The Preface to the Joint Federal Vision, Revisited

I have gone through the entire Joint Federal Vision Profession (hereafter abbreviated JFVP). An index to the entirety of the discussion can be found here (second paragraph of links). For those who are incredibly lazy, the previous discussion of the Preface can be found here. And the JFVP itself can be found here. That should be enough preliminary, prefatory, introductory, forwardary links to get on with (and I even managed to end the sentence with two prepositions that time! Except for this parenthesis).

My thoughts on the matter have not changed much. I have not found the FV any more teachable than before. If anything, less so. I still have yet to see any major retractions of doctrinal error on the part of any one of the FV “conversation partners.” This is no doubt due to the massively non-existent evidence that no one in any of the major Reformed denominations (nor the denoms themselves) has amassed demonstrating the error of any single points of the FV. At least, to the FV thinking, anyway. We shall see.

There seemed to be a desire on the part of the signatories to say that they had no desire to present a “moving target.” I have found the FV to be an extremely moving target. The minute one has a logical argument against a position that has been written down, I am told that that isn’t their position. It was their position just a minute before, when what we had was written documentation. However, what always seems to happen is that I am told that I am a dolt, an irresponsible nincompoop, who cannot even understand plain English. Of course, not everyone in the FV camp has been doing this to me (Wilson being an example, though he doesn’t think I have proven one single aspect of any FV thinker’s theology to be out of bounds).

However, I will seek to prove one example where I believe that the FV statement is thoroughly non-confessional. As we all know, the PCA study committee report roundly reinforced a bi-covenantal structure to the WCF. The Covenant of Works, in chapter 7 of the WCF, plainly says that eternal life was promised to Adam upon condition of personal and perfect obedience. The JFVP says plainly that “the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements” (see under the section “The Covenant of Life.” Now, I am not sure what else Adam’s moral exertions or achievements could be other than his obedience to God’s law, or personal and perfect obedience. So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP. The PCA has decided that this is not going to be an allowable exception to the Standards. And this is only one example. Others will come later.

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323 Comments

  1. pduggie said,

    April 22, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    If one said the gift was conditioned on moral exertions or achievements, would that make sense? Would it be a gift, or earned?

    Can one believe that eternal life would be any kind of gift at all under the WCF?

  2. KBennett said,

    April 22, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    pduggie -

    So, essentially, you do not like the WCF.

    Fine. Why then do you attend a PCA church?

  3. April 22, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Lane,

    To be fair, Lusk retracted his statement that justification “involves no imputation or transfer of anything” to reflect his view that it is imputation (logizomai) that does not involve transfer, but that justification does involve imputation (understood as reckoning).

    To your point about being unfairly dealth with, just last week when Tom Wenger made the point that certain proponents of the FV teach that justification is retained through obedience, both Jeff Meyers and James Jordan jumped into the fray and insisted that NO ONE in the FV teaches such a thing (even demonstrating great exasperation and then issuing a challenge to “name one” who does). When Tom produced a quote from Rich Lusk that said that justification is retained through obedience, these two men mysteriously vanished.

    I just wish they’d stick up for one another a bit more, you know? It would help the rest of us take them more seriously.

  4. tim prussic said,

    April 22, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    Lusk saith, thus, the FV saith.

    That’s one thing that’s been so maddening in this whole mess is that folks are wont to speak of the FV as some monolithic movement with solidified ideas. In my reading, NO movements are that way. Further, folks seem quite eager to impute things written by one or a few to the whole. If one can take a crazy statement (or ten of them) from one author and paint a whole group of men as crazy heretics, shouldn’t one also be able to take an orthodox statement (or ten of them) from one author and paint similarly? Or is it only paint by one number – whichever one number you prefer? The reality is that it’s bad scholarship EITHER way.

  5. Ed Eubanks said,

    April 22, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    KBennett: I like the WCF plenty– I’ve taken vows as a Teaching Elder that acknowledge that. I trust that you like the WCF as well, given your ready defense of it. But I don’t understand how you conclude that PDuggie doesn’t simply because he asks questions about it. Are we not allowed to investigate the contents of the WCF? I find that asking questions is the best way to gain a fuller understanding of the WCF, don’t you?

    Also, the last time I checked then the only requirement for membership in a PCA church is a profession of faith in Christ. Every PCA church I have attended has had members who did not agree with the WCF on every point (and, in fact, some of them didn’t like the WCF). I gladly shared fellowship with them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Why, then, should PDuggie’s affiliation with a PCA church be questioned? (I realize that the fundamental principles of the BCO allow a church to name requirements for membership beyond a profession of faith; I’m just not aware of any PCA churches that do so. Are you advocating that?)

    I ask with all sincerity; please, help me understand your response.

  6. tim prussic said,

    April 22, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    In no way related to my last post: Can anyone recommend some good reading on the Cov’t of Redemption? I’m currently reading Witsius’s Ecomony, but I’d like some more. Ideas?

  7. J.Kru said,

    April 22, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    KBennett – Does one need to affirm the WCF to attend a PCA church?

  8. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 22, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Re #2,

    Fine. Why then do you attend a PCA church?

    I’ve always thought the reason was to get away from his relatives in the OPC church he grew up in. ;-)

    Full disclosure, I’m Paul’s cousin and a member of said OPC church, and just poking a little fun. If anyone’s offended, please delete this…

  9. J.Kru said,

    April 22, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    A question came up in class today, I thought this might be the place to go for the answer: Hebrews 11:6 says that “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” I understand the FV view of it; what is the response in relation to Adam – how could Adam have pleased God without faith? Is it a pre-lapsarian situation which makes it possible?

  10. Joe Brancaleone said,

    April 22, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Re: #5

    John Owen, “Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated”

  11. April 22, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Tim,

    Nice try, but if you read my comment you’ll see that I wasn’t saying that, in your words, “Lusks says, therefore the FV says.”

    What I said was that two well-known FV’ists claimed that not a single person in the FV espoused the view in question, not even Lusk. A quote by Lusk affirming the view in question was produced. And POOF! like Keyser Soze, the FV’ists were gone.

  12. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    J Kru (#8):

    I would note that the faith spoken of in Hebrews is in relationship to our longing for something not yet seen. So certainly, faith will either take on an entirely different character or else be superfluous in eternity.

    Likely, it would have had an entirely different character in the garden as well.

    This is not to say that Adam did not need to exercise something — faith, love, or obedience, or some combination of those — at his probation. Clearly, he failed to believe God’s word enough to obey it. Or, he failed to love God enough to obey Him.

    Rather, I’m simply saying that we should be careful about applying Heb. 11.6 to the pre-fall situation (as you suggested).

    Jeff Cagle

  13. thomasgoodwin said,

    April 22, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Tim,

    Re: #5

    Try Goodwin, Christ the Mediator (vol. 5, 1861 ed.), first 30 or so pages.

    Also: Bavinck,Vol. 3:213ff.

    Richard Muller, “Toward the Pactum Salutis: Locating the Origins of a Concept,” Mid-America Journal of Theology, 18 (2007), 64.

    And if you want a summary of Owen’s view, I can send you something (mjns at mta.ca

  14. tim prussic said,

    April 22, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    Jason, I wasn’t trying. Foolish categorical denials on the FV side are just that. I’m not defending anyone. Rather, I’m observing an all-too-common fallacy.

    TG, shoot that summary of Owen at me, baby.

  15. Chris said,

    April 22, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Sean Lucas clearly stated in the introduction before GA that the Report didn’t exclude various positions on the covenant of works. Listen to him! He wrote it.

    Chris

  16. pduggie said,

    April 22, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    I’d be happy to have all my relatives join me. :-)

    I’m asking about whether the concept of “gift” can fit into the covenant of works in the WCF because I don’t know. I would HOPE it could, and I think it could/should. I was asking.

  17. thomasgoodwin said,

    April 22, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Tim,

    What’s your email?

  18. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 22, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Paul (#15):

    It probably depends on one’s understanding of “gift”, wouldn’t it?

    1. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which He hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

    2. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

    3. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.

    Could we all agree that the Confession requires and the Scripture teaches that (a) all of mankind’s relationship with God is a “gift” in the sense of His divine condescension, but additionally (b) Adam “owed” something to God (obedience) that he failed to discharge, (c) that eternal life was conditioned upon that obedience, and (d) that the “covenant of grace” operates on a different principle from the “covenant of works”?

    ISTM that the Confessional language actually provides a good launching point for common ground, since some of the technical issues raised by Kline or Murray can fall within the language of VII.1-3.

    Interestingly, while the debate over the “Covenant of Works/Life” has swirled around questions of “merit”, “earning”, “son” v. “servant”, “grace”, and “gift”, I haven’t seen a lot of discussion about the fact that Adam owed obedience to God — whether as son or servant.

    That fact changes the complexion of any “gift” that we might perceive in the first covenant, no?

    Jeff C

  19. tim prussic said,

    April 22, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    timprussic at gmail dot com

    (edited for security reasons)

  20. Xon said,

    April 22, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    Jeff, you make a good points. And I don’t think they go against FV. In other words, yes, I think we can all agree to the 4 things you listed.

    No FVer I’ve ever read would deny that Adam owed God obedience. He absolutely owed God obedience. And he also would have owed God thanks if he had obeyed. :-) All is grace, from beginning to end, even pre-fall (the prelapsarian state was not some suspension of Calvinism, where suddenly God did not exercise precise sovereignty over all that comes to pass). And if it’s grace, then we should say “thank you.”

    But conditionality is included in all of that. Of course, conditionality is included in the “covenant of grace,” too. If A then B means that B is a necessary condition for A. If Adam obtained eternal life, then he obeyed/had faith/loved God. If Adam obeyed, then God gave it to him to obey. Therefore, If Adam obtained eternal life, then God gave it to him. (this is a sorite, not a syllogism proper..but I leave the missing premise to the reader)

    And if God gave it to him, then why would he boast as if God hadn’t? For what would he have received that was not a gift? But if a gift, then why would he boast? He wouldn’t boast. Yet Lane (unless I’ve missed a retraction on his part…don’t know about you anti-FV guys, never willing to admit you’re wrong. :-) ) says Adam wouldn’t owe God a thank you, and that obeying wouldn’t have been grace.

    I can say “eternal life conditioned on obedience” all day long. I’ll say it hopping one foot if you want. I’ll even throw in the word “merit” if folks like (If all “merit” means is “fulfill a condition, no matter how arbitrary and unfitting to the actual nature of the reward”). But I just can’t bring myself to say that Adam’s pre-fall existence was sola gratia, even if he had obeyed.

    As to calling Adam’s obedience a “work,” again the objection here is to notions of “work” that have “merit” (in the wrong sense) tied up in it. The “covenant of works” has become a shorthand for the whole “TR” package, and so understandably we balk at the term if it is frontloaded with that sort of meaning. But again if all “work” means is “fulfill a condition,” then sure, the CoLife was a Cov of Works in that sense.

    But, again, here comes the problem: Lane has said, and I don’t deny that he has good Reformed history to back him up when he says it, that “faith is not a work.” Of course, that’s Pauline and biblical, but not on the really loose definition of “work” we’re using now where “work” just means “fulfill a condition.” On that loose sort of definition, it isn’t at all clear how faith (now, in the Cov of Grace) is not a work. You have to have faith or you won’t be saved. If saved, then faith. Faith is a necessary condition for salvation. So…

    As to commentary on the previous thread, Meyers and Jordan have both made it clear (for good or ill) that they do not wish to engage in long engagements on the blogs about these issues. They both come on only very occasionally when they fell prompted to do so acc. to whatever evaluation they make of the situation at the time. They never come in intending to have a big long debate, where they respond to every counter-point someone makes, and they often state pretty clearly that they’re done with the thread. And, when they say that, they usually stick with it (in fact, I can’t think of any times where Jordan or Meyers have failed to stick with their promise to quit a thread). So the fact that they personally didn’t respond to the Lusk quote in that other thread doesn’t mean they “slinked off”. These are not vocal guys on the blogs, relatively speaking.

    Some people did respond to the Lusk quote, though. :-)

  21. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 22, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    this is a sorite, not a syllogism proper..

    Ah, but is it a proposition?

    *ducks*

  22. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 22, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    A couple of more serious notes:

    (1) All is grace, from beginning to end, even pre-fall (the prelapsarian state was not some suspension of Calvinism, where suddenly God did not exercise precise sovereignty over all that comes to pass). And if it’s grace, then we should say “thank you.”

    I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think that God’s general exercise of His sovereignty is the same as His gracious decree to save some; that is, “sovereignty” != “monergism.”

    Two reasons:

    (a) God also exercises His sovereignty in passing over people to their damnation; yet this is not of grace.

    (b) Sovereignty is generally understood that God is the final cause, even though He typically uses instrumental causes. By contrast, monergism historically has been tied up with the notion of the Bondage of the Will: that even at the level of instrumental causes, we cannot choose to love or trust God. Hence, God must intervene specially in order for our hearts to be changed. Or in other words, there must be a direct work of the Spirit (in addition to any instrumental causes) for us to believe.

    Here’s one fallout of this: in the case of instrumental causes, we can analyze them statistically because God is, typically, regular in the exercise of His sovereignty. But in the case of salvation, we admit on all hands that instrumental causes alone (preaching of the Gospel in *this* way v. *that* way) resist statistical analysis. God chooses whom He wills.

    I think this is relevant to the Adam discussion in this way:

    (2) There is *something* about the character of the “CoW” that is markedly different about the character of the “CoG.” Adam *did* have a freedom of the will that we who are in bondage to sin lack. Clearly, that freedom does not transcend God’s sovereignty. But it does transcend our experience, what with the sin nature and all.

    And in fact, that freedom is peculiar really only to Adam and Jesus — and in part, to Jesus’ people who are indwelt by His Spirit (as in Rom. 6 – 8).

    (3) Additionally, Adam was offered a real path to life that was grounded in his own actions. Don’t Eat The Fruit. The action point could be stated positively as Resist the Temptation. And the Federal Headship action point was Maintain Life for Your Family.

    We are not offered that path. Even if, hypothetically, we had died without breaking a commandment, we still would die.

    Instead, our path to life is grounded in the actions of another.

    I know you Really Know all this and believe it, too. I just offer it up in order to point out that the distinction between faith and works does not lie in necessary conditions, but in the actions of oneself v. the actions of another, and in the unique ways in which Federal Headship functions in the two covenants.

    Because Man is the federal head in the first, the destiny of Man is determined by the works of Man. But because God-Man is the federal head in the second, the destiny of Man is determined by the works of God (in the flesh). There’s an asymmetry in the terminology because of the asymmetry of the Federal Heads, not because of the presence or absence of necessary conditions.

    That’s why, understanding Murray’s and Jordan’s point about grace in the garden, I still like “Covenant of Works” and “Covenant of Grace” because it points to that alien righteousness that is mine because of the works of another.

    Whatever you may think of Kline, I think one of his better points is to insist that Adam and Jesus are doing parallel things by federally “earning” or “acquiring” the destinies of their people.

    (My favorite Kline point, BTW, came in a review of a Chalcedon publication in which he pointed out that theonomy simultaneously requires the Church to evangelize the pagans and the State to execute pagans for violating the first commandment. A delightful and substantive snark.)

    Jeff Cagle

  23. Joseph Randall said,

    April 23, 2008 at 12:57 am

    It seems to me, Pastor Wilson focuses on HOW Adam would obey. Is it not true that he would have had to obeyed by trusting God’s Word as opposed to the serpents word? Wouldn’t Adam have had to obey by faith because only faith pleases God? Certainly it’s wrong to construe Adam as autonomous, right? Even Jesus said He could do nothing of Himself (John 5). Jesus relied upon the Father to obey. And yet, the BASIS on which Adam (would have) and Christ did win our eternal reward was on the BASIS of His works. This is why it’s a covenant of works. And we can be righteous only on the basis of the work of another – Christ. Is this correct anyone? Thanks for your help.

  24. Elder Hoss said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:05 am

    Jeff Cagle- Snarks most often are not substantive, but rather aphoristic in nature. Do you think in part Kline relied on “snarks” as a direct outgrowth of his unswerving insistence that Westiminster Journal forbid Bahnsen to engage in debate with him (you are presumably aware that Kline requested the publication of his “review” of theonomy with the expressed caveat that Bahnsen not be allowed to respond?)?

    And it would appear his stout-hearted disciples in Westminster West have shown an equal aversion to discursive combat with less capable debaters (than Bahnsen), such as Wilson, no?

  25. April 23, 2008 at 1:36 am

    Hi Elder (I’m assuming that’s your first name),

    Have you ever read a book by Kline? If so, then I find it amazing that you can call him “not substantive,” “averse to discursive combat,” and “relying on snarks.”

    And since I am a WSC alum, I hereby forbid you to respond to this comment.

    Sincerely (kinda),

    Minister Stellman

  26. Xon said,

    April 23, 2008 at 3:18 am

    Given that hardly any “hard core” theonomists are even around any more, I choose not to respond (except in the present sentence in which I point out said choice) re: the merits or demerits of Kline’s representation of theonomy. :-)

    As to your #21, Jeff, again you make some good points but I don’t think we are disagreeing on many of this, or where we might disagree I don’t think it is really germane to my point.

    First, I’m not saying that divine sovereignty = monergism. They are not identical notions. Sovereignty, however, entails monergism. If God controls everything, then He controls who is saved and who is not, who meets the necessary ‘conditions” for being saved, etc. It is all rooted, primarily/finally, in His will as Primary Cause. Thus, whatever happens in the Garden is God’s doing as Primary Cause.

    I also am fine with saying that “monergism” applies to situations in which the instrumental causes of salvation (our own human will) is all botched up and so God has to directly intervene in each person’s life individually. But in this case all you have done is make monergism a narrower category than “grace.” My original point was about grace, not monergism per se.

    Grace is, at root, gift. If something is given freely, without regard to what we deserve, then it is grace. Adam did not deserve to be given life with God in the first place. Nor did he “deserve” the continuation of that life moment-by-moment. The fact that he had to obey in order to maintain that continuation doesn’t mean that by obeying he “deserved” it, except in the sense of “pactum merit” in which it is openly acknowledged by everyone that the reward does not in any way (kind or degree) match up to the work. Thus, the reward is still not “deserved” in the nature of things, even if Adam were to keep the condition of continuing in his glorified pre-fall life. But here we come down to the fundament: words. We can define “deserve”, “merit,” “earn,” etc., however we like. And so if we want to say that for a person to “deserve” or “merit” something simply means that they fulfill a necessary condition for attaining it, no matter how arbitrary and “unnatural” the condition is in relation to the reward, then everybody in this debate would affirm that in Adam’s state, obedience would “deserve” continued life. But this, actually, is a rather strained definition of “desert”, not that I really care. So I myself don’t pick that word as my first approach to talking about these things. And of course, this notion of “deserve” is perfectly consistent with grace too. And my point all along has just been that there is grace in the Garden, and that any obedience Adam had rendered would have been grace (gift), too.

    There is *something* about the character of the “CoW” that is markedly different about the character of the “CoG.” Adam *did* have a freedom of the will that we who are in bondage to sin lack. ….

    (3) Additionally, Adam was offered a real path to life that was grounded in his own actions. Don’t Eat The Fruit. The action point could be stated positively as Resist the Temptation. And the Federal Headship action point was Maintain Life for Your Family.

    We are not offered that path. Even if, hypothetically, we had died without breaking a commandment, we still would die.

    Instead, our path to life is grounded in the actions of another.

    This is all quite right, and remember that I said I could agree with you on the two covenants being two indeed (different). Everybody says this that I know of; I’ve really never interacted with a genuine “monocovenantalist” in this debate, ever. As you say, the “path” (of instrumental causation0 that Adam would have walked to attain eternal life is significantly different from teh path we must walk, post-Fall. I agree with that 100%, and I agree that the paths differ in the way that you say. What I deny is that, if Adam had walked his path in the way that he was supposed to walk it, that that would not have qualified as “grace” and a gift for which he would have needed to be thankful.

    That’s why, understanding Murray’s and Jordan’s point about grace in the garden, I still like “Covenant of Works” and “Covenant of Grace” because it points to that alien righteousness that is mine because of the works of another.

    And hey, that’s fine. The requirement of the works of another is an important point to remember, to be sure! I think it can be reflected through other characterizations of the two covenants, but we can certainly agree to disagree as to the best term we would each prefer to use.

  27. J.Kru said,

    April 23, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Let me try this on: could we say that Adam needed to believe (hold to be true) and value (act upon belief) God’s Word? Assuming Adam valued life, he needed to believe what God told him about the consequences of the tree of life. This is a different sort of faith than that which we have in the New Covenant in that the content of God’s Word is very different, but it is similar in that it is belief and valuation of God’s Word?

  28. Mark said,

    April 23, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Jeff #22
    2) There is *something* about the character of the “CoW” that is markedly different about the character of the “CoG.” Adam *did* have a freedom of the will that we who are in bondage to sin lack.

    That is to confuse freedom and ability.

  29. greenbaggins said,

    April 23, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Elder Hoss, consider comment 24 as strike one. That was completely unnecessary.

    Joseph (23), I certainly agree that the basis of how Adam would have obtained eternal life was works. We agree there. I would probably not phrase Adam’s relationship to God as one of faith. God spoke to Adam face to face on several recorded occasions in Genesis 1-3. There was no veil between God and man. In other words, Adam lived by sight, not by faith. He still had to believe God’s word, as opposed to Satan’s word (and thus I agree with J. Kru’s interpretation). However, the pre-Fall situation and the post-Fall situation were very different when it comes to faith. This difference is something that the FV obliterates, in my opinion.

  30. Ken Christian said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Ref 29 – Lane, how is Adam’s “pre-fall” experience of speaking to God “face to face” any different than Abraham’s or Moses’? Did they no longer need to walk by faith simply because they’d seen God from time to time? I don’t think your argument that Adam didn’t have faith because He saw God from time to time bears the weight you’re putting upon it.

    And please don’t return Heb. 11 on this one. The “unseen” things that faith grasps are clearly the unfulfilled realities of God’s promises to his people. That’s what the whole chapter is about. In addition, even Adam had to believe in the unseen fulfillments of God’s promises to Him. Right? And if so, isn’t that faith?

  31. magma2 said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:14 am

    In responding to Lane’s comments above, Wilson writes on his blog:

    Lane is simply wrong to say that we are not confessional here. The only part of the confession he quotes is the part that says obedience is necessary. I quoted a section from out statement that clearly shows we believe obedience to be necessary. If he wants to show us out of conformity with the Confession, Lane needs to pick another place and try again.

    Translation: Lane you’re a dolt, an irresponsible nincompoop, who cannot even understand plain English. You have not proven one single aspect of any FV thinker’s theology to be out of bounds. Which is stupid to even attempt since there is nothing in the FV that is out of bounds.

  32. greenbaggins said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Ken, the face to face encounters of Abraham and Moses were tied in to revelation. Those encounters were not the norm for those relationships, even though such encounters were vitally important. But face to face living before God characterized Adam’s relationship with God. God was not veiled to Adam. Besides, in Hebrews 11, it is still said of Abraham that he lived by faith. It is *not* said of Adam. So, Heb 11 is not irrelevant to the discussion.

  33. Ken Christian said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Ref 32 – Lane, you brought up Heb. 11 awhile back stressing that real faith must in something invisible, or something like that. Anyway, I don’t we can confidently say that face to face living before God characterized Adam’s relationship (or would have). The scriptural evidence for that is way too thin. And even if it did, that doesn’t wouldn’t take away the necessity of faith for Adam, i.e. He still had to believe God was who He said he was (obviosly Satan tried to create doubt on this subject) and He had to believe God would do what He has promised to do. Finally, to admit all this doesn’t require one to give up “obedience” as the sole condition of the Covenant of Works. It’s just to say his obedience, which God would’ve graciously (or pactum merit-ly) rewarded, flowed from faith.

  34. Tim Harris said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:56 am

    The FV camp, like every camp, is divided into three categories: (1) a small group of the highly educated (e.g. Liethart, Jordan), (2) a group of self-educated (e.g. Wilson and most of the internet-posters), and (3) a vast flotilla of those with the standard credential-earning education (MDiv).

    The problem I see here is that most of the blog-level discussion is taking place with category (2). And it leads to a lot of back-and-forth that gives the false appearance of intelligent discussion.Two examples.

    “Ah, so you agree that God’s benevolence was unearned? So that was grace also. It’s grace grace grace wherever you turn.”

    “Ah, so Adam should have trusted God? But trust is faith. So it is faith, faith, faith wherever you turn.”

    But these comments are sophomoric. I do not advocate learning jargon for its own sake, but learning what terms mean in a particular community and why distinctions were made is necessary before there is hope for advance. Most of the gas is emitted by category (2) people, and the answer should be a simple, “this is why Presbyterians have always advocated an educated ministry.”

  35. magma2 said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Lane responds to Wilson saying in part:

    . . . why do you drive a wedge between obedience and works . . . I challenge you to find one single place in the WCF where works and obedience are clearly distinguished.

    Could it be that Wilson wants to maintain an obedience to the law that is not a work? Nah, it couldn’t be that. Now, what was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity , upon condition of perfect and personal obedience? Hmm. Yet, Wilson said “one ought not be allowed to interchange as though they were synonyms — obedience and works.” Of course not.

    Despite our disagreements, nice work Lane. :)

  36. Ken Christian said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Ref 33 – Sorry for the typos. In line 2, please insert a “be” between “must” and “in”. Line 3 should have a “think” between “don’t” and “we”. Finally, line 6 should have the word “doesn’t” removed. Sorry gents.

  37. pduggie said,

    April 23, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Jeff: I agree with you on gift, and happy to see you’re happy with the language of Gift. The new car for an A on a test is a fatherly gift, not a employeees wages. That’s what I take the FVs statements language against “exertions or achievements” to guard against, a tendency to reduce Adam to a wage-earner. Yes, his reward was conditioned on obedience. But it was still a gift. Does anyone else want to chime in and say “gift” is an inappropriate description of Adam’s potential for eternal life and FULLER communion with God (recall, Lane, that Adam may have had full communion, but he wasn’t at the fourth state of man)

    As a thought experiment, I’ll conceed that pre-fall adam and ourselves are in very different covenental places.

    But then I’d like to assert that there’s a whole lot of similarity between our position and pre-fall EVE.

    The proof of this is left as an exercise. :) Thoughts?

  38. pduggie said,

    April 23, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Wow, Tim Harris. Just Wow.

    So much for “the common people heard him gladly”.

    If you can’t communicate to the crowd in a way they will understand then Presbyterianism is self-selecting as a non-catholic religion with specialized terminology for the in-crowd. That’s why the FV emphasis on speaking the Bible’s own words in a covenantal sense is so crucial.

  39. April 23, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    For me the real question is whether pro-FV folks will admit that the principle of inheritance was different before the fall than after it. When we put aside all talk of “employees” versus “children,” we are left with that question, which is where the gospel really hangs.

  40. pduggie said,

    April 23, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Yeah, pre-fall we weren’t co-heirs. Now we are.

  41. April 23, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    But why?

    Are we co-heirs now because we have “faithfully obeyed” as Adam should have done to reach the same goal? Or would Adam have received the glorious reward through works, while we receive it through faith in the second Adam and his work?

  42. Ken Christian said,

    April 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Ref 41 – Jason, my opinion matters very little though I have been labeled by some on this blog as pro-FV. Anyway, I can’t think of any reason the big-wig FV men wouldn’t answer “no” to your first question and “yes” to your second.

  43. Tom Albrecht said,

    April 23, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    RE: #8

    Andrew,

    Speaking of relatives, I forget, which one of you is the real “Duggan” and which is the “Doogan”? :)

  44. David Gadbois said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Several things:

    1. It is telling that neither Adam nor Jesus are included in the list in Hebrews 11.

    2. FVers seem to think that they should be exonerated as orthodox just because they will formally affirm orthodox statements in some places while making unorthodox statements in other places. It is not sufficient to establish FVs innocence because of the fact that JFVP has two contradictory statements. We would not accept such a defense from someone who said “Jesus is God” and then turned around and said “Jesus is not Yahweh.”

    Orthodoxy does not take with one hand and give with the other hand.

    3. FV does not seem to be aware of the fact that making the CoW gracious cascades into many, many other areas of Reformed doctrine. If it is gracious, then it is not a matter of justice. So our plight as breakers of the CoW is not a legal/judicial problem. So our need for justification, or the passive and active obedience of Christ (that’s all legal stuff) becomes incoherent.

    If you don’t get the CoW right, then you don’t get the pivotal probem of religion right, and you don’t understand why Jesus needed to become incarnate in order to redeem us from it. I sense FV isn’t especially fond of the book of Romans, which lays it all out most clearly: Jesus was set forth as a propitiation “so that he [God] might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” How can a just God acquit sinners who are not just? Answer: Jesus.

    We have a justice problem, so if we are to interpret the root of this problem to be Adam’s failure of the covenant established in the Garden, then that covenant *must* be characterized by God’s justice as expressed in a demand for obedience to His just law. That’s works, folks, not a gracious system.

    Again, in Romans, Paul tells us straightforwardly that a principle of works is not compatible with grace:

    11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.

    And Paul puts it in a positive formulation this way, establishing faith as the necessary principle of inheritance for a covenant to be gracious:

    4:16 it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace

    And, notice, that this is not just a generic *faith*, but, in context, it is passive/receptive faith in the work of an outside Substitute and Mediator on their behalf. This definition of faith could not have applied to Adam nor Jesus.

  45. Ken Christian said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    David writes

    3. FV does not seem to be aware of the fact that making the CoW gracious cascades into many, many other areas of Reformed doctrine. If it is gracious, then it is not a matter of justice. So our plight as breakers of the CoW is not a legal/judicial problem.

    FV says the promised reward for fulfulling the CoW involved grace. Yet it still affirms that sin (breaking the CoW) exposed Adam to God’s wrath. Thus Adam then had a legal/judicial problem that had to be solved by the atoning death of Jesus. Why is that so difficult to see?

  46. pduggie said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    44: Jesus *is* in Hebrews 12,having done just what the Heb 11 folks did: endured opposition and suffering. And its been my understanding the the idea of him as “founder” of our faith may include the idea of pioneer. Incorrect?

    When we “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” are we exercising faith? A faith like His? Or somnething else?

  47. David Gadbois said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Ken, your response is telling. Is this, perhaps, why FV has a hard time fitting the active obedience of Christ into their system (when certain FVers don’t deny IoAOoC altogether)? Your formulation only squares up the passive obedience side (atonement).

  48. April 23, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Ken,

    When we posit grace as the principle through which Adam would have received eternal life, as you claim FV does, you must also posit the same situation for the second Adam (which the FV, consistently, does).

    Now there is no longer any situation in which God’s standards are completely met in a meritorious sense, but instead, after the work (of Adam or Christ) is done, God must mingle his grace with it in order to make it rewardable.

    This leaves the door open for our own works to play some role in the whole justification equation. And here, again, the FV is very consistent in their insistence that initial justification is received by faith, but is maintained through obedience, the works of which will contribute to our final justification on the last day.

    So I’ll ask you, why is THIS so difficult to recognize as un-Reformed?

