concerning #2, the problem with the tradition pastorally arises because we don’t know who is actually predestined to glory. The secret things belong to the Lord. Following this, if we believe that only the elect are those that are in covenant with God, then we really don’t know who in the here and now, flesh and blood world, is actually in covenant with God. By what right can you speak to another believer, or more directly, your children, and tell them with assurance that they are united to Christ and share in his benefits as covenant members? If the tradition is held consistently, it seems to me that the covenant has become invisible and strictly theoretical.

    And how does the inarticulate FV idea of objective covenant actually solve the problem which has been imputed to the traditional position?

    Frankly, I don’t see the problem with the traditional position, which accepts the notion of a “judgement of charity,” and is also very explicit that the salvific benefits are only shared by those who are united to Christ by Spirit-wrought faith. We may not be able to infallibly judge whether another professed Christian is elect, but we can tell him that if he is trusting God to be his righteousness through Jesus Christ, then he is saved, and has all of the benefits of union with Christ. Does he doubt? Let him remember God’s promise to him in his baptism, and believe. Does he doubt? Let him take comfort in the Lord’s Supper, in which Christ is shown forth as the all-sufficient propitiation for his sins. Does he doubt? Let him examine the fruit the Spirit has brought forth in him, and see that God has pruned him, has already cleansed him through His Word, and not cut him off.

    Why do we need an “objective covenant” by which reprobates are “united” to Christ “in some sense,” sharing something that “looks like” the salvific benefits experienced by the elect? What does this accomplish, pastorally or expositionally, apart from the confusion which it has already engendered?

  189. Kyle said,

    December 28, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    And let me point out what God has to say about “NECMs”:

    But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things have you done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you (Ps. 50:14-21).

  190. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 28, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Andy (#184):

    Although absent from this discussion, Tim Prussic has routinely argued that Calvin had a robust view of covenantal union, albeit not exactly FV…

    Amen. It’s possible that the invisible/visible distinction is simply the situational vs. normative perspectives (a la Frame) on the one church. I think this might provide a “robust view” of both without leading to some of the apparent contradictions in the FV position.

    More thought is needed here…

    Jeff Cagle

  191. R. F. White said,

    December 28, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    Along with John 15 and Rom 11, the apostasy texts such as Heb 6 and 10 and 2 Pet 2 provoke considerations of what blessings belong to the NECM.

    Arguably, it is the Bible’s claims about the “blessedness” of the apostate specifically, not simply the NECM generally, that is at the root of this debate.

  192. its.reed said,

    December 29, 2007 at 10:19 am

    Ref. #187 & 188:

    Taken together, both of these posts raise a valid question. Yet it is a question that burdens the FV more than the traditional reformed position.

    1. Identify the problem(s) the FV proposes to resolve.
    2. Expose the weaknesses of the traditional reformed position(s).
    3. Expound the FV solution(s) to the problem(s).
    4. Demonstrate how the FV solution(s) is better – more biblically consistent – than the traditional reformed position(s).

    Ref. no 1: I think we all have sympathy with the answers to this question.

    Ref. no 2: I think the FV identifies weaknesses in the understanding of the traditional reformed position(s), weaknesses inherent in the position(s). E.g., all this talk of (ana-) “baptist” problems the Fv has found in reformed ministries does not demonstrate a problem(s) with the traditional reformed position(s), just the understanding of Christians.

    Ref. no 3: the expounding has been quite prolific.

    Ref. no 4: either the majority of minds in 6 (7?) different reformed denominations are out to lunch, or the FV solutions are not better (more biblically consistent).

    Appeals to the majority do not necessarily sway me. When I can’t find any evidence that the minority is right, one has no choice but to agree with the majority.

  193. its.reed said,

    December 29, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Ref. #191:

    Andy, I was careful not to say that John15:1-6 was the exclusive twig upon which the FV hangs its notions of decretal-like-covenantal-union (decretal-lite union). Dr. White has mentioned the other major one.

    Unless I’m mistaken, no other text deals with this issue of Reprobate Church Members (RCM) as foundationally as John 15 and Rom. 11. All other texts (I could be wrong, please show me) require the exegetically conclusions of these two texts in order to interpret notions of decretal-lite union.

    Dr. White, please correct me here if you think my statements go too far. E.g., it seems to me that Heb. 6:4-6 does not on the surface have any sort of union in view. A relationship of some sort necessarily, but a union (either decretal union or decretal-lite union) is not essential in this text. I.e., the benefits in view do not flow from a salvific real true union with Christ.

  194. R. F. White said,

    December 29, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    193 — Reed, I believe it is essentially correct to say that no other text deals with the issue of RCM as foundationally as John 15 and Rom 11. When you urge that the conclusions from these two texts take priority in interpreting covenantal union, I think we have to specify the particular aspect in which John 15 and Rom 11 take interpretive priority over other texts. That is, I believe it’s correct to say that John 15 and Rom 11 are used especially to establish the fact/reality of covenantal union, while other texts are used especially to expound the nature of covenantal union. For FVers, texts like Heb 6 and 10 and 2 Pet speak to the nature of covenantal union. This is evident when the texts from Hebrews and 2 Peter figure very prominently in Steve Wilkins’s comments on the benefits forfeited by apostates in The Auburn Avenue Theology: Pros & Cons, pp. 264-65. That question — what are the benefits forfeited by apostates? — is a key entry point into this whole controversy.

  195. james raisch said,

    December 30, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Once saved always saved is true so John 15 vine story must be interpreted as to agree with OSAS. Concerning post 188, Kyle I like your style.

  196. A. Dollahite said,

    December 31, 2007 at 3:04 am

    Reed,

    Sorry, I’ve been away snowboarding with the family. If you are too busy to reply, just let me know. Just so you know, I’ve been pushed to consider these issues more and more by our discussion. In some ways I’ve found myself my sympathetic to your view point then previously.

    A few thoughts…

    1) I’m not comfortable at all with the term “decretal-lite,” for reasons that are hopefully clear given how much I’ve tried to maintain a separation between decretal and covenantal union.

    2) You are correct to point to John 15 and Rom 11 as “foundational” texts. However, 1 Cor. 10 also lingers in my mind as particularly favorable to the FV idea of a covenantal union that is more than simply external.

    3) In #188 Kyle says the following:

    We may not be able to infallibly judge whether another professed Christian is elect, but we can tell him that if he is trusting God to be his righteousness through Jesus Christ, then he is saved, and has all of the benefits of union with Christ. Does he doubt? Let him remember God’s promise to him in his baptism, and believe. Does he doubt? Let him take comfort in the Lord’s Supper, in which Christ is shown forth as the all-sufficient propitiation for his sins. Does he doubt? Let him examine the fruit the Spirit has brought forth in him, and see that God has pruned him, has already cleansed him through His Word, and not cut him off.

    Why do we need an “objective covenant” by which reprobates are “united” to Christ “in some sense,” sharing something that “looks like” the salvific benefits experienced by the elect? What does this accomplish, pastorally or expositionally, apart from the confusion which it has already engendered?

    I’m sorry, but did I miss something when we got to the first sentence of the second paragraph? When I read Kyle’s first paragraph, it sounds like a page out of the FV handbook. Isn’t remembering God’s promises in baptism and feeding on Christ in the supper what the FV has been saying all along? Isn’t that the whole point of an objective covenant… you can look at something *objective*, e.g. your baptism, and know that God has claimed you as his, so now live accordingly. Live by the covenant you are now a part of… which is to say, live by faith in Christ. The focus isn’t on telling everyone they are halfway there, now finish the deal yourself or face greater punishment. The point of an objective covenant is to show someone something outside of themselves that connects them to a faithful God. Just to show that I’m not making this up, here’s Leithart on assurance:

    How can I be assured that I am saved? The answer is simply “Trust the promises.” If the question then is, But how can I be assured that I am truly trusting, the answer has to be “Trust the promises. Trust the One who promises. God have [sic] committed Himself to saving His people, going to the extreme of giving His only Son in our place. He is trustworthy. Trust Him.” Or even, “Unbelief is sin. Repent, and trust God who has given Himself for you in Christ.” There is a place for “knowing that we know,” in the words of 1 John, but this has to be set in the context of the exhortation to trust. If the question is, How can I know that I shall trust Him to the end and so be saved, the answer is, “God will keep His own. Trust Him.”