  49. Ken Christian said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Ref 47: Agreed David. That’s really the crux of the matter isn’t it? Let’s at least keep this argument centered around that point (how IoAOoC fits in), instead of asserting that FV, by speaking of grace within the CoW, somehow removes the legal dimensions of the gospel.

  50. pduggie said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    “Are we co-heirs now because we have “faithfully obeyed” as Adam should have done to reach the same goal?”

    No, because Adam’s call to be an heir all to himself qualitatively differentiates the nature of his faith, and his obedience.

    “Or would Adam have received the glorious reward through works, while we receive it through faith in the second Adam and his work?”

    “through works” for Adam just seems too strong for me. I can’t get over it. I’ll say “on condition of perfect obedience”, but does the confessions require me to say “through works”?

    Adam didn’t acquire a wife through works, though if he has copulated with a bear while naming the animals I’m sure Adam would have lost his shot at a wife from God. The worker earns his pay though his works. The inheritor inherits his estate from his father through his fideilty and loyalty, and through the father’s being true to his promises.

    We certainly do receive through faith in the second Adam, and God puts within us the legal ground of his bond with us: The Spirit who applies Christ to us.

  51. Jesse P. said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Question. (Schrute!)

    Was Adam required to have faith in the Hebrews 11.3 sense?

  52. Ken Christian said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Ref. 48: This has to be my last post for awhile, but let me try and respond to Jason. He writes:

    Now there is no longer any situation in which God’s standards are completely met in a meritorious sense…

    FV would say the conditions of the covenant are met, just not in a way that would be traditionally defined as meritorious – but I think many FV’ers would agree, in concept, with “pactum merit” as Lane has described on this board.

    This leaves the door open for our own works to play some role in the whole justification equation. And here, again, the FV is very consistent in their insistence that initial justification is received by faith, but is maintained through obedience, the works of which will contribute to our final justification on the last day.

    In my memory, the only person who has said anything remotely resembling the scheme you put together in the above paragraph is Lusk. And I’m not certain he’d be comfortable with your phrasing. Honestly, why don’t you email him and get him to tell us what he really thinks. Real suggestion; I’m not being sarcastic.

    As for me, saying Adam would’ve received a gracious reward and thus implying that Jesus did receive a gracious reward does not change that fact that Jesus still did everything that was needed to be done. Thus, all those united to Him by faith alone will receive the same reward He did. What’s so unReformed about that?

  53. David Gadbois said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Ah, yes, pduggie. Jesus as the Successful First Christian. Why don’t we just all join the PCUSA? How is this different from old-timey moralistic liberalism? This is surely where FV’s monocovenentalism must end up.

    In Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is the *object* of our faith (“fixing our eyes on Jesus”).

    Pduggie said Jesus *is* in Hebrews 12,having done just what the Heb 11 folks did

    The saints of Hebrews 11 sat down at the right hand of God?

  54. pduggie said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Bavink on Adam

    “In the probation-command the entire moral law was staked on a single throw, as it were, for Adam; for him the former incorporated the dilemma: God or man, God’s authority or his own insight, unconditional obedience or independent investigation, faith or doubt. It was a fearsome test that opened the way to eternal blessing or eternal destruction.”

  55. pduggie said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    You can’t have Jesus as an example of faith AND an object of faith, David? What’s wrong with you?

    Read v 3: Think of Jesus’ endurance, and endure too. He did it, you can too. You haven’t even shed blood (yet).

  56. tim prussic said,

    April 23, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Rey, #50, that’s a bit of an understatement.

  57. David Gadbois said,

    April 23, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Pduggie said You can’t have Jesus as an example of faith AND an object of faith, David? What’s wrong with you?

    No, you can’t have it both ways *in the covenant of grace*. You can have it both ways with respect to the Christian life, but not with respect to fulfilling the condition of the covenant of grace required of sinners. That is the topic at hand.

    BTW, I would say that Jesus is an example of endurance, not an example of faith since “faith” in these 2 chapters is not just a generic trust in God. It only applies that term to saints.

  58. David Gadbois said,

    April 23, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Ken said et’s at least keep this argument centered around that point (how IoAOoC fits in), instead of asserting that FV, by speaking of grace within the CoW, somehow removes the legal dimensions of the gospel.

    I don’t think this separation is possible. Re-read those sections of Romans that I cited from. Both the active and passive elements are present there, as both an acquital from guilt *and* a positive crediting of righteousness is in view. Not just salvation from wrath and judgement, but the securing of adoption and everlasting life.

  59. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 23, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Xon (#26):

    This is all quite right, and remember that I said I could agree with you on the two covenants being two indeed (different). Everybody says this that I know of; I’ve really never interacted with a genuine “monocovenantalist” in this debate, ever. As you say, the “path” (of instrumental causation0 that Adam would have walked to attain eternal life is significantly different from teh path we must walk, post-Fall. I agree with that 100%, and I agree that the paths differ in the way that you say.

    Outstanding! Can you agree to “Works” terminology in the sense of “the Federal Head does something that acquires the result”? And “Grace” in the sense that “an alien righteousness is given to us”?

    I ask this because I think the debate about whether there was grace in the garden and whether there are necessary works in the New Covenant is orthogonal to the issue. Pduggie’s angst in #51 is needless; we aren’t talking about whether or not Adam fulfilled some eternal external standard of meritoriousness that on some cosmic scoreboard corresponds to a prize of eternal life.

    Instead, we’re simply saying that Adam, as the Federal Representative, acted in such a way as to deserve wrath. And we receive that wrath “gratis” (“antigratis”?) because he is our head. He acted; we receive.

    The distinction is about the Federal Representatives, who work (or “act”, in the equivalent Greek), and the Federally Represented, who receive.

    And since we all agree to that concept (right?), then it makes the most sense to leave the Confessional terminology in place and understand it in this way (which is what Westminster was talking about anyways, IMO. Cf. WCoF 7.4).

    Jeff Cagle

  60. April 23, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Jesse,

    I would say that yes, Adam was required to look to a future reward in hope. But I would qualify that by saying (1). that the reward was not as “unseen” for him as it was for the saints actually listed in Hebrews 11, and (2). Most commentators, like Vos for example, say that the “faith” described in Heb. 11 is not the Pauline “saving faith,” but a forward-looking disposition.

    So in my view, Heb. 11 doesn’t bolster the FV claim that Adam and Jesus had to have faith, just like we have to have faith. It’s a confusion of categories.

  61. synthesizer said,

    April 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Rey,
    Cain, obviously came after the fall. He never experienced the relationship that his father Adam had with God prior to the fall. Hence, all the prelapsarian talk now on the board. The FALL changed everything.

  62. pduggie said,

    April 23, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Jeff: what’s interesting to me is that the work our federal head does for us, that we receive, still is to be our pattern of action as our faith works itself out in love. We are to sacrifice and bear our cross, because our Lord did.

    We are to continue in “mere Christian living faith” (what an amazing neologism?) that bears an uncanny resemblance to the saving faith that incepts our Christian living.

    Glad to hear my angst is needless though.

  63. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 23, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Paul (#63):

    I agree entirely. I would attribute the resemblance to the work of the Spirit: we receive the Spirit by faith; therefore, we walk in the Spirit by faith. As you insinuated, this is the teaching of Galatians.

  64. Elder Hoss said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Jason – My comment to Jeff dealt with the specific issue of Kline’s “snark” (Jeff’s terminology) re Theonomy. Nothing there was said about the wider corpus of his writings. Was that not patently clear from the specific question I posed?

    Read it again, and I think you will find this to be the case.

    Why then don’t you (or Jeff) address my specific query as to why, if there was such a “substantive” critique of Bahnsen, for example, Kline insisted WTJ not allow Bahnsen to answer the “critique”, or do you (or others) not in fact, have an answer?

    My purpose in raising the question is not to defend Theonomy, or even the Bahnsenian tenet of “the abiding validity of the law in exhaustive detail” (I assume you’ve read Theonomy in Christian Ethics or are at least aware that the first iteration of the Westminster contained theonomic construals later expunged in subsequent editions), but rather to underscore that there appears to be a particular dynamic at work among what has been termed the “TR” on the one hand, and the FV on the other, which mirrors the Kline/Bahnsen chapter. It’s rather sloppy and aphoristic, not dissimilar as well from the kind of hysteria one observes from broad Evangelicals who encounter strong sacramental language in Calvin and experience their own kind of existential meltdown which prevents them from obtaining a more dispassioned assessment of the matter at hand….

  65. April 23, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    EH,

    Could you point me to an online account or something that outlines Kline’s refusal to be rebutted? It’s the first I’ve heard of it.

    While I’m not familiar with the history, I would be surprised if Kline’s reasoning were that he was afraid of a debate (that just doesn’t comport with who he was). Perhaps he felt the WTJ was not the place?

  66. Ron Henzel said,

    April 23, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Elder,

    What’s patently clear to me is that it’s easy to write the kind of snotty-nosed drivel you churn out on a regular basis while hiding behind a nom de guerre. Why don’t you just be a man and tell everyone who you are?

  67. Vern Crisler said,

    April 23, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Re: 34,

    I think Tim Harris’s term “sophomoric” is an appropriate term for some of the commentary coming from FVist. It’s almost as if these guys have never opened up a Reformed Systematic Theology before.

    I’m not sure an educated clergy is the answer, though. Wasn’t Shepherd educated? And Jordan and Leithart? (Not that I have anything against an educated clergy.)

    I think the bottom line is that FVists need to stop thinking of Adam as a Christian who just failed to attend to the means of grace, or failed to kowtow to his elders, so to speak. Adam was not a Christian, and before the Fall he had to merit eternal life by obedience, unlike Christians, who receive eternal life by grace.

    Vern

  68. Elder Hoss said,

    April 23, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Jason – A good deal of the Bahsen/Kline chapter/debate (or shall we say, “divergence” since no one really wished to debate Bahnsen save for atheists like Gordon Stein or Edward Tabash; one Dispensationalist consented to a debate only on the grounds that it omit cross-examination) is referenced at http://www.cmfnow.com.

    I would add an anectdotal remark that you can feel free to discount (or throw out), that 2-3 very anti-theonomic, amillenial brethren I know and respect who studied under Kline, believe that the agreement between Kline and WTJ re Bahnsen was unwise (if not unprincipled), and not in the best interest of a full-orbed discussion of the matters at hand PARTICULARLY when one allows for the fact that before the 1788 revision, the Standards in their original form (23:3) spoke of the duty of the magistrate to extirpate idolatry and promote the peace and purity of the Christian religion.

    What is particularly fascinating to note about one aspect of that chapter is that Kline himself admitted that the original version of WCF Ch. 23 was theonomic, and that, as such, critique of theonomy on the basis of the Westminster Standards was a problematic undertaking.

    And, as I’m sure you know, Gillespie and a host of other worthies at Westminster extolled positions considered well beyond the pale by today’s Reformed and Presbyterian torchbearers, who yet ironically admit that their own position is effectively CONTRA the original (pre 1788) WCF on this specific issue.

    All of this offered with the caveat that one of the central tenets of Theonomy viz Bahnsen’s “abiding validity of the law in exhaustive detail” is something I find exegetically problematic, just as I find FV proponent’s over-emphasis on covenant objectivity problematic, and TRs’ (“we represent THE single stream of Reformed orthodoxy”) often sacrificing the historia saludis in favor of the ordo saludis problematic as well.

    All of this to say that it seems to me that the sloppy and aphoristic critique of a Bahnsen is simply being mirrored in our own current context.

  69. Elder Hoss said,

    April 24, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Ron Henzel – Pseudonyms, with good reason, actually have had ample presence in a rather important period of church history. It was called the Magisterial Reformation….

  70. Joseph Randall said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Pastor Lane (29),

    I’m still not sure why you are opposed to seeing Adam’s meritorious works as done by faith (or Fatherly dependence or trust) – especially if you maintian that the basis or ground of Adam’s reward would have been his works? It seems to me for pre-fall Adam, it works like this: you have faith which would lead to works which would lead to justification and the reward. Justification and the reward would come on the basis of the works. After the fall, you have faith which leads to justification which then leads to God honoring good works (and even these good works are tainted with sin and must be washed in the blood of the Lamb).

    It seems there must be a way to speak of both pre-fall Adam and Christ as being dependant on the Father and doing works that please the Father. Without faith, no one can do anything that pleases God. Autonomy is sin. Yet Adam and Christ can still exercise faith but receive a meritorious reward not on the basis of their Fatherly dependence but on the basis of their works done by perfectly depending on their heavenly Father?? Yes? No? Why would this position be troubling for you if you keep clear the basis or ground of the reward? Thanks for your help on this.

  71. April 24, 2008 at 1:50 am

    Joseph,

    I’ll let Lane answer for himself, but I know that many of us FV critics are uncomfortable with the insistence that Adam and Christ “walked by faith plus obedience” because of the conclusions the FV’ists often draw from this idea.

    It goes something like this: Adam needed to walk by faith plus obedience. Abraham needed to walk by faith plus obedience. Moses needed to walk by faith plus obedience. David needed to walk by faith plus obedience. Jesus needed to walk by faith plus obedience. And I need to walk by faith plus obedience.

    See how the gospel gets lost amid all the faith plus obedience?

  72. Ron Henzel said,

    April 24, 2008 at 4:49 am

    Elder Hoss,

    Regarding your comment 70: if you’re implying that if people find out who you are you might end up being burned at the stake, please allow me to bring you up to date here. Nowadays it’s actually possible to amicably leave your church and find another more congenial to your beliefs, tastes, incessantly whining attitude, or whatever might be driving your choice, rather than pseudonymously sniping at it like a petulant coward.

    On the other hand, if you’re implying that your role in the PCA places you and your mission on a par with the great Reformers of the 16th century, please allow me to suggest a psychiatrist capable of prescribing an anti-hallucinogen to deal with your specific pathology.

  73. Ken Christian said,

    April 24, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Ref 72: Jason – Aren’t you confusing “walked by faith plus obedience” and “justified by faith plus obedience”? Who wouldn’t agree that the Christian walk is a walk of faith and obedience (trust and obey, right?)? And how does anything in what Joseph wrote in #71 lead to justification (for anyone) by faith + obedience? I just don’t see how you get there.

  74. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 8:07 am

    Ref. 75:

    Ken, I would disagree. You’re statement “walk by faith plus obedience” at the least suggests a relationship between faith and obedience that is heretical.

    Strong words, yet I’m not calling a heretic. I’m observing that your language here is very weak. It maybe that you understand the relationship of faith and obedience better than this. Your word choice here is at best inadequate.

  75. Ken Christian said,

    April 24, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Ref 76 – C’mon, Reed. First off, notice that I didn’t say “walk by faith + obeidence”. I said the Christian walk is a walk by faith and obedience. My word choice doesn’t suggest a thing that’s heretical. If you have a problem with exhorting believers to live a life of faith and obedience the inadequacy is on your end. In addtion, my post clearly distinguishes all of this from our justification that is by faith + nothing.

  76. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 8:35 am

    Ref. 77:

    No Ken, you said exactly, “walk by faith plus obedience.” I’ve not misread your exact statement in no. 75.

    The inadequacy is on your part. Your words do not clarify the nature of the relationship of obedience and faith. Specifically, they leave the door wide open for meanings other than the exclusive and explicit teaching of Scripture, to wit obedience is a fruit that flows from the Spirit via faith.

    Your initial statement does not make that clear. Your follow up explanation suggests you are very fuzzy in your understanding here. It is very easy for us to express firm conviction in a doctrine of Scripture without seeing that our actual position is less than the Scriptural one.

    Just as much justification, so sanctification: obedience is not necessary for justification or sanctification. Obedience is only necessary as an evidence of the work of the Spirit who unites us to Christ and so brings to life through faith all the panoply of Christ’s blessings, including obedience.

    There are two kinds of obedience: that which flows from the Spirit via the walk of faith and that which flows from man via the walk of sight. Your words, “walk of faith plus obedience” do not make it clear which is meant. Plus suggests:

    > faith and obedience are two different things with different sources,
    > faith and obedience share a similar kind of necessity,
    > faith is incomplete without the addition of obedience.

    Further, it is all too common in the history of the Church for this formulation to be comfortably used by the Pelagian-Arminian synergistic model. Whether you mean that formally or not is not the issue (I never said nor implied you did). Your words are fuzzy. They are dangerous.

    Again, I do not think you mean this. All I’m asking is that you note the fuzziness and remove it. This is not another (supposed) example of of an FV critic misreading and putting words in the mouth of a (supposed but not self-confessed) admirer of the FV. This is one brother admonishing another for the sake of all.

  77. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 8:46 am

    “faith plus obedience” is heretical now?

    “make every effort to ADD to your faith goodness”

  78. April 24, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Lane,

    If you are going to police comments, can you be sure to police all of them…see #74.

    And, I think Elder Hoss’ questions deserve attention and an answer whether he has put them forward in a way that you or others feel may be less than amiable. It is a shame that direct questions somehow wind up being seen as offensive in many forums today.

  79. Ken Christian said,

    April 24, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Ref 78 – Reed, please read again. The statement “walk by faith plus obedience” was a quote from Jason’s previous post. My words were “a walk of faith and obedience”. I purposely chose not to use the world “plus”, like he did, because I thought it communicated the wrong things (like that our obedience could somehow add to our faith, or something like that). I am fully aware that our obedience is not necessary for our justification.

    What’s truly dangerous Reed is the way you seem to be reading every possible error into my statements (without first respectfully asking for what you feel are needed qualifiers).

  80. April 24, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Xon,

    Are you quite sure there are no more “hard-core” theonomists around? Really?

  81. Elder Hoss said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Ron Henzel – The specific concern you raised dealt with the legitimacy of pseudonyms in the context of debate (as presumably your knowing that my name is John Jones Jr. or Thurston Howell III, is critical to the discussion in some mysterious way).

    I pointed you to the Magisterial Reformation as providing abundant examples of this. Forgive me, it probably WAS unfair to direct you to anything pre-dating, say, the 1630s, or not solely published by BOT or P & R.

  82. GLW Johnson said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:13 am

    Elder Hoss
    Let me guess, your Mark T. evil twin?

  83. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Jeff (#61),

    I ask this because I think the debate about whether there was grace in the garden and whether there are necessary works in the New Covenant is orthogonal to the issue. Pduggie’s angst in #51 is needless; we aren’t talking about whether or not Adam fulfilled some eternal external standard of meritoriousness that on some cosmic scoreboard corresponds to a prize of eternal life.

    Well, I wish we weren’t talking about that, but we in fact are. Many have criticized FVers for their rejection of “merit,” but this is what we are rejecting. So, if that’s so, then where does that leave us?

    Again, it’s way down on my list of priorities to argue about what word we should use. I’m fine with calling it a “covenant of works.” I’m not fine with saying that it is ungracious.

    Again, I wish federal headship was the whole issue. If it was, then there should be no debate on this. Nobody denies the things you say about Federal Headship. What Adam did, we did. What Christ has done, is also ours. The issue with “merit” and such is about the “terms” and conditions under which the two federal heads related to God. Was Adam supposed to “earn” a reward from God gracelessly, but he failed and so Jesus then earned that reward gracelessly, and “grace” is that God lets what Jesus did count for us? Or are there better ways to think about it? God graciously constituted Adam in a certain kind of life which was blessed, in which Adam would have continued always by further grace if he had obeyed. But he didn’t obey, and so he didn’t continue. But grace was always present, from the beginning. We can distinguish the covenants pre-fall and post-fall in a number of ways, but saying that one was graceless isn’t one of them.

  84. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Ref. 81:

    Ken: I do apologize for my erroneous labeling. I missed the ref. is no. 73, not 72. I do understand that you took Jason’s “faith plus obedience” and read it as faith AND obedience.

    Yet you seem to have not interacted with Jason’s criticism of the standard FV fuzziness on the relation of faith and obedience. And this is exactly my concern.

    Limit it to your statement, “faith and obedience.” Is it not obvious from Church history that this needs to clarified? If one were speaking with someone whom we know from experience to mean obedience flowing from the Spirit via faith, then a short hand “faith and obedience” is sufficient. If you and I attended the same church and knew each other, most likely I would have sufficent background on your convictions to have soound reason to assume you meant the biblical position.

    Yet I would never use such a formula with folks whose maturity I am not aware of. I accept that I owe them as a brother the need to not say anything which would disturb their faith.

    Is it not sufficiently demonstrated the an ongoing concern is the lack of clarity when using such terms by FV advocates, or even by essential strangers on a blog?

    This is what I am reacting to.

    And Paul (no. 79). tsk, tsk. Re-read my second sentence and include the word “suggest” as I did in the original, and you will of course graciously remove your inference that I said what I did not say.

    And, I’m sure you agree, what one means by “faith plus obedience” could be heretical. Its all in the details. Again, I’ve not challenged anyone with teaching heresy – just fuzziness.

    Why such an admonition so argued against, even if not expressly deserved, I sadly wonder.

  85. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:38 am

    David G (#44),

    2. FVers seem to think that they should be exonerated as orthodox just because they will formally affirm orthodox statements in some places while making unorthodox statements in other places. It is not sufficient to establish FVs innocence because of the fact that JFVP has two contradictory statements.

    Sigh. And some anti-FVers seem to think that the claim that FVers contradict themselves amounts to a demonstration that they have done so. Name that tune already. If you think there is a contradiction, then you have to show it. Re: this very thread, Wilson has pretty much shown that Lane’s argument doesn’t work: there is no contradiction b/w the FVJS and the Westminster Confession on the point Lane pointed to. You can disagree with the Joint Statement’s distinction between “works” and “obedience” all day long, but the fact is that the statement explicitly makes the distinction and so reading it on its own terms it is not contradicting the Westminster Standards.

    **In case I have never said this plainly enough, David G., let me say it now. Yes, if any person (FV or not) says A (or something that entails A) in one place and then in another place says not A (or something that entails not A), then they cannot innocently claim to “affirm A” and expect to be left alone about the not A stuff they also say. Right, absolutely, always. Now, that said, kindly show where an FVer pulls an “A and not A” regarding some “A” that is a necessary facet of Reformed orthodoxy. And here we are again.

  86. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Sure ok.

    But part of the point is that the bible’s own language should be our touchstone. And Peter is happy to say add virtue to your faith. He isn’t worried about fuzziness.

  87. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:47 am

    Tim Harris’s comment (back in the 30s somewhere) about sophomoric self-taught blog commenters was obviously directed (in part) at my comments (his summaries of the sophomoric reasoning to which he is objecting were summaries of things I had said (in the 20s)). Aside from the fact that I’m on the verge of qualifying as “highly educated” (PhD, 2008), he’s obviously misunderstood the point. I’m fairly well aware of historic Reformed definitions of grace, faith, etc. If he thinks the minutia of the scholastic definitions somehow help his position in this conversation, then let him show forth how they do so. But they won’t help him b/c that’s just not the “level” at which this conversation is taking place.

    I say the covenant of works was gracious b/c it involved God’s freely given blessings, regardless of anything worthwhile in Adam himself. Now, if there is some more technical Reformed definition of “grace” that means this STILL isn’t “grace” in that more technical sense, then so what? What’s the point? Am I wrong to use the word “grace” in the simple sense of “unearned gift?” If anything the more technical definition will only validate my point, b/c we’ll realize that htis whole scuffle is much ado about (mostly) nothing. If Lane is dying on the hill of “CoW was NOT gracious,” but he’s using this highly technical definition of grace, while guys like Wilson and I are saying that it IS gracious because Adam would have needed to say “thank you”, then we simply have no disagreement in substance but are dividing over words. Which is bad.

    As to why we use a “simple” definition of “grace” (a situation that requires a “thank you’, any unearned gift of favor, etc.) rather than a “technical” one, that is hardly a reflection of how knowledgable or studied we are. If anything, the great error of “sophomores” (i.e. sophomoric arguments) is to learn a technical term and then wiled it like a magic talisman that can ward off all people with whom you disagree. “Oh, see, I’ve got the peripatetic definition of ‘grace,’ therefore the rest of you are all grace-deniers. Back, heretics!” That would be sophomoric, if anyone were actually arguing that way. Is anyone doing so?

  88. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Kevin (#82),

    I said there are “hardly” any more “hard core” theonomists around any more. Especially participating in discussions of Reformed theology. Who is a “hard core” theonomy in this class? Jordan? Leithart? Wilson? Those guys are all “post” theonomists of one sort or another, but hardly hard core “you can marry my daughter when you finish reading Insititutes of Biblical Law and submit a 50 page report on it” types. :-)

  89. Ken Christian said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Ref. 86 – Reed, I do accept your apology. Allow me to apologize for the mis-numbering.

    And yes, I too share your concern for clarity. I would never say “we walk by faith and obedience” to my congregation without having qualified and explained that statement fully.

    I feel no need to do so on this board; because I assume most, if not all, of us are ordained ministers and/or elders in good standing within our various Reformed denominations. I also assume that we will show one another the proper ministerial, not to mention Christian, courtesy when engaging one another’s ideas. Such loving courtesy would assume the best of one another and be willing to ask polite questions when clarity is needed. That said, I must confess my own failure from time to time in this regard. I’m seeking to repent of it by God’s grace.

  90. Jesse P. said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Jason,

    Dont read my question as if I am thinking Hebrews 11 is dealing with faith as it takes hold of Christ in justification. I understand that it is speaking of faith in the mode of endurance (Hebrews 10 makes that plain as introduction-you have need of endurance) and that it is a future oriented faith. I was only responding to the idea that Adam would not have needed any “faith” in the Hebrews 11 sense. If Adam was the last thing created, he surely needs the kind of faith that understands the seen is made by the unseen (11.3, he even sleeps through the Eve ordeal), just as he needs to believe the idea of eschatological reward (the unseen is clearly future events in Hebrews 11, not invisible realities). Now, his basis for that reward and mine will be different…you know personal…perpetual…etc.

    Your answer makes my point exactly, this chapter is carrying the water for either side in the way they suppose. I just dont like the “overreading” of a text to try to prove a point.

  91. Jesse P. said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:23 am

    change “is” to “isnt” carrying the water…

  92. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Ref. 91:

    Ken: thanks. Yes, I do try to cut appropriate slack to others on this blog. Let me be clear I in no way wanted to impute erroneous convictions or understanding to you.

    Rather, being aware of how widely read this blog is, and by many who are less mature in their understanding, I sensed the need to call a time out, as it were.

    That’s one of the inherent weaknesses of blogdom. What is the right balance between providiing clarity and assuming pre-understanding?

    Thanks again for your sensitivity to my concern. Again, I’m sorry for the confusion I generated in not being as clear as I should be.

  93. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:52 am

    Ref. 88:

    Sure, and Peter is happy to say that because he knew, as do we, that the Author of Scripture ensured that we have enough (special) revelation to remove fuzziness.

    Paul, this focuses in one of the key criticisms I have with the FV. There is a propensity for the FV to want to:

    > Look at a given text, and to
    > Understand a given text, and then to
    > Apply a given text,
    > in isolation from other texts essential to proper biblical understanding!

    This criticism is not reduceable to merely a debate between two different valid approaches to interpretation, systematic vs. the biblical theological approach. E.g., the biblical theology of the OT is not fully understood, and therefore properly applicable, until it is understood in light of the NT.

    The same goes for any particular passage. This, for example, is why the traditional FV interpretation of John 15, and the application of a conditional election, is in the end faulty. The FV wants to let such a pasage speak for itself, in isolation from other passages which are essential to clarifying the nature of the conditionality. Even worse, the FV wants to then immediately move to applying this less than complete, this fuzzy understanding of conditional election, to the lives of God’s people.

    It is not a red herring, or a knee jerk TR reaction on my part to challenge fuzziness in the phrase “faith plus work.” Neither Peter, any other biblical author, or the Church historic has accepted such fuzziness.

    I wonder why you find such willingness to debate what should be a given.

  94. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Xon (#89):

    He could as easily be talking about me. I have a lowly M.A.R. and naught else.

    Elder Hoss (#66):

    Sorry I brought it up. It was a lapse of discipline on my part.

    Xon (#85):

    Well, I wish we weren’t talking about that, but we in fact are. Many have criticized FVers for their rejection of “merit,” but this is what we are rejecting. So, if that’s so, then where does that leave us?

    Again, it’s way down on my list of priorities to argue about what word we should use. I’m fine with calling it a “covenant of works.” I’m not fine with saying that it is ungracious.

    I think I have an explanation. Let’s see how far I can get during the remainder of lunch here.

    The FV has been insisting that “CoW” is an unfortunate term because it *suggests* that Adam could have acquired merit by fulfilling a law.

    They point out (rightly, IMO) that Adam’s successful resisting of temptation is hardly congruous to eternal life, and anyways, why would a son need to earn the wages of a hired hand.

    Unfortunately, this argument has not had the desired effect. Why not? Here’s my hypothesis: because it’s arguing against the wrong understanding of the term “CoW.”

    Bell rang; I have to go teach calculus. More later.

    Jeff

  95. R. F. White said,

    April 24, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Xon, would you tell us how you determined that the term “grace” applied to the pre-fall situation?

  96. Ken Christian said,

    April 24, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Ref. 95: Thanks, Reed. I completely understand where you’re coming from in reference to clarity to this blog’s readers. As for my future comments, I’m more than happy to take a wider readership into account.

  97. Ken Christian said,

    April 24, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Ref. 95 again: Reed, concerning your comments on John 15, couldn’t FVists reply by saying they are simply using John 15 to bring clarity to those other passages that discuss conditionality? In other words, why can’t it work the other direction? And who gets to decide which texts are the “starting point” (can’t think of a better way to phrase that) and which texts must be clarified?

  98. Elder Hoss said,

    April 24, 2008 at 11:33 am

    GLW – When you demonstrate an ability to deal with men and movements you criticize without actually reading (I’m not referring specifically here to the FV, but rather, Nevin/Mercersburg, ala our recent exchange at http://www.reformedcatholicism.com) I might answer whether I’m connected with Mark T, though I suspect that was entirely rhetorical and you knew the answer at the gate before posing it. : O )

  99. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Ref. 99:

    Ken, indeed, not only can it, it should encompass the breadth of Scriptural teaching.

    As to the starting point, I do not see this as seminal to the problem I am addressing. The Scriptures, taken as individual units of thought, are mutually clarifying. It is fine to start with either the conditional nature of election in John 15 or the permanent nature of election in John 15. This problems arises with where one stops, not begins.

    This is why my first reading of, say Wilson’s RINE arguments on John 15, did not raise my eyebrows. It was only after I read/heard more that I became concerned. It was only after further reading/discussion and listening that I reached my conclusion that the FV interpretation of this passage is faulty because an insistance on interpreting AND applying the passage in isolation from other necessary passages.

  100. April 24, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Gary,

    I can verify that Elder Hoss is no Mark T. or his twin brother. He is in fact a worthy discussion partner and it would do participants well to engage in regards to what he has already brought to this discussion. Let’s not use his anonymity as an excuse to avoid interacting properly with him–not that anyone here would do anything like that! :)

  101. GLW Johnson said,

    April 24, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Elder Hoss
    Ok but do you wear an black rather large Nazi looking head piece with a black cape and talk like James Earl Jones?