    Or,

    …baptism does assure in the sense of answering the question, “How can I be sure that God intends the gracious promises of the gospel for me in particular?” It was in answering this question that Luther said that “the assertion ‘I am baptized’ was his final assurance of salvation. He did not mean that the church had the power to perform sacraments that were automatically effective. Rather, he was saying that the promise of God, signified in baptism, had come to him from beyond himself, delivering him from his own anxious subjectivity. It was his trust in the promise, delivered to him by the church, that was the final ground of his assurance.”

    Or,

    If some of the baptized end up in hell, how can baptism be an instrument of assurance?

    Might as well ask the same question about the word: If some who hear the Word end up in hell, how can the Word be an instrument of assurance?

    In both cases, the answer is: Baptism and the Word failed to assure because those who received the promise did not believe it, or did not continue to believe it. They made God a liar.

    The problem occurs when we’re looking for some ground of assurance more solid, certain, well-grounded than the promise of God.

    But there is no better ground for assurance than the mercy of God.

    Baptism is God’s promise to me, personally, by name. I know that God has promised Himself to me. I’m just supposed to believe that, rely on it. That’s the way of assurance.

    If I’m looking for some way to peek over God’s shoulder (or my own) and see if He really promised Himself to me, I’m looking for something more solid than the promise of God that I can rely on. If I look for something else, I’m looking for the real God behind the God-who-promises.

    But there is no other God. And there is no backdoor entrance to His presence. He faces us in Jesus, the Face of the Father, gives promises, assures us in Word and water of His self-commitment to us. We have only to believe it.

    Perhaps you could help me see where Leithart has gone astray?

  197. its.reed said,

    December 31, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Ref. #196:

    Andy, will get back to you later in more detail. Fro now, please disregard the decretal-lite expression. I was not trying to be pejorative, merely coin a phrase that adequately captured the similarity/dissimilarity of the FV’s understanding of covenantanl union.

    As the FV abandons the tried and trued phrases (e.g., visible, invisible, inward, outward), the need for terminology that promotes understanding. We can’t always provide 5 paragraphs of qualifiers. At some point we need some terms that reference the 5 paragraphs.

    This whole issue expresses part of my frustration as a pastor. How am I to explain to a congregant who reads something about the FV and has questions. Will his head explode when I say FV covenantal union is decretal-like-but-not?

    This is not a laughing matter. Shepherds owe Christ’s sheep pastures of Kentucky blue grass. The FV usually goes down like crab grass.

  198. anneivy said,

    December 31, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Re: #197

    ISTM the FV can be summed up in a pair of two-words phrases….

    “Not necessarily. It depends”

    As in, “If someone is justified are they certain to be glorified?”

    Well, not necessarily. It depends.

    “If I’m saved, will I go to heaven?”

    Um, not necessarily. It depends.

    “Once God has begun a good work in me, will He be faithful to complete it?”

    [cough] Not necessarily. It depends.

    “But there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, right?”

    Not necessarily. It depends.

    How anyone can consider a theology of “not necessarily” to be an improvement over traditional robust Reformed theology is utterly baffling. One receives nothing of value; just the opposite, in fact, as it undermines and weakens the LORD’s commitment to those He calls His own.

    And if there’s one thing His Word makes clear, it’s that He is utterly committed to those He calls His own, having promised to never leave them or forsake them.

  199. GLW Johnson said,

    December 31, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Fellows, as I have stated over and over again, the whole FV thing is about providing ‘justification’ for Norman Shepherd’s distinctive understanding of what constititues saving faith-i.e. justification is by covenantal faithfulness, which translates into a lifetime of obedience,and the chief characteristic of this kind of ‘faith’ is ‘works’ which forms the grounds for our final vindication at the judgment seat . Every FV distinctive is rooted in an attempt to shoehorn this into a coherent system ( and make no mistake -this is a system, dispite the rhetoric the FV use in denouncing such things). This explains the laborious attempts the FV has to resort to in defending their doctrine of NECM. Pure and simple fellows, this is what the FV is all about-Norman Shepherd-and if NT Wright can help carry the load, fine -but these guys are Shepherdites. I am courious why they don’t readily acknowlegde their agenda .

  200. anneivy said,

    December 31, 2007 at 9:56 am

    BTW, my post was triggered by Reed’s understandable frustration as a pastor at how miserably difficult it is to have to qualify the traditional terms to death so as to make them fit within the FV schematic.

    Realized it might come across as though I were arguing with him, and I wasn’t.

    Sorry!

  201. Machaira said,

    December 31, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Anne,

    I wonder if FV proponents will agree with your assessment? Well . . .

    “Not necessarily. It depends.” :)

    I agree. It all seems so tentative. Assurance is all on you.

  202. Mark T. said,

    December 31, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Speaking of qualifications, I archived this from Dr. Clark’s blog last January. Since then, he either deleted the comment or lost it, so I can’t link to it. Nevertheless, it furnishes us with the best example of FV qualification I have ever seen. The title of the post is “(Reformed) Christianity and (Quasi-Reformed) Revisionism” (excellent post) and in the combox a commentator kept pressing DW to affirm or deny another comment. Here is his answer, in its original format, unedited and unabridged:

    Toby, as Scott’s summary went, I would have real problems agreeing with it.

    “. . . the Federal Vision either assumes or teaches explicitly a doctrine of baptismal union with Christ in which, they say, baptism confers a temporary, conditional, election, union with Christ, justification, and adoption that must be retained by faithfulness (faith and cooperation with grace).”

    But I could edit it to a point that would enable me to sign off on it:

    “. . . the Federal Vision either assumes or teaches explicitly a doctrine of baptismal union with Christ in which, they say, baptism confers a temporary, conditional, election (TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM UNCONDITIONAL DECRETAL ELECTION), COVENANTAL CONTINGENT union with Christ, TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THAT PERMANENT UNION WHICH NEITHER HEIGHT NOR DEPTH NOR ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION CAN DO ANYTHING ABOUT, A CERTAIN CONNECTION TO GOD’S JUSTIFIED PEOPLE, TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM justification PROPER, and AN adoption (UNLIKE THE ADOPTION OF THE DECRETALLY ELECT) that must be retained by FAITH ALONE, BUT WHICH NON-ELECT COVENANT MEMBERS FORFEIT THROUGH THEIR UNBELIEF [DELETE: faithfulness (faith and cooperation with grace).”]

    January 3, 2007 | Douglas Wilson

    Think of it as pastoral counsel on assurance.

    Thank you.

  203. Machaira said,

    December 31, 2007 at 10:58 am

    A CERTAIN CONNECTION TO GOD’S JUSTIFIED PEOPLE, TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM justification PROPER

    Justification proper? I would call that a qualification. I really don’t see how “assurance” can fit into such a system.

  204. R. F. White said,

    December 31, 2007 at 11:14 am

    While we’re summarizing, it may be worth observing that comments #195 through #203 identify problems in the FV system that have reminded others of the problems in the Remonstrant system and the Amyraldian system.

  205. Roger Mann said,

    December 31, 2007 at 11:54 am

    198: Anne wrote,

    How anyone can consider a theology of “not necessarily” to be an improvement over traditional robust Reformed theology is utterly baffling.

    It’s “not necessarily” baffling; “it depends” on whether the intent of the FV is to baffle and confuse the unwary and unstable. If so, it all makes complete sense. Contrast the FV gobbledygook with the clear and concise statements of John Calvin in “The Consensus Tigurinus”:

    Article 16. All Who Partake of the Sacraments Do Not Partake of the Reality.

    Besides, we carefully teach that God does not exert his power indiscriminately in all who receive the sacraments, but only in the elect. For as he enlightens unto faith none but those whom he hath foreordained to life, so by the secret agency of his Spirit he makes the elect receive what the sacraments offer.

    Article 17. The Sacraments Do Not Confer Grace.

    By this doctrine is overthrown that fiction of the sophists which teaches that the sacraments confer grace on all who do not interpose the obstacle of mortal sin. For besides that in the sacraments nothing is received except by faith, we must also hold that the grace of God is by no means so annexed to them that whoso receives the sign also gains possession of the thing. For the signs are administered alike to reprobate and elect, but the reality reaches the latter only.

  206. A. Dollahite said,

    December 31, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Machaira,

    You said in #201 that for the FV “It all seems so tentative. Assurance is all on you.”

    Did you even read the Leithart quotes I posted above in #196? Seriously? Show me even one place where he says that the believer’s assurance is all on them.