  102. Ken Christian said,

    April 24, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Ref. 101 – Fair enough, Reed. I’d really be interested in further discussion concerning the applications you find troubling. If you ever have some extra time, feel free to ask Lane for my email address; so we can interact some more about this topic.

  103. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Ref. 104:

    Thanks Ken. It most likely will have to wait for a while.

  104. April 24, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Ken,

    You wrote: “Ref 72: Jason – Aren’t you confusing “walked by faith plus obedience” and “justified by faith plus obedience”? Who wouldn’t agree that the Christian walk is a walk of faith and obedience (trust and obey, right?)? And how does anything in what Joseph wrote in #71 lead to justification (for anyone) by faith + obedience? I just don’t see how you get there.”

    You’re preaching to the choir, my friend. If you want to know how the connection to justification by works gets drawn, ask a Federal Visionist.

    (My guess is that it happens as a consequence of denying the covenant of works.)

  105. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 11:54 am

    “The FV wants to let such a pasage speak for itself, in isolation from other passages which are essential to clarifying the nature of the conditionality.”

    Begs the question.

    “Even worse, the FV wants to then immediately move to applying this less than complete, this fuzzy understanding of conditional election, to the lives of God’s people.”

    1. not immediately.

    2. Except in the sense that its ok to read the bible im-mediately, to people.

    too many times, we apply “complete” understandings of texts to situations in such a way that their force is muted. We’re SUPPOSED to be made uncomfortable by some texts: think of how many sermons on the rich young ruler are designed to make sure middle class people don’t get worried that maybe they too are supposed to sell their stuff to the poor.

  106. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Ref. 107:

    Letting people think that their election is conditional and not explaining the nature of the conditionality is at best sloppy workmanship.

    None of your points actually mitigates my criticism. You’re simply asserting in opposition. Try, for example, explaining when it is o.k. for a pastor to be as clear as mud and when it is not.

    Paul, your willingness to rely on cute, pithy, unengaging responses to such serious issues is disappointing.

  107. magma2 said,

    April 24, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Xon writes:

    Sigh. And some anti-FVers seem to think that the claim that FVers contradict themselves amounts to a demonstration that they have done so. Name that tune already. If you think there is a contradiction, then you have to show it.

    As one of those contemptible and vile “Clarkian” Scripturalists who doesn’t embrace with passion the apparently contradictory even when wrapped in pious sounding religious jargon, I would have thought this particular contradiction would have apparent to everyone, including you Xon.

    1. The WCF states: The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

    2. The JFVP states: We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements.

    Life cannot be promised and not promised in the covenant of works on the condition of “perfect and personal obedience” and at the same time *not* on the condition of “moral exertions or achievements.” Perfect and personal obedience ARE (at least for those of us who still speak English) the result of moral exertions and achievements. To be obedience means 1 a: an act or instance of obeying b: the quality or state of being obedient. To be obedient means to be “submissive to the will of another — obedient implies compliance with the demands or requests of one in authority.”

    Now, as Lane points out, what else can Adam’s moral exertions or achievements be other than “his obedience to God’s law, or personal and perfect obedience”?

    Lane clearly identifies the inherent and glaring contradiction in Wilson’s doctrine and states it this way: “So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP.”

    No matter how you slice it or whichever way you turn it, the contradiction remains. Adding the word “faith” to the mix or even “grace,” as if these words were some kind of magic faerie dust, doesn’t change a thing. The word “autonomous” doesn’t help you either. And,as should be obvious, asserting that somehow obedience is not a work doesn’t cut it either. The contradiction still stands whether you call works done by faith “NOT WORKS.”

    I realize that you FVers have nothing but contempt for the rest of us, but, honestly, how completely stupid do you think we are?

  108. Ron Henzel said,

    April 24, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Elder Hoss,

    You wrote in comment 83:

    The specific concern you raised dealt with the legitimacy of pseudonyms in the context of debate

    No, the specific concern I raised was your consistent practice of hurling slurs at others from behind a shield of anonymity. The purpose of legitimate anonymity in debate during the Reformation and afterward was to either protect the life of the debater and/or mitigate bias on the part of the audience, not to serve as a license for slander, libel, or the kind of ignorant tripe you mete out when you write:

    Forgive me, it probably WAS unfair to direct you to anything pre-dating, say, the 1630s, or not solely published by BOT or P & R.

    Kevin Johnson,

    Regarding your advocacy of Elder Hoss in comment 80: he secretes his little pearls of wisdom in a way that is “less than amiable?” Carl McIntire was “less than amiable.” Why besmirch his memory by placing the likes of Elder Hoss in his category?

    You wrote in comment 102: “Let’s not use his anonymity as an excuse to avoid interacting properly with him…” You need to step out of your role as captain of his cheerleading squad on ReformedCatholicism.com long enough to see that this is not about his anonymity per se, but the fact that he abuses it by using it as a license to not interact properly with others.

  109. April 24, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    I’m sorry, Ron, but I’m going to have to disagree with you here.

    I merely offered my own comments to help demonstrate that Elder Hoss is in fact someone who will engage in serious discussion and not someone hiding behind anonymity unnecessarily as you seem to imply. Death or severe recrimination were not the only reasons why the Reformers engaged in anonymous discourse and it is quite cheeky of you to go around questioning people’s motives as to why they might entertain the use of anonymous means of discourse as if it’s always inappropriate in today’s ecclesiastical scene.

    But, your own invective (see #74 above) is no less inflammatory than anything Elder Hoss has brought forward so I see little reason to take what you have to say regarding him seriously.

  110. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    “Letting people think that their election is conditional and not explaining the nature of the conditionality is at best sloppy workmanship.”

    I don’t think that’s happened, and I don’t think a pastor should ever be clear as mud.

  111. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    “Life cannot be promised …in the covenant of works on the condition of “perfect and personal obedience” and at the same time *not* on the condition of “moral exertions or achievements.””

    Sure it can. Just like the faith that justifies doesn’t draw its power to justify from its goodness or its obedience, so the obedience that would have justified Adam wouldn’t have drawn it’s power to justify from its exertiveness or what it achieved.It would have drawn its power from its attitude of self-effacing thankful dependence on God

  112. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    All Adam had to do was NOT EAT FRUIT. How much exertion was that? What achievement was that?

  113. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    “Try, for example, explaining when it is o.k. for a pastor to be as clear as mud and when it is not.”

    You were accusing me of relying on the cute and pithy?

  114. Elder Hoss said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Ron – There seems to be a kind of cyber-fetish here, wherein, whenever I write something, anywhere at any hour (almost never being directed to you at the outset), you attempt to attack me. I will not speculate as to what is driving it, but only observe its somewhat curious and non-sequiturious nature.

    The one comment you probably are having fits over is my referencing stout-hearted folk who won’t debate FV people inferior to Bahnsen (as debaters).
    If you like (and brother Baggins likes), we can drop the “stout-hearted” adjective, or the reference to WWTS entirely and come back to my original question.

    You see, what I have asked of Jeff was by no means a non-sequitur, and yet, apart from someone’s asking me for a kind of proof that Kline and WTJ had a deal which effectively tied the hands of the man they were criticizing, the question/concern has gone unaddressed.

    I suspect it is just easier for you (who give no indication of having carefully read and engaged with Reformed thinkers you disagree with), to go the ad hominem and invective route, than to actually deal with what is being put forth, you know, like the fact that Westminsterian Confessionalism pre-1788 was theonomic, or like the fact that a Gillespie or Calvin would likely be brought up on charges were they exercising their ministries in not a few Presbyterian and Reformed coteries today due to their being guilty of the kind of “grotesque perversion of NT Scripture” with which Kline (and his followers) charged Bahnsen. But I’m connecting the dots for you too much here, so I will “cry off” as our brethren say in the United Kingdom.

  115. magma2 said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    “Life cannot be promised …in the covenant of works on the condition of “perfect and personal obedience” and at the same time *not* on the condition of “moral exertions or achievements.””

    Sure it can. Just like the faith that justifies doesn’t draw its power to justify from its goodness or its obedience, so the obedience that would have justified Adam wouldn’t have drawn it’s power to justify from its exertiveness or what it achieved.It would have drawn its power from its attitude of self-effacing thankful dependence on God

    What are you talking about?

    All Adam had to do was NOT EAT FRUIT. How much exertion was that? What achievement was that?

    What, you don’t think it would have been an achievement had Adam told his wife no thank? I don’t know, but it takes me a considerable amount of exertion to deny my wife anything.

  116. magma2 said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    pardon the typos – working on too many things at once.

  117. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Ref. 115:

    Paul: a classic example. Your retort is not in any manner engaging either of my comment, or the full context of backing it up that demonstrates I was neither being neither cute nor pithy.

  118. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Dr. White (#97),

    Hello! You asked me:

    Xon, would you tell us how you determined that the term “grace” applied to the pre-fall situation?

    Here’s what I had said in an earlier comment: “I say the covenant of works was gracious b/c it involved God’s freely given blessings, regardless of anything worthwhile in Adam himself.” So, just so we’re clear, you are asking me where I get the idea that pre-fall Adam was given blessings from God that were not based on anything worthwhile in Adam himself?

    I’ll wait for confirmation that that is your question before I answer.

  119. Ron Henzel said,

    April 24, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Elder Hoss,

    Regarding comment 116: consistent with your generally-libelous approach to controversy, whenever you run out of answers in one of our online disagreements you accuse me of being some kind of obsessed cyber-stalker. You want to make this about me instead of your behavior.

    All anyone need do to see the falsehood of your accusation is observe that you have posted many other comments and posts here and elsewhere in recent weeks and months to which I have paid little or no attention, much less attacked you for. In fact, as you well know, in the one recent instance in which I posted a rare comment to something you wrote on Reformed Catholicism, it actually expressed support for your basic point.

  120. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Shoot, I always screw up when typing “blockquote,” and then it costs me when a closing tag isn’t recognized. Sorry for the ugliness.

  121. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Here, let me just do it right.

    Magma,

    JFVP: “We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements.”

    Life cannot be promised and not promised in the covenant of works on the condition of “perfect and personal obedience” and at the same time *not* on the condition of “moral exertions or achievements.”

    Sure it can, if the definition of “moral exertions or achievements” is “works without faith.” If that’s what a person means by “moral exertions or achievements”–i.e., autonomously produced exertions of moral rectitude–then those exertions are certainly not “perfect and personal obedience,” because perfect and personal obedience requires a person to trust in God. If you try to do morally meritorious things all by yourself, then you are not trusting in God as you ought. And you are not being obedient.

    Of course, you can disagree with that. You might believe instead that there was no faith involved in the Garden, and so Adam was indeed supposed to simply obey God out of his own self-contained exertions. But that doesn’t matter here, because we’re not talking about whether your view or the FV view is right. We’re talking, rather, about whether the FV view (as represented in the JFVP statement) is contradictory to the Westminster Confession. It could be completely wrong, and your view could be far superior for a whole host of reasons, and yet it might still not be contradictory to the Confession. People aren’t unconfessional for believing false things. They are unconfessional for believing things that contradict the Confession (and, I should add again as I try to do every time I have this sort of discussion, in a denom like the PCA the thing that contradicts the Confession also needs to rise to some level of significance in order to constitute unorthodoxy. B/c the PCA is not a strict subscriptionist denom).

    But your argument here is that, in your opinion (which may, for the sake of argument, be correct), “moral exertions or achievements” means “obedience.” But the FVers in the document don’t use the word that way. This isn’t just an argument over words, right? Well then, you have to properly interpret the FV statement as it is intended, and then show the contradiction. You can’t just claim a contradiction based on your own understanding (even if you cite the dictionary) of what the words have to mean. If that’s not how the FV statement used those words, then that’s that (as far as what the words mean in context of their actual use).

    Perfect and personal obedience ARE (at least for those of us who still speak English) the result of moral exertions and achievements. To be obedience means 1 a: an act or instance of obeying b: the quality or state of being obedient. To be obedient means to be “submissive to the will of another — obedient implies compliance with the demands or requests of one in authority.”

    So, what are you saying here? Are you saying that FVers (those who signed the JFVP, specifically) don’t actually distinguish “moral exertions or achievements” and “obedience”? Even though they say that they do. “No, your position is actually that obeying God is a moral exertion or achievement.” Is that your claim?

    Now, as Lane points out, what else can Adam’s moral exertions or achievements be other than “his obedience to God’s law, or personal and perfect obedience”?

    They can be self-righteous effort to earn through some sort of real merit (matching up iat least n kind, if not degree) a reward from God. “Hey, look what I achieved”, as opposed to “Hey, look at what God did for me. All praise and honor goes to Him.” This is clearly how the FVers in the document in question are understanding things, and so if someone wants to argue that they are contradicting the Confession they will have to show that this understanding of their words leads to such a contradiction.

    Lane clearly identifies the inherent and glaring contradiction in Wilson’s doctrine and states it this way: “So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP.”

    If this statement is true, then you (or Lane, or whoever) should be able to provide a univocal definition of “works” that holds in both of its occurrences in the statement. And that statement must in fact be true when the word “works” has that meaning. What meaning is that?

    No matter how you slice it or whichever way you turn it, the contradiction remains. Adding the word “faith” to the mix or even “grace,” as if these words were some kind of magic faerie dust, doesn’t change a thing. The word “autonomous” doesn’t help you either. And,as should be obvious, asserting that somehow obedience is not a work doesn’t cut it either. The contradiction still stands whether you call works done by faith “NOT WORKS.”

    Again, you are just asserting what certain words mean, and then insisting that the FV statement has to be read in that way. A silly example demonstrates the logical error:

    A newly-minted immigrant is told by some mischeivous teenagers that “hit” means “thank”. The next day the immigrant encounters a police officer who helpfully keep traffic at bay so the immigrant can cross the street. The immigrant says to the officer as he passes him, “I want to hit you!”

    The officer immediately tasers the man and arrests him. Charges are filed. In this case, the cop’s defensive behavior is most likely justified. Eventually the immigrant’s public defender gets to the bottom of what happened. When he explains it to the local district attorney, though, the D.A. says “I don’t care what he thought the word meant. He said ‘hit’ to a police officer, and I’ve got Webster’s right here that says that ‘hit’ means ’strike,’ and so he is guilty of threatening a police officer no matter what he actually thought he was saying.”

    I realize that you FVers have nothing but contempt for the rest of us, but, honestly, how completely stupid do you think we are?

    Anyway, the point is that if the only argument here is that word X HAS to mean such-and-such, and on that meaning sentence S contradicts Confessional sentence C, and so therefore the person who said S, even though he was using X in a completely different way has contradicted the Confession, then there is no argument. Just a giant fallacy of equivocation.

  122. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Sure it can. Just like the faith that justifies doesn’t draw its power to justify from its goodness or its obedience, so the obedience that would have justified Adam wouldn’t have drawn it’s power to justify from its exertiveness or what it achieved.It would have drawn its power from its attitude of self-effacing thankful dependence on God

    What are you talking about?

    What’s not clear about that?

  123. Ron Henzel said,

    April 24, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Kevin,

    Regarding your comment 111: as much as we disagree on the person in question and my responses to him, I acknowledge and appreciate your polite and level-headed tone. Thank you.

  124. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 24, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    … (#96):

    So to be clear: the point I’m going to argue is NOT that anyone is a heretic. Rather, I’m going to argue that for the FV position on the “Covenant of Life” in the Garden to be accepted, one of two things will need to happen:

    (a) The FV terminology and arguments will need to change, OR
    (b) The entire Reformed community will have to agree to longer use “Covenant of Works” terminology.

    The former is difficult — it amounts to the “retooling” I’ve mentioned before. The latter is impossible and undesirable.

    Here’s the case:

    “Covenant of Works” terminology has never been oriented towards the precise *way* in which Adam acquired death and Jesus acquired life for us. Instead, it has always been a more general phrase that has indicated the *fact* of Jesus’ all-sufficient acquisition of life for us. And that terminology was polemically directed towards the RC teaching that we acquire or create merit through our actions (that’s a rough approx. of RC teaching, but sufficient for 16th cent. polemics). The broad intent of chap. 7, as I indicated above, is to express the federal headship principle.

    The Confessional language is in fact very broad wrt the understanding of HOW the acquisition takes place. For instance, WCoF 8.5 and 8 say that Jesus “purchased redemption” for us (echoing Rev. 5.9). But no one at all believes that Jesus went to a store, even metaphorically, and paid something, except in the sense that we now say that “Jesus paid our debt.” Likewise, Adam’s covenant of works is given no more definition than “life was promised on condition of perfect obedience.” No theories of merit are advanced here, and I think that was likely intentional.

    And then if we look at where the WC goes from there, it takes two chapters to prepare for the question of faith (9, Free Will, 10, Effectual Calling), and then it drops the anti-RC bomb: we are justified freely “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; nor 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.”

    Importantly, the use of the term “works” now comes into focus: the “CoW” doctrine is a direct repudiation of the Catholic theory of works.

    So from the start, the language of “CoW” has not been directed at a question of whether Adam’s hypothetical reward was “strict merit” or “congruous merit” or “merit pactum” or whatnot. Rather, it was intended to carefully circumscribe these points:

    (1) Jesus and Adam acted; we receive.
    (2) Jesus’ and Adam’s actions are sufficient for the result that we receive. Nothing additional need be added for us to be received as beloved sons, free from guilt.

    In other words, “CoW” is all about the conflict with Roman Catholicism: Is Jesus’ work (action) *enough* for us, OR can we create additional acceptance for ourselves through our actions?

    But now, along come the FV arguments that

    (1) There was grace in the garden (true),
    (2) Adam’s action was not proportional to the outcome (true),
    (3) “Works” can convey the wrong notion that Adam and Jesus were working on an external standard of righteousness instead of acting as faithful sons (possibly true), so …
    (4) We should call the “CoW” a “Covenant of Life” instead.

    You can see that this proposed re-naming does not directly interact with the reason that “Works” terminology was chosen in the first place. Instead, it proposes re-naming on incidental grounds.

    If my account is correct, then the Reformed community’s reaction is entire predictable. Since most have not bought into (3) to begin with, they DO NOT understand the motivation for (4). (3) seems to many like a reaction to a non-problem, similar to N.T. Wright’s insistence that “righteousness is not a gas that can be passed around the room.”

    And so in the absence of a problem, folk now start to focus on what we LOSE by abandoning the “CoW” terminology. I think Kline’s analysis is representative: if we abandon the notion that Jesus’ action is enough for us, then we find that man has to pick up the slack.

    (I think Jason’s comments above in #3, 39, 41, 48 confirm that the FV argument is being read as an attack on federal headship).

    And if the FV response is, “well, no, I don’t want to give up the monergistic (note the ‘work’ embedded in the term!) nature of Jesus’ work for us”, then the question is, “well, then why do you want to change the term that expresses that notion?” In other words, if “Covenant of Works” is intended as a repudiation of the Catholic theory of works, the suggestion of abandoning the language is equated with a suggestion of abandoning the argument against the Catholic theory of works.

    In addition, the FV argument contains an underlying accusation that when people have been using the “CoW” terminology, they’ve really been thinking of a wrong-headed notion of merit. I think Lane’s points about pactum merit have been a defense against this argument.

    In short, the FV argument takes aim at a definition of “Works” that is not on the radar screen for many of us. So the arguments instead are read out as an attack on the definition of “Works” that *is* commonly understood — a repudiation of RC works. That is, it is felt that the “real” reason the FV wants to give up “CoW” is to make room for our own efforts.

    Now add to this the statements about “subsequent justification” and the sharp FV insistence on the necessity of good works for salvation (true, “in some sense”), Jordan’s comment about a total revamp of WCoF Ch. 7. You can see how many would see these statements as confirming evidence that the FV change in terminology is really a desire to abandon the sufficiency of Christ’s work.

    Is it? Having hashed these issues out with you, I believe you want to affirm the sufficiency of Christ’s work with no qualifications. I don’t know your heart and all, but ISTM that you affirm all of the concepts that are intended by the Confessional language “Covenant of Works.”

    But I ask you now to step back and survey the discussion dispassionately and whether my analysis of the state of the discussion is approximately correct.

    And if so, then the way forward is, I think, for us to agree to use “CoW” language, but also to carefully qualify that it *means* Jesus’ all-sufficient acquisition of salvation for His people, NOT a bare economic arrangement in which Jesus jumps through hoops in order to pick up merit points for us.

    In other words, contra Jordan, let’s *keep* the language but refine what we mean by it, instead of attempting to refine the language. The historical importance of the term “Works” more than makes up for any limitations it has wrt our precise understanding of redemption.

    I don’t know if this makes sense, but I pray so.

    Jeff Cagle

  125. Joseph Randall said,

    April 24, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Jason (73),

    Thanks for your input, but what I am saying (it seems to me) preserves what both sides of this issue want to preserve – and more importantly – it seems most Biblical to me. I am saying there has only ever been two justifications by works possible. Adam’s and Christ’s. Everyone else is justified by faith which connects them to the finished work of Jesus. To break it down:

    Here’s what Christ did:
    1. He trusted the Father (how could you argue that He didn’t??)
    2. He rendered perfect obedience unto death
    3. Therefore, because of His perfect work He was justified

    On the other hand, for everyone else who has ever lived, it goes like this:
    1. They trust the Son
    2. Therefore, they are justified based on the Son’s perfect work
    3. Then they do good works that please God (and as I already mentioned, even these good works are tainted with sin and must be washed in the blood of the Lamb! Jesus always gets all the glory!!! As Spurgeon said, even our tears of repentance are dirty!)

    It seems to me if you keep these distinctions clear, especially the issue of what is the BASIS or GROUND of justification for each category – whether pre-fall Adam and Christ or us as fallen sinners – then you will be safe and Biblical – ensuring that all glory goes to the Lamb Who was slain, Who alone is worthy to take the scroll!! He worthied our salvation! Praise Him!

  126. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Jeff, interesting. As is often the case we are closer to one another than might have at first appeared.

    This, though:

    If my account is correct, then the Reformed community’s reaction is entire predictable. Since most have not bought into (3) to begin with, they DO NOT understand the motivation for (4). (3) seems to many like a reaction to a non-problem, similar to N.T. Wright’s insistence that “righteousness is not a gas that can be passed around the room.”

    is not going down easily for me. Giving me heartburn. The reason is b/c I’ve spent the last few years arguing with people about this stuff, and a lot of anti-FVers DO seems to want to say that Adam was supposed to “obey an external standard of righteousness rather than act like a faithful son.” Lane, for instance, on this very blog, has denied, explicitly, that Adam had faith. He denied on Wilson’s blog that Adam would have owed God a “thank you” if he had obeyed and attained glorified life. This is a non-non-problem, not a non-problem. :-)

    Whatever the original intention of CoW talk (and I like your construction very much), this is 400 years later. I know that people like to think they’re being faithful to the original mind of the divines, but human nature being what it is that just doesn’t happen a lot of the time. Today when people say “Covenant of works,” I really do think that a lot of them think “God gave Adam hoops to jump through and told him that if he did it that it would somehow merit or earn an eternal reward.” That is not just an FV bogeyman, it is a real view that you can hear all the time. Even the very context in which CoW is usually brought up in this FV discussion belies something of this attitude. People don’t bring up CoW (normally) to demonstrate the all-sufficiency of Christ’s work. They do it to say something ABOUT Adam and what he was supposed to do. They are very concerned that we think of it as Adam failing to do something that would have earned such-and-such, and so Jesus then came and earned it by doing the stuff instead. A lot of that picture is right, some of it is a little misleading, and the way people use “cov of works” language today is usually tied up in it. And that really is my own dispassionate appraisal.

    But I’ll take your admonition anyway. I don’t mind saying “covenant of works.” :-)

  127. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Ref: 129:

    Xon: might it not be appropriate to distinguish faith in terms of its pre and post fall nature?

    It seems to me that Lane is asserting that faith, as understood in its post-fall form, is different that any faith Adam may have had prior to the fall.

    Would such distinguishing help narrow the gap?

  128. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Reed, absolutely I think we can distinguish them. But I suspect that if Lane was really willing to do that, then we wouldn’t be here. :-)

    For instance, pre-fall faith was a trust that God can be believed, a trust that God’s commands really will lead to life. Post-fall faith is a trust that, even though the ship has already sailed on me obeying God as I ought, that another has done for me what I could not do for myself. Post-fall faith is trust in a Mediator, that HE is acceptable to God and has really done the thing that needed done. It is a trust of a person who is well aware of his own frailties and mistakes. Pre-fall faith wouldn’t have seen things from that “angle.”

  129. magma2 said,

    April 24, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Life cannot be promised and not promised in the covenant of works on the condition of “perfect and personal obedience” and at the same time *not* on the condition of “moral exertions or achievements.”

    Sure it can, if the definition of “moral exertions or achievements” is “works without faith.” If that’s what a person means by “moral exertions or achievements”–i.e., autonomously produced exertions of moral rectitude–then those exertions are certainly not “perfect and personal obedience,” because perfect and personal obedience requires a person to trust in God. If you try to do morally meritorious things all by yourself, then you are not trusting in God as you ought. And you are not being obedient.

    First, there is no such thing as an “autonomously produced exertion or moral rectitude” or anything else for that matter. No wonder you folks are correctly identified as Arminians. But, you have not resolved the contradiction by saying works with faith is obedience and works without faith are works. This is a distinction without meaning.

    People aren’t unconfessional for believing false things. They are unconfessional for believing things that contradict the Confession (and, I should add again as I try to do every time I have this sort of discussion, in a denom like the PCA the thing that contradicts the Confession also needs to rise to some level of significance in order to constitute unorthodoxy. B/c the PCA is not a strict subscriptionist denom).

    This rises to that level and then some. Frankly, it logically puts you out of the Christian faith, Confession or no Confession. As anyone can see this little word play of Wilson and his fellow false teachers is designed to allow them to assert a scheme of salvation premised on works done by faith, which they call “obedience.” This way they can deny they are affirming salvation by works. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes on any Roman Catholic apologetics board would have recognized this ruse in a second. Like I said, you guys must really take us for complete fools.

    But your argument here is that, in your opinion (which may, for the sake of argument, be correct), “moral exertions or achievements” means “obedience.” But the FVers in the document don’t use the word that way.

    So what? Are you saying that any definition no matter how contrived and artificial, not to mention nonsensical and asinine, is to be accepted just because you and they say so? You’re going to have to work harder than that Xon.

    This isn’t just an argument over words, right? Well then, you have to properly interpret the FV statement as it is intended, and then show the contradiction.

    I have and so has Lane who wrote: “So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP.” Simply calling obedience “not works” doesn’t cut it, nor does it change anything. Besides, Wilson said, “But here are some terms that one ought not be allowed to interchange as though they were synonyms — obedience and works.” You might have noticed that’s exactly what the Confession does when it defines the covenant of works. Wilson says this is not allowed. I guess it’s a good thing the Divines at Westminster weren’t taking orders from Wilson.

    But, regardless of his protests and word games, his formulation places him squarely *outside* of the Confession along with EVERY ONE of the signers of that bit of nonsense Wilson wrote and you defend.

    So, what are you saying here? Are you saying that FVers (those who signed the JFVP, specifically) don’t actually distinguish “moral exertions or achievements” and “obedience”? Even though they say that they do. “No, your position is actually that obeying God is a moral exertion or achievement.” Is that your claim?

    Yes, that’s my claim Xon. They do not distinguish “moral exertions or achievements” and “obedience” they merely assert it.

    Lane clearly identifies the inherent and glaring contradiction in Wilson’s doctrine and states it this way: “So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP.”

    If this statement is true, then you (or Lane, or whoever) should be able to provide a univocal definition of “works” that holds in both of its occurrences in the statement. And that statement must in fact be true when the word “works” has that meaning. What meaning is that?

    What do you mean what meaning is that? Works and perfect personal obedience are one in the same thing. That is, after all, how the Confessions *defines* the covenant of WORKS. You may have noticed it doesn’t call it the Covenant of Obedience. Biblically and confessionally works and personal obedience to God’s commands are synonymous. Paul said not just hearers but the “doers of the Law will be justified.” The problem is no one keeps the law and all have fallen short of the glory of God and have followed in Adam’s footsteps ever since. Belief doesn’t make works “not works.” Belief makes works “good” and not because of any intrinsic value of either belief or the works themselves, but because of Christ’s perfect and finished work imputed to us.

    Again, you are just asserting what certain words mean, and then insisting that the FV statement has to be read in that way.

    The FV statement is a piece of infantile sophistry.

  130. David Gadbois said,

    April 24, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Xon said

    **In case I have never said this plainly enough, David G., let me say it now. Yes, if any person (FV or not) says A (or something that entails A) in one place and then in another place says not A (or something that entails not A), then they cannot innocently claim to “affirm A” and expect to be left alone about the not A stuff they also say. Right, absolutely, always. Now, that said, kindly show where an FVer pulls an “A and not A” regarding some “A” that is a necessary facet of Reformed orthodoxy. And here we are again.

    Xon, I thought it was fairly clear that I was elaborating on Lane’s article, where he showed the FV statement’s difference with WCF’s wording on CoW. I’m sorry if Lane’s article didn’t satisfy you, but that was the context of my comment.

    Wilson’s rear-guard explanation that it was only talking about autonomous works is weasely revisionism. If words have meaning *before* FVers have to later on cover up their odious rear-ends by redefining them, it is simply false to assert that “the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements”. How is obeying perfectly the Law of God *not* a moral exertion or achivement?

    I know you are willing and eager to overturn the plain meaning of words and substitute in Wilson’s post hoc meaning in order to exonerate this document, but I am not.

    Do words in this document have meaning, Xon, or do we have to wait until FVers self-servingly interpret their own words for us?

  131. David Gadbois said,

    April 24, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    BTW, I hope I am not the only one disturbed by Wilson’s distinguishing between works and obedience.

    The last time I heard that explanation was from a Romanist. ‘You see, Paul was only telling us that we can’t be justified by moralistic works, but we *can* be justified by faith-empowered works.’

    I am still waiting to see where the Bible makes such a distinction.

  132. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Are the sins that we commit, as corrupt creatures, to be distinguished in “nature” from the sin Adam committed as an unfallen creature?

    If not, why is faith of a different “nature”?

  133. magma2 said,

    April 24, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    BTW, I hope I am not the only one disturbed by Wilson’s distinguishing between works and obedience.

    Massive block quotes aside, I couldn’t agree more and your comparison to arguments advanced by Rome’s apologists is spot on and very relevant.

  134. R. F. White said,

    April 24, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Xon, re: 97 and 120

    I wrote in 97, “would you tell us how you determined that the term ‘grace’ applied to the pre-fall situation?”

    You wrote in 120: “So, just so we’re clear, you are asking me where I get the idea that pre-fall Adam was given blessings from God that were not based on anything worthwhile in Adam himself?”

    That’s not quite my question, but it does move us closer as we struggle with the weblog format of our exchange. Let me ask my question differently.

    My question has to do with the method and evidence that led you to apply the term “grace” to the pre-fall God-Adam relationship. In describing this relationship, we all concede that we’re dealing with inferences from a text that doesn’t make use of the word “grace.” My question, then, is, on what basis do you justify using the term “grace” to describe “blessings given from God to a recipient not based on anything worthwhile in that recipient”? What evidence would you cite to justify that use of the term “grace”?

    Just to confirm what I’m driving at, here’s an example: many describe the pre-fall God-Adam relationship using the term “covenant” and its cognates even though the text doesn’t use the word. Ordinarily folks justify doing so having established from other context(s) what the defining traits of “covenant” are and then finding those same traits, absent the term itself, in the pre-fall situation.

    Can you do the same for us regarding the term “grace”? Feel free to cite a source who has if you personally haven’t done so.

  135. its.reed said,

    April 24, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Ref. 135:

    Paul: so you would say that there are no differences between pre-fall and post-fall faith, that the fall had no material effect on the nature of faith?

  136. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Magma, try engaging in a little propositional logic, would you? It is supposed to be a Clarkian forte, isn’t it? (Perhaps not “logic” proper, b/c I’m not an expert on Clark, but some sort of analysis of truth in terms of propositions? That is precisely what I am doing here and what you are refusing to do. You are merely asserting that certain things are contradictory without showing how they are so. You aren’t even trying to interpret FV statements in terms of their intent.

    First, there is no such thing as an “autonomously produced exertion or moral rectitude” or anything else for that matter. No wonder you folks are correctly identified as Arminians. But, you have not resolved the contradiction by saying works with faith is obedience and works without faith are works. This is a distinction without meaning.

    How does the FV denial that Adam was obligated to provide autonomously produced exertion or moral rectitude (APEoMR) amount to an assertion that there is such a thing as APEoMR? The whole reason that FVers deny it is b/c they do not think it is possible. You are right, it does not exist. But then much language about “merit” and the “cov of works” these days appears to act like that IS what Adam was supposed to do, and hence the problem FVers have with that language.

    As to why it is a “distinction without meaning,” maybe you could actually show why that is so? It isn’t obvious.

    So what? Are you saying that any definition no matter how contrived and artificial, not to mention nonsensical and asinine, is to be accepted just because you and they say so? You’re going to have to work harder than that Xon.

    Any definition a person uses is the definition that person uses. Simple, axiomatic, irrefutible. Again, see the immigrant analogy I gave in my earlier comment. If the immigrant thought that “hit” means “thank,” then he was NOT threatening the police officer when he uttered the phrase “I want to hit you.” The police officer’s harsh reaction might still be understandable (this is just an analogy), but to charge the immigrant with a crime for saying a word, regardless of how he was using that word, is insane.

    You don’t have to “accept” the FV usage of words. You can do the Humpty Dumpty thing and jump all over them for “misusing words”, tell them “words mean things, guys,” and so forth. And you may or may not be right to do that. I myself certainly don’t think it’s a good idea to just make up your own idiosyncratic meanings for words (but I don’t think that’s what FVers have done here, either). But , and this is the kicker, that is a completely different criticism of the FV than ‘you guys are heretics who deny Reformed orthodoxy.” If you want to accuse them of “using words with unconventional and thus incorrect meanings,” then fine. Accuse away. But if you want to accuse them of committing a substantive contradiction with something in the Confession, then you have to take their own intended definitions into account, even if you think those definitions are stupid. Otherwise you’re criticizing them for something they aren’t actually saying.

    Suppose, magma, that the word “work” is actually a vulgar term for sexual intercourse. You don’t know that, though, b/c you have some weird form of amnesia, or you had a very very inadequate teacher in grammar school (and an appeasing family who doesn’t like to correct you), etc. Whatever. But for whatever reason, you said to me just a little while ago “I’m sorry but you’re going to have to work harder than this Xon.” So now I am offended b/c you just told me that I have to have “harder” sexual relations, in a very vulgar way. And you see, the word “work” means that, whether you meant to use it that way or not. Therefore, I can transfer the dictionary definition of the word into your own sentence, and I am allowed to tread you like that was your own intention. ?? Obviously not. So back to substance, then…

    I have and so has Lane who wrote: “So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP.” Simply calling obedience “not works” doesn’t cut it, nor does it change anything.

    Again, I ask you to define the word “works” in that sentence in quotation marks in a way that is univocally accurate for both the WCF and the JFVP and which still renders the entire sentence true. To make it a bit more clear, let me be more direct than I was previously: I deny that this can be done.You will have to do it to prove me wrong. We’ll look at your attempt to do so below.

    If FV doesn’t think that obedience and works are synonymous, then that is a significant fact that is necessary to understand them correctly. Saying it “doesn’t change anything” is sheer madness.

    Again, your argument really does seem to be of a form that is a grossly obvious example of equivocation. You define a word a certain way, then assume it always has that meaning (by going to the dictionary, which is a ridiculous tactic in a dispute over ideas), then show a contradiction between two statements on the basis of your meaning. If that is your argument, then logically you have no argument. If that is not your argument, then you have to make allowance for the way the different parties are using the same word. This is just how good faith disputes over meaning are had, Magma. If this is just an adversarial confrontation, where the goal is to look strong and noble against the other side, then you win. I’m just not interested in that.

    Besides, Wilson said, “But here are some terms that one ought not be allowed to interchange as though they were synonyms — obedience and works.” You might have noticed that’s exactly what the Confession does when it defines the covenant of works. Wilson says this is not allowed. I guess it’s a good thing the Divines at Westminster weren’t taking orders from Wilson.

    Wilson and the divines disagree over whether two words are synonymous? So what? What hay are you trying to make out of this? At least when it comes to reading the JFVP, you can’t interchange “obedience” and “works” b/c in that document they are not used synonymously. Are you saying that all people are obligated to use them synonymously? Or are you just saying that the Confession requires those who subscribe to it to use them synonymously? (Both of which are clearly false).

    But, regardless of his protests and word games, his formulation places him squarely *outside* of the Confession along with EVERY ONE of the signers of that bit of nonsense Wilson wrote and you defend.

    Again, please do demonstrate this claim. If you agree with Lane that “So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP,” then what does “works” mean in that sentence? I’m just keeping the scorecard updated, which is that you haven’t actually entered the ring and taken a punch yet. You and Don King have told the whole world a bunch of times what you’re “gonna” do, but you haven’t done it yet.

    Yes, that’s my claim Xon. They do not distinguish “moral exertions or achievements” and “obedience” they merely assert it.

    They merely assert that they distinguish? How do you know? If a person tells you he thinks “reptiles” are different from “amphibians,” is that a mere assertion that he then has to somehow prove? How does a person go about proving to you that they really do distinguish between the meaning of two terms, other than telling you that they do?

    This rises to that level [of contradicting Westminster, xrh] and then some. Frankly, it logically puts you out of the Christian faith, Confession or no Confession. As anyone can see this little word play of Wilson and his fellow false teachers is designed to allow them to assert a scheme of salvation premised on works done by faith, which they call “obedience.”

    And…there we go. A 9th commandment violation. I feel confident saying this, given that you are a regular experienced commenter in this discussion so you can’t appeal to ignorance or carelessness on this sort of thing. The claim that FVers have “designed” (deliberately set out to build that sort of system) a scheme of salvation “premised on works” is a claim that you must now prove. I’ll give you slack on ‘designed’ (am I not merciful?) and just take you as saying that they “imply,” whatever their intentions, such a system. But then you have to prove this, too. And you haven’t. Most folks just say the FVers shouldn’t be allowed to minister in Reformed denoms, not that they are outside the Christian faith altogether b/c they teach works salvation. So you’re on the thin branches here, even on your own side of the fence (sorry for the metaphor mixing). In any case, this sort of thing needs to be proven.

    And of course, when you sit down to assemble your proof, make sure you really clearly explain what “premised” means. I could look it up in the dictionary, but I already know it has a pretty wide range of definitions. Depending on what you mean, I suppose FVers DO “premise” salvation on works done by faith, in the sense that sanctification always follows justification and it is impossible to be saved without being conformed to the image of the Son. This, of course, is something the Reformed have always held, FV TR or purple with green stripes. So I assume you must mean something besides “necessary part of” in mind when you say that FVers “premise” salvation on works done by faith. So you’ll need to spell out exactly what you mean, show how it differs from classical Reformed formulatoins, and, of course, prove that FVers actaully say it. I’ll hold my breath…

    This way they can deny they are affirming salvation by works. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes on any Roman Catholic apologetics board would have recognized this ruse in a second. Like I said, you guys must really take us for complete fools.

    Just leaving this here so it doesn’t look like I’m skipping anything. No argument here to respond to, though.

    Now, as to my request that you define “works” in order to show how the statement (said by Lane, endorsed by you) “So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP” is true. You said this:

    What do you mean what meaning is that? Works and perfect personal obedience are one in the same thing. That is, after all, how the Confessions *defines* the covenant of WORKS.

    The Confession defines the covenant of works as a situation in which Adam had to earn future life by performing acts of moral rectitude without faith? Where? That is what the FVers are denying. So If that’s not what the Confession says, then the Confession does not contradict the JFVP on this point. If it does say that, then that needs to be shown b/c it isn’t obvious on the fact of the text.

    You may have noticed it doesn’t call it the Covenant of Obedience.

    Right, but it could have, on your view, b/c they are synonymous. What is your point here? I grant (as I did much earlier in this conversation) that the Confession probably takes “works” and “obedience” as synonymous. But that doesn’t mean FVers are wrong for thinking they mean different things. It means that we have to examine what the different definitions are, and THEN we can judge whether there is a contradiction. So far, all you have said here is that “works and obedience” are synonymous. But that still doesn’t tell me what those words mean. What is the “works/obedience”–give a singular univocal definition– which the Confessoin says was a necessary condition of Adam attaining future life but which FV denies was such a condition? What, exactly, is it? I think you will have a hard time defining it as “moral exertions or accomplishments done without faith,” which is what the FVers are talking about. So…you still haven’t proven anything in the way of a contradiction.

    Biblically and confessionally works and personal obedience to God’s commands are synonymous. Paul said not just hearers but the “doers of the Law will be justified.”

    One thing at a time, please. The current topic is “Does the JFVP statement contradict Westminster regarding the conditions of Adam’s continued life before the Fall?” That is not a question of what Scipture says; but a question of whether two propositions external to Scripture are consistent or inconsistent with one another. After you’ve shown that JFVP and the West confessoin are in contradiction, then you can vindicate the Confession by showing that it’s view is biblical.

    The problem is no one keeps the law and all have fallen short of the glory of God and have followed in Adam’s footsteps ever since. Belief doesn’t make works “not works.” Belief makes works “good” and not because of any intrinsic value of either belief or the works themselves, but because of Christ’s perfect and finished work imputed to us.

    So, faith (belief) works, eh? Sounds good to me. But earlier you said that FVers are wrong for “premising” salvation on works done by faith…So again you’ll have to explain what you mean by that.

  137. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    David G (#133-4),

    I had said,

    **In case I have never said this plainly enough, David G., let me say it now. Yes, if any person (FV or not) says A (or something that entails A) in one place and then in another place says not A (or something that entails not A), then they cannot innocently claim to “affirm A” and expect to be left alone about the not A stuff they also say. Right, absolutely, always. Now, that said, kindly show where an FVer pulls an “A and not A” regarding some “A” that is a necessary facet of Reformed orthodoxy. And here we are again.

    To which David G. responds:

    Xon, I thought it was fairly clear that I was elaborating on Lane’s article, where he showed the FV statement’s difference with WCF’s wording on CoW. I’m sorry if Lane’s article didn’t satisfy you, but that was the context of my comment.

    Right, that was clear David, but you did this in a comment thread in which people are disagreeing that Lane has demonstrated the contradiction. So your comment is obtuse. Lane says “Bob says A and not A.” Bob’s friend Frank says, “I disagree, Lane. Bob says A, but he never says not A.” In swoops David G, to proclaim that “it is not enough to say that Bob says A, if he also says not A.” Uh, yeah, welcome to the game, bro. It’s the sixth inning already. :-) We are sitting here debating whether Bob indeed says A and not A, so what on earth is the function of your statement that it would be bad if he did so?

    Wilson’s rear-guard explanation that it was only talking about autonomous works is weasely revisionism. If words have meaning *before* FVers have to later on cover up their odious rear-ends by redefining them, it is simply false to assert that “the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements”. How is obeying perfectly the Law of God *not* a moral exertion or achievement?

    I know you are willing and eager to overturn the plain meaning of words and substitute in Wilson’s post hoc meaning in order to exonerate this document, but I am not.

    With the colorful ad homs removed, that actually reads like a pretty reasonable argument. But here’s the problem and why I still don’t buy it. Here is the section from the statement again, with the sentence immediately preceding the troublemaker included:

    We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements.

    FVers deny that continuing in the covennat was a “payment for work rendered.” So it’s not “do such and such, and you will earn the right to stay.” The right to stay was already present. Adam was created with the right to stay. But, (next sentence) Adam would forfeit the gift “by disobedience.” So, the formula presented is this: “There is nothing extra you have to do to earn it. It is already yours. You are going to continue in it, that is already your trajectory. If you disobey, you will lose it. But I’m not keeping you in it because of something that you’re doing. I’m keeping you in it b/c this is where I made you to be in the first place.”

    Thus, Adam does not get to stay b/c he does any “moral exertions or achievements.” He gets to stay b/c God created him and graciously wants Him to stay, and that’s just the way it is. But, if he disobeys, then he no longer gets to stay. (We might want to say that “not disobeying” is itself a “moral exertion”. To not do the wrong thing is to do the right thing. To say no to druge is to say yes to not-drugs, etc. That’s a bit beyond the purview of this simple statement, though. Classically, moral action is not defined in dyadic terms: i.e., it is not defined in such a way that doing the right thing simply means you didn’t do the wrong thing. But I imagine that’s a philosophical debate that we don’t need to have)

    So, the FVers are saying that Adam did not have to “exert” himself in order to earn the right to stay. He simply had to keep on keeping on, enjoying the life that God had given him. There was no extra accomplishment (achievement) he had to do. But, if he disobeyed God’s one simple command, then that would ruin the whole thing.

    So, in the Garden, obeying God’s law perfectly is NOT a “moral exertion or achievement” b/c you aren’t doing anything other than what you were made to do. You aren’t doing anything extra to recommend yourself for the future reward or for the continuation of what you already have. Your file is not under review. It’s not that kind of a test. What is the exertion or “achievement” that Adam could do? Live in the garden like a grateful creature, glorifying God in all things, being fruitful and multiplying? That’s simply the blessed life that God made Adam to do in the first place.

    Think of it this way. When you go to the amusement park, you aren’t performing “achievements” that give you the right to stay when you enjoy the roller coasters. But if you smoke behind the food court, you’ll have to leave.

    The distinction here is between a negative and a positive condition, really. That’s all. There is a negative condition on staying: don’t smoke (or don’t eat from the Tree of Knowledge). There is no positive condition on staying…ride the Scream Machine by 2pm (sing 77 Psalms every day).

  138. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    And, to clarify, it’s also not the case that “not smoking behind the food court” gives you the RIGHT to stay in the amusement park. You get to stay in the amusement park b/c they just want you there, period. You’re not doing anything to make it right for you to stay. It’s right for you to stay b/c what the amusement park is FOR…for you to enjoy.

    Not doing the thing that would get you kicked out is not an “achievement” that earns you the right to stay.

  139. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Dr. White,

    You wrote in 120: “So, just so we’re clear, you are asking me where I get the idea that pre-fall Adam was given blessings from God that were not based on anything worthwhile in Adam himself?”

    That’s not quite my question, but it does move us closer as we struggle with the weblog format of our exchange. Let me ask my question differently.

    Oops, sorry if I misunderstood. Yes, please try again!

    My question has to do with the method and evidence that led you to apply the term “grace” to the pre-fall God-Adam relationship. In describing this relationship, we all concede that we’re dealing with inferences from a text that doesn’t make use of the word “grace.” My question, then, is, on what basis do you justify using the term “grace” to describe “blessings given from God to a recipient not based on anything worthwhile in that recipient”? What evidence would you cite to justify that use of the term “grace”?

    Oh, okay. Well, it’s most unsexy I’m afraid. I’m just thinking in boring cliched terms where grace means something like “unmerited favor.” Of course, I also like the other sloganized definitions, but those tend to focus on grace as a post-Fall reality: i.e., God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense, or Favor Dei Propter Christum, etc.

    I’m thinking in terms of Paul’s basic thought structure in 1 Corinthians 1. What do you have that you have not received? But if you received it, then why do you boast? etc.

    If you owe somebody genuine heartfelt gratitude (not just a social custom that requires you to say “thank you” mindlessly), then there is grace involved. Someone has given you favor you did not deserve.

    This gets into the whole unmerited/demerited thing. Obviously, I’m not requiring grace to be demerited favor, just unmerited favor. Which is why for me grace applies in the Garden, even though Adam had not yet demerited anything by his disobedience.

    The reason this issue is important to me is that I like to think of myself as pretty Augustinian in this regard, especially as he has been understood by some more recent philoosphers (the most recent I’ve read is the Radical Orthodoxy guy, Michael Hanby, who, by the way, horribly butchers Augy on predestination stuff, despite the good thing I’m about to repeat from him). Augustine is an “all grace, all the time” kind of person. Just drawing breath is grace. It is impossible to live in a world in which grace is not already present, because that’s the kind of God that rules the universe (we could even, provocatively, extend this to the Triune relations themselves…the Father does not eternally beget the Son out of some “moral” necessity, but out of the spontaneous necessity (my favorite antinomy, sorry Clarkians) that comes from love. To love is to delight in another, and to delight is to enjoy the thing purely for it’s own sake. God is an eternal Father because He eternally delights in the idea of Himself (to speak like Jonathan Edwards), or because He eternally delights in having a Son. And so there is the Son, who delights in having a Father right back, and so there is the Holy Spirit. (And this is all an analogy, and certainly not meant to imply any sort of temporal progression, etc.) And so from all eternity God simply IS a triune perichoretic communion of three-in-one. The three all “in” the others by delighting in the others. Doing it because they like to, and liking to is the only reason you need. That’s delight. That’s also why God creates, I think. So it’s all grace. We are ruled by a God who gives of Himself in ways that are not “required,” but simply because He delights in doing so. And what more of a reason does He need?

    Thus, I just can’t think of creation as anything but gracious already. Now, I really do try to be ecumenical on this stuff, and so if there is some other word we want to use besides “grace” then I’m open to hearing what it is. But if our reason for rejecting “grace” talk is that we want Adam to be in this contractual relationship to God where he owes him a bunch of stuff before God will really accept him, then I want off that train right now.

    Of course, after sin enters the world, this is the human problem: we now owe God something before He can really accept us, which is our problem. But it wasn’t the original deal.

    I hope that clarifies my position a bit, and if the semi-philosophical excursion (it’s never fully philosophical unless I have time to think about it before I actually write it :-) ) is unhelpful, then ignore to your heart’s content.

  140. April 24, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    [...] own foot to escape as steel trap and Lane Keister has laid a nice trap in his recent post on the Joint Federal Vision Profession (JFVP). Keister begins by drawing his prey in by expressing his frustration with the men of the [...]

  141. Joseph Randall said,

    April 24, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Jason (73)

    Thanks for your comment, but I don’t understand why the basis or ground on which the reward is granted to Christ (His perfect works) must be confused with the way in which He obeyed the Father – by trusting the Father – by doing nothing of Himself (John 5:30)? Furthermore, only Adam and Jesus could be justified by works. Adam failed, Jesus succeeded.

    It seems to me it plays out this way:

    For Jesus:
    1. Jesus trusted His Father and was wholly dependent on Him (How can you argue against this from Scripture?? No one pleases God who does anything that is not done by faith – Hebrews 11)
    2. Therefore, Jesus performed perfect obedience
    3. Therefore, on the basis of His perfect obedience unto death, He was justified, given the name above all names, and found worthy to open the scroll (Revelation 5)

    For all sinners:
    1. They trust Jesus
    2. Therefore they are justified based only on the propitiation and perfect work of Christ
    3. Therefore, they do good works (good works, as already mentioned, that must be washed in the blood of the Lamb because no good work we ever do is perfect. Everything we do, even after conversion, is tainted with sin. As Spurgeon said, even our tears of repentance are dirty! We desperately need the work of another!)

    If you keep these distinctions clear (especially the BASIS or GROUND distinction) it seems to me there’s no confusion and Jesus Christ gets all the glory for what He did. He merited (or worthied to use Revelation 5 language) our salvation! All praise to Him!

  142. magma2 said,

    April 24, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    How does the FV denial that Adam was obligated to provide autonomously produced exertion or moral rectitude (APEoMR) amount to an assertion that there is such a thing as APEoMR? The whole reason that FVers deny it is b/c they do not think it is possible. You are right, it does not exist. But then much language about “merit” and the “cov of works” these days appears to act like that IS what Adam was supposed to do, and hence the problem FVers have with that language.

    We can dance all day by there is no such thing as an “autonomously produced exertion.” I thought you guys at least feigned Calvinism?

    As to why it is a “distinction without meaning,” maybe you could actually show why that is so? It isn’t obvious.

    First, as mentioned twice now, there are no autonomous actions. Second, to say obedience is “not works” is asinine. Third, saying that faith in addition to “deeds” (of the law) is not works, but is rather “obedience” is equally asinine. Fourth, the Confessional CoW was conditioned on Adam’s perfect obedience to God’s command. Adams (perfect) obedience was the work required.

    Any definition a person uses is the definition that person uses.

    Fine, just stop pretending to be Confessional. Nobody is fooled.

    I have and so has Lane who wrote: “So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP.” Simply calling obedience “not works” doesn’t cut it, nor does it change anything.

    Again, I ask you to define the word “works” in that sentence in quotation marks in a way that is univocally accurate for both the WCF and the JFVP

    Not sure why this hard for you, but I completely understand why it’s embarrassing. Actually Doug should be doing his own dirty work and shouldn’t be sitting back having you do it for him. Regardless, the idea of works does not mean the same thing for both the WCF and the JFVP. That’s the point. There is no “univocality” between the WCF and the JFVP. The JFVP contradicts the WCF. The JFVP asserts the condition was obedience but asserts that obedience isn’t work.

    Again, your argument really does seem to be of a form that is a grossly obvious example of equivocation. You define a word a certain way, then assume it always has that meaning (by going to the dictionary, which is a ridiculous tactic in a dispute over ideas), then show a contradiction between two statements on the basis of your meaning.

    Look Xon, if you want to believe in antonymous actions and call them “works,” but deny that Adam’s perfect obedience is a work that would have satisfied the CoW, knock yourself out. But stop pretending to be either Confessional or a Calvinist.

    Besides, Wilson said, “But here are some terms that one ought not be allowed to interchange as though they were synonyms — obedience and works.” You might have noticed that’s exactly what the Confession does when it defines the covenant of works. Wilson says this is not allowed. I guess it’s a good thing the Divines at Westminster weren’t taking orders from Wilson.

    Wilson and the divines disagree over whether two words are synonymous? So what?

    So what? Everything, that’s what. If the Confession defines X as Y, but Wilson and your ilk disagree with the Confessional definition and instead define X as Z then why the prattle about being “Confessional”? FWIW I don’t care if you guys believe in works righteousness and are Romanists in Reformed garb with powdered wigs. Just stop being such absolute cowards and be honest about it. If Reformed orthodoxy is measured by the Reformed creeds, and in the PCA that would be the WCF, if you want to redefine and alter key terms, even in such a way as to contradict what the Confession teaches, then you’re not Reformed. QED

    What hay are you trying to make out of this? At least when it comes to reading the JFVP, you can’t interchange “obedience” and “works” b/c in that document they are not used synonymously. Are you saying that all people are obligated to use them synonymously? Or are you just saying that the Confession requires those who subscribe to it to use them synonymously? (Both of which are clearly false).

    Both are clearly false, eh? So are you saying that when the Confession speaks of obedience under the CoW it is not referencing Adam’s obedience as works? That’s a new one.

    This rises to that level [of contradicting Westminster, xrh] and then some. Frankly, it logically puts you out of the Christian faith, Confession or no Confession. As anyone can see this little word play of Wilson and his fellow false teachers is designed to allow them to assert a scheme of salvation premised on works done by faith, which they call “obedience.”

    And…there we go. A 9th commandment violation. I feel confident saying this, given that you are a regular experienced commenter in this discussion so you can’t appeal to ignorance or carelessness on this sort of thing. The claim that FVers have “designed” (deliberately set out to build that sort of system) a scheme of salvation “premised on works” is a claim that you must now prove. I’ll give you slack on ‘designed’ (am I not merciful?) and just take you as saying that they “imply,” whatever their intentions, such a system

    Yawn.

    The Confession defines the covenant of works as a situation in which Adam had to earn future life by performing acts of moral rectitude without faith? Where? That is what the FVers are denying.

    The issue is not to believe or not to believe (or would that be the question), but whether or not the obedience spoken of constitutes the works required under the covenant. FVers say no. They say works done by faith are not works, they are acts of obedience flowing from grace and faith. Either way, FVers still say no.

    You may have noticed it doesn’t call it the Covenant of Obedience.

    Right, but it could have, on your view, b/c they are synonymous. What is your point here? I grant (as I did much earlier in this conversation) that the Confession probably takes “works” and “obedience” as synonymous.

    Why “probably” Xon? Are you saying you don’t know? Or are you just afraid to admit the obvious and make Wilson and the other FV’ers look like the sophists they clearly are?

    So far, all you have said here is that “works and obedience” are synonymous. But that still doesn’t tell me what those words mean. What is the “works/obedience”–give a singular univocal definition– which the Confessoin says was a necessary condition of Adam attaining future life but which FV denies was such a condition?

    Works are doing what God commands.

    Being obedient is doing what God commands.

    How many times do I have to cover this and in how many ways before you’ll understand? Scratch that, I think you do understand.

    The problem is no one keeps the law and all have fallen short of the glory of God and have followed in Adam’s footsteps ever since. Belief doesn’t make works “not works.” Belief makes works “good” and not because of any intrinsic value of either belief or the works themselves, but because of Christ’s perfect and finished work imputed to us.

    So, faith (belief) works, eh? Sounds good to me. But earlier you said that FVers are wrong for “premising” salvation on works done by faith…So again you’ll have to explain what you mean by that.

    Of course belief works. And, yes, FVer’s are wrong for premising salvation on works done by faith. Don’t feel lonely, the Roman scheme is wrong too and for the same reason.

  143. magma2 said,

    April 24, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Warning – another blockquote malfunction.

  144. pduggie said,

    April 24, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    138:

    I guess I wouldn’t say that there is no difference, because I’ve already said “No, because Adam’s call to be an heir all to himself qualitatively differentiates the nature of his faith”

    So I myself (unwittingly) said there are two natures of faith pre-and post fall.

    I’m not sure that is a “material” difference, since I don’t know what a “material” difference between 2 kinds of faith is.

    I’ll assert till the cows come home that there is a useful analogy to be drawn between these faiths though.

  145. Xon said,

    April 24, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Magma, you need to be careful b/c you’re fitting the sterotype that Lane doesn’t like about anti-FVers very well. You are egregiously misreading what I am saying. I said, clearly, that there is no such thing as autonomy. Read it again. You quote me saying it, and then you say I’m trying to “dance” with you about whether it exists? Read more carefully, please, or this is pointless. Sorry to be so blunt, but if I say A and you make a big show of coming down on me for not saying A, then I don’t know what else to do for you.

    Moving on (sort of), I had said: As to why it is a “distinction without meaning,” maybe you could actually show why that is so? It isn’t obvious.

    Your response:

    First, as mentioned twice now, there are no autonomous actions.

    Right, and as I am saying for the third time now, I agree that there are no autonomous actions. Which is why the FVers are right to say that Adam was not required to render them. Since unicorns do not exist, God did not require Adam to tame one.

    Second, to say obedience is “not works” is asinine. Third, saying that faith in addition to “deeds” (of the law) is not works, but is rather “obedience” is equally asinine. Fourth, the Confessional CoW was conditioned on Adam’s perfect obedience to God’s command. Adams (perfect) obedience was the work required.

    Right, it was conditioned. As in, obedience was a necessary condition. In a conditional statement, “Adam obeyed” is the consequent. If Adam kept on living, then Adam obeyed. (The consequent is the necessary condition of the antecedent). Nobody denies this.

    Now, as to the rest, this is getting redundant, and you are obviously more interested in the “adversarial” angle than in the “discussion that seeks to understand the other person” angle. So, like I said before, I’m not in the mood for that. I’ll keep this one pretty quick.

    First, I’m not in the PCA, and I have never subscribed to the Westminster Confession. Just to clear things up on that score. That said, I think the Westminster Confession is great, and if required to do so I could with a few exceptions.

    Works are doing what God commands.

    Being obedient is doing what God commands.

    Hey, a definition. Hooray! Okay, so on this definition we can plug “doing what God commands” in for “works” in this sentence of Lane’s that you said was right on:

    “So the condition of obtaining eternal life was works, according to the WCF, and not works according to the JFVP”

    So, let’s look at that sentence with “doing what God commands” plugged in for “works”. (and let’s name the proposition LM1, for Lane/Magma1):

    LM1: So the condition of obtaining eternal life was doing what God commands, according to the WCF, and (it was) not doing what God commands according to the JFVP.

    Now, if LM1 is true, then there’s a contradiction between WCF and JFVP (assuming none of the other words are being used equivocally). But, is LM1 true? No, it’s not, because JFVP does not, in fact say that doing what God commands was not the condition of obtaining eternal life.

    Show me where they say that, please. Oh right, you’re going to say it’s where they say that Adam’s continued life was not conditioned on “moral exertion or achievement”, which means (acc. to you) the same thing as obedience. But that’s not what FVers mean when they say it. So, whether they are right or wrong, they are not asserting something which in content contradicts the WCF.

    All the rest of it is not worth responding to. This is the main issue. (To offer a quick response just the same to one thing, though: I affirm the Confession because I agree that “doing what God commands” was a condition for maintaining life. And since, as you yourself say, that’s what the Confession means when it says “obedience” and “works,” then I’ve got no problem. But the confession does not require me to go around saying certain words. I can express the same thing with other words. The Confession is not about what words we use. Basic word/concept distinction here. Philosophy of Langauge 101.)

  146. HaigLaw said,

    April 24, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Well, I’ve read the first 10 or so responses and suppose mine will be at least as germane. :)

    I’ve heard a lot from FVers and defenders about them not being understood properly, too, but what about the PCA’s 9 points?

    Do they accurately state the differences? I’ve heard FV opponents say no.

    And I find them a little obtuse. The only one I’d voluntarily use to explain to an outsider what the differences are is #2. Point 2 of the 9, for example, as I discuss in my latest Xanga blog on this subject, says this about one of the points attributed to FV theology, “The view that an individual is ‘elect’ by virtue of his membership in the visible church; and that this ‘election’ includes justification, adoption and sanctification; but that this individual could lose his ‘election’ if he forsakes the visible church, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.”

  147. magma2 said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Right, and as I am saying for the third time now, I agree that there are no autonomous actions. Which is why the FVers are right to say that Adam was not required to render them. Since unicorns do not exist, God did not require Adam to tame one.