  207. A. Dollahite said,

    December 31, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Anne,

    You do recognize that no one in the FV would hesitate to support the statements in #198 if looking from God’s perfect perspective? The question is, how do we answer them from our historical perspective?

    You make it sound as if the FV just sits there at tells people, “Well, you’re in the covenant. Good luck, hope you make it. See ya later, I’m gonna go have a beer.” The point of the FV language is to speak biblically to one another. People have questions about what they need to have assurance. People have questions about how to raise their children in the faith. People have questions about making use of God’s promises. And answering these questions in “qualified” ways is not unique to the FV. The bible does it all the time. Here are some examples:

    1) Heb 3:6 – And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

    2) Heb 3:14 – For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

    3) 2 Peter 2:20 – For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

    4) 2 Peter 1:8 – For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    It’s not wrong to speak biblically to each other is it? What I don’t believe is that the biblical writers were simply content to speak hypothetically. They speak about real things, and real possibilities.

  208. Machaira said,

    December 31, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    #206 A. Dollahite,

    It’s not all that hard to understand my point. When you have system that posits two kinds of election + benefits, where the main distinction between the two is that one comes with perseverence and the other is temporary, how can you ever have assurance. The only answer? Covenantal faithfulness to the end.

    Let’s face it, that looks alot like a mix of Roman Catholicism, Arminianism and Calvinism. It’s trying to have your cake and eat it too. In the end your only assurance comes from working really hard at covenantal faithfulness and even then you never know if you’re really only a member of the temporarily elect and are destined to fall away. This is a faith + works system. Like I said, it’s all on you.

  209. A. Dollahite said,

    December 31, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Roger,

    I don’t think you’ll find much disagreement with Calvin from the FV on the sacraments (notably excluding paedocommunion… another topic altogether). Here are parts of their joint statement.

    Concerning baptism,

    We deny that baptism automatically guarantees that the baptized will share in the eschatological Church. We deny the common misunderstanding of baptismal regeneration—i.e. that an “effectual call” rebirth is automatically wrought in the one baptized. Baptism apart from a growing and living faith is not saving, but rather damning. But we deny that trusting God’s promise through baptism elevates baptism to a human work. God gives baptism as assurance of His grace to us personally, as our names are spoken when we are baptized.

    And on the Lord’s Supper:

    We affirm that by faithful use of the humble but glorious elements of bread and wine (remaining such), we are being grown up into a perfect unity with our Head, the Lord Jesus.

  210. curate said,

    December 31, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    Ref no. 208

    Machaira said: … how can you ever have assurance. The only answer? Covenantal faithfulness to the end.

    I thought that was the fifth point of TULIP, you know, those who persevere to the end will be saved?

  211. A. Dollahite said,

    December 31, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Machiara,

    With all due respect, you’re not reading the FV fairly if you continue to say that their answer to assurance is in the believer. I’ve asked you to show me where they do this, and you haven’t. For my part, I have put up direct quotes, and will be happy to produce more, that demonstrate that the assurance the FV points to is in the One who is faithful to His promises. Our assurance is found by believing/trusting in God who claimed us in our baptism and feeds us through the Word and supper.

    Continuing, it’s perfectly biblical to point out that there are people who are covenantally united to Christ and yet fail to persevere. The Hebrews texts above show this. And, there are people who are baptized into Moses and then drink from the spiritual Rock that is Christ and yet are overthrown in the wilderness. Perhaps you can tell me why they are examples for us if we share nothing in common with them? (1 Cor 10:1-12)

  212. curate said,

    December 31, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    What you antis are arguing for is the soi disant one point Calvinism of the Southern Baptist Convention, the “once saved always saved” pseudo-Calvinism that Arminians love so much.

  213. Roger Mann said,

    December 31, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    209: A. Dollahite wrote,

    Roger, I don’t think you’ll find much disagreement with Calvin from the FV on the sacraments.

    Please, if FV advocates were clearly teaching “that in the sacraments nothing is received except by faith,” as Calvin did, then there would be no controversy and condemnation of FV teaching. And I’d love to see where Calvin ever taught that there was a temporary “justification” that reprobate members of the visible church receive. Try selling it to someone else, I’m not buying it.

  214. A. Dollahite said,

    December 31, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    RE #213,

    Doug Wilson on the sacraments:

    Baptism and the Lord’s Supper particularize the promises of God in a wonderful way. The promises are for you. Now it is most necessary for you to come to the sacraments, particularized for you, in the only appropriate demeanor, which is faith. If you do not come in evangelical faith, then you are slapping at God who offers the promises. But if you believe the promises, what are you doing?

    You are meeting with Him, communing with Him. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. With faith, you come to the elements to meet Christ there. He is present, covenantally present. We believe in the Real Presence, since the only alternative to this is the Real Absence. But that presence is not in the bread and wine, it is in the meeting. It is only a blessing for you when it is appropriated by you in living, active, and evangelical faith. (Blog and Mablog, 3/10/2007)

    Steve Wilkins:

    I do indeed believe that baptism unites the baptized in covenant with Christ. As I mentioned above, however, baptism is never efficacious apart from the exercise of saving faith on the part of the recipient…. I reject “baptismal regeneration” if one means by this phrase the infallible transformation of a man and the giving of saving faith in effectual calling. I do not believe that baptism accomplishes this. Thus, the only biblical way one can speak of “baptismal regeneration” it seems to me, is by referring to the transfer that occurs in baptism from being united in covenant to Adam to being united in covenant to Christ Jesus. I reject “baptismal regeneration” if one means that all who are baptised (sic) are, head for head, given saving faith and effectually called. (Wilkins 9 Declarations Response, p. 4-5)

    Peter Leithart on the sacraments,

    Baptism expresses God’s eternal sovereign choice of an individual to be a member of the people of God; and those who are members of the church stand righteous before God, are holy, and are sons because they are members of the body inseparably joined to the Son of God, who is the righteous and holy Son (1 Cor 6:11; Gal 3:28-29); these benefits of baptism, however, belong finally only to the baptized who respond to God’s grace in faith; there are some who are made sons by baptism who fall away. (Leithart.com, 6/14/07)

    Faith is directed precisely to the promise that is sensibly apparent in the sacrament. No one trusts water to cleanse sin; but the water of baptism IS cleansing from God, and all one need do is believe that promise that comes with the water and be saved. No one trusts bread and wine to give them eternal life; but the bread and wine come TO ME with the sure word that through this food Jesus Christ is my food and drink. Therefore, receive the bread and wine, trust the promise, and live. (Leithart.com, 8/14/04)

    Am I missing where they’ve missed your standard?

  215. Machaira said,

    December 31, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    REf. #206 & 211

    Did you even read the Leithart quotes I posted above in #196? Seriously? Show me even one place where he says that the believer’s assurance is all on them.

    Come on AD, of course no one admits this on the FV side. That’s probablly one of the biggest problems in all of these discussions – owning up to logical implications and conclusions.

    With all due respect to you as well, your “request” is nothing less than a red herring. My comments address a very clear consequence/implication of holding to the notion of decretal versus temporary election. You may be faithful to the covenant now, but if you’re only temporarily elect it’s all for nought and your “assurance” is no asssurance at all. You can never know for sure with such a doctrine. IMO, this is nothing less that a system of bondage and fear.

  216. Roger Mann said,

    December 31, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    214: A. Dollahite wrote,

    Am I missing where they’ve missed your standard?

    Peter Leithart writes,

    “Baptism expresses God’s eternal sovereign choice of an individual to be a member of the people of God; and those who are members of the church stand righteous before God, are holy, and are sons because they are members of the body inseparably joined to the Son of God, who is the righteous and holy Son (1 Cor 6:11; Gal 3:28-29); these benefits of baptism, however, belong finally only to the baptized who respond to God’s grace in faith; there are some who are made sons by baptism who fall away.” (Leithart.com, 6/14/07)

    Thus, “these benefits of baptism” (i.e., “stand righteous before God, are holy, and are sons”) belong temporarily to those who do not “respond to God’s grace in faith.” Leithart states point blank that “there are some who are made sons by baptism who fall away.”