    And that’s why I said three times the distinctions that were made by those you foolishly defend are artificial and contrived. They’re asserting unicorns and you’re defending their nonsense.

    We’re done Xon.

  148. R. F. White said,

    April 24, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Xon, re: 142,

    Thanks for the comments. Two other points for clarification:

    1) would you say that justice was a component of the pre-fall God-Adam relationship as unmerited favor was, or was unmerited favor the only component of their relationship before the fall?

    2) how do you distinguish justice from grace before the fall?

  149. pduggie said,

    April 25, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Its only conceivably unjust to give a demerited person a gift, so yes, justice was a component.

  150. R. F. White said,

    April 25, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    Pduggie, re:152,

    Tell us more about how God was just toward Adam before the fall.

  151. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 25, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Xon (#129):

    This, though … is not going down easily for me. Giving me heartburn. The reason is b/c I’ve spent the last few years arguing with people about this stuff, and a lot of anti-FVers DO seems to want to say that Adam was supposed to “obey an external standard of righteousness rather than act like a faithful son.” Lane, for instance, on this very blog, has denied, explicitly, that Adam had faith. He denied on Wilson’s blog that Adam would have owed God a “thank you” if he had obeyed and attained glorified life.

    Suppose for a moment that anti-FV has misread the FV argument as an attack on federal headship and the crucial concept that Christ as our head entirely acquired salvation for us.

    Now suppose that the response is *intended* to preserve that concept — but the most natural line of defense is to undermine the FV argument. Wouldn’t it be natural to respond by “attacking the attack”? In other words, doesn’t it make sense to read a lot of the arguments you have read as attempted defenses of headship and entire acquisition of salvation INSTEAD OF defenses of abstract notions of merit?

    Supporting evidence: consider where those conversations go. Do people rhapsodize poetically about the virtues of “natural law” or a standard of righteousness that is outside of God? Or, do they firmly insist that Christ paid it all for us, and to say otherwise is to deny the gospel?

    Clearly, the latter, consistently. Overwhelmingly. And that fact indicates, to my mind, what motives the argument.

    Just because people (Kline, for instance) *say* things like “strict justice” does NOT mean that they *mean* things like “abstract righteousness points” — they might instead mean something like “entirely satisfying God’s righteous requirements”, which is consistent with my account above.

    Jeff

  152. Xon said,

    April 26, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Jeff,

    Certainly I do not what to do to others what has been done to us. If every anti-FVer who defends “merit” is simply meaning to defend the sufficiency of Christ, then I’m grieved to think I have misrepresented their arguments. I don’t know what else to say at this point, as I am simply not convinced of yet that they all mean what you say they mean. But I appreciate your efforts here. :-)

    Dr. White, you asked me two questions (#151) (and folks could also look back at my #s 140-2 for context of Dr. White’s questions):

    1) would you say that justice was a component of the pre-fall God-Adam relationship as unmerited favor was, or was unmerited favor the only component of their relationship before the fall?

    2) how do you distinguish justice from grace before the fall?

    First, the quick answers. Yes, I would say that justice was a component of God and Adam’s pre-fall relationship. And I would say that they are distinguished, in very broad terms, in the same way that we distinguish them post-Fall. In otherwords, grace has to do with an unmerited gift, a gift given without regard to the inherent worth of the one to whom the gift is given, and justice has to do with the “fittingness” of the things that happen in the world with their moral worth.

    Elaborating a bit…

    1. There is no distinction in God between justice and grace. The apparent “tension” between them is a result of the Fall. Because we are sinners, it is difficult to understand how God can be favorable to us AND remain just. Thus the incarnation and Christ’s atonement for sinners, etc. But pre-Fall this sin problem does not yet exist, and so there is no reason to think that justice was not present in the Garden right along with grace. In fact, we should insist they were both present because, again, in God there is no distinction between them. And the world, per my earlier comments, is a gracious act, therefore it is also a just act. Everything gracious that God does is also just. God is infinite and simple; there are not “parts” in God. His one attribute isn’t over here, and this other attribute over there, etc. All his attributes “overlap;” every part of God is all of God. His love and His power and His justice and His grace are all one. So if God does something out of His grace then He is also doing it out of his justice.

    Justice is there right along side grace in the Garden, because it is entirely fitting and in proportion with God’s own harmony that He should continue the creature which He made out of love in the first place. It is gracious of God to keep Adam going, and it is also just. Justice here simply means that the world is as it should be. Justice is an aspect of God’s essence, not an external standard that judges God. Everything God does is good, and pre-sin there is no creaturely-introduced corruption of what God has done that God has to deal with. In other words, justice is simply the “default” state of things, pre-sin. It’s not as though God’s justice requires Him to DO something other than what He has already done in creating (and sustaining) the world, b/c He created the world to be a reflection of His own glory and He is perfect at what He does. So, He has made a world that reflects His glory (in a finite way). Everything in the world “fits”. Everything is as God designed it to be, so the world is in a state of perfect justice.

    So, in the Garden, you’ve got God and man. God is always, eternally, infinitely (as infinite), just and gracious. There is no contadiction and no “tension”. You also have man who is unfallen, existing in the fulfillment of the life for which he was created. And that’s all justice IS really…when all things function in fulfillment of their design. But when that happens pre-fall it’s grace just as much as it’s justice. It’s grace b/c God made all that exists (creation ex nihilo) from His own spontaneous love and delight. He gives being to all things, freely and without conditions. But this is also perfectly fitting and just, for what could be more just than that there should be a world that God has made in this way? That there should be a finite world that reflects the glory of the Creator is as just as it gets.

    2. The distinction b/w justice and grace is valid in much the same way that the distinction between the three Persons is valid. In God, these are not different things at all, just as the Father and the Son are not different essences, but the one and the same essence “subsiting” in two different modes of relationality. So we can distinguish justice and grace in the sense that they each represent God’s one perfect infinite activity as it touches on different things. When God knocks down the walls of Jericho, for instance, we call that an act of His “power,” but it’s not as though God’s power was doing something by itself there and His other attributes weren’t all equally active at the same time.

    Likewise, when God does something as a spontaneous gift of delight/love for someone outside of Himself who in no way has “earned” the gift, then God is being gracious. And when He does something that causes the world to “match” or reflect His own perfect harmony (such as punishing a sinner, post-Fall), then that is His justice. But pre-Fall there are no sinners to punish. But justice is still there, because God’s very act of creation was an act to cause the world (by creating it, by giving the world being in the first place) to reflect His own perfect harmony. And as long as it did that, it was a just world. When it stopped doing that b/c sin entered the picture, then God, because He is just, had to deal with the new failure in harmony. The reflection no longer reflects it’s Maker: that won’t do. So God sets it right, which is justice.

    But pre-Fall, there is nothing to set right, because everything already IS right. And noone has to do anything to KEEP it right, either. And so the pre-Fall world is at once both gracious and just. It is because it does adequately reflect the Creator, and it is gracious because it does so by God’s own good pleasure, and not through any obligation He had to “reward” the creature with something.

    Hope that makes a little more sense of things as I thinkof them.

  153. its.reed said,

    April 27, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Ref. 155:

    Xon:

    Interesting. As Adam (Eve) had to refrain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, wasn’t this something man had to do to KEEP the garden right?

  154. Xon said,

    April 27, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Reed, that’s a good question, and as the Scholastics would say, yes and no. :-)

    I went through this a bit above in #s 140-1 (I think), just to give some context. If you read those comments you’ll get a fuller idea of what I’m driving at hopefully.

    First, the “yes.” Yes, if Adam didn’t obey God then pre-Fall life would be ruined. It could be ruined by disobedience. Thus, not disobeying becomes a necessary condition of keeping it going. This is the “logical” sense of condition, where any one state of affairs bears a sufficient or necessary relationship to another state of affairs. In that sense, yes, refraining from eating of the tree was a condition (i.s., “something man had to do”) of keeping the Garden right.

    But in another sense, “no.” In any sense of “merit” or “earning” or “desert,” etc. , man does nothing to keep the Garden going. The Garden kept going b/c that’s what God wanted it to do. He made hte Garden for man to enjoy, and man’s enjoyment of it is simply the way things are “supposed to be.”

    My analogy earlier was riding the roller coasters at the amusement park. If I do something disruptive and potentially harmful, like harrassing little kids on the teacups, then I will be kicked out of the park. But if I DON’T do anything bad like that, then I get to stay. But I don’t get to stay because I’ve “earned the right” to stay. Rather, I stay b/c the amusement park owner is kind and gracious and he wants me there. It’s not like he says “Every moment that you ride the roller coasters and enjoy yourself wihtout making trouble for others, you are earning the right to stay.” Instead, he made the park to be enjoyed; that’s what it’s FOR. Our enjoying of it doesn’t constittute us doing something meritorious that earns us the right to be in the park. We have no “right” to be in the park. We are there b/c the owner graciously wants us there. He has given it to us as a gift.

    Hope that makes some sense.

  155. Xon said,

    April 27, 2008 at 7:48 am

    Correct that a bit. You DO have a right to be in the park, b/c you were created by God (as it were) to be in the park. But your “right” to be there has nothing to do with anything in yourself. (I’m trying to smooth out what I said above with what I said in 140. I chose my words a bit differently each time)

  156. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 27, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Re: 157, Xon,

    Please consider Gen 2:15

    And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

    So you probably should reconsider the following:

    But in another sense, “no.” In any sense of “merit” or “earning” or “desert,” etc. , man does nothing to keep the Garden going. The Garden kept going b/c that’s what God wanted it to do. He made hte [sic] Garden for man to enjoy, and man’s enjoyment of it is simply the way things are “supposed to be.”

    Gen 2:15 explicitly contradicts you, WRT your phrase “man does nothing to keep the Garden going.” Adam had to dress it and keep it. That sort of undercuts your “no” answer.

  157. Bob Suden said,

    April 27, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    I am surprised that nobody yet has commented on Lane’s complaint above that:

    “There seemed to be a desire on the part of the signatories to say that they had no desire to present a “moving target.” I have found the FV to be an extremely moving target. The minute one has a logical argument against a position that has been written down, I am told that that isn’t their position. It was their position just a minute before, when what we had was written documentation. However, what always seems to happen is that I am told that I am a dolt, an irresponsible nincompoop, who cannot even understand plain English.”

    (Consequently the junior grade resident trolls in training get to take a swipe or two.)

    1. John Robbins nailed this same phenomena in his Theonomic Schizophrenia essay and guess what, there are theonomic roots and personalities in the FV. As in some things never change. Heraclitus is still the patron saint of Federal (It’s All In Flux) Vision. Reality and truth are everchanging just like the proverbial river. So too theology. Forget all that jazz about pre Enlightenment and medievalism. These guys are pre Socratic. (To that end there’s the mighty Mississippi of Jordan, the babbling boy brook of Brooklyn and even Roll On Columbia . . . .)
    But if earth, wind, fire and air were the classic elements of ancient philosophy, so too the visible church is the only element of real substance in the FV theology. The “objective” material visible covenant, the sign for what is signified in the sacraments etc. and so on.

    2. As for Mr. Wilson, he hasn’t engaged in this behavior, which is good, but neither has he repudiated it. Still our Snake River scribbler, when he wasn’t churning out fodder for the Loose Cannon Press, penned a little squib for Highland Books, For Kirk and Covenant, The Stalwart Courage of John Knox. And regardless of what is left out of FK&C in the rehabilitation of his personality and character, John Knox is still a man of stalwart orthodoxy and perspicuous doctrine.
    One question of great moment then becomes whether or not Knox’s doctrine of election and predestination – ‘without which faith can never be truly taught or established nor man brought to true humility and knowledge of himself and ravished of God’s eternal goodness and so praise him aright’ – makes any real appearance at all in Wilson’s RINE or the JFVP? (Granted Haiglaw touches briefly on election above.)
    Rather Mr. W. and the FV, along with Knox’s anabaptist adversary, “esteem the matter of small weight and importance.” They damn it with faint praise, if not faint mention; if not the addition of and emphasis on the visible church to the exclusion of the doctrine of election and predestination.
    For all practical purposes, what Knox accords to the doctrine of election, Wilson and the FV accord to the “objectivity” of the covenant and visible church membership.

    “The comfort hereof doth none seal except the chosen children of God, and that in the day when man’s justice faileth, and the battle of their conscience is most grievous and fearful. Therefore as Faith springeth from Election, so it is established by the true knowledge of that doctrine only, which this day is most furiously oppugned by those who do not understand the same. . . .
    For so long as they see not that true faith and salvation (as in the Discourse shall be more plainly declared) spring from Election and are “the gift of God, and come not of ourselves,” so long are they deceived and remain in error. . .
    But let us, dear Brethren, be assured, that none other doctrine doth establish faith, nor make man humble and thankfull unto God. And finally, that none other doctrine maketh man careful to obey God according to his commandment . . . (Works 5:25-30)

    John Knox’s what? That’s what I thought. In short just reading Knox’s preface to his work on Predestination, we may quickly learn in Wilson’s own words, “how a man may be greatly honored in name while studiously ignored in substance (p.12)” by “fairweather Protestants (p.74)” and “temporizers (pp.50,171)”, however much we may be considered a “sectarian perfectionist (p.134)” on account of it.

    Mr. W may wave his serrated butter knife all he wants and mablog on in indignant self righteousness in ReformedIsNotEnough or the JFVP, but the sharp two edged claymore and broadsword of Scripture wielded by a Scotchman in his book on Predestination lays waste to the FV case.

    The FV is a fraud of the first water, order and magnitude and the Caucus of Reformed Erzatz Christians are welcome to it.

  158. R. F. White said,

    April 27, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Xon, in 140-42 and 155,

    You’ve been kind enough to respond to my questions. Let me turn the tables on myself and put out some comments of my own on pre-fall Adam and to have you see what you think. I’m sure you’ll hear some harmony in my comments with Lane’s, but here goes …

    Adam begins in a state of great favor with God. The favor shown by God to Adam before the fall did not consist in acts contrary to his unfitness (i.e., demerited favor), nor did it consist in acts according to his positive fitness (i.e., merited favor). Rather the favor shown by God to Adam consisted in acts despite the absence of his positive fitness (i.e., unmerited favor). In the case of Adam before the fall, then, God condescended to show him favor despite the absence of positive fitness in him; God’s favor toward unfallen Adam was unmerited.

    Yet Adam’s initial state of great favor was not his final and greatest state of favor. There was a state of favor into which he had not entered and that was set before him in the fulfillment of Gen 2:15 and Gen 1:28. He would have to move from his first state of great glory to a second, final state of greatest glory. But how? When God introduces the commandment of Gen 2, we learn with Adam that the only man fit to inherit the greatest glory would be one who had proven to be fit for it by his obedience to divine commandment. We also learn with Adam that at creation he was not the man fit for the favor of greatest glory: Adam was not created fit for the final state of favor represented by the two commissions of Gen 1:28 and 2:15. That man, the one who would be fit for that greatest glory, would be the man who had kept the commandment of Gen 2:16-17.

    So, in the spirit of what others have point out, Xon, it seems to me that, if Adam’s initial state of great favor was without regard for his positive fitness, his final state of greatest glory would decidedly not be without regard for that fitness. Unmerited favor may have been Adam’s initial state, but merited favor was to be his final state.

  159. Xon said,

    April 27, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    Andrew D (#159),

    I’m sorry but I don’t think Gen 2:15 contradicts my view at all. Yes, God made man and put him in the garden with a purpose (to dress and keep it). My own view allows that man has a purpose. What it denies is that man “merits” or “earns” something by fulfilling his purpose.

  160. Xon said,

    April 27, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Dr. White, thanks for being kind enough to offer your own view here. (You’re already a teacher of Israel, and so it’s not as though you have any obligation to come on here and do that).

    I would like to interact further. But for now can I just ask you one question? Why are you equating “fitness” and “merit”?

  161. Roger Mann said,

    April 28, 2008 at 2:01 am

    163: Xon wrote,

    I would like to interact further. But for now can I just ask you one question? Why are you equating “fitness” and “merit”?

    May I hazard a guess that it’s because Scripture clearly teaches that perfect obedience to God’s law earns or merits God’s covenantal favor:

    …for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified. — Romans 2:13

    Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. — Romans 4:4

    For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” — Romans 10:5

    And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work. — Romans 11:6

    Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” — Galatians 3:12

  162. R. F. White said,

    April 28, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Xon, re: 163,

    Teacher or not, I’m here voluntarily because I enjoy the work of discussing theology with people who are willing to identify the reasons why disagreements exist and who are also willing to see if we can find grounds for agreement. When I read something with which I disagree (as I did in your posts), I push myself to resist my innate fortress mentality and to do the (often tedious and boring) work of asking folks to identify the things that have led them to the conclusions I don’t share, things such as prior commitments, assumptions, methods, standards, sources, and (yes, even) sanctions. Hence my questions (and yours) about key terms like “fitness” and “merit.”

    About the term ‘fitness,’ I used it because you used it or terms related to it in three statements:
    1) “justice has to do with the ‘fittingness’ of the things that happen in the world with their moral worth.”
    2) “Justice is there right along side grace in the Garden, because it is entirely fitting and in proportion with God’s own harmony that He should continue the creature which He made out of love in the first place. It is gracious of God to keep Adam going, and it is also just. Justice here simply means that the world is as it should be. Justice is an aspect of God’s essence, not an external standard that judges God.”
    3) “And when He does something that causes the world to “match” or reflect His own perfect harmony (such as punishing a sinner, post-Fall), then that is His justice.”

    “Fitness,” then, has to do with Adam’s harmony (your word) or conformity (my word) with what God says he should be, that is, the fact that Adam fits, matches, reflects what God says he should be. Fitness has to do with qualification and worthiness (echoing your reference to worth).

    As for ‘merit,’ my use of that term too was prompted by your use of the term or its cognates. I take it that ‘merit’ is a biblically sound concept referring to that to which God says commendation or reward is due, that to which God says a certain value or worth is assigned. To be clear, I reject any scheme of thought (e.g., the infusionist scheme of condign/congruent merit) that sees merit as something “deserving of grace.”

    As you can tell, Roger Mann in 164 has anticipated what I have in mind.

  163. R. F. White said,

    April 28, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Xon,

    Your exchange in 159 and 160 with Andrew D on Gen 2.15 raises a question: what is the relationship between the purpose given to Adam in Gen 2.15 and the commandment given to Adam in Gen 2.16-17? That is, would Adam be fit to fulfill the purpose given to him without keeping the commandment given to him?

  164. Xon said,

    April 28, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Roger,

    Those verses don’t say anything about “meriting” anything, unless all you mean by “merit” is “fulfill a condition.” But if that’s all you mean, then there has never been any disagreement between anyone in the Reformed world over that kind of “merit.” If we are “earning” or “meriting” God’s covenantal favor by simply doing that which God says has to happen in order to receive said favor, then mouths “earn” food by opening when the fork comes near. “Merit” has become nothing but a synonym for “condition.”

  165. Steven W said,

    April 28, 2008 at 10:50 am

    I think these last few comments are really getting to the heart of the disagreement. This is good to see, because I do not think that the majority of folks are really tuned in to the question of theology proper.

    The larger background is obviously at work though, and one can see its roots in the Murray and Kline schools of thought. I recommend the writings of Andrew McGowan and Jeong Koo Jeon as good intros to this discussion, and from there one could also examine the loads of scholarly work being done on the doctrine of divine infinity (LeRon Schultz, David B Hart, etc.) . I believe that there might even be some more Van Til/Clark division to explore, certainly with the analogia.

    The equation of “merit” and “fitness” or “worth” will, I believe, proof unhelpful for solving our current dispute. Historically “merit” has been specifically defined, and Lane has gone to great pains to insist that we only use “pactum merit” in our current discussion. With this being the case, basic “worth” will not sustain the weight of merit, for all things have some amount of worth due to their being created from a good God. Trees and flowers have an aesthetic and ecological worth, but I would stop short of ascribing them a meritorious standing in their fields.

    So too, one may love his wife for being kind and beautiful. These qualities are worthy of being lauded. They are worthy of songs and poems, even hugs and kisses. But does one’s wife therefore merit his love by these qualities? If some awful calamity were to strike wherein she lost some of the youthful charm, beauty, and perhaps she even became a bit cranky, would she be demerited?

    The illustration is simply to show that we do not use the two terms interchangeably. Pactum merit presupposes a contract with stipulated terms of agreement, which is a legitimate concept in itself. It is more sophisticated, though, than bare worthiness. And we will also, if consistent, need to develop a concept of merit for redeemed sinners to posses after sanctification. They will, at the end of their lives, be perfected and thus worthy. One can find such a stipulated definition of merit if he looks carefully enough. A merit of renumeration has been used in our Reformed doctors, as it can apply to the various giving of gifts in the eschaton.

    These various definitions serve to do a few things, but perhaps the most important service is that they simply take the edge off. Rich Lusk actually acknowledged the validity of stipulated merit-terms four years ago when he wrote:

    That being said, one thing I’ve learned from this sordid affair now known as the “Auburn Avenue controversy” is that there are almost as many definitions of “merit” as there are theologians who want to talk about it. Reformed theologians have no agreed upon “merit theology.” In editing my essay for the colloquium, I actually cut out a rather large discussion I had written on problems with the condign/congruent merit distinction because I did not think it would be germane. In interacting with other Reformed theologians over the issue of merit in the aftermath of the colloquium, I have found a wide variety of views on merit, some of which I could easily live with (I don’t just want to fight over words, after all)…

    Cal Beisner, in his assessment of the controversy at the conclusion of the colloquium book, acknowledges (with me) that strict merit is not possible, even for Christ. But then he creates a category called “covenantal merit” which he defines as “fulfilling a condition the Creator condescends to establish” (page 325). This definition is so broad it’s virtually inescapable; on this meaning, everyone believes in merit (except perhaps universalists).
    http://www.hornes.org/theologia/rich-lusk/rome-wont-have-me

    We can certainly spend time on the definitions of merit, and I think we probably should given all of the confusion, but I do not believe that such will fully locate our disagreements. The question of God’s attributes and their relation to one another (eg. divine simplicity and infinity) will be the more appropriate starting question. The implications of those doctrines on a pre-state, as well as the metaphysical categories necessitated by creation ex nihilio (that creation is permeated by grace) will also need to be addressed.

    And of course we will also want to pay careful attention to the broader catholic tradition that has already answered these questions. Certain forms of pactum theology owe more to nominalism than they may realize (certainly Kline’s dialectical understanding of history- the various “intrustions”). These are significant questions and ones that I believe are much more foundational than any of the FV buzz-terms.

  166. GLW Johnson said,

    April 28, 2008 at 11:01 am

    SW
    You left out Barth- he is much more of a factor in the spread of mono-covenantalism and all things that tie into that, than people-especially seminarians-realize.

  167. Xon said,

    April 28, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Dr. White, I see where are you coming from, but I think I didn’t make myself sufficiently clear as to what I understood the “fittingness” of Garden life to be. Yes, I defined justice in terms of “fitness,” but the fitness is between “the things that happen in the world with their moral worth.” (Quote 1 from your #165). The fitness is not some moral quality in Adam. It is the fitness of the world to God’s plan. Certainly Adam is included in that, but it’s not a “fitness” along the lines of “you have done the thing which deserves life, and therefore you get life.” It’s a fitness of “you are simply being that which I created you to be in the first place.”

    Again, notice in my other 2 quotes that you cited that I don’t place the “fitness” in Adam as some sort of moral quality he possesses. Rather, the fitness is in the fact that God made a world which fits what He intended it to be. I.e., “it is entirely fitting and in proportion with God’s own harmony that He should continue the creature which He made out of love in the first place” (quote #2).

    The “moral worth” of the world is that “the world is as it should be.” When Adam sins he messes that up; the world is no longer as it should be. But if Adam doesn’t sin, the world keeps on as it should be b/c that was God’s will all along. Adam’s moral “worth” really only factors in negatively. He can demerit, but he can never merit. Breaking God’s command ruins the world (introduces injustice into the world), but keeping God’s command doesn’t “cause” the world to stay just. The world stays just b/c it is the glorious reflection of God’s own perfect glory and activity. The world is just b/c God is just, and so He unsurprisingly is good at making a world that does what He wants it to do. All the glory and “worth” are His and His alone. That is where the “fit” is found, not in some deeds that Adam does that makes it “okay” to let the world keep on going. The world does not need to “prove itself” worthy of continued existence. It is “worthy” b/c that’s what God has made it to be. Adam has a “right” to continued existence b/c he was made by God to continue existing. He has not “earned” the right through anything he has done. If I make a cup to drink my coffee out of, do we say that, as long as the cup doesn’t shatter, that it has some quality within itself that makes it “worthy” to be my cup? That’s just an odd way to speak, right? The cup’s not-shattering is a negative condition…certainly, if it had shattered, I wouldn’t still be drinking out of it. But, given that it didn’t shatter, why am I drinking out of it today? Am I drinking out of it today because it didn’t shatter, as though it’s not shattering is some moral value that obligated me (covenantally or otherwise) to keep using it? Or do I simply keep using the cup because I delight in the cup? The worthiness is in my original design: I wanted a cup for drinking coffee, and I made a cup for that purpose. Now it performs that which I made it to do, which makes me happy. What does any of this have to do with the cup “earning” something from me? It gets to be my cup because I made it that way. The cup itself really has very little to “offer” here as far as justice goes, except that if it were to break then I would not be happy any more.

    (Human language fails us here and is perhaps irretrievably vague? “Right,” “justice,” “cause,” etc., are used in so many different ways with such nuance…I have no doubt this is part of what it makes it difficult to speak of these things, especially if we’re already coming from different presuppositions. If I’m held up by traffic and so I get home too late to save my wife from an attacker, then did the traffic “cause” my wife to die? Depending on how you want to use the word “cause,” I guess we can speak that way. These sorts of vagaries are all jumbled up in this)

    The issue for me, then, is about maintaining the graciousness and justice of God. I don’t really see how “merit” or “earning” language figures in all that helpfully at all, per Steven’s comment immediately above in #168. If “merit” is thinned out to mean just some kind of “bare conditionality” (which I see happening already in your (Dr. White) notion that merit is simply “that to which God says commendation or reward is due,” although the word “due” is still doing some work there beyond mere conditionality I imagine), then we can just dispense with that language altogether. If, on the other hand, merit has to do with a certain kind of conditionality where a person performs actions that are worthy of attaining a reward, then I’m just not sure that there is such a thing as merit at all. We all seem to deny strict merit, since no creature could ever possibly do anything to by truly worthy of a reward from their Creator, so what is the point? What are we fighting for? We want “pactum merit,” where we say that it’s all just stipulated terms…God says He’ll give you this reward if you do X, and X in itself doesn’t “fit” the reward at all. Well then, this entire arrangement is pure grace anyway, and so again what’s the point of using a word like “merit?” It sounds like all we’re saying is that God commits Himself to give you something on a certain condition. Well then, why not just say “condition.” What is it that merit is supposed to mean besides “condition,” if anything?

    In any case, I don’t see how it can be synonymous with justice. Again, in a pre-fall world everything is just b/c everything simply carries on doing what God wants it to do, and God delights in it doing that. The “fitness” of the world to God’s plan is entirely, itself, a function and operation of God’s grace. Neither the created world as a whole, nor any particular things in that world (including human beings), are “contributing” something to the picture that “justifies” God in letting the world continue. That entire mode of analysis seems defective to me; the whole question seems contrived on the back of a “problem” that doesn’t exist. There is no difference between “justice” and “grace” pre-Fall. There is no “problem” or “tension” here. We don’t have to figure out a way to make God sound just given that Xon has just gone off and said it’s all grace. :-) Grace=Justice, in God, b/c God is infinite and simple.

    So, when I talked about “fittingness” earlier to talk about justice, I didn’t have “merit” in mind. Or, I don’t think I did, but like I said “merit” has been defined in so many ways at this point that who can know any more? Justice in the pre-Fall world has nothing to do with anybody “earning” anything. But, certainly, it was true that there were conditions on continuing in God’s blessing. If Adam disobeyed, he would not continue in those blessings. That is conditionality, but it’s not obvious that it is “merit.” And the fact that the world “fits” that which God designed it for is justice, but it’s not obvious that it is “merit.”

  168. Steven W said,

    April 28, 2008 at 11:14 am

    GLWJ,

    Barth’s connection perhaps runs through Torrance, but I am not so sure that he’s behind our current discussion. I think Barth’s suggestions on God’s nature will ultimately be dismissed by the bulk of Christendom, especially in light of the recent pro-Augustinian writers (Ayres, M. Barnes, and Hart).

    Even at the recent analogia entis conference in Washington D.C., McCormick (who has done the most to reconcile Barth with the tradition) acknowledged the validity of natural theology more so than Barth seemed willing to do.

  169. Steven W said,

    April 28, 2008 at 11:27 am

    To clarify one point, in light of 170,

    Xon says that, “Grace=Justice, in God, b/c God is infinite and simple.” This is true and consistent with the Augustinian tradition. I affirm it as well.

    Not all Reformed theologians have affirmed this though, and I think our failure to note their divergence has allowed a major shake-up to fly under the radar. Kline, for instance, would not say that “grace=justice in God,” but would rather strive to make justice more basic. You can see this documented in McGowan’s work.

    This also happens in certain formulations of the pactum salutis. “Grace” is simply when Jesus does the law for people. Justice is still the controlling attribute. Hodge and Dabney both critique this way of thinking in regards to the relationship of justice and Christ’s death, though they themselves do some strange things with the doctrine of simplicity of which I would not follow.

    And to name names, as I do, is not for the purpose of playing black hats vs. white hats, but rather to identify sources and influences in our own history. We need to know where we are coming from. I do not believe that the FV men did an appropriate job in this regard, and their failure in this has contributed to some of the confusion. Of course, the failure of their critics to do the very same has greatly exacerbated the confusion.

    We simply have to trace the historical development of thought if we wish to use terms like “heresy” and “orthodox” with any meaningfulness.

  170. R. F. White said,

    April 28, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Steve W,

    No doubt you are right that, in the broader scheme of things, the value of discussing ‘merit’ has its limits. I, for one, have no interest in logomachy. I do have an interest, however, in understanding how a man is using terms lest we misunderstand each other. In the exchanges with Xon, his comments on ‘grace’ and ‘justice’ have brought us to questions about whether and, if so how, pre-fall Adam was qualified to fulfill the purpose for which God created him. I anticipate that Xon will tell us if Adam’s future was contingent on keeping God’s commandment or not.

    Meanwhile, as you point out, Xon’s comments have also raised the question of divine attributes and their relation. Perhaps we’ll get that yet.

  171. Roger Mann said,

    April 28, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    167:

    Xon, I think you are confusing two different uses of the term “condition.” The term is used in its proper sense to signify the meritorious or procuring cause of gaining God’s favor in the verses that I cited. In other words, perfect obedience to God’s law (i.e., “works”) earns justification/eternal life, as that is the meritorious or procuring cause of gaining God’s favor under the legal requirements of His law. Indeed, that is precisely how Christ earned or merited justification/eternal life for His elect people — He perfectly obeyed God’s law and suffered the penalty of death in their stead.

    But the term “condition” can also be used in an improper sense to refer merely to a condition of order or precedence, such as opening one’s mouth in order to eat food. Opening our mouth is not the meritorious or procuring cause of obtaining food, but is merely a condition of order or precedence that is necessary in order to eat. It is in this sense that the term “condition” is sometimes used of faith in the covenant of grace. As Robert Shaw points out:

    Many excellent divines, in consequence of the distinction which they made between the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace, were led to speak of faith as the condition of the latter covenant. But the term, as used by them, signifies not a meritorious or procuring cause, but simply something which goes before, and without which the other cannot be obtained. They consider faith merely as a condition of order or connection, as it has been styled, and as an instrument or means of obtaining an interest in the salvation offered in the gospel. This is very different from the meaning attached to the term by Arminians and Neonomians, who represent faith as a condition on the fulfilment of which the promise is suspended. The Westminster Assembly elsewhere affirm, that God requires of sinners faith in Christ, “as the condition to interest them in him.” But this is very different from affirming that faith is the condition of the covenant of grace. That faith is indispensably necessary as the instrument by which we are savingly interested in Christ, and personally instated in the covenant, is a most important truth, and this is all that is intended by the Westminster Divines. They seem to have used the term condition as synonymous with instrument; for, while in one place they speak of faith as the condition to interest sinners in the Mediator, in other places they affirm, that “faith is the alone instrument of justification,” and teach, that “faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.” As the word condition is ambiguous, apt to be misunderstood, and is frequently employed in an unsound and dangerous sense, it is now disused by evangelical divines. (Exposition of the WCF, 7.3)

  172. R. F. White said,

    April 28, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Pardon my slow typing, gents. I see Xon’s comments in 170. Thanks.

  173. R. F. White said,

    April 28, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Xon, in 170,

    You utter what I take to be a key thought for you, namely, that “The ‘moral worth’ of the world is that ‘the world is as it should be.’ When Adam sins he messes that up; the world is no longer as it should be. But if Adam doesn’t sin, the world keeps on as it should be b/c that was God’s will all along.”

    Question: was the world as created, glorious in its pre-fallenness, in its final state of glory?

  174. R. F. White said,

    April 28, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Steven W, in 168,

    By the way, Rich Lusk is mistaken when he says that Cal Beisner acknowledges that strict merit is not possible, even for Christ. To the contrary, Dr. Beisner affirms (as do I) that a relationship of strict justice and merit does exist between the Father and the Son in the covenant of redemption by Their very essence as the perfectly worthy God. Each Person merits—each Person is due—the worship of the Other. Strict justice and merit are necessary components of Their essential relationship.

    On the other hand, though not essential to Their Deity, there is also a relationship of covenantal justice and merit between the Father and the Son in the covenant of redemption, and that relationship is as eternal as the counsel of God in which the plan of redemption was determined. By submitting to humiliation to fulfill His role in redemption, the Son covenantally merited—He was covenantally due—the reward of exaltation from the Father. The Son’s humiliation necessitated His introduction into the realm of covenantal merit, wherein the Son and the Father were related no longer only as God with God but now also as God with man, as lord with servant, and as father with minor. (Specifically, in the covenant of redemption, the Son is there not just as the Son; He is there also as a man and a servant [Phil 2:6-8] and a minor under a pedagogue [Gal 4:1-5].) For His humiliation, and for His submission to the will of His God and Father, the Second Person of the Trinity was rewarded by the First Person of the Trinity with exaltation after humiliation (Phil 2:9-11; Rom 1:4). There is a connection, then, between the Son’s humiliation and covenantal merit: covenantal merit originates in the Son’s submission to humiliation. Covenantal justice and merit are necessary components of the economic relationship between the Father and the Son.

    I agree, then, that raising questions of theology proper can clarify a number of related issues in the FV debate. It seems, at least to me, that not least among those issues are the essential and economic aspects of the relationship between the Father and the Son and the concepts of merit entailed therein. These considerations get bound up historically with God’s dealings with Adam.

  175. April 28, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Catholic thoughts on Douglas Wilson’s crypto-Catholicism:

    http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2008/04/crypto-catholicism-of-douglas-wilson.html

  176. Xon said,

    April 28, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Dr. White,

    There’s lots to keep talking about, but I’m in a bit of a hurry right now. A quick answer to your question in #176…

    No, the created world was not static in terms of its glory. It was meant to mature into an even greater state of glory. (This is widespread FV talk, as you know: Jordan, especially, plays this tune long and loud).

    But that greater state of glory doesn’t have anything to do with “merit” or “earning” this or that. It’s simply a greater blessing God planned to give to Adam after he learned wisdom. (Tree of Knowledge and Good and Evil represents the wise judgment that we are called to exercise as kings in Christ, etc. That tree would have been opened up to Adam after a time.) But learning wisdom, again, is what Adam was created to do. It doesn’t require us to say that by learning wisdom he somehow “earned” something. This is my hang-up, as you can tell. :-)

  177. tim prussic said,

    April 28, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    #178 – Taylor – from my standpoint, the Catholic blogger you linked us to does a curious job of interpreting both Wilson and Rome. Now, I’m no expet, but I’m not so sure he’s understood either. In any event, that type of testimony (a Papist’s love/hate relationship with Presbyterian) simply in not very persuasive.

  178. GLW Johnson said,

    April 28, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Actually Tim, Taylor ,who like me is a WTS grad, makes some very legit points-and he is in somewhat of a unique position to do so ,i.e. he was once Reformed and made the trip to Rome, so he at least knows what the road looks like. You got give him that much.

  179. R. F. White said,

    April 28, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Xon, re: 179,

    Fine; leave aside ‘merit’ and ‘earning’ for the time being. By what means did God plan to have Adam grow from his immaturity to his maturity, from his minority to his majority, from innocence to wisdom, from great blessing to greater blessing? Go ahead; say it; it’s right there, on the tip of your tongue. :-)

  180. David Gray said,

    April 28, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    >Actually Tim, Taylor ,who like me is a WTS grad, makes some very legit points-and he is in somewhat of a unique position to do so ,i.e. he was once Reformed and made the trip to Rome, so he at least knows what the road looks like. You got give him that much.

    So does WTS cause people to turn to Rome?

  181. tim prussic said,

    April 28, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    I’ll give him that much, for certain. I’m less willing to give him a good grasp of Reformation theology, nor of Wilson. It seems like he like some of Wilson’s thoughts, but doesn’t like the doctrinal/intellectual barriers Wilson’s erected against Rome. I will, however, read him with more interest, cuz you said so. But… wait, wait, wait…. did you say you BOTH graduated from WTS and he’s gone off to Rome? In terms of the FV debate, that means you’re on the way to Rome, too. Also, WTS must be paving the path to Rome! :)

    Xon – #179 – is there any reason to think that Adam and Eve didn’t have access to the TKGE in the garden before the fall? They were barred from the garden in order that they should not eat it, but that doesn’t necessitate they hadn’t eaten of it prior or didn’t have access to it.

  182. GLW Johnson said,

    April 28, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    DG
    Careful, that sword cuts both ways-didn’t one of Wilson’s New St. Andrews boys swim the Tiber?

  183. tim prussic said,

    April 28, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Pretty soon, everything leads to Rome. Sounds too Amil…

  184. Mark T. said,

    April 28, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    “On How The Federal Vision Made Me Catholic” by Matt Yonke

  185. David Gray said,

    April 28, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    >Careful, that sword cuts both ways-didn’t one of Wilson’s New St. Andrews boys swim the Tiber?

    Well that was why I asked the question, tongue in cheek. It does cut both ways and neither side has a strong argument when taking that approach.

  186. April 28, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Yes, I graduated from Westminster Philly. I entered into full communion with the Holy See in May of 2006.

    The story in brief:
    http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2006/05/my-canterbury-trail-to-rome.html

    See also my take on the Federal Vision debates in light of Catholicism:

    http://cantuar.blogspot.com/2007/05/catholic-prespective-on-federal-vision.html

  187. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 28, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Re #162, Xon,
    The trouble is that you went way past merit and described Adam as nothing but a consumer of the Garden — it was there for him to enjoy without him having to do anything. Adam is not a an amusement park patron, he was the maintenance man too. Adam had to do positive work to keep the Garden going, it didn’t just go on in some sort of Reformed Deist manner you seem to paint.

  188. April 28, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    All, there are two ways to slice this. One is to say that FV is a half-way house on the way to Rome, which is an obvious and (in my view) facile point to try to make. The other says that the Catholic and the TR make exactly the same mistakes on these issues — so it seems to me that it could be argued that their thinking processes are very similar.

    As far as swimming the Tiber is concerned, my best estimate is that about ten percent of the congregation here at Christ Church is ex-Catholic. So I think we are not running a trade deficit yet.

    #181 — Gary, just because you are on the road to Rome doesn’t mean you know what it looks like.

    #187 — Hi, Charlie. How’s it going?

  189. Bob Suden said,

    April 29, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Uh, I think it’s called damage control #191.
    With the serrated putty knife. A little daubing of a whitewashed wall.
    Of course it’s “facile” to say FV is a halfway house to Rome. Can’t have that. It’s too obvious. Keep the rubes and the bumpkins moving alone. Just like in Idaho. Rather it is the TRs and the papists that make the same mistake “on these issues”. Right.
    And Gary’s on the road to Rome cause you say so?
    Please, assertions don’t count and RINE and the PJFV are notable for what they don’t say, as well what they do say, however blandly. At least in RINE, visible church membership has been substituted in principle and pastoral practice for the doctrine of election and a universal and “objective” visible covenant for the covenant of grace of which only the elect partake.
    Or to put it another way, what election was to Knox’s theology, visible church membership and the visible “objectivity” of the covenant is to the FV.
    OK, for the sake of an argument, maybe it’s not romish, but it certainly isn’t reformed.
    Or is it that Knox is unconfessional? Less than the stalwart and orthodox of which we were so egregiously informed of in your For Kirk and Covenant bio?
    Sorry, nice try. Not interested.
    In other words, the FV is going to go down in flames, if it is not already losing altitude fast. The only question then is, are you going to go with it?

  190. David Gray said,

    April 29, 2008 at 2:46 am

    >And Gary’s on the road to Rome cause you say so?

    Maybe you should actually read the reference before you comment on it?

  191. GLW Johnson said,

    April 29, 2008 at 7:06 am

    Yeah!

  192. Ron Henzel said,

    April 29, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Steven W.:

    Regarding your comment 171: what does Barth’s view on the nature of God and natural theology have to do with his monocovenantalism?

  193. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 9:01 am

    Andrew D.,

    The trouble is that you went way past merit and described Adam as nothing but a consumer of the Garden — it was there for him to enjoy without him having to do anything. Adam is not a an amusement park patron, he was the maintenance man too. Adam had to do positive work to keep the Garden going, it didn’t just go on in some sort of Reformed Deist manner you seem to paint.

    It’s just an analogy. If it was exactly the same, it wouldn’t be an analogy. But yes, you make a good point: Adam was the maintenance man as well as the kid enjoying the rides. But this does not contradict anything I have said.

    I have said all along that disobedience would demerit. Disobeying God’s commands (i.e., failing to upkeep the place) would ruin everything. What I am denying is that obeying would have “merited” the continuation of blessing. If the maintenance man (who gets to live in the mansion in the middle of the park) does a good job maintaining the park, does this mean that he has “earned” the right to be at the park? Or did he simply have that right from the beginning?

    Disobedience demerits, but obedience does not merit.

  194. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Xon, re: 196, you posit an interesting theory of justice (is it biblical?), but let me try to understand your claims.

    You have affirmed that Adam’s final state of blessing is not the continuation of Adam’s initial state of blessing; rather his final state of blessing is greater than his first.

    What do you affirm is the future consequence of obeying for Adam? What is the relationship between Adam’s obedience and his final state of blessing?

  195. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Dr. White, I’m sorry I’m so pressed for time here these days. I’d like to do more with this than I am doing.

    If Adam obeys, then he attains the final state of blessing, and if Adam attains the final state of blessing, then he obeys. In other words, obedience is a sufficient and necessary condition for attaining the final state of blessing.

    But this sort of “condition” doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with merit (or even justice) at all. It is a purely logical concept…that two propositions (or states of affairs, if we take propositions to be representations of real states of affairs) are tied together in a certain way. Explaining how precisely they are tied together leaves us with a wide array of options. Saying that “If A, then B” is true because A merits or earns B (and a just God delivers on what is earned), is only one way to construe the connection between A and B.

    As to whether what I am saying is biblical, how much time do we have? :-) I’ll at least say that I don’t think it is unbiblical, and I think it represents the best of Christian philosophical and theological reflection on the subject including Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin (all of whom are solidly pre-modern when it comes to ethics and metaphysics).

  196. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:34 am

    So, to be direct (sorry if I wasn’t), the future consequence of Adam’s obedience to God’s commands is that he attains the final state of blessing. I do not deny that the one is a consequence of the other. I deny that one is merited or earned by the other, especially in any remotely “strict” sense of merit. On more “covenantal” senses of merit, the word is so watered down as to be practically worthless (or at least, that’s my understanding of it at this point). And likewise with justice: God is just b/c He always does what is right. But what is right is tied closely to His essence as a love as well. The attributes can’t be split apart and put against each other. So when God loves (and delights) in something, He is also displaying His justice. It is just for God to create something out of nothing, out of His sheer love/delight in doing so, and to then shower His favor upon that something. Favor or “grace” IS just, when we’re talking about God. There is not “tension.” What could be more “just” (what could be more “right,” more fitting, more of a harmony b/w the way things are and the way they ought to be) than God, who is love, making a creature out of that love and sustaining him by the same love? This is all love, it’s all grace, and it’s all justice.

    The “problem” with God’s justice only comes in when the creature disobeys. That shatters everything, and now the creature is in a bad place with respect to his relationship to God. NOW God’s justice requires that He make things right where they have gone wrong, and this means that the creature who has made them wrong is in a bad way. But in the end God finds a way, through Christ, to restore the disobedient creature without compromising His justice. Justice and grace “kiss.” But this is not a first-time meeting between them: they aren’t hitting it off on a blind date. Justice and grace were together in God from the beginning. It is only sin that tore them apart, with respect to the creation. But in God they were never truly divided. When God is gracious, when He makes a way for sinners to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ and to have their sins forgotten, He is being JUST just as much as He is being gracious. Because, again, for God it is perfectly just for Him to lavish unmerited (even demerited) favor on the creatures in which He delights. Of course, He cannot simply overlook their sin, b/c that would be a violation of His own character. But it is perfectly in keeping with His character to forget their sin through Christ. For God to find a way to be gracoius to His creatures, even after they’ve screwed everything up, is God doing the “right” thing…it is God doing that which delights Him, which is the only standard of what is “right” and “wrong.” Again, justice and grace are not enemies, not even hypothetically. It only seems that they must be to us, from the vantage of our own sinfulness. B/c we are sinners, we know we can’t stand before God’s justice, yet we hope He will be gracious to us anyway. It “feels” like we are asking for something contradictory: please be gracious to us, even though that would violate your justice. But it DOESN’T violate His justice, thanks be to Christ.

    Most of what I’ve said above we would both agree with. I know that, so don’t get me wrong and think I am insinuating that you don’t believe that Christ represents God’s justice and grace unified. My point is just to get us to think about how this connects to the original creation, to the pre-Fall world, in a different way. In his incarnation, death, and resurrection, is Christ forging together foreign elements that always used to be opposed (justice and grace)? Or is He reuniting lost friends, sewing back together a garment that never should have been torn apart in the first place?

  197. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:36 am

    195-

    Ron, a discussion of Barth will really take us far afield, but suffice it to say that everything in Barth has to do with his views of the nature of God and his rejection of natural theology.

    Barth thought that the Logos was eternally mediating between God and man, and Barth was not comfortable with a “covenant of nature” or a “law of nature” for the same reason that he was not comfortable with a natural theology.

  198. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 11:00 am

    If Adam obeys, then he attains the final state of blessing, and if Adam attains the final state of blessing, then he obeys. In other words, obedience is a sufficient and necessary condition for attaining the final state of blessing.

    Wouldn’t that be “cause”? Which as you know is not the same as a sufficient and necessary condition.

    I think that’s the crux of the matter: Was Adam’s obedience the instrumental cause of his future blessing?

    If so, then we say he “merited” it (and worry about what merit means on the side).

    Jeff Cagle

  199. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 11:07 am

    But guys, there are various “causes” in historic systematic theology. Conditions can, in fact, serve as inferior causes.

    So too with merit. It is a word that has been specifically defined.

    If we want to retain the terms, then we have to be very clear in informing our audience that we are stipulating distinct definitions that may not agree with other traditional definitions.

  200. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    April 29, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Re #178: Greyfriars, as I recall, was in fact named for the church at which the Solemn League and Covenant was signed, so it is no more “crypto-Catholic” than John Knox was for preaching at St. Giles Kirk. Also, look at the end of the post. Hm…a list of prayers to the saints…that is the real Rome. How exactly is the FV at all on the way to that? Go check out Duccio’s Maesta, one of the pinnacle works of medieval religious art. Who is at the center of the court of heaven? Mary, not Jesus. This is not a minor issue, regardless of ECT II’s casual dismissal of the role of Mary and the saints as tangential to justification.

  201. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Jeff, re: 201, thanks for the succinct summary. Such is a real help on a long string of posts.

    Steven W, re: 202, thanks for the reminders.

    Xon, re: 199, thanks for the extended comments. The problem I have is that your story is a tale of Two Graces. Your definition of grace and its cognates shifts as you move from the pre-fall situation to the post-fall situation.

    You say, “But in the end God finds a way, through Christ, to restore the disobedient creature without compromising His justice. Justice and grace “kiss.” But this is not a first-time meeting between them: they aren’t hitting it off on a blind date. Justice and grace were together in God from the beginning.”

    Here’s the problem: pre-fall Grace was not demerited; it was unmerited. Post-fall Grace was demerited.

    The Grace that Justice kisses after the fall is not the same as the Grace that Justice met at the beginning.

  202. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Steve W (#202):

    So too with merit. It is a word that has been specifically defined.

    Where? (Not being sarcastic — I really don’t know of any definition in Scripture or the Confession, and I don’t automatically take, say, Anselm’s definition as controlling).

  203. tim prussic said,

    April 29, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    One aspect of the COW, a standard aspect of covenant theology for centuries now (remember, we’re not the first to read the Bible – Rollock and Polanus weren’t reading Mad Magazine), is that before the fall, in the garden, Adam was fully responsible to keep all God’s moral law. This notion is present in the thinking of many Reformed divines, from the 16th century right on up. Moral creatures of a moral God are ALWAYS under moral law, no? So, Adam’s positive work in the Garden might have been more than merely riding the Zipper and making sure it was working correctly. He was under moral obligation to serve God with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Could doing that be called positive righteousness? Well, golly gee, sounds like what Jesus did.

    And, yes, Adam had to begin and end each minute with thank yous to God, most certainly. Xon nailed it – grace to unfallen men is merely unmerited, while grace to fallen men is thoroughly demerited. Thus, the COW should be seen as an unmerited, covenantal condescension of God to humanity.

  204. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    tim, re: 205, if Xon has nailed it, let’s agree to be more careful than to say that the Grace that Justice met before the fall is not the same Grace that Justice kisses after the fall.

  205. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Like I said, :), let’s be careful to say that Justice kisses a different Grace after the fall than it met before the fall.

  206. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    tim, re: 205,

    Xon’s been patient with some interaction about his comments. Given your comments in 205, you express a willingness to speak about favor (the other word that Xon used) that is unmerited before the fall and favor that is demerited after the fall.

    Do you share Xon’s reluctance to speaking about favor merited by Adam if he had kept the law of God? If so, why? That is, what do you believe is lost by saying that Adam would have merited God’s favor?

  207. pduggie said,

    April 29, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    “Each Person merits—each Person is due—the worship of the Other. Strict justice and merit are necessary components of Their essential relationship.”

    Is it impossible then, for the Father to glorify the Son, or the Spirit to glorify the Father? Can the Father gift the Son with Glory, or ONLY pay the son the glory he owes him?

  208. pduggie said,

    April 29, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    201: Jeff, in justification, faith is an instrumental cause only. If works were *instrumental* causes of Adam’s glorification, then they wouldn’t have merit any more than faith is meritorious in the reformed doctrine of justification. Instrumentality excludes merit: the axe isn’t worthy to cut the tree down, or get any glory from it. The man who wields the axe did the deed.

  209. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Jeff, in justification, faith is an instrumental cause only. If works were *instrumental* causes of Adam’s glorification, then they wouldn’t have merit any more than faith is meritorious in the reformed doctrine of justification.

    I’m lost. I agree that faith is the instrumental cause, and that faith is non-meritorious (i.e., it does not acquire a right standing with God, but receives it instead). But I don’t understand how that extends to Adam.

    There’s a different mechanism at work with Adam/Christ and with us: we receive the results of their actions.

    Jeff

  210. pduggie said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I’m saying whatever kind of cause Adam’s works were to his future blessing (and they were some kind), “instrumental” doesn’t fit, or at least it doesn’t fit if you want to emphasize some kind of merit.

  211. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    pduggie, re: 210,

    On the first question, I would say, yes, it is possible for the Father to glorify the Son, and the Spirit the Father. But perhaps you mean to imply that glorifying is not meriting or giving them what they are due. Let me know if I miss your point.

    On the second, the context of the exhange over justice and merit among the Persons of the Godhead was not meant to imply that we have to choose between a situation where there were both love and justice between the Persons vs. a situation where only justice between the Persons. The fact that justice characterized the Father-Son relationship does not negate the fact that it is also characterized by love. That relationship is more than strictly filial or strictly legal: its meaning is not exhausted in “the filial and nothing but the filial” or “the legal and nothing but the legal.” The argument from divine simplicity cuts both ways. The exchange, then, was meant to show how it could be argued that the concept of merit originates in the covenant of redemption before it appears in the covenant of creation/works.

  212. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    pduggie, re: 213, do you also mean to urge the point that, if Adam had kept God’s commandment, he would not have been justified by works?

  213. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Jeff (201),

    Wouldn’t that be “cause”? Which as you know is not the same as a sufficient and necessary condition.

    I think that’s the crux of the matter: Was Adam’s obedience the instrumental cause of his future blessing?

    If so, then we say he “merited” it (and worry about what merit means on the side).

    Right, a “cause” is not the same as a sufficient and nec. condition. The latter is a logical category. If the moon is made of green cheese, then something is made of green cheese. This means that “something is made of green cheese” is a necessary condition for “the moon is made of green cheese.” There is no causation implied whatsoever. The logical term is “material implication.” One proposition implies another, and that is it. Nothing is said about how or why it implies what it does.

    “Causes” involve some sort of “bringing about” or “sourcing” of the result. A notoriously difficult concept, causation. Many early modern philosophers artificially simplified it by reducing it all down to efficient causation, like that’s the only kind of causation there is. Some held on to “final” causes, but generally stopped calling them “causes.” Material and formal causes went out the window almost entirely in this period. And this is where we still are today. And of course, so far I’m just using Aristotle’s four types of causes, but maybe those aren’t the only kinds, either. And then a lot of Reformed systematicians talk about “instrumental” causes which seems to be a subset of efficient causation. God is the primary cause (the prior efficient cause of all things that come to plass), and many created things are “secondary” or instrumental causes (they also efficiently cause certain events, but they do so under the purview of the first cause, God).

    The whole discussion has twists and turns all over the place. But my point has been that there is no “causation” that is required to make sense of the Covenant of Works. We don’t need to say that Adam’s obedience would have caused the final state of blessing. We only need to say that his disobedience would have caused its ruination.

    Causes are conditions, in that if A causes B (as an efficient cause, for this example), then A is a sufficient condition for B and B is a necessary condition for A (since if B doesn’t happen then A couldn’t have happened, b/c A would have caused B). So once you identify something as a cause then conditionality plays into that. But conditionality itself is a far wider condept that does not require any notion of “causation” at all. Lots of things are conditions without being causes.

    And, all that, while this is perhaps academic I am not willing to concede that, if we DID grant that Adam’s obedience was an instrumental cause of future blessing, that this would be “merit.” How exactly is an instrumental cause of B something that “merits” B? Are you simply using “merit” as a synonym for “cause”?

  214. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Steve W (#202) and in re: #205:

    I answered my own question, I think:

    Therefore when we treat of the merit of Christ, we do not place the beginning in him, but we ascend to the ordination of God as the primary cause, because of his mere good pleasure he appointed a Mediator to purchase salvation for us. Hence the merit of Christ is inconsiderately opposed to the mercy of God [by his opponents]. It is a well known rule, that principal and accessory are not incompatible, and therefore there is nothing to prevent the justification of man from being the gratuitous result of the mere mercy of God, and, at the same time, to prevent the merit of Christ from intervening in subordination to this mercy. The free favour of God is as fitly opposed to our works as is the obedience of Christ, both in their order: for Christ could not merit anything save by the good pleasure of God, but only inasmuch as he was destined to appease the wrath of God by his sacrifice, and wipe away our transgressions by his obedience: in one word, since the merit of Christ depends entirely on the grace of God, (which provided this mode of salvation for us,) the latter is no less appropriately opposed to all righteousness of men than is the former. — Calv. Inst. 2.17.1

    That Christ, by his obedience, truly purchased and merited grace for us with the Father, is accurately inferred from several passages of Scripture. I take it for granted, that if Christ satisfied for our sins, if he paid the penalty due by us, if he appeased God by his obedience; in fine, if he suffered the just for the unjust, salvation was obtained for us by his righteousness; which is just equivalent to meriting. — ibid, 2.17.3

    Are you thinking of this “merit” or something else?

    Xon, would you agree or disagree that Calvin’s “merit” approximates the approach we agreed to in #18 and #22(3)?

    (I’m pretty sure, moreover, that when 99.9% of pastors speak of Jesus “earning” eternal life for us, they aren’t thinking of a technical definition of merit. They’re probably paraphrasing Rom. 5.18-19 or Heb. 2.9-10 or some similar passage)

  215. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Paul (#213):

    Do we agree to the following:

    (1) Adam was required to take at least one action: Don’t Eat the Fruit (put positively, Resist the Tempter).
    (2) Had Adam acted, he would have acquired eternal life in the Revelation 21 sense.
    (3) Therefore, his action would have been the means by which God bestowed — like that term “bestowed”; it dodges questions of merit and grace :) — eternal life.
    (4) Therefore, his action would have been the instrumental cause, by definition, of his reception of eternal life.
    (5) And further, this action would have been in keeping with God’s justice according to the covenant promise made to Adam.

    Yes? No?

    Do you object to “merit” in the Calvinian sense above?

    Jeff Cagle

  216. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Are you simply using “merit” as a synonym for “cause”?

    Well, yeah, actually. I think it simplifies the issue immensely. It’s not like we want to advocate some Anselmian notion that “merit” is some action that brings honor to God that cancels out the shame caused by the Fall.

    No, I think if we just stipulate with Calvin that “meriting” salvation is a synonym for “acquiring” salvation, then we can all go home happy. Maybe it’s a naive hope, but maybe not.

    JRC

  217. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Xon, what do you believe is lost by saying that Adam would have merited God’s favor by obeying God’s commandment in Gen 2.16-17? I’m sure you’ve stated it before, but I’ve missed it.

  218. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    But my point has been that there is no “causation” that is required to make sense of the Covenant of Works. We don’t need to say that Adam’s obedience would have caused the final state of blessing. We only need to say that his disobedience would have caused its ruination.

    Do you agree or disagree with (1) – (5) above?

    And don’t we say that Jesus’ actions (whether active or passive) are the cause of our justification?

  219. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Jeff,

    All I meant is that there are specific definitions that have accrued over the years and that to fail to note which ones we are working with prevents us from making substantive claims.

    As to the Adam’s situation, it could certainly be the case that he could have been graced with a new status of glory, much like the Father graces the Son (Luke 2: 40; Philippians 2:8-9). In fact, Philippians 2:9 has a “causal” relationship between Jesus’ humiliation and the God’s giving, yet it uses the term charis to describe what is happening.

    In fact, Biblically speaking, the way to “earn” is to give everything away to others. It’s a turns our ways on their heads, which is a good thing.

  220. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    And the original reason for protesting the term “merit,” at least as I understand the FV ranks, was due to the question of God’s character.

    He is a father to an heir, whereas common merit language fashions him as a slave-master to a slave (or if you prefer, a suzerain to a vassal).

    Thus the question is over whether we are talking about Yahweh or Pharaoh.

    That was the important point. Whether and how human agents can serve causative roles is really theologumenon.

  221. tim prussic said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Dr. White, #s 207-208 – evidently, justice can’t keep her lips to herself!

    #209 – I got no gas about using terms like merit or saying that Adam would have earned/merited further blessing (eternal life/blessing). The reason is that I think that Christ did just that. If we take “merit,” “favor,” “condition,” ktl out of the context of God’s gracious covenant dealing with humanity, then we have big problems. But within that context, I’ve no problem with the terminology.

    What amazes me is that some folks (Xon excluded) who dismiss the COW seem to be largely unacquainted with the history of thought on the doctrine. That is, they bring up questions that have been put to bed 350 years ago and think they’ve torpedoed the whole doctrine. If we all spent more time reading Turretin and less time blogging, I think we’d be the better for it! But, it’s easier to blog at work than read dusty old tomes. The dust bothers coworkers.

  222. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    But is not the case that the charis shown to Jesus in Luke 2.40 and Phil 2.9 is merited? Does this not illustrate the point that charis (favor) is the genus of which merited favor, demerited favor, and unmerited favor are all species?

  223. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    So Pelagianism is a religion of charis?

  224. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I am not comfortable speaking of merited favor because it seems to mix categories that Paul opposes (namely wages vs. gift).

    I think that things become more complicated when we remember that Jesus’ divine merit (that which belongs to the eternal Logos) is shared by the Father and the Spirit. Divine merit, if we were to speak of such a thing (and I’m not sure that we should), would be an essential rather than a personal attribute. So the giver and the earner are the same. The just and the justifier. This is God being true to His own goodness, keeping his covenant, and guarding His own glory by glorifying others (How He works).

    When acting as human messiah, though, Jesus is the Just one who lives by faith, the holy one of whom the Father rescues, the anointed who God defends, the one who is not left abandoned forever. His relationship is one of faith, hope, and love.

  225. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    tim, re: 224, thanks. As you’d expect, I’m not as pessimistic about applying terms like ‘merit’ or ‘favor’ to the first Adam and the pre-fall situation. (Definitions, adjectives, and adverbs can be wonderful things in theological conversation.) Leaving that discussion aside, I’ll definitely join you in choosing reading (Turretin especially) over blogging.

  226. tim prussic said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    *friends*

  227. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Xon, ah, is it Pelagianism that you fear if you affirm that Adam could merit God’s favor?

  228. David Gadbois said,

    April 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I’ve been busy lately, so I haven’t commented much, although I’ve been following the twists and turns of this thread.

    I second R.F. White’s characterization of the FV position as a “tale of 2 graces”.