    Yet, Calvin writes,

    “For besides that in the sacraments nothing is received except by faith, we must also hold that the grace of God is by no means so annexed to them that whoso receives the sign also gains possession of the thing. For the signs are administered alike to reprobate and elect, but the reality reaches the latter only.” (Article 17, The Consensus Tigurinus)

    “As the use of the sacraments will confer nothing more on unbelievers than if they had abstained from it, nay, is only destructive to them, so without their use believers receive the reality which is there figured.” (Article 19, The Consensus Tigurinus)

    If you don’t see the contradiction between Leithart’s statements and Calvin’s, then I’m not sure what it will take to open your eyes.

  217. kjsulli said,

    December 31, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    Andy Dollahite, re: 196,

    I’m sorry, but did I miss something when we got to the first sentence of the second paragraph? When I read Kyle’s first paragraph, it sounds like a page out of the FV handbook. Isn’t remembering God’s promises in baptism and feeding on Christ in the supper what the FV has been saying all along? Isn’t that the whole point of an objective covenant… you can look at something *objective*, e.g. your baptism, and know that God has claimed you as his, so now live accordingly. Live by the covenant you are now a part of… which is to say, live by faith in Christ. The focus isn’t on telling everyone they are halfway there, now finish the deal yourself or face greater punishment. The point of an objective covenant is to show someone something outside of themselves that connects them to a faithful God.

    Curiously, FV-pusher curate here regards me as an “empty sign Baptist.” If the FV didn’t equivocate on the benefits received by the elect, attribute lesser versions of the same benefits to reprobates in the visible church, then what I’ve said would be the FV position, and FV would not be anything different than vanilla Reformed theology. But the problem is, FV DOES equivocate on these benefits, DOES equivocate on the nature of union with Christ, DOES equivocate on the nature of justification, DOES equivocate on the nature of faith, etc., etc., ad nauseam, so that “live accordingly” comes with the implict threat, “or else you’ll really lose all of these benefits which you really have.” And those benefits STILL have not been defined. I’ve pointed out many of the same things for months in reading and commenting on this blog. So far, we still seem to have gotten absolutely nowhere.

  218. R. F. White said,

    December 31, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    207 A. Dollahite,

    Your citations of the Bible highlight one problem with which the FV system is trying to deal, namely, the way the apostles speak of and to the members of the visible church. As I said in 204, the FV solution to the problem is very much along the lines of the Remonstrants and the Amyraldians. In saying this, I don’t mean to be merely dismissive or alarmist, but historically descriptive. Here is what I meant.

    At bottom, the Remonstrants and the Amyraldians urge that texts such as those you cite require us to incorporate conditionality (provisionality) into our conception of the nature of divine grace conferred (i.e., God confers his grace provided certain conditions are met in and by its object). Essentially, it is this same notion that is at the root of the FV distinction between decretal and covenantal language (as in ‘decretal union’ and ‘covenantal union’; ‘justification proper’ and ‘corporate justification’): decretal language is absolutist language; covenantal language is conditionalist language. For the FVer, it is the covenantal — read: conditional — nature of the divine grace (blessings) conferred on the members of the visible church that explains the provisional (conditional) way the apostles speak of them. This solution, however, bears a contagion that, if applied consistently, destroys every facet of the ordo salutis.

    The apostles elsewhere speak in a way that rejects provisionality (conditionality) in God’s conferral of His grace. This is plain when Paul acknowledges the apostasy of Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim 2:17-18) but does not concede the reversibility of their election by God, saying, “nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are His’” (2 Timothy 2:19).

    Alternatively, then, if these texts you cite don’t teach the conditional nature of the divine grace conferred and they don’t require the FV solution, what do they teach and require for our understanding? As I see it, there is at least one other factor to consider: the undifferentiated nature of the faith initially confessed by the members of the visible church.

    The faith of those to whom the authors address themselves was not yet fully and finally differentiated from non-saving faiths. In the historical experience of the visible church, especially in times of temptation and trial, God’s promises had to be embraced; His warnings had to be heeded. Some, however, who had “believed” apostatized.

    After their apostasy, what do we say of apostates? Of apostates we must say with Scripture that seeing they did not see, and hearing they did not hear. They had knowledge, but their knowledge was according to the flesh (cf. sophoi kata sarka, 1 Cor 1:26), not the Spirit (1 Cor 2:6-16; Matt 13:11). They were branches on the Vine (John 15:2), but they were apart from Him (15:5) and did not abide in Him (15:6). They were branches on the olive tree, but they were broken off for unbelief (Rom 11:20-22).

    The faith apostates originally confessed was now exposed as non-saving faith, not saving faith; there was no longer any warrant for attributing to them the blessings that belong to saving faith. All that apostates can claim is they once had blessings in common with the elect when they were part of the covenant community. As the apostle John might say, it is one thing to say that apostates were “with us”; it is quite another to say that they were “of us” while they were “with us” (cf. 1 John 2:19).

    All told, it seems to me that the way the apostles speak to the visible church in the texts you cite is not explained by the fact that the grace conferred on the members of the visible church is conditional (provisional). It is rather explained by the fact that the faith of the members of the visible church is not yet fully and finally differentiated as saving faith.

  219. Gabe Martini said,

    December 31, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Equivocation? Are you really wanting to go down that route? Please. James and Peter are rather guilty of equivocation, then, in James 2 (“a man is justified by works”) and 1 Peter 3 (“baptism saves”).

    There’s a big difference between equivocation (which the critics of the FV are guilty of, in my opinion, as your comment perhaps indicates ironically) and recognizing the ability to use the same word with different meanings appropriate to the given context.

    That is, unless you are willing to rally behind James (since he couldn’t possibly equivocate, inspired by God’s Spirit) and say “A MAN IS JUSTIFIED BY WORKS AND NOT BY FAITH ALONE!!!!”, which would be a rather curious admission on your behalf; indeed, on behalf of anyone claiming to be Protestant… UNLESS, of course, you can admit the same word has various meanings depending on context (something I learned in elementary grammar, by the by). ;-)

    Food for thought, brother.

    Peace,
    Gabe

  220. kjsulli said,

    December 31, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Gabe, re: 219,

    Yes, equivocation. I can tell you the difference between the way James uses “justification” in his epistle and the way Paul uses “justification” and that systematic theology uses “justification” in the latter sense when speaking of the ordo salutis. Can FVers tell me the difference between decretal and covenantal justification? What about the difference between decretal and covenantal union? Or shall they simply continue to assert that they aren’t the same, with the only apparent difference being the temporariness of the covenantal blessings?

  221. Machaira said,

    December 31, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    #210

    Ref no. 208

    Machaira said: … how can you ever have assurance. The only answer? Covenantal faithfulness to the end.

    I thought that was the fifth point of TULIP, you know, those who persevere to the end will be saved?

    What I said there was from the perspective of the FV, not my own. Is that what you mean?

  222. Gabe Martini said,

    December 31, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Yessir, I could tell you the difference — but Steve Wilkins already did years ago. No one opposed to him and his ministry in the Church has listened very well, in my humble opinion. The PCA, however, *did* let its “study committee” equivocate and produce a — in my humble opinion — rather disappointing document, which was erroneously and dishonestly portrayed (most notably by R.C. Sproul, who should repent in public for his slander, before he stands before God) as a bastion for Justification by Faith over and against the so-named “accused” men of the FV/NPP (which the document names as “brothers in Christ,” not the “accused” or deniers of “justification by faith”, but I digress).

    So, again I say, enough of this equivocation speak. It is rather disingenuous, considering the circumstances. Quoting people out of context so as to nit-pick, rather than being charitable isn’t that admirable, either; it is no better than equivocation, in any sense. I’m not — please read me here — pointing fingers at anyone in this statement; simply speaking the truth, I believe.

    I’m glad you can distinguish between different meanings of the same word; and, more importantly, I believe you.

    I’m glad we’re on the same page.

    God bless, and Happy New Year, kjsulli.

    Peace,
    Gabe

  223. Gabe Martini said,

    December 31, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Oh, and as an aside — I agree with all 9 Declarations (although I would quibble over saying Scripture has only one structure; certainly redemptive history is divided in a similar way, as pre- and post-lapsarian).

    That is why it is a disappointing document, considering my sympathy for both (some of the) New Perspectives on Paul and the Federal Vision.

    Peace,
    Gabe

  224. anneivy said,

    December 31, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Re: #208

    Mercy Maud, NO! That’s not at all what the fifth petal of TULIP says. =8^o

    There’s a vast chasm between the FV’s/Curate’s interpretation, i.e. “those who persevere to the end will be saved” and what the Canons of Dortrecht actually said: “Those thus saved God graciously preserves so they persevere until the end, even though they may be troubled by many infirmities as they seek to make their calling and election sure.”