    I keep coming back to the same explicit texts in Paul that don’t allow this kind of scheme to work.

    A works principle is not compatible with a gracious arrangement. Romans 11:6.

    But, rather, only a faith principle is compatible with a gracious arrangement (Romans 4:16).

    The covenant given in the Garden follows the former pattern, not the latter. The covenant given to Abraham follows the latter, not the former. WCF was hardly just using an arbitrary nomenclature in its bi-covenantal scheme.

  229. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Dr. White, maybe but not necessarily. I’ll try to give a quick and easy answer to that question (what do I think we lose if we insist on merit) a bit later. But for now I’m just responding to your #225. You said that charis is the “genus of which merited favor, unmerited favor, and demerited favor are species.” That made the eyes pop out of my head, loony-tunes style, I’ll admit. :-) On that analysis, when God requires a person to work for a blessing, and when God gives a blessing out of sheer delight (I take delight and love as roughly synonymous, Jonathan Edwards style) in giving it, He is doing essentially the same kind of thing. Grace and works are the same in kind (they are of the same genus). It seems to work against your own theological system (you want the CoW to be operating on a “works” principle, but the CoG to be on a grace principle, which are supposed to be different), and it undermines ours (FVish folks) as well. It just seems “out there” to me (he said as humbly and deferentially as he could). Nobody is happy. Help thou my unbelief?

  230. tim prussic said,

    April 29, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    #227 – Steven – Paul opposed wages and grace in a post fall situation. That wouldn’t apply to Adam or Jesus.

    Also, with regard to your second paragraph, I don’t think the so-called Covenant of Redemption (intra-Trinitarian covenant) ought not to be seen in essential terms, but in personal/relational terms. In other words, the stipulations of the covenant were that the Son (as the Son) should humble himself and purchase a people with his blood. Then the Father (as the Father) would reward him with a name above all names and a kingdom (mediatorial, as distinct from the overall rule of God). Thus, the intra-Trinitarian covenant and the “merit” in it shouldn’t be seen as essential, but relational. Am I making any sense on that one?

    The Covenant of Redemption ought never to be opposed to the loving relations among the persons of the Trinity. I don’t think you’re doing that, but some folks like to impose a false dichotomy at precisely this point.

  231. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Tim,

    To do what you suggest, and it isn’t unique to you, would presuppose a level of plurality within God’s nature that I’m not at all comfortable with. There is only one will in the Godhead, and indeed the divine operations are shared by all three persons. To have them coming together to make an agreement, however metaphorical that may be, is just too “social” for my tastes.

    To your third paragraph, the problem is that the covenant of redemption was formulated after the covenant of works and usually imitates it. Thus we begin with the works-principle human/divine covenant and then attempt to move that back into the divine operations ad intra. This is no good. It would create a sort of subordinationism (Kline actually calls the Logos a “vassal”), and it would also interject our complex categories (justice vs. grace) into a simple being.

  232. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    David G.,

    A works principle is not compatible with a gracious arrangement. Romans 11:6.

    I agree. Though as always I would give people latitude to use “works” in a different way than what Paul discusses there. (Though I personally am pretty hard-core in my own language here. I don’t talk about grace as compatible wiht a “works principle,” either).

    But, rather, only a faith principle is compatible with a gracious arrangement (Romans 4:16).

    Again, this sounds right to me.

    The covenant given in the Garden follows the former pattern, not the latter. The covenant given to Abraham follows the latter, not the former.

    This is, like, way less clear. God made man and gave him life, without asking him. He made him good and upright, without asking him. He gave him glorious life in a Garden designed for him, without asking him. Etc. This is all grace. He gave the man a command that required the man to trust that God knew what He was talking about. It was clear that “the day you eat of it, you will die.” There is nothing said about “every day you decline to eat of it, you are earning the right to keep living.” There is no “works principle” there.

    I’m not requiring it be explicit, either. Good and necessary consequence is fine and dandy. But it seems imported altogether. The very way you set up your discussion, David G., simply tilts things in your own favor without doing any real work to “earn” (oops!) such a tilt. What “pattern” is set in the Garden that looks like a works principle? I’m familiar with many of the arguments here historically, so there is no need to tell me to go read Turretin. But if you want to make a specific reference to some historical argument, not to dismiss me for allegedly not knowing it already but to bolster or clarify your own position, then that’s fine.

    WCF was hardly just using an arbitrary nomenclature in its bi-covenantal scheme.

    Nobody says it was arbitrary. They had their reasons, but it don’t seem right upon better reflection. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

    I mean, it don’t seem right if all the things you say are required premises: if works is always opposed to grace, and if faith can only happen in association with grace, then, uh, I don’t see how the Garden was a “Covenant of Works.” Adam was under grace in the Garden (how can anyone not be under grace? If you’re receiving any blessings from God at all, then you are under grace). And Adam needed to have faith in the Garden (though I realize I am disagreeing with Lane’s claim here that Garden life was entirely “by sight.”). So, if you really want to insist that works and grace are opposed, then the Garden was not a covenant of works. QED.

    Now, if you want to talk about “works” in some other way, then maybe the language can be saved. This is why we ask: “What does ‘Cov of Works’ mean, actually? What are we saying when we use that term?” The answer to that question is often different, depending on who you are talking to. A lot of folks end up defending the idea of a covenant of “works” by falling back to a watered-down notion of works (and merit). “Works principle” just means “conditions are attached,” or something. But that’s true in the new covenant as well. God’s election is unconditional, but those who are so elected fulfill certain conditions in the course of the Spirit’s working with them to do works which were prepared in advance for them to do. This is not a “works principle.” But neither was the Garden. So it seems to me, anyway.

  233. tim prussic said,

    April 29, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Steven, thanks for the conversation. I’m a big fan of that old doctrine of the simplicity of God, too. I learned my Trinitarianism from Dennis Jowers (and thus Aquinas and Augustine), the first of whom is deadly opposed to social trintarianism! Credentials aside, you wrote: “the divine operations are shared by all three persons.” If by that you mean divine works ad extra are works of the whole Trinity (or God simpliciter), then we agree. However, if by that you mean that there’s no room within God for the persons of the Trinity to relate one to another, I disagree. Works ad intra can be conceived of as works of one or another of the persons of the Godhead.

    As to inherent subordinationism, I don’t think so. The Son’s subordination is only in his humility, not in eternal covenant. If the Son’s said to be subordinate simply because he submits to the Father in the terms of the COR, then the Father must necessarily be subordinate to the Son when He submits to the Son’s request for the nations (his mediatorial kingdom), also according to the terms of the COR.

  234. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    If by that you mean divine works ad extra are works of the whole Trinity (or God simpliciter), then we agree. However, if by that you mean that there’s no room within God for the persons of the Trinity to relate one to another, I disagree. Works ad intra can be conceived of as works of one or another of the persons of the Godhead.

    I think the middle sentence is not what Steven is saying (if I’m allowed to butt in). Yes the Persons relate to one another (the differences between the Persons, in fact, is entirely constituted by their relations). But this is not the same as saying they make a “covenant” with each other, unless you are using “covenant” as a rough synonym for “relations.” (But this is one of the allegedly “FV” errors: FV (per Ralph Smith) says that covenant is relationship, whereas the anti-FVers want to say that relationship is what makes a covenant possible, but covenant is more than just relationship.) If you are using covenant to mean “laid out an agreement with one another, complete with terms, etc.” then it is hard to see how the three Persons can do something like that (ad intra!) without falling into Social Trinitarianism or something very like unto it. If the three divine persons “strike a deal” or draw up a contract about the roles they are going to play in redemption, then they are being treated like three separate “centers of consciousness,” i.e., like three independent beings.

    It is necessary (if orthodox) to say that the Father Son and Spirit are all related to one another from all eternity. But this is not the same thing as saying that they made a “covenant” with each other from all eternity by which they agreed to each do certain things in the accomplishment of redemption ad extra. For one, God cannot break terms, so what sense does this even make? This language (“covenant of redemption”) is at best an anthopomorphism to describe the fact that all three Persons are mutually committed to the work of redemption from the beginning. But if our thinking about it gets any more “contractual” than that, then we’re doing weird things, man. Weird things.

  235. tim prussic said,

    April 29, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Buttin’ in’s fine, Xon. I’ll return the favor at some point.

    Again, I’m no specialists, but I don’t think of the COR as the three persons sitting down at a table and pounding out a union contract. However, the Scripture does speak of their relations in covenantal terms. Further, there’s do this then ask of me language (dare I say, merit?). Now, I’m quite happy to say that this type of language is accommodated. I don’t think we can get a clear view of the triune God in eternity, but we can get but a glimpse, as God’s shown us just a little of his hindquarters on this one.

  236. pduggie said,

    April 29, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    215: I’m not *urging* any particular point. There would be a relation between Adam’s works and his reward. I just question that it would be “by” works. since “by” language implies instrumental causes (doesn’t it?). For Adam, works would be the ground or basis of his reward.

    Jeff: I’m concerned that if you say that works are the instrumental cause of Adam’s justification, and we say that faith is the instrumental cause of ours (which it is) you’re actually linking them up in a way I didn’t think you intended.

  237. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Paul (#239):

    :) Good eye. I was thinking about that on the drive home.

    Here’s how I would differentiate the two:

    Our Federal Heads perform actions that directly acquire death / life rsp. from God on behalf of their people.

    Layered on top of that, the Federated People receive the results of their actions through being born / reborn.

    So faith is the instrumental cause — that lays hold of the results of the other instrumental cause.

    Faith then, does not “merit” (per Calvin) because it accesses the acquisition already made for us.

    Yet both the faith of the Federated and the works of the Federal Heads are instruments in their own way (much as a hammer and a nail are instruments in their own way).

    Better?

    Jeff Cagle

  238. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Steven W (#222):

    All I meant is that there are specific definitions that have accrued over the years and that to fail to note which ones we are working with prevents us from making substantive claims.

    Totally fair. But does the FV position entail rejecting *all* of those definitions of “merit” at a stroke (as it seems)? That’s broad! Or, alternatively, can certain definitions be acceptable? In particular, Calvin’s?

    As to the Adam’s situation, it could certainly be the case that he could have been graced with a new status of glory, much like the Father graces the Son (Luke 2: 40; Philippians 2:8-9). In fact, Philippians 2:9 has a “causal” relationship between Jesus’ humiliation and the God’s giving, yet it uses the term charis to describe what is happening.

    Indeed it does. But that raises a concern about the meaning of “grace”: My observation is that both חֵ֖ן and χαρις seem to have broader meanings than “gift.” Take for example Prov. 1.9 or 5.19, in which “grace” seems to have a meaning more akin to the modern English usage. Or back to Phil. 2.9, the “standard Protestant preacher” defn. of grace as “unmerited favor” falls entirely flat here.

    So my exegetical concern is, are we justified in asserting that

    (1) “Adam received grace in the garden”
    (2) “Grace is opposed to merit”
    (3) “so therefore Adam could not have merited eternal life”

    (1) is true on some definitions of grace, and (2) is true on some definitions of grace — but not necessarily the same as (1)! — and some definitions of merit, but not all.

    In other words, I would like to see the no-COW argument tightened up considerably so as to specify what kind of “grace” we are talking about and what kind of “merit” we are talking about.

    Because of course, two problems might obtain. It might be the case that the no-COW argument rests on equivocating “grace” between steps (1) and (2) — not necessarily, but we must be careful here. Or again, it might be the case that the no-COW argument is arguing against a COW that doesn’t exist, one that grazes in the fields of Anselm’s treasury of merit.

    In fact, Biblically speaking, the way to “earn” is to give everything away to others. It’s a turns our ways on their heads, which is a good thing.

    Well, yes, that’s true for man in the age of sin and death. In the eschaton, some of that is reversed.

    Jeff Cagle

  239. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Jeff, I defined grace (somewhat tentatively I suppose) as “unmerited favor” way back when. I’m using the “standard” understanding in this conversation, whether that matches all biblical usages or not. Just fyi.

  240. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Xon, re: 232 and later Steven W, re: 222, I am puzzled by your surprise at my claim that, biblically speaking, חֵ֖ן and χαρις are the “genus of which merited favor, unmerited favor, and demerited favor are species.” Is it really a matter of controversy for you that Jesus merited the favor of His Father, that the name He now has was bestowed on Him by the Father because He was due it, was owed it, for His obedience? Have you made the mistake of assuming that the Heb and Gk terms always mean only either unmerited favor or demerited favor?

  241. David Gadbois said,

    April 29, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Xon said This is, like, way less clear. God made man and gave him life, without asking him. He made him good and upright, without asking him. He gave him glorious life in a Garden designed for him, without asking him. Etc. This is all grace.

    Not according to Paul’s vocabulary. He doesn’t have just a generic “favor” in mind here.

    Xon, you said you agreed that the covenant in the Garden was of “condition for perfect and personal obedience.” That sounds like a “do this and live” sort of rule. But then you say “there is no ‘works principle’ there.” Huh? Works principle = perfect and personal obedience = do this and live. It is only through mighty works of sophistry that one can say ‘there is no works principle’ when perfect obedience is the condition.

    I know that you want to drive a wedge in between works and obedience, but that isn’t possible in Paul’s language. Faith is contrasted with works, even when defined as genuinely good, evangelical, faith-filled acts of obedience like Abraham’s circumcision (Romans 4). FV, following Rome, essentially tries to make a distinction between good works (which are, actually, bad) and really really good works (obedience done by faith) in their reading of Paul. Um, no.

    FVers make this move because they want to take works out of the Garden covenant, although they thereby end up (with Rome) smuggling works back into the Covenant of Grace by labeling it “faithfulness” , “faithful obedience” or “faith working by love” or whatever.

    Meredith Kline made a similar comment in regard to monocovenantal theologies (specifically addressing Daniel Fuller) that are just as applicable to the FV brand of monocovenentalism:

    The irony of all this is that a position that asserts a continuum of “grace” everywhere ends up with no genuine gospel grace anywhere. An approach that starts out by claiming that a works principle operates nowhere ends up with a kind of works principle everywhere. What this amounts to is a retreat from the Reformation and a return to Rome.

    And notice I am avoiding any mention of merit or earning, just to be nice. We can get there later. I’m trying to stay with WCF and Pauline language closely here.

    Only a few verses before Romans 11:6, in chap. 10, Paul invokes the “do this and live” language, contrasting it with the faith principle:

    Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”

    Here he attributes the works/law principle, that is procuring life by doing the commandments, to the Mosaic economy. FVers aren’t comfortable w/ the fact that this works principle is attributed to Moses, but there it is. FVers don’t like seeing the Mosaic law as a republication of the Garden’s CoW, but have a hard time fitting passages like this into their thinking.

  242. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 29, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    (#242):

    Sorry; missed it, Xon. That helps in evaluating the syllogism: do you believe (1) that Adam’s reception of life would have been “entirely unmerited”?

    Or better: that Jesus’ actual reception of eternal life for us was “entirely unmerited”?

    And on which definition of merit?

    Like I tell my calc students: definitions make everything so much clearer. :)

    Jeff

  243. R. F. White said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Perhaps the following observations will add context.

    To underscore David’s point, through the probational covenant of Moses, Israel should learn that the only Seed of Abraham to whom the everlasting inheritance was promised was the Man who satisfied the Law’s demands.

    To underscore Jeff’s point, through the probational covenant of works, Adam should learn that the only man qualified to fulfill the commissions of Gen 2:15 and 1:28 would be one who had proven to be non posse peccare according to the commandments of Gen 2:16-17.

  244. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Tim and Jeff,

    Two birds with one stone here. I would say that we ought to redefine our human notions of covenant and merit by looking to the harmonious divine nature. We should image God and not try to make him image us by retrojecting human phenomena into the divine.

    We don’t understand God as a father by looking to our own fathers. We understand how to be true fathers by looking at the Father.

    The same goes for justice. Joseph was a just man when he decided to put Mary away quietly.

  245. Ron Henzel said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    In fact, Biblically speaking, the way to “earn” is to give everything away to others.

    Can a clearer affirmation of the merit category in Scripture be made?

  246. Ron Henzel said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Regarding comment 247: I prefer a more straightforward hermeneutic. How about we stick to using words the way they’re defined in dictionaries and lexicons and see what we come up with?

  247. Ron Henzel said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Regarding my own comment 249: and don’t forget the all-important rule of context.

  248. tim prussic said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Steven, I honestly think it goes both ways. We understand God as Father because we have fathers. That’s why God created then made use of that human relationship in order to reveal himself. We also, however, understand our fathers because God is our Father. God is the ultimate prototype of that relationship. The whole notion of accommodated revelation is tied in here. God lisping, as Calvin says. God’s created and made use of that creation to reveal himself. Special revelation makes use of the natural world and worldly relations and ideas. It’s not limited by the natural, but special revelation is certainly rooted in the created reality. Such is the case with covenants: We understand God’s covenants because we know something of human covenants, but our understanding’s not limited by the human, for divine covenants are, well, divine. Thus, they excel all things human, but the divine doesn’t decimate the human/natural. Maybe I’ve misunderstood what you were after. Does Pr. Lane let us end sentences with prepositions? That’s probably going to be a strike for me.

  249. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Tim,

    The divine doesn’t decimate the natural- that would be Eutychian.

    However, for us to properly understand what it is to be natural, we have to first understand how we are through the light of God’s creation/redemption. We certainly cannot begin with pagan notions that we find in ancient archeology. The fact is, we have seen over history that we don’t know covenants (as Murray pointed out in his little paper on them). We don’t know Leviticus either, but that’s another rant for another day.

    The fullest and truest humanity will be our status in glory, and that fullest status will still include our total dependence on Jesus Christ.

    Good thoughts though.

  250. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Jeff (245), I’ve been asking for a definition of “merit” all along. I fear you and I, both so zealous for clear definitions, have now stalemated ourselves into demanding of the other that he give a definition. :-)

    You said earlier that you are using “merit” to mean “instrumental cause.” Well, in the sense of instrumental cause, as I said in 216, I am not convinced that Adam’s reception of life would have inolved any merit. So, yes, I would say (1) Adam’s reception of life was [would have been] entirely unmerited. Adam’s obedience did not cause (even instrumentally) him to receive full life.

    His obedience was a necessary (and sufficient) condition for receiving such life, though. But, again, conditionality is about as bare a connection as is possible. (In fact, in propositional logic, it is the barest connection possible).

    And if “merit” refers to someone actually worthily “earning” something in any remotely strict sense, then merit definitely doesn’t apply to Adam in the Garden.

    As for Jesus, I don’t think he and Adam are precisely parallel in this sense (Romans 5 does not speak to the question of “cause” or “merit”). Jesus definitely merited salvation for us, in the sense that He is genuinely worthy of all honor and glory, etc. He is worthy of the vindication that He received, and we receive His vindication as His younger brothers and co-heirs.

    So, Jesus caused salvation for sinners. But Adam was not in a position to cause his own life originally. The situations are not symmetrical in that way, in my view.

  251. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Sorry poor wording with the “creation” part. Original and benevolent creation is what I meant.

    There will always be a level of disanalogy between human and divine though.

  252. Steven W said,

    April 29, 2008 at 10:53 pm

    To piggy-back on Xon in 253,

    Pre-lapsarian grace is also a necessary consequent of creation ex nihilio. This is in Athanasius and Augustine.

    Nature itself is permeated through and through with grace. It has no existence on its own. The only way one could affirm that is to ascribe it a level of autonomy or affirm univocal being, neither of which an orthodox Christian is free to do.

  253. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    David G. (244),

    Xon, you said you agreed that the covenant in the Garden was of “condition for perfect and personal obedience.” That sounds like a “do this and live” sort of rule. But then you say “there is no ‘works principle’ there.” Huh? Works principle = perfect and personal obedience = do this and live. It is only through mighty works of sophistry that one can say ‘there is no works principle’ when perfect obedience is the condition.

    Okay David G., but my comments here most recently have been in the context of merit and such. If “works” means “meriting wages like one who works for wages,” then I don’t think the Garden is operating on a “works” principle. When you say later in your comment that you’re not mentioning “meriting or earning, just to be nice,” you’re actually neglecting the main issue in play here.

    Jeff Cagle has watered “merit” down to “instrumental cause.” Is that what you mean by a “works principle”? If so, I still don’t think the Garden operated on such a principle. Adam is not [would not have been] the instrumental cause of his future life.

    The idea of what “merit” means is the issue here. I have asserted elsewhre that I am fine with the “Covenant of Works” as a concept, but only if ‘works” is defined in a way that is thinned out significantly from Paul’s use of the term in places like Romans 4. You and I appeal to the same passages on this. We both agree that works and grace are opposed in Pauline language. Where we disagree is that I think that, on that Pauline notoin of “works,” the Garden was not operating on a principle of “works.” But the word “works” can still be used in other ways, and I do believe in two covenants (which is why I and others prefer the term “covenant of life”, etc.) There are clear differences b/w the two covenants. But the difference is not that the first was operating on a principle of “cause your own future life by doing good things” and the other is on a principle of “trust in another who causes your life through his good deeds.” There is always a need for trust, and a need for grace. But in one covenant we need a mediator. We have now demerited the blessing of full glorified life, and so we can never recover it by simply “going back” to living how Adam was originally called to live. Someone else has to step into the gap we have created and “fill in” for us. In the original Garden covenant we needed no such mediator (but we still needed to trust in God as we continued in our own life to which we were called).

    Again, define “works” and ask me if I believe in a “works principle.” If all you mean by “works principle” is “do this and live,” i.e., if you do this (as a condition) then living will follow, then who can disagree with that? Open your mouth, and the M&M will be on your tongue. But opening my mouth doesn’t cause the M&M to be on my tongue. Nor does it “earn” or “merit” the M&M being on my tongue.

    I am fine with a “works principle” being active in the original Garden covenant, if that principle is NOT defined as “working for wages” or something similar. Or, if that is the definition of “works” a person wants, then I say the original Covenant was not a covenant of “works” at all, but a covenant of “life” or some such. I hope that clears up that I have not contradicted myself on this matter.

  254. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    So, David G., if you say that faith-filled, grace-enabled works are still “works” (though how they can still be what Paul is talking about in Romans 4 is beyond me, since he is opposing “works” and “grace” but these works we’re talking about now are grace-enabled), then I’m fine with saying that the Garden covenant was a covenant of “works.” The Garden required faith-filled grace-enabled obedience, in the sense that such obedience was a condition for attaining fully glorified life. Yes and amen. But did such obedience cause fully glorified life? That isn’t clear.

  255. Xon said,

    April 29, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Dr. White (243), no I haven’t made the mistake of “assuming that the Heb and Gk terms always mean only either unmerited favor or demerited favor.” I was never talking about the Hebrew and Greek terms. I’m talking about the concept of freely given, unearned, favor. If certain usages of the words charis and (don’t have Hebrew font on my computer) — in Scripture don’t mean that kind of freely given favor, then that’s okey-dokey by me. Remember, I’m the FV sympathizer here: we’re all about letting words carry a wider range of meaning than the stipulated meanings given to them in theological discussion. But here in this theological discussion I’m trying to talk about a particular concept and the word “grace” is the generally-accepted term to denote that concept.

    I do see now how your argument was turning upon a Scriptural use of the word and you were not intending to stay within my earlier stipulated definition, necessarily. So forgive me for misreading you on that score. That said, though, I’m still not sure how the appeal to a wider range of Scriptural usage of the “grace” words helps your own genus-species comment. What is the meaning of “charis” that allows it to serve as a genus of which all three of those situations are specific instantiations? This isn’t clear to me.

  256. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 30, 2008 at 6:34 am

    Steven W and Tim (#251):

    Just to add to Tim’s point, Eph. 5 explicitly sets up the human relationship of marriage as the image of the divine relationship with the Church.

    Knowledge appears to flow both ways.

  257. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 30, 2008 at 6:51 am

    Xon (#253):

    So it’s tempting at this point to give a full sketch of my own COW position, since we could have a definition to work with.

    But the thing is, I think the burden of definition should lie with the no-COW position for the moment. After all, if the position is that we should re-think covenants and no longer use the terms we’ve been using, then shouldn’t we know what terms we’ve been using? Restriction requires justification, IMO.

    Currently, Steven has twice declined to give a definition (is that intentional, Steven?). And I haven’t gotten one from you other. :grump:

    Well, anyways, here’re my definitions just to get the ball rolling:

    The COW is of Works in the sense that God stipulates a set of actions that directly obtain eternal life. Obedience is then the instrument that obtains life. The metric of obedience is in terms of strict perfection.

    The COG is of Grace in the sense that God imputes the (results of the) actions of the Federal Head to us, without our having fulfilled the stipulated actions directly. In the case of Adam, being related to Adam is the instrument of imputation. In the case of Jesus, faith is the instrument of imputation.

    So if I feel the need to talk of “merit” (and I usually don’t), I would speak of it as a synonym for “directly acquiring from God according to His stipulations”, over against “indirectly acquiring the benefits of another.”

    So my comment in 219 was probably too glib — “merit” is not bare “instrumental cause”, but “direct instrumental acquisition according to stipulations.”

    Jeff Cagle

  258. Xon said,

    April 30, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Jeff, but I have done something pretty close to defining it, haven’t I? If anything, I’ve tried to work with several definitions. Are you just asking me to give it in a simple, brief blurb or something? Cuz, yeah, I don’t do so good with that sort of thing. :-)

    Seriously, look back at my comments to David G. (and others). I explain what I’m talking about.

  259. Xon said,

    April 30, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Thanks, Jeff. Let me follow up.

    The COW is of Works in the sense that God stipulates a set of actions that directly obtain eternal life. Obedience is then the instrument that obtains life. The metric of obedience is in terms of strict perfection.

    “Obtains” how? Obtains in the way that…

    1. pushing the button on the Coke machine obtains a can of soda?

    2. buying the lottery ticket obtains the winnings?

    3. mowing the lawn obtains an allowance?

    4. arguing persuasively obtains permission?

    5. not speeding obtains the right to drive on the road without being pulled over? (Is this one even legit at all?)

    ??

    Does “A obtains B” simply mean “it is the case that if A happens, then B will also happen” or does it mean something else?

  260. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 30, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Obtains in the sense of “instrumentally causes.” In terms of analogies, it might well be the case that this particular kind of obtaining is sui generis, since we are talking about federal headship, fulfilling covenantal obligations, and obtaining or failing to obtain eternal salvation and life.

    And that’s only ever happened twice in history.

    Sorry about my grump in #231 — I clearly wasn’t reading carefully enough.

    Jeff

  261. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 30, 2008 at 9:05 am

    That would be #260. I don’t apologize for anything David G has said. :lol:

  262. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Xon, re: 258, I am not appealing to the wider Scriptural range of the ‘grace’ words. I am appealing to the wider Scriptural range of the Biblical words within which (range) we find the meaning ‘grace.’

    Let’s review. I’m well aware that you’ve been using the term ‘grace’ to mean ‘unmerited, unearned favor.’ I asked you way back in 97 to tell us how you determined that the term ‘grace’ had that meaning. After explaining myself further in 137 by asking you to tell us the method and evidence that led you to apply the term “grace” to the pre-fall God-Adam relationship, you eventually restated your definition in 142 and appealed to 1 Cor 1 (sic; you meant 1 Cor 4, I believe) for evidence. In our exchanges, as far as I can find, you yourself have not referred to the range of the Biblical terms, Gk or Heb, at any time. However, that point (range of charis’s meaning) did come up when Steven W referred in 222 to charis-related Gk terms that appeared in Lk 2 and Phil 2. He asserted, appealing to the Gk terms in those texts, that ‘the Father graces Jesus.’ I challenged that idea, raising the point that the range of meaning for the charis terms is not limited to favor that is unmerited or demerited; it also embraces favor that is merited. It is not sound lexical semantics to load all the senses of the word “favor” into each occurrence.

    Another part of the problem that muddles our discussion is talking as if the traits of merit or demerit are part of the definition of the words from which we get our word grace. Merit or demerit are not defining traits of the words; they are part of the context in which the words appear. This is why I challenged you about Two Graces.

  263. Ron Henzel said,

    April 30, 2008 at 11:23 am

    I think it’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that Luke was using χάρις (charis) to refer to merited favor when he wrote, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor (χάρις) with God and man” (Luke 2:52, ESV). The idea of unmerited favor also seems to have been absent from his thinking when Paul said (through Luke), “But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up (χαρίζομαι, charizomai) to them” (Acts 25:11; ESV; cf. 25:16).

  264. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Ron Henzel, re: 266, thanks. The same point can be derived from the OT idiom ‘find favor’ in the case of Jacob (Gen 32.5), Joseph (Gen 39.4), certain servants (1 Sam 25.8), Ruth (Ruth 2.10). Reciprocity is involved.

  265. pduggie said,

    April 30, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Does that work for Genesis 6:8 & 9?

    I wonder if Noah was actually able to receive a “typological” works justification like you’d posit of Jesus. He actually is righteous, humanly speaking, sufficiently righteous to avoid being killed temporally in a flood, though insufficiently righteous to stand before God naked at the last judgement.

    That would certianly make sense of the flow of Genesis 6. God evaluates Noah and favors him because he merits it. relatively and typologically, and only for temporal purposes.

  266. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Steven W, two comments.

    Re: 234, you mention that Kline refers to the Logos as a vassal. Can you tell us where you found that in Kline? Even so, a vassal is a servant; indeed, a vassal is often royal in the ancient world, and vassal is not necessarily a pejorative term. In any event, we affirm that the Son became a servant, and the Son’s service in humiliation pertains to the economic aspect of his relationship with the Father, right?

    Re: 223, you say, “And the original reason for protesting the term ‘merit,’ at least as I understand the FV ranks, was due to the question of God’s character. He is a father to an heir, whereas common merit language fashions him as a slave-master to a slave (or if you prefer, a suzerain to a vassal). Thus the question is over whether we are talking about Yahweh or Pharaoh.”

    First, do you mean to say that Yahweh wasn’t Lord/suzerain/master of Israel, His kingdom of servants/slaves/subjects/vassals? In short, wasn’t Israel both son and servant of Yahweh?

    Second, for me, your comments raise a subsequent set of questions: was God only father to Adam his son? Or wasn’t He also lord to Adam his servant? Didn’t God both beget Adam in His image and put Adam on probation?

  267. pduggie said,

    April 30, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Well Paul says that before maturity a son differs nothing from a slave. So its not a question of Son and ALSO Servant, but being an immature son who has servant-like responsibilities.

    It is the nature of the case that a being that can mature in godlikeness needs to be on “probation”, because otherwise, he wouldn’t be a being that can mature.

  268. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Pduggie, re: 268, I would say, Yes. God promised Noah and his house the temporal blessings of deliverance from the first world and entrance into a new world as a temporal reward grounded on the exemplary works of faith by the one man Noah (Genesis 6:8-9, 22; 7:1, 5).