    IOW, it’s not “those who persevere to the end will be saved”, but rather “those who are saved will persevere to the end.”

    Big, big difference.

  225. Kyle said,

    December 31, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Gabe, re: 222,

    See my complaint way back in #58. Please, define the differences.

  226. anneivy said,

    December 31, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Re: #207

    Andy, I’m not aware most Reformed folk haven’t been “speak[ing] biblically to each other.”

    What on earth has been going on in those FV Presbyterian churches, anyway, that such an extreme measure as overhauling traditional doctrines is necessary to get the people in them to “speak biblically” to each other?

  227. December 31, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Andy, #214,

    I’m short on time, so I’ll just take an easy one.

    Baptism expresses God’s eternal sovereign choice of an individual to be a member of the people of God; and those who are members of the church stand righteous before God, are holy, and are sons because they are members of the body inseparably joined to the Son of God, who is the righteous and holy Son

    So, Leithart is saying that the reprobate in the visible church “who are members of the church” by baptism are “righteous before God”? According to Scripture and the WS and contrary to the Roman church, the only way that is possible is by regeneration and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ, and that only happens to the elect in Reformed theology. For example, WCF 11.1:

    Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

    And how is “inseparably joined to the Son of God” different from perseverance? Or does Leithart mean inseparable “in some sense”? Apparently so:

    these benefits of baptism, however, belong finally only to the baptized who respond to God’s grace in faith; there are some who are made sons by baptism who fall away.

    So, those who were “inseparably joined to the Son of God” fall away? That statement is contradictory inside itself. No wonder FV confuses people.

  228. December 31, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Anne, #224,

    IOW, it’s not “those who persevere to the end will be saved”, but rather “those who are saved will persevere to the end.”

    Big, big difference.

    Amen!

    “Perseverance of the saints” is better describes as “preservation of the saints”, all due to God’s faithfulness, not the saints’.

  229. Gabe Martini said,

    December 31, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Re, #224

    That makes no sense. That is neither Biblical (as to the meaning of “saved”) nor reasonable.

  230. Gabe Martini said,

    December 31, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    In other words, no one is “saved” until the Last Day. In many cases, being “saved” meant escaping the judgment on Jerusalem in a.d. 70, depending on the context in the NT. Revelation 21 and elsewhere says those who conquer will be saved in the end.

  231. anneivy said,

    December 31, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    Re: #229

    Gabe, you are naturally entitled to your opinion, and you’re scarcely alone in rejecting the perseverance/preservation of the saints, goodness knows. Heaps of people do!

    The difference, of course, is that those “heaps of people” tend to reject the entire TULIP, rather than reinterpreting the doctrines contained within it.

    You want to think what I said makes no sense? Fine.

    Just don’t call yourself “Reformed”, that’s all. The belief that the LORD monergistically sustains and preserves His elect is a key Reformed doctrine. If it falls, the whole Reformed house of cards falls.

  232. Machaira said,

    December 31, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    ref.# 224

    Anne,

    You made reference to my post #208. Mix-up maybe? Did you see my response to curate, #221?

  233. anneivy said,

    December 31, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Oh. Sorry!

    I was intending to quote Curate’s post and must’ve gotten the post numbers confused.

    Fubsy-fingered, that’s me.

  234. Machaira said,

    December 31, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    #233

    Phew! That’s a relief. I was beginning to feel horribly misunderstood. :)

  235. Jeff Moss said,

    December 31, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    Two Biblical quotations that are relevant to this thread:

    A. (in reference to #224)
    “But he who endures (hypomenō, = “perseveres”) to the end shall be saved.”
    –Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13

    Can someone who is familiar with the history of the Canons of Dort comment on the Scriptural basis for the statement that Anne quoted? I think it may actually be drawn from this saying of the Lord, which places final salvation after endurance/perseverance.

    B. (in reference to the “sap” of which all covenant members partake)
    “And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” –Romans 11:17-22

    This passage, more than John 15, provides a Biblical statement that all members of the Covenant enjoy the sap of the tree. In the Apostle’s words, they are “partakers of the root and fatness of the olive tree.” To the same people who partake of such blessings, he writes that they must “stand by faith,” “fear,” and “continue in His goodness.” Otherwise God will not spare them, and they will be cut off.

  236. December 31, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    [...] Dr. R. Scott Clark over at Heidelblog wrote an excellent analysis of a current debate over at GreenBagginses. That discussion is up to 234 comments as I write this. Dr. Clark’s post is a must-read, as [...]

  237. January 1, 2008 at 2:11 am

    RE #235,

    A. I know that Federal Visionists like to play dueling verses, but Scripture must be consistent. Dueling verses aren’t an option, unless you’re an Arminian. Therefore, I offer 1 Pet 1:5:

    Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    and John 10:28-29:

    And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

    And then there’s the always handy Phil 1:6:

    Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

    That seems clear enough to me, as well as and the orthodox Reformed community. They clearly place the preservation of the saints with God’s faithfulness, not ours.

    B. Rom 11 is an analogy, not a metaphor. I’ve posted on the difference before. Analogies only make a point, as opposed metaphors that have deep parallels. The point of Romans 11:17 is well stated by the note on that verse in the 1599 Geneva Bible:

    There is no reason why the Gentiles who have obtained mercy, should triumph over the Jews who condemn the grace of God, seeing they are grafted in place of the Jews. But let them rather take heed, that also in them is not found that which is worthily condemned in the Jews. And from this also the general doctrine may be gathered and taken, that we ought to be zealous for God’s glory, even in regards to our neighbours: and we should be very far from bragging and glorying because we are preferred before others by a singular grace.

    And on verse 18:

    We may rejoice in the Lord, but in such a way that we do not despise the Jews, whom we ought rather to encourage to join in the good battle with us.

    “We may rejoice in the Lord”. That’s the point of the analogy, to teach humility to the gentiles, not to instruct us in the finer points of botany. Rom 11:17-22 doesn’t teach botany any more than John 15:1-8.

  238. curate said,

    January 1, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Machaira and Anne, you two are struggling with the term “he who perseveres to the end will be saved”, which is a literal quote from Matt 10.22; 24.13; and Mark 13.13.

    That is not what Dort says at all, Anne exclaims! But it certainly is what the Lord Jesus said over and over – to the word. And it really is what Dort says, inter alia.

    Yes, God does keep the elect to the end through trials and troubles as they seek to make their calling and election sure.

    Did you see that last bit in bold? Their calling and election are not sure already, or they would not be striving to that end, would they?

    You are claiming that your calling and election are already sure, so there is a real conflict of doctrine here between you and Dort, not to mention the Lord. This is one of the things the FV is drawing your attention to – that you have to make your calling and election sure, not presume that that is the case already.

    2Pet. 1:10:  Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble

    What the problem is?

  239. curate said,

    January 1, 2008 at 4:44 am

    Ref 238

    2 Peter 1.10: … for if you do these things you will never stumble

    I think that Peter must have been a heretic. How dare he say that our never stumbling has anything to do with our doing and working? Must be an Arminian, Socinian, Amyraldian, a Jew, or even a Roman. Doesn’t he know that it is God who keeps us from stumbling, not us?

    Perhaps the Liberals are right in thinking that it wasn’t Peter at all, but the early church community who wrote in his name, which would explain their patent lack of true-blue monergism.

    Seriously, joking aside, one of the fun things about debating you guys is that you infallibly point us to texts and documents that strengthen our case. In that way it is just like debating the Arminians.

  240. its.reed said,

    January 1, 2008 at 9:49 am

    Ref. #239:

    Roger, as one who has hopefully gained your sympathetic ear, I find such comments as these very, very unhelpful. Frankly, I believe they fail the edification test (Rom 14:19).

    Sarcasm backed by substantive points – I can laugh at myself sufficiently to pay attention. Extended humor without making a substantive point – I walk away believing I’ve talked to someone who has merely demonstrated that they are better read than me, and who relishes rubbing my nose in it.

    I certainly haven’t walked away learning Christ better. And yes, this criticism is one I offer to anyone who considers that the debate here is in anyway “fun.”

    Sorry to come down so hard Roger, but real brothers (the decretal kind – some humor I hope brings a smile) do these kinds of things for one another.