    Put that observation about Noah in context. When considered apart from Christ and the typological revelation of His person and work before His incarnation, even the best of a sinner’s works are but filthy rags and so merit not reward but punishment, while the worst of a sinner’s works merit punishment far beyond that meted out for them in this world. God condescended to our weakness, however, and dispensed temporal blessings and curses to certain believers and their seeds according to the principles of personal and representative merit. In the case of Noah, he was blessed (temporally and physically) for his own exemplary works of faith; Noah’s house was blessed for the exemplary works of faith by the one household head, Noah. That’s a key point in Gen 7:1: the many in Noah’s house are (temporarily and physically) blessed because of the obedience of the one man Noah.

  269. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Pduggie, re: 270, thanks for bringing up the apostle. God puts His son on probation as a servant that he might learn obedience and pass from his minority to his majority. That applies to Jesus, Israel, the king, and Adam.

  270. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    To 272, let me add that by probationary measures God made it clear that the man who would be heir of God had to be a seed who had rendered to God an obedience that was perfect, personal, and perpetual.

  271. tim prussic said,

    April 30, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    #260 – Jeff (or anyone else) – you’ve differentiated ‘twixt the two covenants thus:

    Start
    The COW is of Works in the sense that God stipulates a set of actions that directly obtain eternal life. Obedience is then the instrument that obtains life. The metric of obedience is in terms of strict perfection.

    The COG is of Grace in the sense that God imputes the (results of the) actions of the Federal Head to us, without our having fulfilled the stipulated actions directly. In the case of Adam, being related to Adam is the instrument of imputation. In the case of Jesus, faith is the instrument of imputation.
    End

    So, best I can tell (and I think I agree), the basis of procuring divine blessing is the same in both covenants – perfect, personal obedience. In the first case (COW), humanity in Adam, could have achieved it. In the second (COG), humanity absolutely could not achieve it, so a Second Adam was provided who could and did achieve it.

    A major distinction lies in the appropriation or administration of the blessings of the covenants. In the first, Adam and his sons would have been blessed by means of Adam’s own works (all in the context of creational grace, of course – Adamic “thank yous” being often uttered). In the latter, the Last Adam earns the blessing by his work (active and passive), but his sons/brethren receive the covenantal blessings via redemptive grace through faith – through union with the Last Adam and all his blessings. So, as far as the respective heads of the covenants, the two covenants look and function very similarly. As to the respective sons of the heads, the means of blessing is quite different. Who thinks I’m a heretic? Come on, David G., tell me what you REALLY think. :)

  272. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    tim, re: 274, I’m trying to follow various trails. Here’s one: Adam utters thanks to God if he obeys. Faith always boasts in God; unbelief boasts in self. In other words, had Adam not fallen and remained upright, he, by faith, would have fulfilled the probation God put him on, received the reward for his obedience, and thanked God for his justice and favor. No? I’m sure I’m missing something.

  273. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    April 30, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Dr. White, I would agree with your statement: “Merit or demerit are not defining traits of the words; they are part of the context in which the words appear.” It is not only the FV that makes this error; how often have critics, even in this thread, insisted that grace can only be demerited favor, and that therefore grace before the Fall is impossible? So, both sides need to be clear on this. Just saying “grace” does not necessarily include a relation to merit in its definition.

    On a related note, I found this quote in John Owen’s treatise on justification, and I’m a little puzzled by it. Could we discuss it here, or start a new thread, Lane? John Owen says this: “The creation of man in original righteousness was an effect of divine grace, benignity, and goodness. And the reward of eternal life in the enjoyment of God, was of mere sovereign grace; yet what was then of works, was not of grace, no more is it at present.” (Works, vol. XI, p. 343) His point seems to be the mutually exclusive nature of works and grace (a la David G.), but he does seem to say that the reward offered to Adam under the original covenant was not through works–but something was (apparently justification–cf. p. 342–but was Adam justified?). Or is this Owen’s way of saying that creating the covenant by which Adam could gain the reward was entirely of grace (as per WCF 7.1), since any works he performed (necessarily finite and already owed) could not condignly or congruently merit such an eternal reward? So, the creation of the covenant was “of mere sovereign grace,” but the condition was personal obedience. Also, in the same context, Owen states that in the CoW, “the whole depend[ed] on every one’s personal obedience.” (p. 341) Does that mean that Adam could not have gained the reward for his posterity, but that each individual would have to do so?

    Could you start a new thread, Lane? Or is it not pertinent enough? We did have several threads on Turretin on justification–what about one on Owen on justification?

  274. tim prussic said,

    April 30, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    #275 – Dr. White – I can dig it.

    Further thoughts: Grace and faith are both present on each side of the fall. In order for Adam to DO what God required of him (perfect and personal obedience) and thus receive the promised reward for his obedience, he would have had to believe what God told him. Adam’s prelapsarian faith (a gift of God) wasn’t a redemptive grace and didn’t unite him to a Mediator, but both are true for us on this side of the fall. I find it strange that some folks want to stipulate definitions for terms like ‘grace’ and ‘faith’ that only work in a strictly redemptive context. They, thereby, exclude grace and faith from the prelapsarian state, but both grace and faith seem clearly present to me before the fall. Once again, they’re present, but they function differently than after the fall (there maybe other difference, too, that I’ve overlooked).

  275. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    274 I don’t know. I think David G is kind of shy and retiring about what he thinks. It’s difficult to get him pinned down on anything. I don’t know that you could get his opinion on this matter.

  276. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Joshua, I would be perfectly willing to start a new thread on John Owen. However, I can’t find that quotation in volume 11 of his works. Do you have the right volume?

  277. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 30, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    Tim (#274):

    Yes, I think you’ve summarized it quite fairly.

    The aim here is to keep the features of COW/COG (bicovenantalism, works/grace distinction, federal headship) that are distinctively Confessional while allowing features that are secondary (the meaning of “merit”) to recede into the background.

  278. tim prussic said,

    April 30, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    What? Read the whole 11th volume and MISSED it?!?

  279. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Of course I meant the pages to which he referred, bonehead! ;-)

  280. tim prussic said,

    April 30, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    As to bi-cov’ism (BCism) and monocov’ism (MCism): in post #274, I tried to show how two covenants are VERY similar and also how they are quite different. I’ve read folks like David G., who’ve been taking guys to task over on Blog and Mablog for MCism. I see the COG as a repackaging and redistribution of the COW, each with it’s own Adam. Does that make me guilty of the MCism? That’s why I invited critiques at the end of that post. I’m inviting the same now.

  281. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    April 30, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Re #244:

    “Here he attributes the works/law principle, that is procuring life by doing the commandments, to the Mosaic economy. FVers aren’t comfortable w/ the fact that this works principle is attributed to Moses, but there it is. FVers don’t like seeing the Mosaic law as a republication of the Garden’s CoW, but have a hard time fitting passages like this into their thinking.”

    Um, you need to look at Romans 10 a little more closely. Notice that to explain the “righteousness from faith,” in v. 6ff., Paul quotes DEUTERONOMY, which, as Kline himself has argued, is as a book essentially the covenant document of the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic economy was an administration of the covenant of grace, and so the principle of inheritance was still by faith (cf. Gal. 3:16); otherwise, the Israelites were right to pursue it by works, contra Rom. 9:30-32.

  282. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    In one sense, they’re exactly the same: the covenantal head procures eternal life for all those in (H)him by obedience/works. However, the principle by which we obtain eternal life is now entirely different. In terms of human beings, works/obedience is no longer the means by which we obtain eternal life. So, now it is by faith. Furthermore, at the very least a difference must be laid out in terms of what sense Adam believed God and the faith which we now enjoy. I still assert that Adam did not have faith in the same way we do. Adam could see God anytime he wanted. He did not live by faith. He did have to believe what God had told him. But our situation is different in that we cannot see God.

  283. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Joshua D. Smith, re: 276, I believe you are exactly right about the imprecision with which both FV critics and defenders use the word ‘grace.’ Ordinarily, words should reveal meaning, not conceal it. I’m not sure that I’ll ever use the word ‘grace’ again. If we want to have one less mega-word-fight, let’s just employ the word ‘favor’ (noun or verb) and attach a modifier to it to make our sense clear…and life easier. Wonder if Lane would go along with a baning the word ‘grace’ from his blog. :-)

    tim prussic, re: 277, you know, substitute the word ‘favor’ for ‘grace’ and we may just have a deal.

  284. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Sheesh, sorry; let me rewrite that: Wonder if Lane would go along with banning the word ‘grace’ from his blog.

  285. tim prussic said,

    April 30, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I won’t.

  286. Steven W said,

    April 30, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    269,

    It doesn’t look like I can keep up here, but I’m thinking of Kline’s work on the covenants and especially the “works-principle” in Kingdom Prologue. He says that the Father and the Son are in a covenant of works relation, which I take it serves a precursor for your own thought.

    He also says that the terms Father and Son are used interchangeably with Lord and servant or Suzerain and Vassal in ANE documents. This is ok if we mean that the Lord is Fatherly, but I’m pretty sure that for ANE folks, it means that the Father treats his family like servants. I think we all feel an inherent difference.

    I would say that if we want to bring together the roles of Father and husband with lord, we have do so in a way other than the whole justice vs. grace dialectic. A good king is like a good husband or a good father in that he esteems others better than himself. He uses his power to give everything away. He’s a giver.

    I don’t get that feeling when I look to ancient rulers though. Rather, I see Baal. I see Moloch. I see those who use their slaves to build towers, pyramids, and ask for their servants to give to them.

    I think Galatians 4 is pretty helpful here, in that the heir doesn’t differ in appearance from a slave while he’s young, but when he grows up he certainly does. He receives an inheritance upon his maturation, whereas the slave constantly looks to earn wages. He is never done.

    Jesus was the Son, and we are all sons in him. Rather than opposing his sonship and ours, we should find our sonship in his.

  287. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Lane, re:285, how about this: Adam should have lived by faith that God would reward him for keeping his commandments?

  288. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    April 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Lane, it’s the 1826 edition of his works (found on googlebooks). If this is helpful, it’s in his “The Doctrine of Justification by Faith,” chapter 13…

  289. R. F. White said,

    April 30, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Steven W, you’re right. I don’t deny my debt to Vos and Kline. I don’t think you and I differ that much, except that you have much higher threshold of discomfort with the lord-subject analogy. Father-son is no more comforting to some than lord-subject. Both analogies involve submission and obedience. Mention the words and our stomachs tighten up and our lips purse. Think ‘benevolent monarch’ and we’d all line up to be servant-subjects. Unless we’re egalitarians and antinomians!

  290. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Dr. White, I guess my difficulty here is that I am having a hard time knowing in what sense Adam would have had faith at all. Does Hebrews’ definition of faith as in something not seen affect how we view Adam’s situation? I prefer to speak of Adam living by sight, though not in the glorified state.

  291. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    It must be a different pagination altogether than the 1850-1853 edition, edited by Goold.

  292. tim prussic said,

    April 30, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Pr. Lane, can faith be conceived of as simply believing God? Leaving off all the aspects that tie in with redemption and boil it down to simply hearing God and believing him. I think faith, in that very limited sense, was present in Adam and will be so in heaven too. Maybe we can call it trust?

  293. greenbaggins said,

    April 30, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I would prefer to call it trust. And yes, simply believing God, taking Him at His word, was certainly something that Adam had to do. In fact, in his situation, that was part of the obedience. It was part of having no other gods. One can infer this from the command to guard the garden from intruders and false gods, such as Satan in serpent form.

  294. Steven W said,

    April 30, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    292-

    Dr. White, I think I could retain the Lord/servant analogy by stressing the divine equality and mutual glorification of the Father and Son. We are good Lords over people when we exalt them. This is a reversal of wordly wisdom of course.

    This is how I understand God’s glory to work, as well. He gains glory by glorifying others. This is thus something that we can also model. If we want to merit and glory and be righteous, then we do not go about it like the Judaizers- looking to build ourselves up- but rather we give everything away, lift up others, enable the downtrodden. And I think this is something that the Spirit enables us to do.

    With a merit model this sort of talk amounts to competing with God’s glory. It does not have to be so. Rather, as Augustine taught us, our merits just are God’s merits.

  295. R. F. White said,

    May 1, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Lane, re: 293 and 296, your reference to Adam’s not being in a glorified state and your subsequent acceptance of faith as trust is why I would not have a problem saying that Adam walked by faith. Before the eschaton, faith is, at least in part, oriented to the future, to things hoped for and not yet seen. God’s word predicted the future for man in Gen 1-2, and, so long as Adam walked by faith in the God of that word, he remained upright. He fell in part because he came to trust Satan’s word about the future, not God’s. I wonder, then, if a solution is to say that Adam walked both by faith and by sight before the fall. Haven’t thought it through, however.

  296. R. F. White said,

    May 1, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Steven W, re: 297, I appreciate your willingness to discuss the question of models at work in Gen 1-2.

    What is fascinating to watch is how frequently in these exchanges we wax winsome about God and Adam as father and son but the minute somebody casts God and Adam in any other terms, barriers go up. I think we need to ask ourselves, Why do we treat the father-son analogy as a positive descriptor for the pre-fall God-Adam relationship but we treat all other analogies, say, the lord-servant analogy, as a negative descriptor?

    Not to pick on you, Steven, but notice that even in your comments how frequently you bring up postlapsarian corruptions of the lord-servant relationship, but not once have you brought up postlapsarian corruptions of the father-son relationship into your reasoning. Why do we do this in our theological reasoning?

    Also, notice that a notion floating around this interaction is that merit and debt are nots part of the father-son relationship. Why is that? Does a son not owe his father obedience? Does a father not owe his son commendation for obedience?

    More broadly, why is it that only the merit model is cast in a negative, postlapsarian light?

  297. greenbaggins said,

    May 1, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Hmm. Very interesting, Dr. White. I will have to cogitate on that for awhile. Whatever the case, however, I cannot go in the direction of Adam being justified by faith alone, which erases the distinction between pre-Fall and post-Fall.

  298. R. F. White said,

    May 1, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Lane, oh, I agree that we cannot say that Adam would have been justified by faith alone. Not to be too cute about it, but Adam’s faith without works is dead … and so is he.

  299. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    May 1, 2008 at 10:24 am

    I actually ran across a reference to Adam’s faith the other day being part of what was required for him under the law (i.e., CoW)–unfortunately, I was looking up something else, and now I can’t find that quote again…

    Couldn’t Adam’s faith be construed under the heading of Heb. 11? Adam did not possess the glorified state, and so needed to trust God’s way of bringing that about–through abstaining from the tree. But Adam followed the deceiver’s way of achieving glory (god-like status) instead, because the fruit was pleasing to the eye…

  300. Steven W said,

    May 1, 2008 at 10:47 am

    299,

    Dr. White,

    I think the slavemaster ideal is cast in a negative light because for Paul, the law is a post-fall reality. He’s got the Mosaic covenant in mind, and being under the law (whether or not you can keep it) is itself less than the most desirable state. Gal. 4 contrasts a heir from a slave.

    A father is not the same thing as our normal notion of the lord of the manor or the King of the Persians. Take the picture of the Father in the parable of the Prodigal son for just one example- He’s got a gracious character through and through. The Bible itself gives us these ideals.

    And I think there’s more than just subjective feelings going on. The Murray/Kline disagreement is over attributes of God, with Kline insisting that law is the “ground structure” (By Oath Consigned 187). You see this continuing with Mike Horton. He wrote an essay not too long ago where he said that humans were “wired for law.” That’s the default. All of this comes from putting the attributes of God in a sort of hierarchy, and from there flows out our understanding of how God deals with humans. His works show his nature.

    So I think we have an objective disagreement that fuels our subjective.

    Grace becomes understood as favor in the context of demerit. This is not in keeping with the earliest Christian definitions, though, which positing that grace was simply God’s supernatural presence in sustaining all things, hence the various nature/grace discussions that appear. We’ve allowed our “forensics” to eclipse the ontological concerns (of which Chalcedon forces us to reconsider and return to a place of importance).

    I appreciate the conversation and the kind-spirit in which it has taken place. Thanks, much.

  301. R. F. White said,

    May 1, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Steven W, re: 302, I don’t doubt in the least the relevance of the law as a post-fall reality is a consideration. Nor do I wish to suggest that the reasons for the points of impasse among us are merely subjective projections. You are right that theology proper is properly a consideration that gets backgrounded and deserves to be foregrounded. To that degree, I am reminded of Letham’s essay some years back where he placed the debate over roles of man and woman against the backdrop of the Trinity.

    More to your point about the law, I take as a given that, while in Paul the law is a post-fall reality, it is not, even in Paul, exclusively so. The ten commandments, summarized in the two great commandments of Sinai and Zion, are also the law of Eden.

    In that light, I had a ‘duh’ moment realizing that our talk of the father-son and lord-servant analogies put us in the realm of the fifth commandment. To the extent that we take the commandments as a reflection of the divine nature, the WLC exposition of the fifth commandment sheds light on our discussion of the relationships of God and Adam as father and son and of the Father and the Son.

  302. R. F. White said,

    May 1, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Steven W, one other thing: when you say that “Grace becomes understood as favor in the context of demerit” and then go on to say that this is contrary to the earliest Christian defitions, I say GREAT to the extent that the earliest Christian definitions are dominated by medieval Roman Catholic scholastic notions of grace and congruent/condign merit! That whole scheme makes sense only within the larger scheme of infusionist justification. It is alien to the construct of imputationist justification that defines Reformation (and especially Reformed, covenantal) soteriology.

  303. tim prussic said,

    May 1, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Oughn’t we, in certain ways, to see the Law as a gracious condescension of God? I fancy myself not too directly influenced by Kline, but I, too, think that a creation with moral aspect is NECESSARILY under God’s law – as God is certainly a moral God. Thus, pre-fall Adam is subject to the moral demands of God, just as I am right now. One thing that Rushdoony taught me a while back is that law is inescapable for creatures. We will submit to SOME law, and that the submission will be to our god or God. May we, therefore, cheerfully submit to the law of Yawhew, our Heavenly Father and Benevolent Suzerain and not any other – even as the Last Adam did.

  304. R. F. White said,

    May 1, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    tim, re: 306, I’d say, yes, God condescended to give the law to Israel despite the presence of their demerit, and God condescended to give the law to Adam despite the absence of his positive merit. (Predictable, I know.)

  305. Steven W said,

    May 1, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Sure, there are all sorts of law, even “natural” law, which is probably inescapable. But the “law” in law/gospel talks is specific, and in Paul it is typically associated with a certain time in redemptive history.

    Paul is never wholly without laws, as if he were bouncing around in anarchy, but he is certainly not “under the law” when it comes to its tutorial (probationary) aspects.

    I would also not want to give the early Church to Rome, but that’s another topic for another day.

    To Tim’s point, I think we go with king David and ask for God to deal graciously with us through law =)

    signing out,
    Steven W

  306. tim prussic said,

    May 1, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Thanks, Steven. I quite appreciate your insights. What year did you gradulate from RTS? It was RTS, no?

  307. Steven W said,

    May 1, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Tim,

    I am currently at RTS Jackson.

  308. R. F. White said,

    May 1, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Steven W, re: 308, thanks for the conversation. I’m happy too not to give the early Church to Rome in its entirely either, but conceptions that blossomed as Romanism tend to characterize what we think of the Church taken as a whole and earlier than the Reformation. That’s all I had in mind. Please give my regards to Dr. Waters and Dr. Ireland at RTSJ, the latter classmate of mine from WTS Phila.

  309. Ron Henzel said,

    May 1, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Steven,

    Regarding the word “grace,” you wrote in comment 303:

    This is not in keeping with the earliest Christian definitions, though, which positing that grace was simply God’s supernatural presence in sustaining all things, hence the various nature/grace discussions that appear.

    Could you supply us with a reference from the Apostolic or Ante-Nicene Fathers that would support your statement here?

  310. Steven W said,

    May 1, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Ron,

    Too may to list. This notion is all tied in with creation ex nihlio, as well as God as the source of all being (for the opposing view, you might recall the medieval debates over “pure nature” which tried to give some autonomy to nature, thus opening the door for the neo-semi-pelagianism which was so revolting to the proto-Reformers).

    Athanasius would be a good start for this discussion, and I’d recommend Khaled Anatolois’s book for a good intro. Anatolois has an introductory section dedicated to a discussion of nature and grace.

    Time is working against me at this stage in the semester, so I must retire from this field.

    blessings

  311. Steven W said,

    May 1, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Ok, I can give some primary references, since after review, my response seemed impolite:

    Irenaeus Against Heresies Bk. 3 chpt. 38
    Athanaius Against the Gentiles Bk. 3 chpt. 41
    Gregory of Nyssa On the Formation of Man chpt. 9

  312. tim prussic said,

    May 2, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Yeah, not to mention punkish. :)

  313. Ron Henzel said,

    May 2, 2008 at 5:22 am

    Steven,

    Regarding your comments 313 and 314: I didn’t take your initial response as impolite, although it did appear that you were trying to say you didn’t have the time to look up the referenced I requested.

    I actually checked the references to “grace” in Irenaeus and a few other Apostolic and Ante-Nicene Fathers before I posted comment 312. Book Three of Irenaeus’s Against Heresies has only 25 chapters. Only Book Four has a chapter 38, and it does not use the word grace, although it does consist of an extended discussion of a question concerning creation.

    Of course, neither Athanasius nor Gregory of Nyssa qualify as Ante-Nicene Fathers, but rather as Nicene. I figured that as long as we were discussing “the earliest Christian definitions” of grace (cf. comment 303) that we should probably confine ourselves to the period up to the Arian controversy. That may sound arbitrary, but I think 300 years should be plenty of time to locate the earliest definition of such an important word.

    Even so, I checked the references you supplied from Athanasius and Gregory, but neither of those chapters defines the word “grace.” I could not find the word at all in the chapter from Athanasius (Against the Heathen in Schaff’s edition), and when Gregory uses the word in chapter 9 (“That the Form of Man Was Framed to Serve as an Instrument of Reason”) of On The Making of Man (Schaff), he writes:

    Now since our Maker has bestowed upon our formation a certain Godlike grace, by implanting in His image the likeness of His own excellences, for this reason He gave, of His bounty, His other good gifts to human nature; but mind and reason we cannot strictly say that He gave, but that He imparted them, adding to the image the proper adornment of His own nature. Now since the mind is a thing intelligible and incorporeal,its grace would have been incommunicable and isolated, if its motion were not manifested by some contrivance.

    Here it seems pretty obvious that Gregory was using the word “grace” to mean a favor granted or received, but he doesn’t actually define it.

    If you found these references in Anatolios, all I can say is that I’ve seen this kind of thing before with even more well-known authors. In his Early Christian Doctrines, J.N.D. Kelly gives the distinct impression (even if Kelly doesn’t say so explicitly) that Augustine defined grace as “‘an internal and secret power, wonderful and ineffable’, by which God operates in men’s hearts” (revised edition, 1978, page 366). But when you actually check the reference he supplies, in “On the Grace of Christ and Original Sin,” you discover that Augustine is not defining grace, and doesn’t even use the word in that chapter of his work. True, Augustine is engaged there in a larger confrontation with Pelagius over the doctrine of grace, but what Kelly actually located was a description of how God works in His grace, and not an actual definition of the word “grace.” I believe we’re running into the same thing here with the references you supplied in comment 314.

  314. Ron Henzel said,

    May 2, 2008 at 5:23 am

    How odd! What I intended to appear after ”That the Form of Man Was Framed to Serve as an Instrument of Reason” was a simple close parenthesis. I wonder what happened…

  315. Ron Henzel said,

    May 2, 2008 at 5:30 am

    Steven,

    By the way: in the middle of page 19 of Anatolios’s book, you’ll see that he himself holds that in the context of the Nicene debates the definition of “grace” was “divine favor.”

  316. Steven W said,

    May 2, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Really can’t stick around for yet another huge topic, but yes, the Irenaeus reference was to Bk 4, my apologies for the typo.

    You’ll see Irenaeus discussing this concept (which is what I’m talking about- concepts) in point 3, when he speaks of the gratuitous bestowal of external existence. Nature has no “natural” except for what it is gratuitously given, which is why, when working independently of God, it falls away into nothingness (hence Athanasius’ thought).

    My original point was not to say that the patristics supplied an exhaustive definition of grace either (as if they never called it divine favor. I call it divine favor too!), but rather to show that limiting its use to “the context of demerit” is novel.

    In fact, federalism is often guilty of separating itself from the ontological aspects of salvation that so dominate all pre-modern thought. Even Calvin roots Christ’s righteousness in the shared divine nature of the Trinity, and he can say that imputation is a kind of deification (see Todd Billings’ work). He is thus in keeping with the broader catholic tradition. Our disputes today, however, are way out in left field (as far as the Christian Church is concerned), wrangling over just how Jesus Christ was the perfectly moral and meritorious human. He was the perfect human of course, but the bigger point is that He is God’s love in action, saving us and bringing us into Himself. And there’s no concept of “strict justice” that can explain why He’d do a thing like that.

  317. Steven W said,

    May 2, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Oh hey Tim Prussic, shoot me an email sometime (its posted at my blog if you click my name). I’d love chat more.

    Really gone this time.

  318. Ron Henzel said,

    May 3, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Steven,

    You wrote:

    Really can’t stick around for yet another huge topic, but yes, the Irenaeus reference was to Bk 4, my apologies for the typo.

    As one whose life is driven by more then one academic calendar, I’ll understand if you’re finding yourself a bit too engaged in more important matters to respond immediately to my comments here. I just want to get my thoughts down here before my age and debilitations prevent me from recalling that we were even having this discussion. If you want to reply later, that will be fine. There is no hurry. And no need to apologize for the typo; I was just trying to make sure we were referring to the same references.

    But assuming that the time might come when you are able to reply, I’ll quote this portion of your latest response to me and then provide my own thoughts:

    You’ll see Irenaeus discussing this concept (which is what I’m talking about- concepts) in point 3, when he speaks of the gratuitous bestowal of external existence. Nature has no “natural” except for what it is gratuitously given, which is why, when working independently of God, it falls away into nothingness (hence Athanasius’ thought).

    Actually, Steven, I thought we were talking about the definition of grace. Back in comment 303 you claimed that “the earliest Christian definitions” of grace posited “that grace was simply God’s supernatural presence in sustaining all things.” Setting aside the issue of how exceedingly limiting this definition is (which I haven’t brought up until now), it seems to imply the astonishing notion that grace was not a specifically soteriological concept at all in the early church, but rather one identified primarily with the Creator-creation distinction.

    So in comment 312 I wrote: “Could you supply us with a reference from the Apostolic or Ante-Nicene Fathers that would support your statement here?” You provided one Ante-Nicene Father (Irenaeus) and two Nicene Fathers (Athanasius and Gregory), and now we’re discussing Irenaeus, who, in the Against Heresies 4.38.3 passage you recommend does not define grace, nor does he discuss it as a concept, or even mention it directly. So instead of showing how the earliest Christian definitions of grace conform to your characterization of them, you only make remarks that allude to the following sentence in Irenaeus:

    For from the very fact of these things having been created, [it follows] that they are not uncreated; but by their continuing in being throughout a long course of ages, they shall receive a faculty of the Uncreated, through the gratuitous bestowal of eternal existence upon them by God.

    [Schaff, ANF 1:521.]

    All of this is quite interesting, but how does it support your original assertion that the early church defined “grace” as “simply God’s supernatural presence in sustaining all things?”

    Yes, God’s supernatural presence does sustain all things. And yes, although the Greek text of chapter 4 of Against Heresies no longer exists, it’s entirely possible (perhaps even likely) that the original word behind “gratuitous bestowal” was charizomai (χαρίζομαι). But how does this bring us any closer to the earliest Christian definitions of grace? There are plenty of other places in Irenaeus where he directly refers to grace; why not look in one of those passages for his definition?

    Perhaps it would help if I provided an example of something approximating what I would be looking for in an early Christian definition of “grace.” The defining of terms in written discourse is by no means a modern invention. In fact, sometime in the 330s B.C. Aristotle wrote down his own definition of χάρις:

    The persons towards whom men feel benevolent [χάριν ἔχουσι], and for what reasons, and in what frame of mind, will be clear when we have defined what favour is [ὁρισαμένοις τὴν χάριν δῆλον ἔσται]. Let it then be taken to be the feeling [a rather free translation of ἔστω δὴ χάρις!] in accordance with which one who has it is said to render a service to the one who needs it [λέγεται χάριν ὑπουργεῖν δεομένῳ], not in return for something nor in the interest of him who renders it, but in that of the recipient.

    [Aristotle, The "Art" of Rhetoric, John Henry Freese, trans., (Cambridge, MA, USA and London, England: Harvard University Press, reprinted 1994), 220-221.]

    I don’t expect you to locate in the church fathers the kind of methodical defining of terms that we find in Aristotle, but I think it should be obvious from this example that ancient people understood the necessity of making fine verbal distinctions when necessary. Meanwhile, it’s worth noting how closely Aristotle’s understanding of the basic meaning of χάρις parallels its New Testament usage, where you never find anything close to the notion of it being “simply God’s supernatural presence in sustaining all things.”

    You wrote:

    My original point was not to say that the patristics supplied an exhaustive definition of grace either (as if they never called it divine favor. I call it divine favor too!), but rather to show that limiting its use to “the context of demerit” is novel.

    Perhaps that was what you were driving at, but on your way you ended up defining grace in a way that would have certainly been considered novel by ancient Christians, by excluding any soteriological reference from its theological meaning. By confining it to “simply God’s supernatural presence in sustaining all things” you have limited it in way that Reformed theology never has. You go on to complain that “federalism is often guilty of separating itself from the ontological aspects of salvation that so dominate all pre-modern thought,” without even recognizing that your definition does much worse by cutting salvation completely out of the equation, not to mention the fact that you reprise one of the errors of medieval theology that Reformed theology opposed: making God’s power the central idea of grace, rather than an extension or application of it.

  319. Steven W said,

    May 3, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Ron,

    Your criticisms are missing me because I affirm that all that stuff (creator/creature distinction, ontology, participation in God’s presence) IS SOTERIOLOGY.

    Your objection is part of my complaint. Limiting the discussion to merit and demerit makes soteriology exclusively moral.

    Again, the point is concepts.

    There is no “central idea” when it comes to God. All of his attributes are equally ultimate (though I would dispute that “Reformed theology” opposed the centrality of divine power, seeing as how Perkins and Ames were so influenced by Scotus and voluntarism).

    I’ll have to ask for Xon’s intervention from here on though…

  320. Ron Henzel said,

    May 4, 2008 at 6:21 am

    Steven,

    And you don’t call your thinking novel?

  321. Ron Henzel said,

    May 4, 2008 at 7:19 am

    Steven,

    You completely missed the point of my remark to the effect that you make “God’s power the central idea of grace.” You responded, “There is no ‘central idea’ when it comes to God. All of his attributes are equally ultimate…” Grace is not an attribute of God; it is an attitude or disposition that God assumes according to His own choice.

  322. Ron Henzel said,

    May 4, 2008 at 7:44 am

    ..And besides, the central idea of grace is a different matter entirely from the central idea of God. Now I must have my first cup of coffee so I can complete my thoughts without breaking them up into separate comments…

  323. July 23, 2008 at 9:47 am

    [...] jump into some steaming hot magma. Or you could add your contributions to the 300+ comments at the original source.) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Before I Go OnOf Covenants (1) – [...]


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