  241. GLW Johnson said,

    January 1, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Gabe M. despicable remark about RC Sproul and his need to repent of slander for his floor speech at this years PCA GA is sadly very typical of the mentality that characterizes much of the FV. This is one of the most disturbing features of those who espouse the FV-an overbearing self-righteous indignation that assumes an attitude of apostolic infalliablity that calls down the wrath of God on anyone who would dare question their assertions. How offen do we hear the charge of ‘slander’ thrown at those -like RC Sproul, Scott Clark or Guy Waters-for their opposition to the distinctive features of the FV ? This is another characteristic of sects and cults and ought to alarm anyone who is remotely sympathetic to the FV.

  242. Mark T. said,

    January 1, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Dr. Johnson,

    I call upon you to stop slandering the new Reformation and those leading it.

    Thank you.

  243. Machaira said,

    January 1, 2008 at 11:18 am

    #238

    What the problem is?

    Respectfully, the problem is that the FV fails to consider what the Scriptures say a topic as a whole. Nothing Anne or I have said contradicts the doctrine of perseverance of the saints. Yes, there is “doing” on our part involved in our perseverance, but you’re forgetting God’s part of the deal – without which no one would persevere. Notice how our work is caused and enabled by God’s work, not the other way around.

    Php 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,
    Php 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

  244. curate said,

    January 1, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Ref. 242

    Machaira, I am not for one minute forgetting God’s part! I teach it all the time.

  245. David Weiner said,

    January 1, 2008 at 11:31 am

    curate, re: 238-239,

    You bring 2 Peter 1:10 into the fray. A real explanation of this verse is way out of line here; however, I can find no IF in the verse in the Greek. Anyway, if the ones whom Peter was addressing in this letter were in danger of loosing it then so was he because they both shared exactly the same faith. In other words, he is not addressing the visible church!

  246. curate said,

    January 1, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Ref. no. 240

    Reed, you have indeed gained my sympathetic ear. Now lend me yours.

    Here is the substantive point that I am making behind the satire: the Antis relish accusing us of Arminianism, Socinianism, Romanism etc., but you are exhibiting the tunnel vision that we find with the same in taking one aspect of truth from a verse, but being blind to another aspect of that same truth in the very next phrase of scripture.

    You see Reed, the irony is too delicious to go unremarked, given the earnest condemnation you are heaping upon our heads. If you can dish it out you have to be willing to take it too. Fair is fair.

    Finally, I am indeed acting in your interests both as a covenantal and a decretal brother in pointing these things out. I admit that I am often too sharp with my tongue and pen, so out of respect for your authority I will try harder to be milder.

  247. January 1, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    [...] comments late in this discussion, Federal Visionists are seen to confuse the doctrines of assurance and perseverance. Specifically, [...]

  248. R. F. White said,

    January 2, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Curate’s appeal to 2 Pet 1:10 is precisely on point. The fundamental premise of Peter’s exhortation is that the faith of his readers has not yet been fully and finally differentiated as saving faith. Full and final differentiation of one’s faith as saving faith takes place in times of temptation and trial in its response to the warnings and promises of God’s Word. In times of temptation and trial (such as those in which Peter’s readers found themselves), God does not merely call on believers to presume their election; no, He calls on them to make their calling and election sure. To put it differently, when temptation and trial come, we are not to presume our election and to ignore God’s Word; rather we are to prove our calling and election by trembling at the threats of God’s Word and embracing its promises.

  249. David Weiner said,

    January 2, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    The fundamental premise of Peter’s exhortation is that the faith of his readers has not yet been fully and finally differentiated as saving faith.

    If so, then his (Peter’s) faith (see 2 Peter 1:1) was still in question also as to whether or not it was genuine saving faith! I don’t see him wringing his hands about the reality of his faith.

  250. R. F. White said,

    January 2, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    David, the reality of one’s faith and the full and final exhibition of that faith as saving faith are two different things. Saving faith is not fully and finally distinguished from non-saving faiths apart from its perseverance. That is only to say that saving faith is never alone but is always accompanied by its fruits and evidences.

  251. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 2, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Jeff Moss (#235):

    Can someone who is familiar with the history of the Canons of Dort comment on the Scriptural basis for the statement that Anne quoted?

    Dort draws very heavily on the Gospel of John as well as such texts as Ephesians 2 and Romans 8.

    Jeff Cagle

  252. David Weiner said,

    January 2, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Dr. White, re: #250,

    the reality of one’s faith and the full and final exhibition of that faith as saving faith are two different things.

    Yes; but, exhibit to whom? Surely not God; and surely it is of no consequence if men are finally convinced of the reality of another person’s faith. I don’t see Peter focused on a saved person’s proving his/her faith as genuine in this passage. He wants his readers to have an abundant life by seeing the fruits the Holy Spirit is producing in their lives. Peter and the people he was addressing definitely had saving faith and both knew it. Else, the recipients would not know that the letter was for them.

    That is only to say that saving faith is never alone but is always accompanied by its fruits and evidences.

    Alas, I don’t think this is always so. It ought to be; but, . . . You know that a saved person can grieve or, worse yet, quench the Holy Spirit. Not much fruit when this happens. And, unless one is filled (not to be confused with any so called ‘second filling.’) with the Holy Spirit, then there is a diluting of what is being worked out.

  253. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 2, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    David Weiner (#252):

    Yes; but, exhibit to whom? Surely not God; and surely it is of no consequence if men are finally convinced of the reality of another person’s faith.

    What about to oneself, as a part of one’s assurance? Certainly Peter has an eye towards this consideration (1 Peter 1.3-9).

    That is only to say that saving faith is never alone but is always accompanied by its fruits and evidences.

    Alas, I don’t think this is always so.

    In the end, it is. This is what James 2 is all about.

    Jeff Cagle

  254. A. Dollahite said,

    January 2, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Dr. White,

    You say, “Saving faith is not fully and finally distinguished from non-saving faiths apart from its perseverance.”

    How is this different from what the FV has been saying about the benefits experienced by the NECM? They actually exist, they are qualitatively different than the benefits enjoyed by the ECM, but they are indistinguishable for all intents and purposes from the historical perspective in which we live.

  255. A. Dollahite said,

    January 2, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Bob Mattes and Roger Mann,

    RE #216 and #227.

    Having taken time to consider what you’ve said, I think I would say that you are right that Leithart is not in agreement with Calvin on this particular point. I don’t have the full context of the Calvin quotes provided by Roger, but from what you have pointed out, I would admit that I was wrong on that point.

    One thing about #227 – I think Leithart means that the Church is inseparably united to Christ. Therefore, if you are joined to the Church, you share in the benefits of the Church. If you are later separated from the Church, you no longer share in those benefits.

  256. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 2, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Andy D (#254):

    How is this different from what the FV has been saying about the benefits experienced by the NECM?

    That depends on which FV person we mean. For Doug Wilson, perhaps none at all. For Jordan, it’s very different. Jordan wishes to say (if I’m reading correctly) that there is no ontological difference between the NECM and the elect until the former apostasizes. Wilkins sits somewhere in between: he affirms an ontological difference between the two, but he hedges on what that might be.

    I think Leithart means that the Church is inseparably united to Christ. Therefore, if you are joined to the Church, you share in the benefits of the Church. If you are later separated from the Church, you no longer share in those benefits.

    Right. And that’s precisely parallel to the Arminian view of election: that God elects a group, The Church, while our membership in that church is a matter of coming and going:

    That God, by an eternal and unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son before the foundation of the world, has determined that out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who through the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe on this his son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath and to condemn them as alienated from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John 3:36: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that does not believe the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also. — Art. 1 of the Remonstrants

    Now, the FV is not an Arminian movement per se. For the Arminians, the coming and going is a function of free will. For the FV, the coming and going is a function of God’s decrees. But their emphases are strikingly similar.

    Jeff Cagle

  257. January 2, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Andy D., RE #255,

    Having taken time to consider what you’ve said, I think I would say that you are right that Leithart is not in agreement with Calvin on this particular point.

    Not just Calvin, but the Westminster Standards as well as I point out in #227.

    One thing about #227 – I think Leithart means that the Church is inseparably united to Christ.

    Possibly, but the plain English doesn’t read that way. Also, the reprobates in the visible church are obviously separable from Christ, so the visible church as a whole is not inseparable from Christ. Only the invisible church has a mystical union with Christ and is thus inseparable.

    Therefore, if you are joined to the Church, you share in the benefits of the Church. If you are later separated from the Church, you no longer share in those benefits.

    Again, this paragraph only describes the visible church. WLC Q.#63 delineates the limited benefits to the reprobate who join the visible church. Only in that context do I agree with your last sentence.

  258. A. Dollahite said,

    January 2, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Bob,

    I agree with you that Leithart disagrees with Calvin. However, I don’t think your citation of WCF 11.1 shows he is necessarily contradicting the confession. 11.1 talks about the effectually called and how they are justified, but has nothing to say about the NECM. Again, the justification of the NECM is not the same as the justification of the ECM, at least as far as I understand the FV. This functions in my mind similarly to the types of faith Dr. White discusses in #250. If there are some who argue there is no ontological difference between the benefits received by NECM and ECM, as Jeff Cagle in #256 suggests, then I disagree with them.

    Also, I disagree with you about the “plain English” you mention in #257. Doesn’t Leithart say, “…because they are members of the body inseparably joined to the Son of God…” The “inseparably joined to the Son of God” description comes immediately after the mentioning of “the body.” To me he is simply reminding everyone that the olive tree will always be attached to its roots, even after some of its branches are pruned. I’m fairly confident Leithart doesn’t mean that any and all baptized people are joined to the invisible church.

  259. David Weiner said,

    January 2, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Jeff Cagle, re: #253,

    Certainly Peter has an eye towards this (assurance about one’s own salvation) consideration (1 Peter 1.3-9).

    I think so. It is just not the driver; it is the result. The driver is for these people to be useful and fruitful. What could be more encouraging or reassuring to a Christian than to see that this is true of their lives? That they are, in fact, being used by the Holy Spirit so that He can produce fruit through them?

    In the end, it (saving faith, accompanied by fruits and evidences) is. This is what James 2 is all about.

    Maybe so; but I don’t really know how it is all going to end with regard to all Christians. Some still seem pretty much in control of their lives. I certainly know that there will not be a merciless judgment for any Christian as James mentions awaits some. There may be more or less reward to give back to Him, however. A complicated subject and probably not part of this thread.

  260. its.reed said,

    January 2, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Ref. #258:

    Andy, is the hallmark of the doctrine you wish to commit your soul to the statement you offered about what Leithart means, to wit, “I’m fairly certain”?

    Not trying to be obnoxious, but your statement struck me as a glaring example of a critical problem with the FV. “I’m fairly certain,” is not the standard to which Christ calls me, either as a private Christian or one called to teach others.

    “I’m fairly certain,” seems a fair summary of what one receives from the FV. That alone is reason to walk away from it, hook, line, and sinker.

  261. kjsulli said,

    January 2, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Andy Dollahite, re: 255,

    I think Leithart means that the Church is inseparably united to Christ. Therefore, if you are joined to the Church, you share in the benefits of the Church. If you are later separated from the Church, you no longer share in those benefits.

    If I might beat the same old drum once again, as I said up in #217, “those benefits STILL have not been defined.” I and others have pointed to WLC Q&A 63 before as enumerating the benefits enjoyed by members of the visible church, but FV is at least attempting to say more with covenantal justification and so forth. So I’ve been told by an FVer, who said that none of the benefits enumerated in WLC Q&A 63 apply to individuals. And of course, something like “covenantal justification” is hardly in sight there.

    So, I ask the question again: what benefits do reprobates members of the visible church receive, and what do they lose when they apostasize, and how are these benefits the same and different from those received by the elect?

  262. A. Dollahite said,

    January 2, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Reed,

    I do appreciate what I presume to be a caring motivation on your part to ask me about my statement. But, I’m puzzled by your comment. I don’t commit my soul to any doctrine…much less any doctrine of Peter Leithart I was making assumptions about. This may sound trite, but it’s true – I commit my soul to Jesus Christ. Who he is and what he has done is important, very important. But I don’t rest safe in my theological understanding of him, or in my theological understanding of the mechanics of justification. Wouldn’t that be antithetical to sola fide? Whether I have everything perfectly worked out (I certainly don’t) is not what will save me. Jesus’ perfection will save me. Of course, I’m all for right doctrine, so I’m not saying this discussion isn’t important, it is. But I won’t be saved by getting a 100% on the theology exam.

    For what it’s worth, I think “fairly certain” would do a lot of Christians some good when it came to theological discussion. Are you telling me that you never express any degree of uncertainty about anything you teach? You never qualify a statement with the phrase, “I could be wrong, but I think…” No offense, but if that’s true it would seem rather arrogant to me, as if you had it all perfectly figured out. In this case, “I’m fairly certain” was simply meant as a qualifier to the effect that I don’t have perfect knowledge of Leithart’s theology. We need absolute certainty on some things, but not on everything.

  263. its.reed said,

    January 2, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Ref. #262:

    Andy, it may be my poor communication, but I find your response demonstrating you are reading way too far beyond my basic point.

    God uses means of grace to bless His people, to grow them in Christ. The arena of the means of grace is the Church. The preaching of the word is a premier means of grace. Pastor’s are called by God to be the channels through which this preaching comes.

    Pastors need to be clear in their teaching, their discipleship (to be as broad as possible, the sermon being the high point, a pastor’s whole ministry being in view). A man whose teaching is unclear is hurting the sheep.

    Nothing in such observations deny or contradict the points you make in your first paragraph.

    Of course I express “fairly certain” views on some doctrinal subjects. I’m fairly certain of the position known as optimistic amillenialism. Yet my teaching that to someone, if I’m wrong, is not going to put their soul in jeopardy.

    The doctrines touched upon by the FV are not secord order. Your chiding me here suggests that all that is going on in the FV debate is discussions of matters as serious as if and when to take up an offering in a worship service. Andy, surely you see the significance of doctrines that deal with the ordo salutis, things that go to the very center of the gospel? The FV is not a discussion of trivialities, but of the heart of the matters of life and death.

    As to your suggestion of arrogance on my part (second paragraph), it is actually the exact opposite. The standard I strive for in my discipleship is to stay as far away from novelty and innovation as possible. By their own statements (see the aerchives at De Regno Christi) the key FV advocates declare the FV project to be a subject that they are still exploring together, and that somewhat privately, that their opinions and ruminations and are still yet not fully formed.

    Yet these same men continue to publish for the Church at large, they continue to host laymen popular conferences (AAC ’08 about to go off), they’ve even talked about the need to address their project to the yet unformed minds of seminary students – men in training to be channels of God’s grace.

    With all seriousness Andy, your efforts at defending these men by implying my own arrogant standards is ludicrous. The arrogance rests on the part of those who have chosen to disturb the peace of Christ’s Church with their own self-confessed innovation and novelties.

    This may be hard to hear. At least please recognize that my motive has nothing to do with me, everything to do with the needs of sheep. Even more, please consider whether or not you recognize how truly serious these matters are.

  264. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 2, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    David (#259):

    Maybe so; but I don’t really know how it is all going to end with regard to all Christians. Some still seem pretty much in control of their lives.

    Totally fair. For that reason, I would discourage speculation about stuff we can’t see. I think the parable of the wheat and tares is sufficient to discourage trying to probe around and figure out who is “really saved.”

    Jeff Cagle

  265. A. Dollahite said,

    January 2, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Reed,

    First, before we lose what in my opinion has been largely helpful dialogue, let me clarify a few points.

    1) I do not think you are arrogant. On the contrary I find you one of the most appropriately humble people with which to interact. As a result I usually enjoy our exchanges. Furthermore, I apologize since it appears I was chiding you. I am in no position, and have no desire to do so. You made a comment about my use of the phrase “I’m fairly certain” which I found puzzling because of the context in which I originally used it. I interpreted your later statement, ““I’m fairly certain,” is not the standard to which Christ calls me, either as a private Christian or one called to teach others” to be applied to all things in our Christian experience. If that were true, then I would think you were out to lunch. You did not mean it this way, so I don’t think you’re out to lunch.

    2) Written communication (even in abundance) can be easily misunderstood, especially given our prejudices and emotional anchors. Furthermore, it takes longer to untie misunderstandings. This is why I would much rather prefer verbal exchanges… but few in my area have even heard of the FV, much less want to talk about it. You have been gracious to interact with me, for which I am thankful.

    3) I agree that the doctrines touched by the FV are important, much more important that when to take the offering. They affect how we raise our children, how to pastor churches, and how to administer sacraments, among many others. But it’s my experience that when it comes to the critical ones… who is Jesus? how am I saved? to name just a couple examples, the men of the FV are perfectly and certainly orthodox. They believe in inerrancy, they are robust trinitarians, they affirm and exhort their congregations to live by faith in Christ for everything, etc. Are there elements of the FV I don’t like, absolutely. Do I agree with those who question the IAO of Christ, no. Am I sympathetic to the NPP? No. Do I think they are going to hell for either? No. I’d be interested in hearing from you what critical doctrine you think they are denying such that they are going to pay with their souls.

    4) Concerning the fruit accepting the FV has produced. When you look at their congregations you see people who love Jesus, love their families, work diligently in business, ove the Church, etc. Are they perfect? No. But I think the fruit of their ministries is abundant, and I’m not alone in thinking that. Even those opposed to the FV who know these men personally speak very well of them and their churches. Are there people who are personally upset with these men? Yes, but what church doesn’t have a least a few? On the whole the fruit of these churches appears to be worth enjoying. Even David Gadbois has attended the Trinity Fest in Moscow, and from what I gather had a wonderful time. Does that mean the FV is necessarily right? No, but I certainly don’t see reason to run from it either.

    5) I don’t really have much to say about the arrogance (or lack thereof) of the FV for what they are doing. In some ways I agree with the point you were suggesting when you said:

    the key FV advocates declare the FV project to be a subject that they are still exploring together, and that somewhat privately, that their opinions and ruminations and are still yet not fully formed.

    Yet these same men continue to publish for the Church at large, they continue to host laymen popular conferences (AAC ‘08 about to go off), they’ve even talked about the need to address their project to the yet unformed minds of seminary students – men in training to be channels of God’s grace.

    …The arrogance rests on the part of those who have chosen to disturb the peace of Christ’s Church with their own self-confessed innovation and novelties.

    It would probably be better if those men answered for themselves.

    6) I will continue to consider the matter of the FV seriously. I hope you will be willing to continue to dialogue, even if this thread has run its course.

  266. its.reed said,

    January 2, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Ref. #265:

    Andy, yes verbal would be better. Yet blogging is here. Let us continue to try and use it humbly.

    I’m not so concerned with our losing rapport here. I did not think that was occuring. I’m being a little more direct here because I think you’re wrongly reading and reacting to what my point. I’mmore concerned with what appears to me to be your reading things into my statements that aren’t there. You are making observations that do not follow what I said.

    An example here is that I never said any of the FV men, or anyone for that matter, is going to hell. You are taking a statement about how serious I think are the doctrines which the FV deals with and drawing inferences that are not warranted and read me at least unkindly, if not with a lack of understanding that leads to talking past each other.

    Observations about David’s experience of hospitality are anecdotal and do not even relate to the point I am making. Nothing has been said about the hospitality, or any other character quality of the key FV advocates.

    Simple point: the FV deals with matters of first order importance. The subject of this post (union) is one. A lack of clarity on justification, good works, faith, etc. are more examples. I expect we disagree as to whether this list is fair, and to what degree on those we’d agree should be on any list.

    It’s not reasonable in light of the kinds of understanding expressed by FV opponents here time and time again to say we don’t get it and aren’t willing to be fair and not misrepresent FV advocates. The big problem is not the “anti’s” not getting it. Of course this occurs. By and large we’ve asked for clarification, and then responded to that. We don’t as a rule go off the deep end.

    Plain and simple, if no other criticism of the FV sticks, lack of essential clarity does. A lack of clarity on this subject (union, et.al.) is a failing owned by the FV. A pastor is called to a higher standard, especially on central matters.

    Your “I’m fairly certain,” was the occassion of a reflection on my part that in light of the lack of clarity coming from the FV advocates, mere prudence would suggest that one’s time more wisely and safely spent studyng other things.

    I’m not trying to dissuade you. I was trying to catch your attention and ask you to consider this basic point.

    And yes, this thread’s most likely done here.

  267. R. F. White said,

    January 3, 2008 at 12:14 am

    252 David Weiner, are we talking past each other, having lost the context of our interaction? I don’t know for sure. I was merely alluding to the statements of the WCF on saving faith, how it responds to the promises and threats in God’s Word, and the contribution that 2 Pet 1:10 makes to that consideration. As for Peter and his Christian readers, he makes his intentions plain in 1:12-15; 3:1-2, 17-18, namely, he aims to stir up his readers to perseverance and growth in the face of the threat posed by false and immoral teachers. In the face of that threat, Peter enjoins on his readers the duty to make their calling and election sure. How will this happen? As they embrace the promises of God (1:3-4, 16-21; 3:11-13) and heed the warnings of God (1:9; 2:1-3; 3:17). I think we’re off the topic to pursue this point further here.

    254 A. Dollahite, to my knowledge, FVers have not agreed among themselves whether the benefits experienced by NECM and by ECM are qualitatively different, nor that the beneficiaries and their benefits remain indistinguishable from our historical perspective. I do know that Douglas Wilson has written: “Apostasy reveals something about the ultimate destinations of individuals because it is part of the historical process that God uses to get us there.” [“Reformed” is Not Enough, 138] This means, he says, that “we accept what God says about all covenant members, and we accept what He says about the distinction between covenant members.” [Ibid.]

  268. R. F. White said,

    January 3, 2008 at 11:50 am

    254 A. Dollahite,

    Looking at Bob Mattes’s post on Good Works in Perseverance and Assurance, I see David Gadbois’s #12 comment with its quotation from Steve Wilkins. Assuming the quotation is correct (and I have no reason to believe it isn’t), then Wilkins now agrees with Wilson that there is a qualitative difference between the benefits to NECM and to ECM; they had formerly disagreed on that point. They both maintain that the beneficiaries and their benefits often remain indistinguishable. David Gadbois’s point about the epistemological and ontological confusion in FV argumentation is helpful.

    I’m imagining a meeting of elders with a prospective church member. That prospective member is asked questions that provide opportunities for him to profess his faith. My point is that that faith, however credibly professed and identified as such at a first encounter, can prove, in time, to be a false faith. The Scriptures, so far as I know them, tell us when true (saving) faith and false (non-saving) faiths distinguish themselves from one another: it is in times of temptation and trial. In such times true faith perseveres and false faiths apostatize. Apart from those times of temptation and trial, it is morally justifiable for elders to identify a prospective member’s faith as true and saving in that they make their identification by referring to the traits (fruits and evidences) of the prospective member’s faith as they appear at the encounter between the elders and the prospective member. The elders’ identification of faith intially professed as saving is provisional; it is neither full nor final.

  269. A. Dollahite said,

    January 3, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    Reed,

    RE #266:

    Yes, verbal is better. It’s too bad that more verbal communication hasn’t been utilized in other avenues of this discussion.

    I’m glad to know that you are not questioning the character of the FV leaders. I would disagree with you if you said that the character of the FV advocates has not been challenged in the larger discussion, even in this thread. There are people who routinely come on this blog and call them cult leaders, wolves, false shepards, bearers of poisonous fruit, etc. My point in bringing up their character and fruitful ministries is to show that there is nothing inherent about them that leads me to avoid listening to them. On the contrary, I find the overall project to be producing a kind of Christian living that isn’t found in most other places.

    Also, it seems to me impossible for you or other anti-FVers to say that the FV is habitually unclear about what it essentially teaches, and then also say that the FV is clearly in contradiction to the standards of Reformed teaching. Those two sentiments don’t seem to go together in my mind.

    One more thing as a small point for you to consider. I am not trying to read you unkindly. I am trying to respond to you with the same intensity implied by your statements. For example, your statement to me in #260, “Andy, is the hallmark of the doctrine you wish to commit your soul to …,” and later in #263 “The FV is not a discussion of trivialities, but of the heart of the matters of life and death,” communicates to me that you think my soul is at risk in the discussion. You later describe the FV as concerning matters of “first importance.” It’s hard for me not to interpret these statements as though the doctrinal issues being discussed are so important so as to affect my eternal soul, and that is why I respond so strongly.

    That’s all for me. You can have the last word if you wish. Blessings.

  270. January 4, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    [...] Uncategorized) Tags: FV, Justifying Faith, Remonstrants, Temporary Faith It is a reasonable question, especially of those engaging in theological novelty and [...]

  271. December 21, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    […] comments  late in this discussion, Federal Visionists are seen to confuse the doctrines of assurance and perseverance. Specifically, […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 354 other followers

%d bloggers like this: