Mark Horne on Turretin and Merit

On page 85 of A Faith That Is Never Alone, Mark Horne quotes Turretin in order to prove that no merit of any kind was operative in the Covenant of Works. Unfortunately for Mark’s argument, he leaves out pactum merit, as he does time and time again. He also leaves out half of the Turretin quotation. Here is what Mark includes:

Thus, Adam himself, if he had persevered, would not have merited life in strict justice (p. 712 of volume 2 of the IET).

However, Mark left out the second half of the sentence, which goes on to say precisely what Mark will not allow anywhere in his theology:

although (through a certain condescension) God promised him by a covenant life under the condition of perfect obedience (which is called meritorious from that covenant in a broader sense because it ought to have been, as it were, the foundation and meritorious cause in view of which God had adjudged life to him).

Notice Turretin’s qualifications. None of this matches up to strict merit, either of congruity or condignity. However, it can be called meritorious according to the covenant (pactum). It is not once (contra Horne) but at least twice that Turretin calls Adam’s obedience merit according to pact. Turretin explicitly states that Adam’s obedience would have been a meritorious cause of his obtaining life, understanding “meritorious” according to the terms of the covenant.

About these ads

179 Comments

  1. bret said,

    July 28, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Whenever dealing with Horne, it is a rule of thumb to always go and check his quotes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught him practicing unique ellipses or not giving the full context of a quote. You’d think that he’d realize that people are on to his practice of selective quotation.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    July 28, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I have found that to be the case also, Bret.

  3. Jeff Meyers said,

    July 28, 2008 at 11:15 am

    If all you mean by “meritorious” is that an act or action fulfills the terms of a particular covenant, then faith is meritorious in the covenant of grace because it is required, according to the terms of the covenant, for attaining eternal life. If Adam’s obedience “would have been the meritorious cause of his obtaining life,” according to the terms of that pre-fall covenant, then our faith is the meritorious cause for obtaining life in the covenant of grace. After all, we’re not talking about “strict merit.” That is one of Mark’s major problems with all this merit talk.

  4. Stephen Welch said,

    July 28, 2008 at 11:16 am

    Forgive me for my ignorance, but I was not aware that Andrew Sandlin was a Federal Visionist. He has denied the teaching of some of these men, so I was surprised to see that he wrote this book. Lane, can you clarify Sandlin’s position on FV and his connection with it? I used to read some of his articles in the old Chalcedon magazine years ago, before he left that group, and did not find his writing problmatic.

    As far as Horne I find this to be poor and sloppy on his part. I have never found him to be strongly theological or accurate in his position. Some Federal Visionists do not believe in a covenant of works and some do, so it is difficult to get a clear consenses from them as to what they believe. Standard covenant theology has always stated that under a covenant of works life was promised upon the condition of perfect obedience. How can Horne fail to see any merit in this covenant. The entire typology of the first Adam and second Adam is obsolete if the first Adam did not merit life by perfect obedience. A faulty view of the covenant of works must lead to a faulty view of the covenant of grace. Perhaps this is why so much of FV hersesy has a faulty view of salvation by grace alone.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    July 28, 2008 at 11:19 am

    That is an important point to consider, Jeff. And it is very helpful to get to the bottom of why Mark doesn’t like this terminology. Here is the question, then: is there not an inherent difference between the nature of faith and the nature of works? How can faith be meritorious in the pactum sense, when its inherent nature is to lay hold of something else, someone else’s merit? As Paul says so often, faith is opposed to works when it comes to justification. They have a completely different nature. So, from my perspective, then, the reason why the nature of works in Adam’s case and the nature of faith in our case is different, is that faith is not a work.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    July 28, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Stephen, Andrew Sandlin is his own man. I don’t think he would describe himself as Federal Vision. However, he does seem to have some sympathies with Norman Shepherd’s theology. So, I would probably describe him as having some overlap with FV but certainly not identity.

  7. Stephen Welch said,

    July 28, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Jeff, I do not understand how you do not see that perfect obedience was required of Adam under a covenant of works? You fail to address how Mark Horne can quote only part of Turretin and ignore the rest of what he said about merit. The first covenant was of works so perfect obedience was required but under the covenant of grace Christ merited for us perfect obedience, not our faith. So why do you assume that our faith would merit obedience when the Scriptures teach otherwise.

  8. Stephen Welch said,

    July 28, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Thanks, Lane. I find it strange that he would write a book with contributions made by FV men if he would not identify himself with them. Do you know in what areas Sandlin would be sympathetic to Shepherd? How far do you go in saying one is a FV?

  9. greenbaggins said,

    July 28, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Sandlin is sympathetic, I believe, in the area of justification. I would say that someone who could sign on to most of the areas discussed in the Joint Statement would be considered an FV proponent. Of course, Steve Schlissel could not sign that document, since he is not a paedo-communion advocate, and yet he is still considered FV. So, maybe most of the issues need to be agreed upon. Of course, Schlissel doesn’t seem to be hanging around the other FV’ers much anymore. He’s always been somewhat on the fringe.

  10. Stephen Welch said,

    July 28, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Yes, Lane this is the problem with the entire FV issue, there are no agreed upon issues. I think the only issues they are agreed upon is to bring confusion to the body of Christ. Of course Satan is the author of confusion.

  11. July 28, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Concerning whether Adam’s work being meritorious (covenantally speaking) demands that faith is also meritorious, would that position not be a perfect example of neonomianism?

    The whole point of the gospel is that faith is not a work in any sense, but a divinely-wrought receiving of the work of someone else.

  12. Joe Brancaleone said,

    July 28, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Faith for the believer is not pactum merit like Adam’s obedience because faith is not about fulfilling the terms of the covenant of grace in the same sense as obedience fulfilled the terms of the covenant God made with Adam. Faith is simply the means of apprehending the blessings of the covenant, given on the basis of another who fulfilled the terms of the covenant.

    They are only similar in that they are both obligations of the human party in the covenant. But the comparison wrt fulfilling covenant terms (pactum merit) is not between covenant head (Adam) and any ol’ covenant member (believer), it is only a valid comparison between covenant head (Adam) and covenant head (Christ).

    Paul declared the necessity of faith, of knowing Christ, in Philippians 3. Yet that faith simply apprehends something outside of him that gives him a righteous standing in the covenant. He knows he needed to be “found” in Christ, NOT having a righteousness of his own but that which comes through faith, the righteousness of Christ.

    Meanwhile, it is that act of righteousness of Christ (not our act of faith) which is directly compared to the trespass (covenant-breaking) of Adam (Rom. 5:18).

    j

  13. markhorne said,

    July 28, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Speaking of sloppy, denying that Jeff or I or anyone else denies “that perfect obedience was required of Adam” makes sloppiness the best possible interpretation of the denier.

    Neither Turretin nor Horton has a special category called “pactum merit.” When Turretin asks questions about the possibility of human merit he denies it. That is, he only uses the “proper” definition of merit.

    Horton, if I recall, is all concerned about protecting Christ’s merit. I don’t see how that can fail to be proper merit without denying the absolute necessity of Christ’s work. There is a history of doing so among some of the Reformed, but I think it is now largely resisted and should be.

    Finally, whether or not the Westminster Standards ought to claim faith is a condition of the covenant of grace, the do so. This means that faith is pactum merit, and would allow us to say that faith is “improperly” meritorious.

    Turretin avoids this language for obvious reasons, and he probably avoids the term “pactum merit” for the same reason. I have yet to see how demanding an affirmation of a nonmeritorious (properly speaking) merit (improperly speaking) brings clarity or precision to theological conversation. In the meantime, no one denies that Adam had to fulfill the conditions of the covenant of works. I pointed out the propriety of the term “covenant of works” here.

    Adam’s good works were acceptable to God. He could do them and God would receive them. Our own “good” works, our very best works, require the forgiveness of God and the continual intercession of Jesus Christ due to their impurity. Thus, it is appropriate to describe God’s covenant with Adam as a covenant of works and God’s covenant with us as a covenant of grace in that we need and (if we are ultimately to be saved from God’s wrath) receive God’s grace in that he forgives what is lacking in our works….

    That was written in 2002, but I could have easily written it ten years earlier.

  14. greenbaggins said,

    July 28, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Mark, you have failed to engage with the discussion. You failed to indicate how it was that you were not misquoting Turretin. And pactum merit is in the very quotation that you left out. He says explicitly that Adam’s obedience would have been meritorious cause according to covenant (which is pactum). This is not even a case of implicit statement. It is explicit.

  15. Mark said,

    July 28, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    1. “Misquoting Turretin” is not even something your post alleges.

    2. Horton was discussing strict justice and so was I.

    3. No one denies (as has been pointed out) that if Adam would have fulfilled the conditions God would have, by His own word and character, been obligated to honor his gracious promise. But the promise was made by grace, not according to strict justice. So real merit is out of the picture.

    4. If you want me to stipulate that Adam could have “merited” glory by nonmeritorious merit, then I think I will. But again, Horton was talking about the meritorious kind, and that is what Lusk has been critiquing (which Horton takes issue with).

  16. Mark said,

    July 28, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    #11 Yes Jason, I’m trying to avoid neonomian faith by getting rid of pactum merit as a term. It causes confusion and leads us straight there. Nonmeritorious merit can only cause confusion. It is an unstable idea.

    I agree with your distinction between saving faith and Adam’s obedience, but within that difference they are still both covenant conditions so that merit in one must still bleed over to the other.

  17. July 28, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Mark,

    You wrote: “I agree with your distinction between saving faith and Adam’s obedience, but within that difference they are still both covenant conditions so that merit in one must still bleed over to the other.”

    But surely you agree that the covenant of grace is “conditional” only in a qualified sense, right? Yes, we must believe, but that belief functions differently than Adam’s obedience would have. The requisite work for our salvation has been accomplished by Christ, and we receive the benefit through a faith that is unconditionally given to all the elect.

    In short, our faith is not the ground of our salvation, whereas Adam’s work would have been the ground of his receiving the reward.

    You just can’t draw a straight line from Adam to us. We draw the line from Adam to Jesus.

  18. July 29, 2008 at 12:29 am

    You just can’t draw a straight line from Adam to us. We draw the line from Adam to Jesus.

    Amen, brother. I see some category confusion on the FV side of the isle. Last I checked, Eph 2:8 said that faith was a gift. It was Christ who perfectly fulfilled the conditions of the Covenant of Works, and His righteousness (i.e., active and passive obedience) is credited to the elect under the Covenant of Grace. Rom 5:12-21 makes the case for a strict-justice equivalence between the first and second Adams in relation to the Covenant of Works:

    15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (NKJV)

    I also guess that there’s some mystical FV distinction between “misquoting” and “selectively parsing.” Perhaps “misrepresenting” would be the preferred descriptor to “misquoting” in this case? Would that make anyone feel better?

  19. Mark said,

    July 29, 2008 at 1:08 am

    “In short, our faith is not the ground of our salvation, whereas Adam’s work would have been the ground of his receiving the reward.”

    But again, we are all agreeing that Adam’s work would not be the meritorious basis right?

    And furthermore, Adam would not be trusting in the merit of his works but on the promise of God and his character that he will keep his promise. Turretin has a nice discussion in Volume one about the nature of Adam’s sin as one of unbelief.

    I didn’t misquote because where Horton spoke of strict justice and merit I quoted Turretin on strict justice. That was the whole point of Horton’s animus against Lusk’s questioning the word “merit” –that we must have it to have a basis for our salvation in judicial transaction, one of “strict justice” that applies to both Christ and Adam. That is exactly the connection that Turretin denies and the Westminster Documents themselves only use merit in reference to Christ’s work, not Adam’s.

  20. July 29, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Mark,

    You didn’t really answer my question about the different ways in which the covenants of works and grace are said to be “conditional.”

    If Adam had obeyed and received the reward, he would have been able to say, “My reward is due to God’s justice and faithfulness to his promise to me.”

    When we reflect on our reward, we say, “Our reward is due to God’s justice and faithfulness to his promise to Jesus.”

    That’s why John says that when we sin, he is “faithful and just” to forgive us. Again, the line goes from Adam to Christ, and then through Christ to you and me.

  21. Ron Henzel said,

    July 29, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Mark,

    In comment 15 you wrote to Lane: “‘Misquoting Turretin’ is not even something your post alleges.”

    So when someone accuses you of selectively citing an author in such a way as to directly contradict that author’s intended meaning (as Lane obviously did), that does not constitute an allegation of misquotation? Quick, somebody call Webster’s and Random House! They’re gonna need to make some changes!

    In comment 19 you wrote to Jason: “But again, we are all agreeing that Adam’s work would not be the meritorious basis right?”

    ROFLOL! That’s a good one.

    If Jeff’s explanation in comment 3 is accurate, your first mistake is assuming that when we say Adam’s obedience to the covenant of works would have been meritorious, we are also saying “that an act or action fulfills the terms of [any] particular covenant” is by definition “meritorious.” This is pure caricature, and absurd on its face.

    In human jurisprudence, a law can be passed that grants amnesty to those who have violated a previously-existing law. The amnesty law can include particular conditions. Such a condition might be that if violators simply turn in a particular contraband they will not be prosecuted. Meeting the condition of the amnesty law, however, is never intended to imply that one now “deserves” or “merits” any kind of right legal standing in the community.

    Only a complete moron would turn in the contraband to get the amnesty and then go around town bragging about how good he is for having done so, and his neighbors would be justified for giving such an idiot a wide berth when he strolled by. He trusted in what the new law said, he came to the place of justice (which by law had been transformed into a place of amnesty), confessed and forsook his sin, and received mercy. Any sane person who follows these steps would be deeply humbled rather than filled with pride, let alone dare to think that he had in any way merited the forgiveness he had received.

    Your second mistake was ignoring what Lane wrote in comment 5, which by explaining what actually happens under the New Covenant also shows how the biblical view of salvation goes far beyond the amnesty illustration I just gave, and demonstrates the bankruptcy of any view that denies that Christ actively merited righteousness for us under the terms of the covenant of works.

  22. GLW Johnson said,

    July 29, 2008 at 7:15 am

    Lane
    You recently mention that among the FV both Wilson and Horne subscribe to the IOCAO -I am hard pressed to see how the standard Reformed understanding of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience can be affirmed by Mark Horne given his position in this book.

  23. Jeff Meyers said,

    July 29, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Is it even possible to have a civil discussion here? In comment #’s 15 and 16 Mark explained the context of his quotation of Turretin. Can a conversation here stay on point without crazy, over-the-top accusations?

  24. its.reed said,

    July 29, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Ref. 23:

    Jeff, civil discussion does not mean lack of disagreement. As long as such comments are expressed appropriately, such disagreements are civil.

    If you have specific comments you believe are inappropriate, please bring those to the attention of one of the moderators (email us offlist, my email is its dot reed at gmail dot com).

    And yes, civil discussion here is possible. Happens all the time. :)

    Reed DePace
    moderator at sufferance ;)

  25. Ken Christian said,

    July 29, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Guys – Mark’s explanation seems clear enough to me. He was using the Turretin quotations to argue against Horton’s notion of strict merit. The Turretin passages he left out were irrelevant to the original discussion. Given that, why the rush to hang him for “selective quoting” or whatever?

  26. July 29, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Ken,

    Because the parts he left out change the meaning/context of the part included. I thought that Lane made that clear enough in his original post.

  27. July 29, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Jeff, RE #23,

    Does this mean that you repudiate your fellow FVers’ use of the “serrated edge?” Or does that fall in the realm of “civil discussion.” Just trying to understand your ground rules.

  28. Ken Christian said,

    July 29, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Ref. 26 – Bob, that’s true only if Lane’s interpretation of Mark’s original intent is accurate. So, I know, let’s just ask him (imagine that!):

    Mark, Lane writes this about the chapter in question:

    Mark Horne quotes Turretin in order to prove that no merit of any kind was operative in the Covenant of Works.

    Mark, is that why you quoted Turretin?

  29. markhorne said,

    July 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    I quoted Turretin to prove that there was no meritorioius merit operative in the covenant of works. Whether there is anything to be gained in demanding the use of the slogan “pactum merit” is a different question. Turretin never advocates such a slogan, and the phrase Lane is jumping on, while it is fine for use in support of his own view, is not such a slogan nor the advocacy of one. And Horton never talks about this either.

    I obviously think “pactum merit” has little value and is prone to confuse. But that wasn’t an issue between Horton and Lusk, so there was no reason to mention it.

  30. markhorne said,

    July 29, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    “When we reflect on our reward, we say, “Our reward is due to God’s justice and faithfulness to his promise to Jesus.”

    That’s why John says that when we sin, he is “faithful and just” to forgive us. Again, the line goes from Adam to Christ, and then through Christ to you and me.”

    Jason, your theology is fine, but John isn’t directly invoking it. He is encouraging Christians to confess there sins in order to be forgiven. So like Adam, we act in faith–trusting God to be faithful and just to give us what he promised if we acted accordingly.

  31. markhorne said,

    July 29, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    #21= Any literate person can read everything Turretin says about merit and see that I quoted him to affirm his meaning, not to contradict it or give a false impression. I have no need to say more.

  32. Manlius said,

    July 29, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Mark et al: What do you think of the following formulation?

    Adam didn’t need to merit his own access to life, since the Tree of Life was graciously given to him prior to his obedience. What his own covenant obedience was to merit (if we don’t mind using that word in at least some sense, while granting some of the biblical difficulties in doing so) was life for the creation outside the garden, which was characterized by “tohu vobohu.”

    Given this framework, Christ’s merit on our behalf is not some abstract transfer of his covenantal obedience to my own, but his victorious work in overcoming sin and death so that by faith we might freely receive forgiveness of sin. Likewise, the church does not merit its own salvation, but through its redemptive work in Christ accomplishes, or “merits”, Christ’s salvation for the world.

    In other words, merit, whether Christ’s or our own, is not a matter of putting the Father in our debt, but in laying down our lives for others, accomplishing his mission for the world which he loves and for which he gave his only begotten Son.

  33. markhorne said,

    July 29, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    #4:

    Since Welch sums it up nicely:

    (1) Standard covenant theology has always stated that under a covenant of works life was promised upon the condition of perfect obedience. (2)How can Horne fail to see any merit in this covenant[?] (3)The entire typology of the first Adam and second Adam is obsolete if the first Adam did not merit life by perfect obedience.

    1: Right, and I agree.

    2: Well, what does one mean by “merit”? According what Turretin believes to be the proper definition of merit, Adam could not merit anything by his obedience. He writes:

    To be true [!] merit, then, these five conditions are demanded: (1) that the “work be undue”–for no one merits by paying what he owes (Luke 17.10), he only satisfies; (2) that it be ours-for no one can be said to merit from another; (3) that it be absolutely perfect and free from all taint-for where sin is there merit cannot be; (4) that it be equal and proportioned to the reward and pay; otherwise it would be a gift, not merit. (5) that the reward be due to such a work from justice-whence an “undue work” is commonly defined to be one that “makes a reward due in the order of justice.” (Seventeenth Topic, Fifth Question, IV, p. 712).

    (! Note that Lane is taking me to task for not dwelling on untrue merit, even though it never came up in Horton’s attack on Lusk.)

    The above requirements for real merit would lead one to expect that Turretin would deny that sinless “legal obedience” could ever be meritorious in God’s sight. Turretin explicitly meets this expectation. Even if sinless, “there is no merit properly so called of man before God” (Ibid). “Thus, Adam himself, if he had persevered, would not have merited life in strict justice” (Ibid). And, for a sinless being “the legal condition has the relation of a meritorious cause (at least congruously and improperly)” (12.3.6; p. 186; emphasis added–this last shows that the sharp line Lane makes between Congruent merit and Pactum merit has not been readily observed by the tradition, one might argue that it would be better to get rid of both rather than risk allowing for congruent merit…).

    3: And here we get to the punchline. Without Adam meriting, we don’t have Jesus meriting. So either Adam is able to ge a God and really merit a reward or else Jesus (crossless for all we can tell in this statement) only merits by pactum merit. In which case, why should our mediator be the God/Man? Why not just make a covenant with some creature, or make a special creature? This view totally undermines the whole Anselmian position that only God could compensate for the human race’s real demerit.

    In summary, this is exactly the position that Turretin, following many others in the Reformed tradition rejected. And it is exactly the view that Horton is trying to pretend is the sine qua non of orthodoxy. And naturally, as a Reformed Pastor, seeing this minority and problematic view demanded as orthodoxy, hate and abominate this revisionist crusade, both for its lack of intellectual sense and its basic dishonesty about history.

  34. greenbaggins said,

    July 29, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Mark, the difficulty with your position as I see it is that you seem to equate “improper sense” with “false sense.” That is not what improper means in Turretin or almost any of the other scholastics. It means more like “informal.” So, pactum merit is an informal meaning of the word “merit,” but it is not an untrue definition of merit. You are certainly equating “improper” with “false” in comment 33 at the very least.

    Secondly, Mark, where does Horton claim that Adam’s obedience would have been strict merit? In the entire section on Turretin, you do not even once mention Horton’s article. I have looked up merit in the index to CJPM and do not find one reference of strict merit in connection with the Adamic covenant. No one I know advocates strict merit in the Adamic covenant. I would even challenge the claim that Kline thought so, since “simple justice” is not equal to “strict (condign) merit.” Simple justice refers to the way in which the covenant was set up, and hence to pactum merit.

    Thirdly, my post most definitely claimed that you were misquoting Turretin. I fail to see how that escaped your attention. If any scholar makes a claim that so-and-so left out an essential part of the context for understanding the passage, that is usually viewed as a claim that so-and-so misquoted the source. If your intention was to prove that strict merit was not part of Adam’s obedience, fine. I agree with that. So do most Reformed theologians. But you have in no way proven that such is Horton’s position. You have to remember that a reference to merit does not necessarily mean condign or even congruent merit. And you still have not answered my claim that Turretin’s quote proves that he believed in the very thing you say doesn’t exist.

  35. greenbaggins said,

    July 29, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Gary, I should probably be cautious here: Doug Wilson and Mark Horne both claim to affirm the IAOC. Whether they hold it consistently, of course, is another matter. Is that more accurate, you think?

  36. greenbaggins said,

    July 29, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Jeff, regarding 23, I could ask the same about your blog. If you can’t take the heat, then don’t come. Personally, I seek to be even-keeled. Many FV’ers have noted that I am fair. I do seek to be fair (though my success rate can certainly be questioned). I also seek to keep my rhetoric under control. And if people come onto the blog and seek to argue the issues, I am all for it. Surely you can imagine that such topics will bring some rather unavoidable heat along with (hopefully) some light. That’s all I can offer you. A humble tone on this blog will result in respectful treatment. What is not usually respected on this blog is any kind of patronizing tone. I want to debate issues, not personalities, and not tone. To guys on the TR side of things, if Jeff wants to come here and have a debate on issues, then please respect him in tone, even if you think the arguments are not sound. Same thing with Mark. Here is the rule I seek to have in mind: would I say this with that person standing right there in front of me?

  37. Roger Mann said,

    July 29, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    If “merit” is that which earns “what is due,” then it is clearly an accurate theological term and biblical concept:

    “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.” (Romans 4:4)

    “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; cf. Romans 4:16)

    This means that the Covenant of Works is “not of faith” nor of “grace,” and that Adam’s works of obedience to the law would have been counted “as debt” according to the covenant stipulations (i.e., pactum merit or simple justice). It’s all seems pretty straightforward to me.

  38. July 29, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Lane and Stephen, FTNA is a response to WTS-C, not simply to criticisms of the FV. FV was simply one target of the WTS-C book to which FTNA was a rejoinder. I edited the book because I believed there should be a unified response to Clark’s book, not because I was a member of the FV.

    If you do a Google search you’ll find plenty of statements from me articulating that I do not hold the FV viewpoint but that I don’t deem it heretical, a “denial of the Gospel” and so on.

    I hope this helps clarify matters.

  39. Seth Foster said,

    July 29, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    I need some clarification. Does the FV position state that there is no covenant of works – only a covenant of grace? If there is only one covenant of grace, what is the difference between the old and the new?

    And, if we are in the covenant of grace, then where does the FV idea that we have to faithfully persevere to the final judgment fit into the covenant of grace? Isn’t this faithful perseverance works and not grace? And, isn’t it also based on merit (faithful perseverence merits what the FV call final salvation)? It seems like that teaching goes back to the covenant of works which the FV seems to deny.

    Do the FV folks agree that there is a covenant of works? But it is not a covenant based on merit? How is that possible? What covenant did Christ perfectly fulfill?

  40. David Gadbois said,

    July 29, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    The Federal Vision was largely spawned by Norman Shepherd’s defective views on justification and covenant. While some, such as Sandlin and Armstrong, do not identify themselves with the Federal Vision along with Shepherd, they all belong to the same larger error. FV’s wonky views on ecclesiology and sacramentology are simply outgrowths of not getting justification and covenant theology right.

  41. Ron Henzel said,

    July 30, 2008 at 4:23 am

    Mark,

    Regarding your comment 31: it’s obvious that you did not even read it.

  42. Jeff Meyers said,

    July 30, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Sorry, but I haven’t been able to get back to this until now. Sorry, too, that my comment was so brief as to suggest that I had problems with the real differences being discussed here. I don’t. Discussing differences honestly and forcefully is not uncivil. My comment came after and in response to #21. That’s all.

  43. greenbaggins said,

    July 30, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Jeff, I for one did not interpret you as saying that we shouldn’t talk about differences, but about civility.

  44. its.reed said,

    July 30, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Ref. 42:

    Jeff: o.k., in that context I can see where some of Ron’s comments in #21 might be uncivil.

    Ron, what I mean is exemplified by your comment in which you use the word “moron.” My family and I regularly tweak and tease each other with this word. As we have a context for our use of it, if we use it in an email to each other, the receiving party knows he is not being put down but joked with in love. Your use here is contextless with regards to a usage in which you are trying to be jocular. As it stands therefore, your use comes across uncivil (in my opinion).

    For a first response (your’s on this thread), some of your language there (ref. 21) does strike me as sounding uncivil. I’m not saying this was your intent. Nor am I saying your arguments are off base.

    Rather I do see why Jeff, and maybe other readers might construe that in what you wrote.

    FWIW,

    reed

  45. Ron Henzel said,

    July 30, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Jeff,

    Until I read your comment 42 I wasn’t really sure that your comment 23 was in response to my comment 21. So until I went back and re-read it, I didn’t realize you thought that my attempt to keep Mark Horne’s attempt to go around the issue by flying his denial under the radar actually went over the top.

    The precise nature of the alleged incivility with which I am being charged by you is apparently that of making “crazy, over-the-top accusations.” And yet, since you appear to be using the word “crazy” with the sense of “ludicrous,” “laughable,” and “ridiculous,” I can’t help but wonder if the sting I am now sensing is due to being on the receiving end of your incivility. It’s easy to throw the other person’s style and tone in his face when you have no response to his actual argument. But maybe I’m just being too thin-skinned.

    There, I feel better already. And I stand by everything I wrote in comment 21.

  46. Ron Henzel said,

    July 30, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Reed

    I just noticed your comment 44 now, after I posted mine. If I had seen it before I posted, I would certainly have modified my comment to take what you wrote into account.

    Ironically, I was planning to include a reference to my use of the phrases “complete moron” and “such an idiot” in an earlier draft of my previous comment, but as I re-examined my comment 21 I thought it was sufficiently self-evident that those phrases were directed at a purely hypothetical individual who misused mercy as a pretext for proud self-righteousness. Since the entire narrative that I actually began presenting in the previous paragraph was hypothetical, I thought it was clear that I was by no means directing those descriptions at anyone on this blog. In that sense, I do not think it was “contextless,” and even though it may have been misunderstood, I was by no means attempting to “tweak” or “tease” anyone here with those words.

    Actually, Reed, as I indicate in my previous comment, I believe the heart of Jeff Meyer’s complaint against me is that I made a “crazy, over-the-top accusation” against Mark Horne when I pointed out the futility of his denying that Lane accused him of misquoting Turretin. Perhaps he thought I was accusing Mark of something else; if so, I don’t know what.

    But, in the meantime, it would be pointless for me to deny that the epithets I employed in comment 21 could have been construed as directed to someone here if, in fact, someone with your credibility believes they could have been. Therefore, I am more than happy to apologize for not making it clearer that the words I used were directed at a strictly hypothetical individual, were not intended as descriptions of anyone here, and I also apologize to anyone who took offense. I’ll try to do better in the future.

  47. its.reed said,

    July 30, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Thanks Ron. Grateful for a merciful God who grants in his Son his imperfect sons the gracefulness you demonstrate here.\

  48. Seth Foster said,

    July 30, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    I am still wondering about the FV position on the covenant of works. Do they even believe there is covenant of works? If so, how do they define it? If not, why not? Do they believe that Christ perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the covenant of works? If there is no covenant of works, then what did Christ do?

    I realize that trying to clearly pin down any FV position is like trying to hold onto a slippery eel. It depends on what “is” is. Can anybody give it a try? The reason I am asking is because their position on the covenant of works is listed as one of the errors in several reports.

  49. Brian K said,

    July 30, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    Seth, I’ll reproduce a list of 10 points from Peter Leithart’s chapter in A Faith That Is Never Alone (page 174 ) where he agrees with Brian Estelle in his chapter from CJPM.

    1. Adam was in covenant with God.
    2. God commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge
    3. Adam was a representative of the whole human race, so that his sin introduced sin and death into the world and brought all his seed under the reign of sin and death.
    4. Adam was supposed to obey on pain of death.
    5. Biblical Theology is structured by the parallels of the First and Last Adams.
    6. Adam’s probation was temporary.
    7. Adam was created with a built-in eschatological trajectory.
    8. The prohibition against Adam eating the tree of knowledge was a test of his allegiance.
    9. God is king and judge.
    10. The New Perspective writers, and E.P. Sanders in particular, raise “a whole host of issues with which New Testament scholars and scholars in related fields must now grapple and perhaps even nuance or adjust previously held opinions” (p. 126, fn.146).

    Leithart disagrees with Estelle on the characterization of the Covenant of Works as meritorious, noting that Estelle doesn’t define how he is using merit i.e. whether he means true merit or pactum merit or something else. Leithart asserts that it’s infelicitous to use the term merit to describe the Covenant of Works.

    From page 186:

    If Estelle is suggesting that Adam was already accepted and beloved as a son, but needed to obey in order to reach some higher condition, then he is not so far from those he opposes. If, on the other hand, he is suggesting that Adam needed to obey in order to earn, by a “works principle,” the favor of God, then he is indeed differing with his opponents.

  50. GLW Johnson said,

    July 31, 2008 at 7:17 am

    “Christ accomplished everything; not only did He bear the punishment,but He also won eternal life for us by His keeping the Law. And all the benefits that Christ gained by His suffering and death and that are present and available in Him in perfection are immediately conferred on those who believe in truth. He who believes HAS eternal life. In justification not only the merit of Christ’s passive obedience is imputed but also that of his active obedience. In that benefaction believers receive forgiveness, exemption, exemption from punishment, and are not returned to the prefall state of Adam, who with power granted him had to keep the law to earn eternal life. On the contrary: on the basis of Christ’s perfect obedience, they are immediately entitled to eternal life; the holy works accomplished by Christ are credited to them; they do not by keeping the law, have to earneternal life, but do good works based on the principle of eternal life already granted to them in faith.” Herman Bavinck, ‘ Reformed Dogmatics,vol.IV, p.635.
    Can Mark Horne and the other FVers subscribe to this ? NO, because they take their cue from Norman Shepherd ( as David G. correctly noted in comment # 40) and that is why both the OPC and the PCA as well as the other Reformed denomination have correctly branded them as being outside the boundaries .

  51. Pete Myers said,

    July 31, 2008 at 7:41 am

    Surely the FV guys recognise some differences between Adam and us, and the TR guys recognise some similarities.

    If so, for those of us who look in on these kinds of discussions, it would be very helpful if you could each set the limits of what you don’t agree with in either direction, and then whittle each other down from there.

    So, what seems clear to me is that both TR and FV guys agree that Adam could never “truly merit” blessing (using the definition in #33). But it also seems to me that the TR and FV guys agree that there is at least a difference of degree between Adam and us: eternal life is something that Adam doesn’t deserve… but Adam’s pre-fall state is not as far from God as our post-fall state is.

    I realise that those limits start at quite a wide berth. But how far can each side move inwards comfortably? And how far out is each side happy with the other to be?

  52. Manlius said,

    July 31, 2008 at 8:40 am

    GLW-
    Not being FV, I don’t know, but I would guess that FVers would happily affirm the essence of Bavinck’s statement, albeit with some semantic differences.

    Speaking for myself, I think it’s a great statement, and the only thing I would change is the part about the imputation of active obedience. I would prefer saying simply that we receive all those redemptive benefits through the death and resurrection of our Lord.

    I believe the following. Christ has done it all, Christ is working it all through me, and Christ is faithful to keep me in it until the last day. All credit for it is His, but I happily receive the benefits of it because He loves me. (it=the fullness of salvation)

    I don’t believe we’re really all that far apart on these matters. The tensions result from a desire of all to preserve certain aspects of the redemptive work that they deem to have been neglected or diminished. Dealing with the whole, multifaceted truth has been a beauty of Reformed theology. Unfortunately, when one group emphasizes one aspect over another, there have been opportunities for misunderstanding. It’s unfortunate when a wedge is driven between people who all hold to the same gospel.

  53. GLW Johnson said,

    July 31, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Manlius
    It is the infernal semantic gymnastics of the FV that is the problem!!

  54. Manlius said,

    July 31, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Actually, the motive of the FVers is good. They want to keep the semantics as biblical as possible. The problem is that sometimes this can lead to misunderstanding, because the Bible uses language in different ways. I read the FVers with a “hermeneutic of trust,” as it were, and that may be why I’m not bothered by their teaching. There are times when some of them have brought a little confusion. In the end, however, they get it right, and sometimes quite beautifully.

    Preachers have to deal with the tensions of Biblical semantics all the time. If I’m preaching from James, I want my people to really feel the thrust of what James is saying when he says that we are justified by works and not by faith alone. I don’t want to just gloss over it and run for shelter with Paul. Yes, I do want eventually to bring Paul into the conversation, but I want to hear and “do business” with what James is saying.

    If I can take the time to understand the different ways the Bible itself uses language, I should find it easy when properly motivated theologians do the same.

  55. GLW Johnson said,

    July 31, 2008 at 9:11 am

    No, the semantics of the FV are not good. They fall into the same snare the Arminians did when they attempted to offer their semantic improvements- and perhaps you ought to read the entire four volume set of Bavinck’s Dogmatics before presuming to lecture him on the subject of the IOCAO !

  56. Manlius said,

    July 31, 2008 at 9:25 am

    GLW-
    I said: “Speaking for myself, I think it’s a great statement, and the only thing I would change is the part about the imputation of active obedience.”

    That’s all I said!!! You take that as my “presuming to lecture” Bavinck? Please calm down, my friend, and try to be fair.

  57. GLW Johnson said,

    July 31, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Manlius
    I have grown a bit sensitive on this subject. Rich Lusk of the FV declared that Machen last telegram to Murray shortly before he died-about how thankful he was for the active obedience of Christ,no hope without it-well Lusk says Machen got it wrong, he should have ( just like you proposed) substituted the resurection instead.

  58. Manlius said,

    July 31, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Fair enough.
    The dying Machen put his trust in the person of Christ and his redemptive work, and that’s all that matters. I don’t think it becomes any of us to question how he worded it. The question of IAO aside, Christ’s active obedience led him to die for our sins and be raised for our justification. On this we can all agree.

  59. greenbaggins said,

    July 31, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Manlius, the real question is this: on what basis do we have the right to eternal life? Please distinguish this question from the question of the basis of forgiveness. One can be forgiven, or declared not guilty in a judge’s courtroom. However, that does not automatically imply that the judge is going to adopt the prisoner, and take him home with him. So, on what basis do we have the right to eternal life, the resurrected glorified body, etc.? Do you agree that the law says “do this and live” and that that statement means that obedience to the law is required to have eternal life?

  60. GLW Johnson said,

    July 31, 2008 at 10:56 am

    #51 PM
    That is like asking ‘How could the Remonstrants and the Calvinists have reach a happy compromise? The Reformed Churches spoke then about that and the Reformed Churches have spoken with equal forcefulness about the character of the Federal Vision.

  61. Seth Foster said,

    July 31, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I am sorry but I don’t really follow 49; there is still no mention of the covenant of works. If God made a covenant with Adam, what covenant was it – grace or works? This idea that Adam was beloved and accepted by God as a son, but his obedience improves and raises him to a higher level? What in the world does that mean? And, where in scripture do you get that idea? Is that what is being practiced in FV churches? Are you saying that man is capable of improving his salvation through his obedience to the law? Does that mean that Christ’s redemption needs to be improved upon by man’s efforts? !

    So, once covenant children are baptized, they are saved and become God’s children. Then they spend the rest of their lives improving on their sonship through their obedience to the law. They can never have any assurance, however, that they have improved enough to earn their “final salvation”. Oh, a few crumbs of approval may be thrown their way by their absolute submission to the elders and their weekly covenant renewals and by strict adherence to the church calendar.

    It is no wonder that young people who have been raised in the middle of this controversial spiritual garbage over the last few years are leaving the PCA to seek the truth. They are looking to get out of this spiritual bondage to seek the liberty we have in Christ. Some are leaving the church altogether and have turned their backs on God because of the hypocrisy of their parents and elders. They are being told by word and example that it is a virtue to reconcile and compromise and get along with these false teachers.

    If the PCA will not discipline and get rid of Mark Horne, Bill Smith, Jeff Meyers, and many other FV proponents in their ranks, then the denomination should not be surprised when the next generation grows up and leaves the PCA for another denomination or sadly, for the world.

    I want and need a doctor who will not only diagnose a cancerous tumor, but will aggressively treat it. The PCA has diagnosed the cancer of the FV; now it is time to aggressively treat it. There are tumors in more places than Louisiana. If the PCA fails to treat this growing cancer, then she will die a slow and painful death.

  62. Mark said,

    July 31, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    #50 is just ignorant. Anyone can read Norman Shepherd at Theologia and plainly see that he affirmed the imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ. His change of mind on that issue was much later, based on his study of the Reformation writings and on his reading of Scripture.

    As for me, I’ve simply asked us to honor the same diversity the Westminster Assembly made allowance for.

    I’ve also questioned (and never received even an attempt at an answer) how one could claim that Christ’s passive obedience is inadequate or insufficient for giving us complete eternal life. I think there is a way to describe the imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ without blaspheming the value of the blood of Christ.

    These kind of crap accusations don’t ever stand up in real court situations (as opposed to kangaroo “study committees”). That more than explains my continuance in good standing as a minister of the Gospel over against the stellar intellectual arguments and rigorous fact-finding pervading these blog comments.

  63. Mark said,

    July 31, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    #59 Lane this is good because it gets us to the heart of the issue. As I see it (which may be wrong) you’ve given us 3 possibilities in relation to God, 1) sinful and under his wrath, 2) neutral, and 3) righteous and accepted by God.

    Now that’s probably jaundiced and you can feel free to provide your explanation of the three positions. However:

    In my view thera are only two possible positions for a human being: 1) condemned under wrath, 2) God’s son in or headed for eternal life. Adam, as I understand Luke 3 to teach, among other places, was God’s son. When Jesus restores us throught the cross we are again God’s sons and daughters. Adoption is not some second move after being restored from wrath into neutrality.

    I reiterate, feel free to describe the three positions as you feel most comfortable and convince me that the middle position is not an impossible neutrality. But the bottom line is that this discrepancy (3 possible positions or only 2) is massively affecting this debate and how people view the other issues, such as IAO.

  64. Seth Foster said,

    July 31, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Mark, you have proven my point. If calling your fellow PCA brothers a “kangaroo court” with “crap accusations” qualifies you as a teaching elder in good standing, then God have mercy on the PCA.

  65. greenbaggins said,

    July 31, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Mark, I applaud your desire to keep the value of Christ’s blood as a propitiatory sacrifice. Surely, there is nothing more efficacious than Christ’s blood. However, on the other side of the issue is the question of the completeness of Christ’s obedience. Just as you do not want to devalue Christ’s sacrifice, I do not want to separate one part of Christ’s righteousness into one place and the other part of Christ’s righteousness into another place. We should devalue none of Christ’s obedience, His active obedience included, His death on the cross included. I think Hodge is helpful here on the active/passive distinction. His basic take is that we should not treat them as separate unless someone is making an effort to separate them. My position, then, would accurately be described as saying that Christ’s whole obedience procures for us the whole of salvation, and that the death of Christ addresses the question of guilt and rift, and His active obedience addresses the question of the requirement for a perfect obedience to enter into eternal life. Of course, one might say that Christ’s death was perfect obedience. Of course it was, but it was only perfect obedience to the penalty side of the law, not to the positive active side of the law. Both sides of the law are required to give us everything we need.

    I actually don’t think that neutrality is possible. That is certainly where my analogy fails. But it is a practical impossibility, not a hypothetical impossibility. God never puts anyone in neutral. Nevertheless, forgiveness is not everything we need. And I agree that adoption is not a second move after being restored. However, it is a distinct blessing from having sins forgiven, just as justification is distinct from sanctification. So, a practical impossibility of neutrality is fully compatible with the view that the complete obedience of Christ is needed to be imputed to us for all the various blessings that we receive. And I don’t think that devalues Christ’s sacrifice one bit, because even forgiveness, just by itself, requires a sacrifice of infinite value in order to satisfy the infinite wrath of an infinite God.

  66. Pete Myers said,

    July 31, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    #60:
    “#51 PM
    That is like asking ‘How could the Remonstrants and the Calvinists have reach a happy compromise? The Reformed Churches spoke then about that and the Reformed Churches have spoken with equal forcefulness about the character of the Federal Vision.”

    GLW – err no. I’m not asking for a happy compromise, I’m asking for people to set some limits for how far they’re prepared to allow for in the other direction.

    The FV has been branded a “heresy”… and so I’d like to know where the line of heresy is exactly? I’d also like to see how far the FV guys are prepared to move, when they’re not defending their position polemically.

    I’m a total outsider to this whole debate. I’ve been reading about it on the internet for months now. I’ve been trying to understand it as best I can. It seems to me – as a total outsider – that the FV guys got it quick, got it harsh, and got it in the neck. Now even if they’re wrong (and I don’t think they’re as wrong on as many counts as the Remonstrants – the FVers at least affirm God’s immutability & simplicity)… even if they’re wrong, I think the sheer speed & force of the denunciation of these guys seems immense.

    I would just like to understand how some of you other guys understand the FVers on their own terms… take this discussion about the IAOC for example… now it seems to me that if we sit within a “TR” system and say “these guys are *denying* the IAOC – shock horror!” Then it sounds really bad… *because* without the IAOC salvation isn’t complete – there’s only half of justification, there’s expiation and propitiation, but no imputation poor old Joshua is left standing naked in the cold (Zechariah 3).

    IF those who don’t accept the IAOC didn’t accept it because they didn’t believe that their position in God’s sight was only secure in Christ’s righteous – then that would be heresy.

    BUT! The FVers (add: some of) aren’t “denying” the IAOC from within that system. Those in the movement who don’t think the _mechanics_ of justification work like that still end up with the *same result* as the rest of us – the sinner is in Christ – and so as God looks at the sinner, God looks at Christ and therefore the sinner is covered by Christ’s righteousness.

    What I just don’t get is – I can absolutely see how one might not agree with that system for justification… but it’s effects are *the same*. The system may be wrong… but what makes it heretical?

    That’s why I’d like to see a lot of the guys on this side of the debate define the “limits of orthodoxy”.. and in such a way that takes account of the fact that people think differently. As I said – I can see why you would think that the IAOC is a gospel issue if you strictly look at it through a particular pair of spectacles… but the FV guys that don’t agree with the formulation are wearing different lenses.

  67. Pete Myers said,

    July 31, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    IAOC: is it absolutely *necessary* for orthodoxy?

    http://motherkirk.blogspot.com/2007/02/imputation-of-christs-active-obedience.html

  68. its.reed said,

    July 31, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Ref. 66:

    Peter, just one quick response. Not sure whether or not you are aware of how long this debate has been going on. A key point was the Pastor’s Conference at Auburn Avenue PC (Rev. Steve Wilkins) – this occured in 2002.

    The declarations by my denomination did not occur until 2007. I don’t quite think that qualifies for a speedy denunciation, a giving it to the FV guys (unfairly, unduly) “in the neck.”

  69. Mark said,

    July 31, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    #64 Seth, pretty obvious I was referring to the accusations made in the comments. But for the Committee, I’m only saying what everyone knows. Noticed this last GA, when a committee was suggested, that the members were included in the proposal. No one used to consider that necessary but trust has been broken.

  70. Mark said,

    July 31, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    #65 helps a lot, especially in agreeing with your motives and what you want to preserve and ruling out the “middle position” as a real possibility.

    “My position, then, would accurately be described as saying that Christ’s whole obedience procures for us the whole of salvation, and that the death of Christ addresses the question of guilt and rift, and His active obedience addresses the question of the requirement for a perfect obedience to enter into eternal life.”

    But this is where it still seems to me that there is category confusion here. Because our failure to offer perfect obedience is a sin. And if that sin is forgiven then we should have entry into eternal life.

  71. Ron Henzel said,

    July 31, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Pete,

    Regarding your comment 67: for consistent, Reformed, confessional orthodoxy, yes.

  72. Ron Henzel said,

    July 31, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Mark,

    You write in comment 70: “…our failure to offer perfect obedience is a sin. And if that sin is forgiven then we should have entry into eternal life.”

    I don’t think this is a case of category confusion, but one of incompatible assumptions. Your statement at the end of your comment presupposes the non-existence or inapplicability of the covenant of works as defined by classical Reformed orthodoxy, under which someone who has not been established in positive righteousness is simply placed on the equivalent of the probationary status Adam had prior to the Fall. A forgiven person would then be merely innocent rather than righteous, and on probation rather than the possessor of eternal life. He would not be one who can presume the possession of eternal life, but rather one who can still obtain that life once he keeps the law perfectly.

    So if you assume that there was no covenant of works in the sense defined by classical Reformed orthodoxy, your statement makes sense. And since you conclude that the granting of forgiveness is the same as the granting of eternal life, this would seem to be your assumption.

  73. Roger Mann said,

    July 31, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    72.

    So if you assume that there was no covenant of works in the sense defined by classical Reformed orthodoxy, your statement makes sense.

    Which is why rejecting the covenant of works is so theologically dangerous, and the following quote from à Brakel is right on the money:

    “We shall now speak of Adam as being in covenant with God–the covenant of works. Acquaintance with this covenant is of the greatest importance, for whoever errs here or denies the existence of the covenant of works, will not understand the covenant of grace, and will readily err concerning the mediatorship of the Lord Jesus. Such a person will very readily deny that Christ by His active obedience has merited a right to eternal life for the elect. This is to be observed with several parties who, because they err concerning the covenant of grace, also deny the covenant of works. Conversely, whoever denies the covenant of works must rightly be suspected to be in error concerning the covenant of grace.” (Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 355).

  74. Pete Myers said,

    August 1, 2008 at 4:06 am

    #71
    Ron – So anything that’s not “consistent Reformed confessional” – that’s **heresy**? Remember – I am trying to push you to define the limits of *heresy*. And besides, do you not agree that there has been some space for the denial of IAOC within Reformed thinking historically (as the post I linked to suggests).

    #68
    I realise the debate has been going on since 2002 – but the FV guys have been responding to _public accusations_ of heresy since then. Ok, the ruling of authoritative bodies hasn’t happened until later, but they were very quickly _called_ heretics, it seems to me. That was my point.

    Look – the FV guys just think that you guys are wrong on a few points – and wrong in terms of paradigms rather than substance (i.e. THEY agree that our salvation is in Christ alone… that only by clinging to him can a sinner see eternal life, etc.).

    But lots of you are claiming they are **heretics** – heck, Greenbaggins even has a blog label called “heresy” to help us all find his posts on this.

    But the level of much of the discussion – just on this thread – has been “Let me show you how the FVers are wrong”… and particularly “Let me show you how the FVers are wrong from within the confessional Reformed system.”

    Now let’s assume that they are wrong – that they are completely barking up the wrong tree. Now let’s also grant, for the sake of argument, that they’re so wrong that they don’t stand within the Reformed tradition. But it’s still another step further to declare them “heretics”…

    Now I’m not a post-modern, I believe in truth. But my point is that we’ve got to reasonably set the limits of what we will consider to be “orthodoxy”. Someone can be wrong and still be orthodox. Here’s two people I disagree with very strongly, but still consider to be orthodox:

    1) John Stott – He believes in annihilationalism. Now I think that, logically, the infinite nature of Hell, is held in parallel in scripture with the infinite nature of Heaven and systematically makes Christ’s death out to be finite. Thus – taken to it’s logical conclusions – annhilationism could be construed to seriously warp the worth of the atonement. However, John Stott doesn’t take it that far – I think he’s wrong – but he’s not a heretic.

    2) CS Lewis – He *prayed for the dead*, and believed in *purgatory*! However, not because he believed the soul needed further justification – Lewis was absolutely clear that Christ provided perfect satisfaction on the cross. But he believed the soul’s sanctification was finally finished in purgatory before entering heaven. Now I think he’s wrong, and if I push his logic (not very far!), then to say that the soul should need anything extra than Christ to be cleansed and made holy is to deny that our sanctification was also bought on the cross. He is our justification and our sanctification. But Lewis doesn’t push the logic that far – he does (inconsistently) believe that Christ’s death is the perfect atonement for sin, and that salvation is only found by throwing ourselves upon him.

    Now I know the FV guys want to be considered:
    1) Orthodox
    2) Reformed
    3) Right

    And I can understand how you would not want to grant them 2 and 3… however I would love to hear some people define their limits for 1. That is really, really important. These guys are called heretics for beliefs that seem much less whacky than a whole bunch of people who would be counted as brothers in a different context.

  75. David Gray said,

    August 1, 2008 at 4:09 am

    >But lots of you are claiming they are **heretics** – heck, Greenbaggins even has a blog label called “heresy” to help us all find his posts on this.

    Makes you wonder what they would call Luther…

  76. Ron Henzel said,

    August 1, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Pete,

    Why don’t you first define what you mean by “heresy,” and then I’ll tell you what I think the limits of it are.

  77. Pete Myers said,

    August 1, 2008 at 7:10 am

    Ron,

    Well, I would define heresy in the way it seems to be used in this debate – almost universally – about FV advocates (or some of them). Here’s two quotes from this post, http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2006/11/30/why-is-the-federal-vision-heresy/ which I just searched for in response to your question:

    “the Federal Vision is heretical, and utterly to be abhorred.”

    “Lastly, regarding heresy. I carefully differentiated between two kinds of heresy. One is that heresy that merely differs from the WCF, but doesn’t strike at the heart of the Christian faith. I would put Baptists in this camp. They are brothers, though they could not minister in a PCA church. The other kind of heresy strikes at the heart of the Christian faith. This is where I put Open Theism, Arianism, true Arminianism (as opposed to inconsistent Arminianism, which can be Christian), and this is also where I put the Federal Vision. To be more specific, this is where I would put certain members of the FV, since not all are as bad as some others.”

    And that seems to me very consistent with the sort of language I’ve been reading and seeing used on this by many, many people.

    I think it’s unhelpful to use heresy in the first sense – as to the vast majority of Christians in the world, that’s not what will be conveyed… I would never use the word “heresy” to describe someone who holds a different position on a secondary issue… it seems to me totally unhelpful.

    So, in a nutshell:

    1) This sense of heresy (striking at the heart of the Christian faith)… seems to be the sense used by people who don’t like the FV who talk about it (in many places).

    2) Yet often the discussion of the FV views are about why the FV is wrong… and then a sweeping inference is made from there to: a) their being outside the bounds of historic Reformational faith, and b) their being (potentially damnable) heretics.

    Now, please do tell me what you think the limits of *that* kind of heresy are, and if they’re beyond John Owen’s limits on the issue of IAOC (e.g. link I referenced above), the please explain what you’re doing with John Owen then.

  78. Ron Henzel said,

    August 1, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Pete,

    Regarding your comment 77: we seem to have two slightly different conversations going on here and I think we need to separate them. One concerns the orthodox Reformed doctrine of the imputation of the active righteousness of Christ to believers, and the other concerns the set of beliefs contained in the Federal Vision. You asked me if I believe denial of the former is heretical, but your question seems to be driven by the fact that (a) Lane has categorized the Federal Vision as a heresy within Reformed theology, (b) many (perhaps most) within the Federal Vision deny such imputation, and (c) “heresy” is a very strong word. The main reason we need to separate these two issues is because, as Lane pointed out in comment 35, some members of the Federal Vision claim to affirm the aforementioned imputation of Christ’s active righteousness.

    But first, I’d like to say a few words about heresy. Although in actual usage it’s more difficult to pin down, in many standard texts the word “heresy” has been used in the sense closer to Lane’s latter definition of something that “strikes at the heart of the Christian faith.” An unambiguous example of this would be the following definition:

    The formal denial or doubt of any defined doctrine of the Catholic faith.

    [The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edition, F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, eds., (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1997), 758.]

    Slightly more ambiguous (due to its use of the word “connotes”) would be as follows:

    Heresy connotes doctrinal deviation from the fundamental truths taught by Scripture and the orthodox Christian church, and active propagation of the same.

    [B. Demarest in New Dictionary of Theology, Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright, and J.I. Packer, eds., (Downers Grove, IL and Leicester, UK: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 291-292.]

    But perhaps because the Greek word from which “heresy” is derived, ἅιρεσις (hairesis), can also be translated, “sect,” “party,” “school,” “dissension,” “faction,” and even “opinion,” we have also seen some variety of denotations in English usage, particularly denotations falling short of the idea of “damnable heresy.” In fact, have come across such a multitude of divergent uses of the word “heresy” among Christians and I do not believe it’s possible to nail down what it conveys to “the vast majority of Christians in the world.” I think you’re overreacting on that point.

    Now, many have taken advantage of whatever range of meaning the words “heresy” and “heretic” might be capable of in order to hurl it at any opinion and person with whom they have the slightest disagreement. This certainly abuses those terms. Perhaps you only intend to express concern that such an abuse might be occurring here, but unless I’m missing something, as I scan through the comments, you are the main person focusing on that word, as exemplified in your interaction with me.

    In comment 67, you asked, “IAOC: is it absolutely *necessary* for orthodoxy?”

    In comment 71, I responded, “Regarding your comment 67: for consistent, Reformed, confessional orthodoxy, yes.”

    And in comment 74, you came back with, “Ron – So anything that’s not “consistent Reformed confessional” – that’s **heresy**?”

    But I never used the word “heresy.” I simply defined one of the boundaries of Reformed, confessional orthodoxy, and you challenged me as if I was declaring anything outside those boundaries to be heresies, hence my opinion that you are overreacting. On the other hand, now that you’ve asked, I think it’s perfectly appropriate to use the word “heresy” in the aforementioned sense of “dissension”—the word is used in this sense in 1 Cor. 11:19 and Gal. 5:20—to describe those who want to remain within Reformed communions while denying the imputation of Christ’s active righteousness.

    Now, regarding a question you have not directly asked, at least not asked me: “Why should we consider the Federal Vision a ‘heresy’ in the strongest sense of that word?” Lane has explained why in the post to which you link in comment 77. I agree with him that the complete package of beliefs on which most Federal Visionists have signed off sabotages the Reformed soteriology. Actually, I would put it in stronger terms: Federal Visionists are waging war with extreme prejudice on Reformers’ doctrine of salvation.

    Consider this my response to your implied question at the end of comment 74, where you wrote: “These guys are called heretics for beliefs that seem much less whacky than a whole bunch of people who would be counted as brothers in a different context.” Sure, we can find all sorts of contexts all over Christendom where FV soteriology would seem to be but a minor variation on what those groups believe. It just doesn’t square with the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity.

  79. Mark said,

    August 1, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    #72

    I don’t see it Ron.

    #1: I do in fact affirm everything the Westminster Confession Faith affirms about the Covenant of Works.

    Most especially I affirm and teach–

    –That the first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, and have defended the appropriateness of the term, “covenant of works” writing that, “Adam’s good works were acceptable to God. He could do them and God would receive them.”

    –That in that covenant of works glorified “life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.”

    #2 I also affirm that Adam and Eve were created righteous. This doctrine is basic in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms and you presuppose that it is false when you write:

    A forgiven person would then be merely innocent rather than righteous, and on probation rather than the possessor of eternal life.

    The only way this makes since is if Adam and Eve were not righteous before God when they were created in the Covenant of Works. As a Reformed and PCA pastor, I am confessionally obligated to disagree with you on this point. This is exactly the category confusion I referred to. By assuming the probationary period is related to a lack of righteousness, you end up denying that Adam was righteous before God.

    #3

    I steadfastly deny that a truly regenerated believer is in a probationary period. On the contrary, when one has Christ one has not only forgiveness, but exaltation and glory already (though it can only be grasped by faith rather than seen). Genuine believers are not in the state of Adam being tested in the Garden. Jesus passed the test and is on the other side of the reward, with all who belong to Him.

    This, incidentally, is associated directly with Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and glorification in the New Testament. I don’t think it is ever directly associated with Christ’s pre-resurrection lawkeeping (though I believe a relationship can be deduced by some good and necessary consequence).

    4. I do not think arrival in eschatological glory (as an imputed status) is the same thing as forgiveness, but I do think that righteousness and sinlessness are related as the concave and the convex side of a lens rather than as peanut butter and jelly in a sandwich.

  80. greenbaggins said,

    August 1, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    #70 Mark, even the forgiveness of sins does not give us eternal life. Take Adam in the Garden, for instance. He did not have eternal life, even though he was righteous and innocent. Eternal life is, by definition, immutable, unlosable, and consists in the glorified state. Even though everything, including Adam, was “tob meod,” (very good), that does not mean that he had attained the highest state of humanity. This is Augustine’s four-fold state (and Boston and a million other Reformed theologians). So, if Adam could have no need of forgiveness, then why did he not also already have the eternal state? If he did not have the eternal state, then something more than forgiveness of sins, or a blank slate, was required. Positive obedience, do this and live, active obedience to the law’s positive demands. Jesus has then met both the law’s negative demands for punishment of sin, and the law’s positive demands “do this and live.” As a result, we have the forgiveness of all sins AND the right to eternal life. Even if you don’t agree with this, can you see the logic of it?

  81. Pete Myers said,

    August 1, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    #78

    Ron… ok there’s loads of stuff to pick through here.

    1) I’m sorry if I’ve come over as though I was intentionally singling you out… that wasn’t my aim, I didn’t think I was doing so. I was using “you” in the plural in a number of cases – that was clearly a dumb thing to do now.

    2) I was importing stuff from outside the discussion, and reading the assertion that something “wasn’t orthodox” as it being “heretical” in the strong sense. I would consider “orthodox” to be a much weightier term than you are using it, it would seem, and I suppose that I would call Piper, Mahaney and Dever orthodox, while you wouldn’t (it would seem, if I’m understanding you correctly).

    I’m from across the Atlantic, we’re obviously not as blessed as you guys over there to have such a pure church… but if I were to use “orthodox” to refer to those who agreed with the WCF, then I’d be the *only* person in my church who was orthodox… (or even close)… I’d even have to call my _boss_ unorthodox (who is a lovely Evangelical guy).

    3) But I would still like somebody to define what the *limits* of both: (a) Reformed orthodoxy are, and (b) the Christian faith are, when it comes to these topics that touch on the FV. The post I linked to where Greenbaggins outlines the heretical nature of the FV proponents is a case in point: from my reading of some of the FV proponents, they don’t fall outside the circle he seems to have drawn for “why the issue is so serious”…

    4) I would assert that denial of the IAOC:
    (a) Can still be within the bounds of the Christian faith.
    (b) Can still be within the bounds of the “Reformed tradition”, and
    (c) Can still be within the bounds of the Westminster Confession

  82. Ron Henzel said,

    August 1, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Mark,

    Regarding your comment 79: in your first point you may seem to affirm the letter of what the Westminster Confession affirms concerning the Covenant of Works, but I do not believe you affirm its intended meaning. There is at least one clear statement in the Confession that comes to mind that presupposes a particular view of that covenant that you deny. I am thinking of WCF 17.2, where it teaches that the perseverance of the saints depends in part “upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ.” Precisely what the Confession means by both Christ’s merit and His intercession is spelled out more clearly in the answer to Question 55 in the Larger Catechism: “Christ maketh intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth, declaring his will to have it applied to all believers…” (emphasis mine). Believers have a two-fold merit applied to them: the merit of Christ’s obedience on earth, and the merit of Christ’s sacrifice on earth. What is the merit of Christ’s obedience on earth? His fulfillment of the Covenant of Works, of course. And yet, you wrote in your article titled “Covenant of works?”: “Adam was not supposed to earn salvation and Jesus only needed to do so to make restitution for Adam’s sin.” I see a flat-out contradiction between that statement and the one you just wrote: “That in that covenant of works glorified ‘life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.’” Any attempt to pit the concept of earning or meriting against the concept of meeting a condition is false; you’re stuck with the contradiction.

    In your second point you write, “By assuming the probationary period is related to a lack of righteousness, you end up denying that Adam was righteous before God.” The problem with this is that nothing in the words “probation” or “probationary” either denotes, connotes, or in any way implies a lack of righteousness. It only signifies that righteousness has yet to be proven. You are confusing the meaning of the word “probation” with one of the reasons that people are often “put on probation”—viz., because of some violation of human law. But the word itself does not assume any such violation, and there is a multitude of other circumstances in which people find themselves on some sort of probationary status that have nothing whatsoever to do with any prior violation or infraction of any kind, as, for example, when a college matriculates a student on a probationary status because he has not met the normal prerequisites for admission. The new student has a “right” relationship to the school; he has not done anything wrong. He simply has not proven himself yet, and is thus on probation (i.e., the “subjection of an individual to a period of testing and trial to ascertain fitness,” à la Merriam-Webster).

    Calvin most certainly had this concept of Adam’s probation in mind when he wrote that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was designed “to prove and exercise his faith” (Institutes 2.1.4; Battles 245). In fact, an old translation of the Institutes John Allen ([Philadelphia, PA and New Haven, CT: Philip H. Nicklin and Hezekiah Howe, 1816], 261) renders this passage as “calculated for the probation and exercise of his faith.”

    Therefore, you are wrong when you accuse me of presupposing that WCF 4.2 is false when I affirm that Adam and Eve were on probationary status prior to the Fall. Since the word “probation” has been applied this way so commonly by so many Reformed theologians down through the generations, I’m surprised that you didn’t verify its meaning before implying that all those outstanding scholars were also implicitly denying WCF 4.2.

    With regard to your third point: “I steadfastly deny that a truly regenerated believer is in a probationary period….” Whoever said such a silly thing? Of course truly regenerated believers are not on probation. Christ has proven Himself, and thus fulfilled the terms of the probation of all mankind in Adam by fulfilling the Covenant of Works. Even you write, “Jesus passed the test and is on the other side of the reward, with all who belong to Him,” without apparently sensing the irony that while you shy away from words like “earn” and “merit” you have no trouble using the word “reward.” I find that highly inconsistent. Of course, you turn right around and deny the actual meaning of the Covenant of Works in the Westminster Standards when you write:

    This, incidentally, is associated directly with Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and glorification in the New Testament. I don’t think it is ever directly associated with Christ’s pre-resurrection lawkeeping (though I believe a relationship can be deduced by some good and necessary consequence).

    As for your fourth point, I honestly do not know what to make of it. It’s something about lenses and sandwiches. Perhaps you or someone else can explain it to me.

  83. Ron Henzel said,

    August 1, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Pete,

    Regarding your comment 81: it’s not so much that I felt you were singling me out as much as I felt you were lumping me in, since I hadn’t actually used the word “heresy” myself here. But not to worry; it’s no big deal, and I took no offense.

    I understand that you have been tending to read the words “orthodox” and “heretical” in, shall we say, a more ecumenical sense than has been intended here. But while there is certainly a broad orthodoxy that applies to all professing branches of Christendom—e.g., Nicene-Chalcedonian Christology—there are also more narrow forms of orthodoxy, such as Lutheran orthodoxy, Roman Catholic orthodoxy, and so on. People have even spoken of “Marxist orthodoxy” with its corresponding “heretics” (or as Mao used to call them, “revisionists”). I have no problem calling Piper “orthodox” in the broad sense, and even in the narrower evangelical sense. It’s only when we begin talking about the Reformed confessions that I hesitate to concede that title to him. Even so, I would be one who would shy away from calling him a “heretic,” one big reason being that Piper is not trying to come into my denomination and claim to be in conformity with its doctrinal standards even though we all know he denies the Covenant of Works. I realize that what I just wrote here probably generates more questions, but I must move on.

    You wrote: “I’m from across the Atlantic, we’re obviously not as blessed as you guys over there to have such a pure church…” Ah, the British are so subtle! (Am I correct in assuming you’re British? Your web site doesn’t have much identifying you.) If you hang out here long enough you’ll discover that we’re acutely aware of the fact that we do not have a pure church. But just because we don’t have a pure church doesn’t mean we can’t have some measuring rod to show us how we’re not measuring up. We use the Reformed confessions as measurements of Reformed orthodoxy, while acknowledging that a broader Trinitarian and even Augustinian (cf. the Second Council of Orange) orthodoxy technically predates it, and there are Christians outside our communions who belong to it.

    So I try to be careful how I use the words “orthodox” and “heretical.” As far as I know, neither John Stott, John Piper, nor J.I. Packer belong to churches that sign on to either the Westminster Standards or the Three Forms of Unity, but I consider them all equally orthodox Christians. I would even include people farther away from Reformed views in that category. But I get a lot more picky when I’m identifying someone as within the sphere of Reformed orthodoxy.

    You wrote:

    But I would still like somebody to define what the *limits* of both: (a) Reformed orthodoxy are, and (b) the Christian faith are, when it comes to these topics that touch on the FV.

    I’m not sure what I could add to the fine post by Lane that you linked to in comment 77, other than to summarize my take that the FV is Arminianism redux with baptismal regeneration thrown in for good measure.

    4) I would assert that denial of the IAOC:
    (a) Can still be within the bounds of the Christian faith.
    (b) Can still be within the bounds of the “Reformed tradition”, and
    (c) Can still be within the bounds of the Westminster Confession

    I agree with (a). As for (b), I would say that broadly speaking there have been people in the Reformed tradition who have denied IAOC, but strictly speaking they’ve been outside the historic consensus of what defines Reformed orthodoxy. And I completely disagree with (c).

  84. Mark said,

    August 1, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    #80: the only problem I see with the logic right now Lane, is a Confessional obligation to affirm that Adam was righteous, but then a tendency to deny he was righteous (by equating righteous with justified with inalienable right to eternal life).

    I would affirm Adam was righteous but immature but in Christ we are righteous and mature, already in eschatological glory by faith. We have in Christ both righteousness (right standing) and life (life promised to Adam if he persevered; eschatological life).

    Maybe this would be a good time to point out that, from my perspective, your argument about the nature of saving faith is much more closely related to the actual substance of the controversy and has continuity with the early Norman Shepherd (in that he affirmed IAO and still got in trouble). All this debate about active obedience is really a different issue.

    #82:

    one: I affirm the merit of Christ.

    two: What can the merit and intercession of Christ have to do with the Covenant of Works? Would Adam need to continually intercede for his children before the Father? Why are you bringing this up?

    three: the contradiction you allege is simply false. Keeping a condition is not always the same as earning. The language is more appropriate to Christ, who was true God and voluntarily assume a created nature, in order to deal with our demerit.

    four: your distinction between forgiveness and righteousness is what opens up the problem of saying that Adam was not righteous in the probationary period. I affirm both the probation and the original righteousness.

  85. Pete Myers said,

    August 2, 2008 at 6:37 am

    #83

    Hi Ron,

    We seem to be getting somewhere. I am British. My comment about our church not being as “pure” as yours was not intended to be that “subtle” – I do honestly long to have a strong Reformed Evangelical Presbyterian denomination over here, where the Westminster Standards ARE the confessional standard. I think there’d be points in the WCF where I’d be keen to allow for flexibility as the church continually discovers her doctrine more clearly (which will always be the case), but I think the WCF is the greatest and most biblical statement of the Christian faith outside of scripture.

    We seem to have made some progress on language, at least. In terms of the IAOC, I don’t strongly take the view that the WCF allows for denial of it, but apparently some of the work of Chad Van Dixhoorn on the actual deliberations at Westminster has shown that the divines deliberately softened the tone of the language in the WCF to be broad enough to include some dissenters to the dotrine. Now, I haven’t actually read his work yet, I’m waiting for the commentary on the WCF he’s editing to be published.

    Anyway, I’ve gone through the relevant sections of Owen, and he certainly does seem to recognise there is breadth in the Reformed tradition on this – that’s why I’m quite open to the idea that there may well have been that breadth at the forming of the WCF only decades before.

    We now really are discussing a number of different issues as you’ve pointed out a couple of times. However – it’s just a comment thread to a blog post, so I’m relaxed about that.

    I’m asking two questions right now then:
    1) What do you make of my reasons for IAOC being within the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy, and indeed, within the bounds of the WCF?

    2) Focusing on the aspects of the FV that supposedly put them outside the “pale” of the Christian faith… I suppose my problem is that when I read the FV guys on their own terms, then I don’t see them falling outside the “Christian faith”. Using that other post as a reference now (because I think you’ve said that you agree with greenbaggins that these two points are the watershed points), http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2006/11/30/why-is-the-federal-vision-heresy/

    on his two points: a) the FV “makes no ontological differentiation in the church between those who are hypocrites and those who are saved” – they do make _some_ ontological differentiation.

    b) While the FV guys don’t like the visible/invisible categories… their theological system *does* make allowances for the distinction that needs to be made – i.e. I think nobody I’ve read in the FV camp is saying that everyone who who baptised is finally saved… therefore while they may be shifting categories (for better or worse), the substance is there.

    On that point b), let me tell you why this debate is so frustrating to someone like me in the UK. Now – what I’m about to describe *isn’t your fault*, nor has it really been a factor in our discussions, but after talking I’d like to get your refelctions on it:

    Lot’s of the anti-FV rhetoric from the the States has made its way over here. Let me take the example of a private email correspondence I was asked to read and make sense of for a friend. In it a very respectable American theologian slammed the FV – but didn’t properly explain the theological context – there was a lot about the “Reformed tradition”, there were a lot of statements about what the FV guys denied (without proper recognition of the alternative models they have which actually agree with classical systematics in substance in many ways), and a lot of the language was pretty emotive. The result was that quite a few guys I know and respect over here have now got really worried about this “potential heresy” brewing in the States called the “Federal Vision”.

    Now – the *absolutely crazy thing* in my opinion. Is the sheer inconsistency of some people in the UK on this issue because of that, for example:

    1) I know of one guy who is now really worried about the teaching of Doug Wilson, because he’s an FV guy – BUT – he can see real value in NT Wright’s work, and doesn’t want us to dismiss Wright. Now, I think there are some *massive* differences between Wilson and Wright – give me Wilson any day. This is because he’s been told over and over again what Doug Wilson is seemingly *denying*, without the proper context of what Doug Wilson is positively *saying* (which is, in my opinion, often a much more evangelical and biblical application of the *best* insights of NT Wright).

    2) I know quite a few people who are really worried about the FV, but themselves would *deny the visible/invisible distinction*.

    Sorry Ron, all my comments seem to be pretty long and meandering. Lack of discipline on my part.

  86. GLW Johnson said,

    August 2, 2008 at 7:42 am

    Mark
    I don’t know which is more baffling-your selective use of Turretin or your own reading fo yourself. You misread Turretin ( as someone as pointed out in this discussion you also do this with Calvin, Murray, et. al.) and you backtrack constantly from what you have previviously said and written, i.e. your strident defense of Shepherd and Lusk)! You need to see a therapist because you have a serious case of multiple personalities.

  87. Ron Henzel said,

    August 2, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Mark,

    Regarding your reply to my comments in your comment 84:

    First: you say you “affirm the merit of Christ,” but everyone affirms the merit of Christ. Precisely what do you affirm about it?

    Second: you ask, “What can the merit and intercession of Christ have to do with the Covenant of Works?” According to the WLC Q.55, the intercession of Christ is grounded on the merits of Christ’s earthly (think: “human”) obedience, and the merits of Christ’s earthly obedience are not those merits he had by virtue of His deity, but rather the merits he earned by fulfilling the Covenant of Works, particularly in the form in which it was reiterated under the Mosaic Law (Christ was “born under the law,” Gal. 4:4).

    Third: you state that “the contradiction you allege is simply false. Keeping a condition is not always the same as earning.” But I never said that keeping a condition is always the same thing as earning (or meriting). What I said was, “Any attempt to pit the concept of earning or meriting against the concept of meeting a condition is false,” and I see you making such an attempt when, on the one hand, you declare that “Adam was not supposed to earn salvation,” but on the other hand you affirm (with WCF 7.2) that “life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” Now you are attempting to deny your contradiction by affirming an obvious but irrelevant point (i.e., a straw man): that the concepts of meeting a condition and earning something are not completely synonymous. I never said they were. But I will say this now: while it is possible in some cases to meet a condition without having earned something as a result, it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving something without actually earning or meriting the thing stipulated under the terms in which the conditions were made. And this is the way WCF 7.2 has always been understood: Adam would have earned and merited life under the terms of the Covenant of Works had he kept it. I refer you to A.A. Hodge’s (albeit slightly out-of-place) discussion of pactum merit in his commentary on WCF 16.4-6:

    (1.) The word “merit,” in the strict sense of the term, means that common quality of all actions or services to which a reward is due, in strict justice, on account of their intrinsic value or worthiness. It is evident that, in this strict sense, no work of any creature can in itself merit any reward from God ; because — (a.) All the faculties he possesses were originally granted and are continuously sustained by God, so that he is already so far in debt to God that he can never bring God in debt to him. (b.) Nothing the creature can do can be a just equivalent for the incomparable favour of God and its consequences.

    (2.) There is another sense of the word, however, in which it may be affirmed that if Adam had in his original probation yielded the obedience required, he would have “merited” the reward conditioned upon it, not because of the intrinsic value of that obedience, but because of the terms of the covenant which God had graciously condescended to form with him. By nature, the creature owed the Creator obedience, while the Creator owed the creature nothing. But by covenant the Creator voluntarily bound himself to owe the creature eternal life, upon the condition of perfect obedience.

    [A.A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith, (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1870), 227.]

    You, on the other hand, insist that even if he had met the preconditions for life stipulated under the Covenant of Works Adam still would not have earned or merited life. The contradiction I allege in your position is simply true, and you’re stuck with it.

    But here it seems you compound the inherently contradictory nature of position by writing: “The language [of earning, I assume] is more appropriate to Christ, who was true God and voluntarily assume a created nature, in order to deal with our demerit.” But why? Why is it that when God incarnate meets the preconditions of the Covenant of Works we can call it “earning” life, but should Adam have done so we still could not call it that? I see no logic in this.

    Fourth: you wrote, “your distinction between forgiveness and righteousness is what opens up the problem of saying that Adam was not righteous in the probationary period.” I experienced some challenges in understanding this statement, but I think I catch your meaning. But let me begin by pointing out that I never said that Adam was not righteous during the probationary period (until, of course, he failed the probation). You, rather, thought I implied it by my use of the word “probation”—which turned out to be unsupportable from any definition of the word of which I am aware.

    As for the earlier part of your sentence: I found it even more oblique, but I think I now catch your drift. I believe what you meant to refer to was my distinction between a forgiven person and a righteous person, as when I indicated that in Reformed orthodoxy, “A forgiven person would then be merely innocent rather than righteous, and on probation rather than the possessor of eternal life” in comment 72—the comment that prompted your objection to the word “probation” in the first place. This would seem to explain your next sentence: “I affirm both the probation and the original righteousness,” because you would appear to be responding to my phrase “merely innocent rather than righteous”—and you would be making a good point.

    I should have been more careful in the way I worded that sentence, because it gives the impression that innocence is necessarily something less than righteousness. Sometimes (at least since the Fall) it is, but it is not necessarily so in all cases, and it was not so in Adam’s case. The precise distinction I was actually reaching for was not between innocence and righteousness, but between “mere innocence” (which, if pure, as in Adam’s case, is still in a right relationship with God) and “confirmed righteousness”—or even better, “the state of being confirmed in righteousness.” Adam’s innocence was true righteousness, but it was an unconfirmed righteousness, and thus capable of being lost. Thus it is a lower form of righteousness than the one he would have received had he passed his probation, and it is also a lower form of righteousness than we receive through the One Who passed Adam’s probation on our behalf.

    Still, I can see how the way I originally worded my point could lead you to think I was denying Adam’s original righteousness, and your affirmation of “both the probation and the original righteousness” is a helpful corrective to the language I used.

  88. August 2, 2008 at 9:02 am

    But I will say this now: while it is possible in some cases to meet a condition without having earned something as a result, it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving something without actually earning or meriting the thing stipulated under the terms in which the conditions were made.

    Ron

    I find this axiom of yours problematic. If a contractual precondition for my child being picked up from school is that she be waiting in the car line, then does she merit the ride home upon fulfilling her part? To bring this even closer to home – isn’t faith a necessary precondition for justification? Yet you wouldn’t say that pardon and imputed righteousness are merited through faith would you?

    And this is the way WCF 7.2 has always been understood: Adam would have earned and merited life under the terms of the Covenant of Works had he kept it. I refer you to A.A. Hodge’s (albeit slightly out-of-place) discussion of pactum merit in his commentary on WCF 16.4-6:

    I find this assertion rather dubious. Hodge also argued in his chapter on the church that all infants dying in infancy go to heaven. He also taught that those baptized by John were re-baptized. Even if true, the Confession does not teach these doctrines. Obviously Hodge had no problem going beyond the limits of the Confession in order to impose his theology upon it. He was not so much commenting on the Confession than he was giving his theology by way of the Confession.

    Ron

  89. Mark said,

    August 2, 2008 at 10:56 am

    #87 You can have the last word and readers can decide for themselves on the confessional point.

    I am extremely grateful that you stuck with me on the “innocence/righteousness/probation/etc” issue until reaching an understanding–which it looks like you did quite well despite any possible unclarity on my part. I remain fairly convinced that what is tryingt o pushed about the need for a meritorious covenant of works and the Christ parallel inherently smudges this issue. But I’m glad that you see my concern, even if you think it is unnecessary.

  90. greenbaggins said,

    August 2, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Will miracles never cease? A civil discussion on both sides.

  91. Roger Mann said,

    August 2, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    88. Ron wrote,

    To bring this even closer to home – isn’t faith a necessary precondition for justification? Yet you wouldn’t say that pardon and imputed righteousness are merited through faith would you?

    The term “condition” can be taken as the meritorious or procuring cause of something (as in the CoW), or merely a condition of order or connection (as in the CoG) — “something which goes before, and without which the other cannot be obtained.” Robert Shaw explains this quite well:

    “That God ‘requires of sinners faith in Christ that they may be saved,’ admits of no dispute. The part assigned to faith, however, has been much controverted. 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….Faith, therefore, instead of being the condition of the covenant of grace, belongs to the promissory part of the covenant.—Rom. xv. 12. It is the gift of God, who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.—Eph. ii. 8; Phil. ii. 13.” (Robert Shaw, Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, VII)

  92. August 2, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Roger,

    I don’t see how your quote addresses what I tried to point out to Ron H. His point was that any precondition that is met necessitates merit obtained. In other words, his point was that we must presuppose “merit” whenever a precondition is in view. In fact, Ron H. underscored the point by saying that “it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving something without actually earning or meriting the thing stipulated under the terms in which the conditions were made.” It seems to me that Ron H. was arguing that preconditions necessitate merit when those preconditions are met, which is obviously false. Now if Ron H. wants to modify his axiom to distinguish conditions that are meritorious from those that are connective or merely sequential, then he should rewrite his axiom, saying something like this: “it is impossible to meet a meritorious precondition for receiving something without actually earning or meriting the thing stipulated under the terms in which the conditions were made.” Yet such a revision would be rather uninformative; and I hope not what Ron H. had in mind.

    Ron

  93. Ron Henzel said,

    August 2, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Ron D.,

    I wrote in comment 87: “it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving something without actually earning or meriting the thing stipulated under the terms in which the conditions were made.”

    You responded in comment 88: “I find this axiom of yours problematic. If a contractual precondition for my child being picked up from school is that she be waiting in the car line, then does she merit the ride home upon fulfilling her part?”

    Yes.

    Then you wrote:

    “To bring this even closer to home – isn’t faith a necessary precondition for justification?”

    No, because,

    Atonement, forgiveness, justification, the mystical union, sanctification, glorification, and so on—they do not come into being after and as a result of faith but are objectively, actively present in Christ.

    [Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, volume 3, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2007), 523. Emphasis mine.]

    For as Bavinck wrote in the previous sentence,

    All is finished: God has been reconciled; nothing remains to be added from the side of humans.

    [Ibid.]

    From our point of view, faith is the instrument of the subjective appropriation of justification, but from God’s point of view faith is simply the instrument by which we become aware of the justification we already possess as the elect under the covenant of grace (see the bottom of 524 in Bavinck for this). And once we become Christians and study God’s word, God’s point of view should become ours as well, and we should realize that saving faith is a gift and not a work. Thus,

    …regeneration, faith, and conversion are not preparations that occur apart from Christ and the covenant of grace nor conditions that a person has to meet in toto or in part in his or her own strength to be incorporated in that covenant. Rather, they are benefits that already flow from the covenant of grace, the mystical union, the granting of Christ’s person.

    [Ibid., 525. Emphasis mine.]

    Then you wrote:

    “Yet you wouldn’t say that pardon and imputed righteousness are merited through faith would you?”

    No, I wouldn’t, but not because faith is some kind of “non-meritorious precondition” for justification, but because it is a benefit that flows from the covenant of grace along with justification itself. Based on your comment 92, it seems that you might find my answer here less than satisfying, but something tells me that it’s within the bounds of the Reformed tradition.

    Meanwhile, I was hoping to respond to Pete Myers this afternoon, but pressing obligations will force me to wait until tomorrow at the earliest. Sorry, Pete! It must be almost bedtime on your side of the pond.

  94. Elder Hoss said,

    August 2, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    This may have already been sufficiently covered in a prior response, and also, Andrew Sandlin himself touched upon it, but the following statement, readily obtainable on his blog should suffice to explain his position on the Federal Vision:

    […] Contrary to what we read on Professor Clark’s blog, I do not support and have never supported the FV. It’s odd that the critics of the FV do not grasp this readily documentable fact, because the FV’ers themselves do. They all know that I cannot agree with and in fact criticize their ecclesiology, their sacramentalism, their liturgy, their covenantalism and much else besides. The fact that I have defended — and will defend — them against historically misguided charges of heresy and “denying the Gospel” no more suggests that I embrace the FV than the fact that R. C. Sproul may defend John MacArthur against charges of heresy and “denying the Gospel” for being premillennial makes Sproul a premillennialist. Such (il)logic is just plain silly, as any thoughtful, dispassionate person must acknowledge. […]

    Calling Sandlin “FV” would be akin to calling him Lutheran, or Episcopal, or EV Free, or PCA, etc. as if to say that rejecting the distinctives of a particular section of the church catholic while at the same time acknowledging that section as orthodox and fully Christian really meant one embraced said group’s distinctives.

    Strange logic indeed.

  95. August 2, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Ron H. originally stated: “it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving something without actually earning or meriting the thing stipulated under the terms in which the conditions were made.”

    Ron D. replied: “I find this axiom of yours problematic. If a contractual precondition for my child being picked up from school is that she be waiting in the car line, then does she merit the ride home upon fulfilling her part?”

    Ron H. replies: “Yes.”

    Ron H.,

    Your definition of merit has become a vacuous term because it allows for one to “merit” something that is undeserved. When a child is picked up and transported by his parent it is underserved and, therefore, not earned by meeting the precondition of simply being there.

    The rest of your post opposes your axiom because in your original assertion you stated that it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving something without actually earning or meriting the thing stipulated under the terms in which the conditions were made.”

    That faith is “a benefit that flows from the covenant of grace along with justification” does not negate the fact that faith is literally a precondition for receiving forgiveness. Consequently, your axiom is literally false. If it is not false that “it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving something without actually earning or meriting the thing stipulated under the terms in which the conditions were made”, then it must be true that the precondition of faith, as it pertains to justification, is meritorious. Logically speaking, you cannot have it both ways. Given your theology and the correct meaning of “preconditions”, both the sinner’s faith and Adam’s good works are preconditions for receiving glorification.

    Whether you recognize it or not, your argument reduces to two assertions: (1) it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving x without meriting x; and (2) because faith is not a work of merit, it cannot be a precondition for justification. The problem you are having is that your #2 is false because faith is literally a non-meritorious precondition for justification. And since faith is a precondition for justification, your #1 is also false because it is indeed possible to meet a precondition for receiving x without meriting x . To note, as you did, that faith is part-and-parcel to the promise to the elect does not change the fact that faith is a precondition for the appropriation of all the covenant of grace contemplates.

    You ended by stating: “Based on your comment 92, it seems that you might find my answer here less than satisfying, but something tells me that it’s within the bounds of the Reformed tradition.” All I will say in response to that is that the Reformed tradition does not sacrifice logic on the altar of equivocation. Accordingly, if you are within the bounds of the Reformed tradition, which I believe you are due to the latitude of the tradition, it is not because your reasoning reflects the tradition.

    Ron

  96. Roger Mann said,

    August 2, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    92. Ron wrote,

    I don’t see how your quote addresses what I tried to point out to Ron H. His point was that any precondition that is met necessitates merit obtained. In other words, his point was that we must presuppose “merit” whenever a precondition is in view.

    Yes, I was aware of that. Sorry for being unclear. I posted that real quick just before heading out the door for the afternoon and should have explained myself better. While I agree with the main thrust of Ron’s post, I disagree that any precondition that is met necessitates merit obtained. I was simply trying to clarify a point that a number of people on this blog appear to be confused about — that faith in the Covenant of Grace is not a “condition” in the same sense as obedience to God’s law is under the Covenant of Works. The one is meritorious; the other is not. Mark Horne in particular seems to confuse these two distinct meanings of the term “condition.”

  97. Roger Mann said,

    August 2, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    93. Ron wrote,

    From our point of view, faith is the instrument of the subjective appropriation of justification, but from God’s point of view faith is simply the instrument by which we become aware of the justification we already possess as the elect under the covenant of grace (see the bottom of 524 in Bavinck for this).

    I would agree with that. Indeed, I would clarify it even further. Imputation is a purely mental act wherein God accounts, credits, or reckons a sinner to be righteous in Christ. It is something that takes place within the mind of God and is wholly outside of us. And if it is an internal act of God’s mind, then it must be an eternal act of God’s mind, as God is not subject to a temporal succession of thoughts as we are — He is immutable.

    There’s no doubt, however, that the Spirit of God pronounces the sentence of justification within the consciences of believers through the instrumentality of faith (and faith is clearly a non-meritorious “precondition” of justification in this sense). But that is a temporal act of God outside of Himself and is quite distinct from “imputation,” which is an immanent act that resides entirely within the eternal mind of God. As John Gill points out:

    “What scriptures may be thought to speak of faith, as a prerequisite to justification, cannot be understood as speaking of it as a prerequisite to the being of justification [which is an eternal act of God’s mind]; for faith has no causal influence upon it, it adds nothing to its being, it is no ingredient in it, it is not the cause nor matter of it; at most, they can only be understood as speaking of faith as a prerequisite to the knowledge and comfort of it, and to a claim of interest in it; and this is readily allowed, that no man is evidentially and declaratively justified until he believes; that is, he cannot have the knowledge of it, nor any comfort from it; nor can he claim his interest in it, without faith; and this being observed, obviates another objection, that if justification is before faith, then faith is needless and useless. It is not so; it is not of use to justify men, which it is never said to do; but it is of use to receive the blessing of justification, and to enjoy the comfort of it.” (A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, II, V, 2b7e.)

  98. Vern Crisler said,

    August 3, 2008 at 12:24 am

    You guys should avoid the term “precondition” as it has a meaning in current philosophy, perhaps more than what you intend by it.

    Vern

  99. August 3, 2008 at 7:22 am

    I appreciate your concern, Vern. I have suspected though that it has been used in this discussion by Ron H. as a compact made prior to the condition being met – hence “pre”. The only reason I’ve employed the term is because the the conditions in view are necessary and must occur logically prior to the reward, making them necessary preconditions and not just necessary conditions. That the conditions are part of a compact made prior to the task is not germane, which I believe might be at least part of your point.

    Ron

  100. Ron Henzel said,

    August 3, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Ron D.,

    You wrote:

    If a contractual precondition for my child being picked up from school is that she be waiting in the car line, then does she merit the ride home upon fulfilling her part?

    I replied:

    Yes.

    And now you write:

    Your definition of merit has become a vacuous term because it allows for one to “merit” something that is undeserved. When a child is picked up and transported by his parent it is underserved and, therefore, not earned by meeting the precondition of simply being there.

    So you’re saying that a child who actually goes to the trouble of meeting the precondition for being picked up does not deserve to be picked up? If you were to actually say that to your daughter while picking her up in the car line, I think her feelings might be hurt. Please explain why not.

    You also write:

    That faith is “a benefit that flows from the covenant of grace along with justification” does not negate the fact that faith is literally a precondition for receiving forgiveness.

    Bavinck would seem to disagree with you, and I think he was a really smart guy. But even if I were to concede that “faith is literally a precondition for receiving forgiveness,” because faith is a gift from God (which is a major part of what is meant by saying that it is a benefit that flows from the covenant of grace), it is a condition that God meets on our behalf, so the merit belongs to Him. Had Adam obeyed, on the other hand, it would have been a different matter; the merit would have been his.

    And you write:

    Whether you recognize it or not, your argument reduces to two assertions: (1) it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving x without meriting x; and (2) because faith is not a work of merit, it cannot be a precondition for justification.

    But I never made your assertion (2) above. I don’t know where you got it from. (Or maybe I just have a really hard time recognizing my own argument!) Nevertheless, you write:

    The problem you are having is that your #2 is false because faith is literally a non-meritorious precondition for justification.

    No, the real problem is that I never asserted “your #2,” so your point is invalid. But you write:

    And since faith is a precondition for justification, your #1 is also false because it is indeed possible to meet a precondition for receiving x without meriting x .

    I disagree with both parts of this statement. I also disagree with this next one:

    To note, as you did, that faith is part-and-parcel to the promise to the elect does not change the fact that faith is a precondition for the appropriation of all the covenant of grace contemplates.

    But to say that faith is “a precondition for the appropriation of all the covenant of grace contemplates” (emphasis mine ) would have to mean that it is a condition that stands alongside the conditions that have been met by Christ. In other words: this would mean that Christ did not meet all the conditions of that covenant—something I flatly reject. The way you put it, Christ meets (perhaps) most of the conditions, but we must do our part by exercising faith. This logic will ultimately and inevitably reduce faith to a work that is added to grace. In opposition to that logic I side with Bavinck, who wrote:

    All is finished: God has been reconciled; nothing remains to be added from the side of humans.

    [Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, volume 3, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2007), 523. Emphasis mine.]

    You end by writing:

    …the Reformed tradition does not sacrifice logic on the altar of equivocation. Accordingly, if you are within the bounds of the Reformed tradition, which I believe you are due to the latitude of the tradition, it is not because your reasoning reflects the tradition.

    You seem to have contradicted yourself here. In your first sentence you deny that the Reformed tradition “sacrifice[s] logic on the altar of equivocation” (was that meant to be a slam?), but in your second sentence you imply that it does. You should read Bavinck.

  101. August 3, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    So you’re saying that a child who actually goes to the trouble of meeting the precondition for being picked up does not deserve to be picked up? If you were to actually say that to your daughter while picking her up in the car line, I think her feelings might be hurt. Please explain why not.

    Ron H.,

    That the child went to “the trouble” of standing on the corner is irrelevant unless, of course, energy expelled is a sufficient condition for merit. Accordingly, we may ignore any implication you tried to make by the notion of the child being troubled by his effort.

    With respect to the child’s feelings being hurt, obviously that is irrelevant too. In my household, for instance, my children (by grace) have been trained to be grateful for the rides they receive, which presupposes that their parents’ service to them is a matter of unmerited favor yet, notwithstanding, something we’re pleased to do. But to get to the heart of your query, my daughter’s feelings are not hurt by the fact that she doesn’t merit rides by virtue of standing in line at the parent pick-up spot at her Christian school. Accordingly, when I promise to pick up my child from school she expects me to do so but not because she believes she deserves it but because she believes me to be faithful to my word. I’m truly sorry if your children believe they merit your good favor in this regard. I suspect, however, that your practice is better than your creed and that your children, by grace, don’t believe they deserve your goodness, though they probably have grown to expect it, and rightfully so.

    Bavinck would seem to disagree with you, and I think he was a really smart guy.

    I sense a fallacy of appeal. :)

    But even if I were to concede that ‘faith is literally a precondition for receiving forgiveness,’ because faith is a gift from God (which is a major part of what is meant by saying that it is a benefit that flows from the covenant of grace), it is a condition that God meets on our behalf, so the merit belongs to Him. Had Adam obeyed, on the other hand, it would have been a different matter; the merit would have been his.

    If nothing else, please lay hold of this… Because Adam did not have libertarian free will, the good works he would have performed in order to have met the alleged requirement for being glorified would have been just as much a gift of God as the saving faith that God effects in elect sinners. Accordingly, you are really left with two options and two options only. Either Adam had LFW, or else his good works would have been a gift from God. If you affirm the former, then you are the horns of a metaphysical dilemma. If you affirm the latter, then you oppose your most recent argument, which was an attempt to distinguish between preconditions that are a gift from God (e.g. faith), and preconditions that are not (supposedly prelapsarian works of righteousness).

    I wrote earlier: “Whether you recognize it or not, your argument reduces to two assertions: (1) it is impossible to meet a precondition for receiving x without meriting x; and (2) because faith is not a work of merit, it cannot be a precondition for justification.”

    Ron H. replies: “But I never made your assertion (2) above. I don’t know where you got it from. (Or maybe I just have a really hard time recognizing my own argument!)”

    Ron H.,

    Yes, I am afraid that you are finding difficulty recognizing the necessary implications of your own arguments.

    Please do forgive me for not engaging the remainder of your post. I found it too tedious for a Sunday afternoon.

    Blessings,

    Ron

  102. Ron Henzel said,

    August 3, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Ron D.,

    You are writing as though you have completely missed any and all of the discussion of pactum merit that has been carried on for quite some time here now. An act that is not inherently meritorious becomes meritorious in relation to a reward offered (i.e., the act can be said to deserve the reward) in a covenant when that act fulfills the terms of the covenant. That’s all that is meant by calling your child’s action “meritorious” or “deserving” in the hypothetical illustration you provided, and, as A.A. Hodge explained in the citation of him I provided in comment 87, it’s all that is meant when we say that Adam could have merited eternal life by his obedience.

    When you first provided this illustration you did not make it at all clear that it was you who were showing up to give your daughter the ride. You simply wrote, “If a contractual precondition for my child being picked up from school is that she be waiting in the car line, then does she merit the ride home upon fulfilling her part?” As a middle school teacher in a private Christian school, I stand in car lines about 174 days each year, so I’m familiar with this scenario. But I’ve also stood in car lines in public schools where the majority of students get on buses, and so I figured that you were most likely referring to that type of situation—i.e., a contractual relationship between your family and the school—so I quickly responded in the affirmative to your question. It eventually became clear that you were possibly referring to a contract between you and your daughter, or some such thing, but I don’t see how that changes the situation. If your daughter fulfills her end of the agreement, then she deserves to be picked up by you under the terms of that agreement.

    Now, you can argue all you want that you’re her father, that you have given her everything she has, and that the very agreement to pick her up itself was a gift from you. All that, however, would be irrelevant. She may even have failed to clean her room, slapped one of her siblings (if she has one), deliberately spilled milk on her mother’s morning paper, kicked the dog, and mouthed off to you on the way to school. It doesn’t matter! Regardless of whether she inherently deserves to be picked up, if she meets the terms of the agreement, then under those terms she deserves to be picked up. Any other behavioral issues are irrelevant, unless stipulated under the terms of the aforementioned agreement, and should be dealt with separately. Of course the mere act of showing up at a specific place and time is not inherently meritorious or deserving. But when that same act is performed in obedience to a covenanted precondition, it becomes deserving, as A.A. Hodge wrote, “not because of the intrinsic value of that obedience, but because of the terms of the covenant ”

    As for all the time you spent responding to my tongue-in-cheek remark about your daughter’s feelings getting hurt: you obviously did not see the humor I intended, or you wouldn’t have used it as an opportunity to raise questions (later retracted in a rather left-handed fashion) about my child-raising skills.

    As for my appeal to Bavinck: you obviously took it as part of my actual argument, rather than as the evidence that my views are solidly Reformed, as I intended it.

    In response to my observation that faith is a gift of God (which, in my opinion, should put an end to any talk about it being a condition that we meet), you wrote:

    If nothing else, please lay hold of this… Because Adam did not have libertarian free will, the good works he would have performed in order to have met the alleged requirement for being glorified would have been just as much a gift of God as the saving faith that God effects in elect sinners. Accordingly, you are really left with two options and two options only. Either Adam had LFW, or else his good works would have been a gift from God. If you affirm the former, then you are the horns of a metaphysical dilemma. If you affirm the latter, then you oppose your most recent argument, which was an attempt to distinguish between preconditions that are a gift from God (e.g. faith), and preconditions that are not (supposedly prelapsarian works of righteousness).

    First I’ll let Calvin respond:

    In this integrity man [i.e., Adam before the Fall] by free will had the power, if he so willed, to attain eternal life. Here it would be out of place to raise the question of God’s secret predestination because our present subject is not what can happen or not, but what man’s nature was like. Therefore Adam could have stood if he wished, seeing that he fell solely by his own will. But it was because his will was capable of being bent to one side or the other, and was not given the constancy to persevere, that he fell so easily. Yet his choice of good and evil was free, and not that alone, but the highest rectitude was in his mind and will, and all the organic parts were rightly composed to obedience, until in destroying himself he corrupted his own blessings.

    [Institutes 1.15.8; Battles 195. Emphasis mine. Think about it.]

    And now I’ll respond specifically to your statement:

    Because Adam did not have libertarian free will, the good works he would have performed in order to have met the alleged requirement for being glorified would have been just as much a gift of God as the saving faith that God effects in elect sinners.

    Just as much a gift of God?” Au contraire! As Calvin says, Adam had the power to obey. We did not have the power to believe until God gave it to us.

    You now claim that the assertion “because faith is not a work of merit, it cannot be a precondition for justification” is, as you put it, one of “the necessary implications of [my] own arguments.” This is ridiculous. My argument is that faith cannot be a precondition for justification because faith is a gift of God coordinate with justification under the Covenant of Grace.

    And you ended by writing:

    Please do forgive me for not engaging the remainder of your post. I found it too tedious for a Sunday afternoon.

    Ego te absolvo. All is forgiven.

  103. Roger Mann said,

    August 3, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    101. Ron D. wrote,

    Because Adam did not have libertarian free will, the good works he would have performed in order to have met the alleged requirement for being glorified would have been just as much a gift of God as the saving faith that God effects in elect sinners.

    Using that line of reasoning, Adam would not be guilty of sin nor have demerited eternal death. Because Adam did not have libertarian free will, and the evil work he committed was ultimately caused by God, Adam did not earn the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23) or deserve the penalty of “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Adam was guilty and unrighteous because he disobeyed God’s law. Moreover, Adam’s disobedience demerited eternal death because that was the penalty under the terms of the Covenant of Works. The fact that God was the ultimate cause of Adam’s sin is irrelevant to the issue.

    Of course, the same principle applies under the hypothetical case of Adam’s obedience. Adam would have been guiltless and righteous because he obeyed God’s law. Moreover, Adam’s obedience would have merited eternal life because that was the reward under the terms of the Covenant of Works. The fact that God would have been the ultimate cause of Adam’s obedience is irrelevant to the issue.

  104. Roger Mann said,

    August 4, 2008 at 1:18 am

    102. Ron H. wrote,

    An act that is not inherently meritorious becomes meritorious in relation to a reward offered (i.e., the act can be said to deserve the reward) in a covenant when that act fulfills the terms of the covenant.

    While I agree with your overall point, I would question whether it’s accurate to describe any action as “inherently meritorious.” In other words, I’m unaware of any action that can be described as “meritorious” unless someone first ascribes merit to that action. Yet, if someone must first ascribe merit to an action (i.e., pactum merit), then why don’t we eliminate all the confusion and simply call it “merit,” since that is the only type of merit there is?

  105. August 4, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Roger,

    Ref. 103, you’re simply not paying attention to what I responded to. It was noted by Ron H. that faith, being a gift, was not meritorious but Adam’s works were. The implication was that a sufficient condition for merit is work performed that is not a gift from God (but rather self-generated). If that wasn’t the point, then what was when Ron H. quoted Bavinck as saying: “But even if I were to concede that ‘faith is literally a precondition for receiving forgiveness,’ because faith is a gift from God (which is a major part of what is meant by saying that it is a benefit that flows from the covenant of grace), it is a condition that God meets on our behalf, so the merit belongs to Him. Had Adam obeyed, on the other hand, it would have been a different matter; the merit would have been his.”

    The Bavinck quote argues that if a precondition is a gift, then that which is obtained by meeting the precondition is non-meritorious. Accordingly, if Adam’s works were a gift, then he was not in a position to merit anything (per the Bavinck quote). My reductio, which was not dealt (not surprisingly), was that if Adam’s works were not a gift, then they must have been according to LFW. Rather than deal with the argument, you simply launched into a diatribe.

    Take the last word Roger (and Ron H.). It’s apparent that neither of you are prepared to actually engage with any sort of intellectual integrity on this matter. I might suggest that if you quit hiding behind the quotes of others, it might help you actually form arguments.

    Ron

    http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2008/08/adam-merit-glory.html

  106. TurretinFan said,

    August 4, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Wait … think about it.

    A king has a dragon problem in the land and a beautiful daughter. He promises that anyone who rids the land of the fearful dragon can have a chest full of gold coins and his daughter to wife. A strapping youth slays the dragon and brings his head to the king. Does the young man deserve the wife and gold? Has he merited it?

    The king was under no obligation to offer the reward for slaying the dragon, and the king (as king) could simply have ordered his subjects (including the young man) to slay the dragon out of obedience.

    But I think our shared intuition is that if the King were not to give the young man his daughter and gold, he’d not be giving the young man what the young man deserves.

    In other words, we view the promise of the king as creating desert in the fulfillment of the condition, although in the absence of the promise the act of dragon slaying would not be similarly meritorious.

    I’m not sure then, how then Adam’s fulfillment of the covenant made in the Garden is supposed to differ by those who have been (in this combox) opposing the concept of “pactum merit.” So, I post this not to make a positive assertion, but to ask a question. How are they supposed differ?

    With respect to the distinction between pactum merit and intrinsic merit, we may provide a different example. In the second example, a stranger saves a man’s life. With respect to the saved person, the act of saving has intrinsic merit. That is to say, the savior deserves to be rewarded for his saving, even in the absence of any promise by the saved person. In fact, only a churl would think he owed no debt to his savior (as I presume we all agree).

    Part of the reason intrinsic merit is impossible between God and man is that man is incapable of doing anything to benefit God (or even any good thing beyond what man is already required to do). On the other hand, God is capable of performing acts toward us that have intrinsic merit, including especially (as you have already guessed) Christ’s substitutionary atonement for the sins of the elect.

    I could go on and on, and particularly emphasize how one of the most troubling aspects of Arminianism is the conversion of faith from the means of justification into a meritorious cause of salvation by overlooking the role of saving grace in regeneration, but I fear that would push my comment too far off the subject.

    -TurretinFan

  107. Ron Henzel said,

    August 4, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Roger,

    Regarding comment 104: I think that all of God’s actions are, by definition, inherently meritorious. He is worthy, therefore He and everything He does has intrinsic merit. If we require someone to ascribe merit to God’s actions before we can call them meritorious, then we are saying that there is an authority higher than God to whom He must ultimately bow.

    The reason human works are not inherently meritorious is not only “because of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God” (WCF 16.5), which refers to mankind in its present sinful state, but also because even prior to the Fall, any good work done by mankind inherently would have been simply the fulfillment of an obligation to God’s glory and nothing else.

    Aside from these considerations, and while I don’t want to run off on a philosophical tangent, I also have a problem with saying that merit is not merit until someone calls it merit, because it means that merit can then never be, properly speaking, an actual property of anything or anyone, including God Himself. And yet we know that God’s works of creation had intrinsic merit, because He called them “good,” and I don’t think the only reason they were good was because God called them good.

  108. Roger Mann said,

    August 4, 2008 at 11:18 am

    105. Ron D. wrote,

    Ref. 103, you’re simply not paying attention to what I responded to. It was noted by Ron H. that faith, being a gift, was not meritorious but Adam’s works were. The implication was that a sufficient condition for merit is work performed that is not a gift from God (but rather self-generated).

    No, that wasn’t the “implication” of what Ron said at all. That is merely the false implication that you are drawing from his words. The fact that God would have been the ultimate cause of Adam’s obedience wouldn’t have made his obedience a “gift” of God’s grace anymore than His causing Adam’s disobedience was a “gift” of God’s grace. God’s “gifts” of grace only pertain within the context of redemption, when God gives guilty sinners the opposite of what they deserve (such as justification, regeneration, saving faith, the Spirit of sanctification, etc.).

    You are simply making a category error here and setting up a false dichotomy — since Adam did not have libertarian free will, then everything he did must have been a “gift” from God, and therefore the concepts of “merit” and “demerit” do not apply. Of course, that is totally false. There’s no such thing as a “self-generated” action, yet Adam was still held accountable and punished for his “demerit” of sin, just as he would have been rewarded for his “merit” of obedience (for those were the terms given under the Covenant of Works). The gift of faith, on the other hand, is in a completely different category — being a benefit not a condition of the Covenant of Grace. We deserve God’s wrath and eternal punishment, yet God graciously forgives us and justifies us on the basis of Christ’s “merit” of obedience in fulfilling the law in our place.

    My reductio, which was not dealt (not surprisingly), was that if Adam’s works were not a gift, then they must have been according to LFW. Rather than deal with the argument, you simply launched into a diatribe.

    Again, your reductio was based upon a false implication that does not necessarily follow from the premises. You simply inserted libertarian free will into the argument and set up a false dichotomy (i.e., straw man).

    It’s apparent that neither of you are prepared to actually engage with any sort of intellectual integrity on this matter. I might suggest that if you quit hiding behind the quotes of others, it might help you actually form arguments.

    Ron, if you weren’t relying upon category errors and straw men arguments in your responses here, then you might be excused for denigrating Ron and I like this. As it is, you are simply being arrogant and condescending (which appears to be a consistent trait of yours from what I’ve seen here and on your own blog). Furthermore, I haven’t even remotely been “hiding behind the quotes of others,” so your accusation has no basis in reality.

  109. Ron Henzel said,

    August 4, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Ron D.,

    You wrote in comment 105:

    [Harsh remarks to Roger omitted here.] … It was noted by Ron H. that faith, being a gift, was not meritorious but Adam’s works were. The implication was that a sufficient condition for merit is work performed that is not a gift from God (but rather self-generated). If that wasn’t the point, then what was when Ron H. quoted Bavinck as saying: “But even if I were to concede that ‘faith is literally a precondition for receiving forgiveness,’ because faith is a gift from God (which is a major part of what is meant by saying that it is a benefit that flows from the covenant of grace), it is a condition that God meets on our behalf, so the merit belongs to Him. Had Adam obeyed, on the other hand, it would have been a different matter; the merit would have been his.”

    Uhm, that wasn’t a Bavinck quote; those were my own words which you apparently excerpted from the sixth paragraph of my comment 100. You then wrote:

    The Bavinck quote argues that if a precondition is a gift, then that which is obtained by meeting the precondition is non-meritorious.

    Not exactly. First of all, this is not something that Bavinck directly argued in any quote from him that I supplied (all of which you will find in my comment 93). I inferred it from Bavinck when I wrote in a parenthetical remark in comment 100 that the fact that faith is a gift from God “is a major part of what is meant by [Bavinck] saying that it is a benefit that flows from the covenant of grace.”

    This leads me to another point. Not only is this something Bavinck did not say, neither is it something I ever said—at least not the way you worded it here, which seems to garble my meaning. Rather it somewhat distantly resembles the point I made in comment 100 when I wrote, “because faith is a gift from God…it is a condition that God meets on our behalf.” N.B.: I was not saying that the “precondition [was] a gift.” I was saying that the meeting or the fulfillment of the precondition was a gift.

    I assume you did not intentionally misquote me here, but to say something like, “if a precondition is a gift, then that which is obtained by meeting the precondition is non-meritorious,” is a complete non sequitir. Bavinck never said that and neither did I. On the other hand, if God meets the precondition for us, then we obviously did not merit what we gained by having that precondition met on our behalf. That’s all I’m saying.

    Then you wrote:

    Accordingly, if Adam’s works were a gift, then he was not in a position to merit anything … [mistaken reference "the Bavinck quote" omitted].

    And, of course, I argue that any obedience Adam might have performed was not a gift, because he had the power to perform them in his originally-created state. You wrote:

    My reductio, which was not dealt (not surprisingly), was that if Adam’s works were not a gift, then they must have been according to LFW. … [Harangue at Roger here omitted.] …

    This is a red herring. I believe my citation from Calvin and follow-up remarks adequately responded to this baseless charge. From the fact that Adam could have chosen to obey in the power of his own will it does not logically follow that there could have been another outcome than the Fall.

    Finally, you wrote:

    Take the last word Roger (and Ron H.). It’s apparent that neither of you are prepared to actually engage with any sort of intellectual integrity on this matter. I might suggest that if you quit hiding behind the quotes of others, it might help you actually form arguments.

    If the moderators of this blog have no response to this final paragraph of yours, then neither do I.

  110. Ron Henzel said,

    August 4, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Roger,

    I read your response to Ron D. after I posted mine. You made some excellent points. Thanks!

  111. Roger Mann said,

    August 4, 2008 at 11:38 am

    107. Ron H. wrote,

    I think that all of God’s actions are, by definition, inherently meritorious. He is worthy, therefore He and everything He does has intrinsic merit. If we require someone to ascribe merit to God’s actions before we can call them meritorious, then we are saying that there is an authority higher than God to whom He must ultimately bow.

    Of course, you are absolutely correct. I should have been more clear. What I meant was that I was unaware of any human actions that are “inherently meritorious.” In relation to God, they can only be considered meritorious because He has first ascribed merit to them, such as fulfilling the terms of His law. And in relation to other men, our actions can only be considered meritorious because we ascribe merit to them, such as TurretinFan’s example of someone saving another person’s life. We ascribe merit to such an action simply because we value our own life and feel a sense of obligation to the person who saved us. But there is no “intrinsic” value to such an action (even in relation to God, human life only has a derived or ascribed value, since God has made us in His image and commanded “Thou shalt not commit murder”).

  112. Pete Myers said,

    August 5, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Wow! I go on holiday, and can’t get to my computer for like, 3 days, and this one comment thread has been extended by almost a book in length.

    Whew! I simply have no idea where we are now. Signing off!

  113. David Gadbois said,

    August 5, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Good stuff, Roger M. and Ron H.

    As I continue to reflect on the issue of merit, I become more sympathetic to Lee Iron’s paper on the subject, which concludes:

    (1) Rather than an ontological state intellectually registered in the divine mind, merit is constituted only by fulfillment of the stipulations of a divinely-sanctioned covenant.

    (2) The measure of merit is defined by the terms of the covenant, which itself is the only possible revelation and definition of divine justice.

    There is no such thing as non-covenantal, condign merit because merit is by definition constituted by fulfilling what is stipulated in the covenant. And there is no such thing as congruous merit which, since it is covenantal, is supposedly not based on strict justice, because the covenant is by definition the revelation of God’s justice. Neither merit nor justice exists apart from covenant.

    http://www.upper-register.com/papers/redefining_merit.pdf

  114. August 5, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I cut and pasted a comment here from a Molinist. It is from another site that is discussing this thread. I found the Molinist’s conclusions fascinating.

    I’m a Molinist and you know what that means. I think your website is garbage. Calvinism is fatalalsim end of story. I will say this though: Your cronies (who are arguing in favor of traditional notions of Merit) are NOT CALVINISTS!!! You know the guy who wrote the following?:

    “From the fact that Adam could have chosen to obey in the power of his own will it does not logically follow that there could have been another outcome than the Fall.”

    ??? Well guess what? He’s right! I’m even more happy to say that he’s not one of yours! Same thing for the guy who wrote this:

    “The pre-Fall and post-Fall distinction is what is completely escaping you…. Let me state that again: Adam could NOT have thwarted God’s will in the garden…What I am saying is that Adam could have willed to do the right thing… Are you denying that Adam could have chosen to obey?”

    Did these guys nod off in their philosophy classes??? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Oh, that’s right — Calvinists aren’t the best philosophers! LOL Maybe that’s why they’re Calvinists!!! Your cronies are right that Adam could have chosen opposite to what he did and your cronies are again right that God’s plan could not be thwarted. Same goes for us after the fall!!! The only thing that YOU (who are arguing against traditional definitions of merit) are right about is that (your opponents are not offering) Calvinistic tenets – they’re tenets of my camp – Molinism!!! Actually to be perfectly honest they’re tenets of Open Theism too but we won’t go there!!!

    I’m so glad to see that Molinism has crept into your confessional circles. Maybe one day you guys will revise your confessions!!!

    PhD guy

  115. Mark said,

    August 5, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    #96

    “that faith in the Covenant of Grace is not a “condition” in the same sense as obedience to God’s law is under the Covenant of Works. The one is meritorious; the other is not. Mark Horne in particular seems to confuse these two distinct meanings of the term “condition.””

    According to the WCF faith is a condition. No one is claiming it is the same kind of condition. But if one legitimizes “merit” as “pactum merit” then that definition obligates you to call both conditions “meritorious,” despite the differences.

    If you want a difference between the two types of condition, in which only one is meritorious, then you need a definition of “merit” which does more than rely on covenant conditionality.

  116. Ron Henzel said,

    August 5, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Mark,

    You wrote: “According to the WCF faith is a condition.” Could you be more specific concerning which particular statement in the Confession you are referring to?

    You also wrote: “But if one legitimizes ‘merit’ as ‘pactum merit’ then that definition obligates you to call both conditions ‘meritorious,’ despite the differences.” Unless, of course (and this is assuming, for the sake of argument, that faith can be called a condition for justification), faith is a condition that is met by God on our behalf, since it is part of the gift of salvation. But I’m with Bavinck when he states that faith is not a condition that a person has to meet in order to be incorporated into the covenant of grace.

    You further wrote: “If you want a difference between the two types of condition, in which only one is meritorious, then you need a definition of ‘merit’ which does more than rely on covenant conditionality.” I don’t see why. Under the covenant of grace there is still merit; it simply does not inhere in the faith of the believer, but rather in the earthly obedience of Christ who met all conditions on our behalf, so that He gets all the glory.

    In my mind it’s not a matter of there being two types of conditions. Instead it’s a matter of what we can properly call a condition, and what we cannot.

  117. Ron Henzel said,

    August 5, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Brett,

    You wrote:

    I cut and pasted a comment here from a Molinist. It is from another site that is discussing this thread. I found the Molinist’s conclusions fascinating.

    Yes, fascinating—in much the same way that reading Noam Chomsky’s political ideas is “fascinating.”

  118. Roger Mann said,

    August 5, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    115. Mark wrote,

    According to the WCF faith is a condition. No one is claiming it is the same kind of condition. But if one legitimizes “merit” as “pactum merit” then that definition obligates you to call both conditions “meritorious,” despite the differences.

    No, the definition of “pactum merit” does not obligate us to call both conditions “meritorious,” for we are speaking about two different types of conditions. The term “condition” can be taken as the meritorious or procuring cause of something (as in the CoW), or merely as a condition of order or connection (as in the CoG) — “something which goes before, and without which the other cannot be obtained.” Robert Shaw explains this quite well:

    “That God ‘requires of sinners faith in Christ that they may be saved,’ admits of no dispute. The part assigned to faith, however, has been much controverted. 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… Faith, therefore, instead of being the condition of the covenant of grace, belongs to the promissory part of the covenant.—Rom. xv. 12. It is the gift of God, who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.—Eph. ii. 8; Phil. ii. 13.” (Robert Shaw, Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith, VII)

    If you want a difference between the two types of condition, in which only one is meritorious, then you need a definition of “merit” which does more than rely on covenant conditionality.

    The term “pactum merit” only refers to a covenant condition that is the procuring cause of something, such as perfect obedience to God’s law in the CoW was. Since the condition of faith is not the procuring cause of our justification, and is freely granted as a benefit of the CoG procured by Christ’s merit, it is not a form of “pactum merit.”

  119. David Gadbois said,

    August 5, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    In my mind it’s not a matter of there being two types of conditions. Instead it’s a matter of what we can properly call a condition, and what we cannot.

    Ron, I wouldn’t be so quick to label the arrangement of the CoG as an “improper” condition, if this is your meaning. Mark does have a valid point, since WCF uses the following wording:

    requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved

    We have an “if faith, then salvation” sort of construction here, where faith is a prescriptive requirement of the covenant. So it would not be “improper” to call faith a prescriptive condition.

    Of course, the condition in the CoG is a different kind of condition than the CoW. In the CoW, the condition is the moral exhertion of lawkeeping, in CoG the condition is trusting/receiving Christ’s moral exhertions on our behalf. The former condition is the *ground* of reward, while the latter condition is merely instrumental in appropriating the reward.

    To elaborate even further, the condition/reward arrangement in the CoW is an arrangement where the reward is “what is due” or a “wage” of fulfilling the condition (Romans 4:4), and because of the works (moral exhertion of law-keeping) character of the condition it is therefore not according to a grace principle (11:6). Whereas in the CoG the condition (faith) *is* compatible with a reward granted by a principle of grace (4:16).

  120. Mark said,

    August 5, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    119

    To elaborate even further, the condition/reward arrangement in the CoW is an arrangement where the reward is “what is due” or a “wage” of fulfilling the condition (Romans 4:4), and because of the works (moral exhertion of law-keeping) character of the condition it is therefore not according to a grace principle (11:6). Whereas in the CoG the condition (faith) *is* compatible with a reward granted by a principle of grace (4:16).

    I think it is interesting to compare the reasoning above with that of Turretin’s nephew, Benedict Pictet, who reiterated this Reformed Orthodox position. His Christian Theology was translated by Frederick Reyroux and it was published by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia before January of 1846. At that time, the issue of the Princeton Review announced the publication and declared,

    In this small but compact volume, we have a comprehensive epitome of Theology; from the pen of one of the most distinguished theologians of Geneva. The great excellence of Pictet, is simplicity and perspicuity. He is, even in his large work, much less scholastic, than his predecessors, and less disposed perhaps to press his statements beyond the limits of certain knowledge. We are glad to see so sound and readable a book placed within the reach of all classes of readers (vol 18, issue 1, “Short Notices,” p. 180).

    Pictet wrote regarding God’s covenant with Adam that it involved both promise and warning. The warning involves a rather straightforward exposition of the text of Genesis. Proving that a promise was also involved, however, requires some extrapolation, because the future reward is not stated in the text. Pictet reasons from God’s character saying:

    With regard to the promise of the covenant, though it is not expressly laid down, it is sufficiently clear from the threatening of death, which is opposed to it; for although God owes nothing to his creature, yet as the whole scripture sets him forth to us as slow to anger and abundant in mercy, it is not at all probable, that God denounced upon man the threat of eternal punishment, and at the same time gave him no promise (p. 141; emphasis added).

    So, for Pictet, it is God’s gracious character that makes it certain that he promised a reward to Adam, not some principle of “wage” or “what is due.”

    Pictet also deals with the principle of the possibility of meritorious works later in his book. In dealing with the good works of a believer, and proving “the necessity of good works,” he goes on to point out that such necessary good works are not meritorious before God. In doing so he gives four reasons (pp 332, 333). At least two of these would apply to all creatures regardless of sin or innocence. First “a meritorious work must be one that is not due, for no one can have any merit in paying what he owes; but good works are due; ‘When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which it was out duty to do’ (Luke 17.10).” Second, there must be a “proportion” between “the good work and the promised reward; but there is no proportion between the two in the present case; not even when the good work is martyrdom, the most excellent of all. For (all) ‘the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed,’ (Romans 8.18).”

    But Pictet not only speaks of good works in general, but specifically addresses the issue of how good works would have related to Adam’s vindication and glorification if he had continued in faith and obedience rather than falling into unbelief and disobedience. He writes that “if the first man had persevered in innocence, he would have been justified by the fulfillment of the natural law which God had engraven on his heart, and of the other commandments which God might have enjoined on him; in short, by perfectly loving God and his neighbor” (p. 312). Thus, if Adam had persevered he would have been declared righteous and “acquired a right to eternal glory, not indeed as if he had properly merited it, for the creature can merit nothing from the Creator, but according to the free promise and Covenant of God” (Ibid.).

    As can be seen by the fact that Pictet was translated, American theologians did not reject Turrettin’s faithful summary of the Reformed heritage; far less did they condemn it as a subversion of the Gospel. As Joel Garver writes in his essay, “The Covenant of Works in the Reformed Tradition,” of, A. A. Hodge’s Outlines of Theology, published in 1860.

    In it he writes of the covenant of works, “It was also essentially a gracious covenant, because although every creature is, as such, bound to serve the Creator to the full extent of his powers, the Creator cannot be bound as a mere matter of justice to grace the creature fellowship with himself.” In his posthumously published Evangelical Theology: A Course of Popular Lectures (1890), Hodge similarly states, “God offered to man in this gracious Covenant of Works the opportunity of accepting his grace and receiving his covenant gift of a confirmed holy character” (167).

  121. Roger Mann said,

    August 6, 2008 at 9:30 am

    120. Mark wrote,

    Thus, if Adam had persevered he would have been declared righteous and “acquired a right to eternal glory, not indeed as if he had properly merited it, for the creature can merit nothing from the Creator, but according to the free promise and Covenant of God

    Pictet is not rejecting “pactum merit” here (“he would have been justified by the fulfillment of the natural law”), but only that which is “properly merited” as an inherent right, which everyone on this blog also rejects. So I’m not sure what your point is. Nevertheless, regarding the covenantal merit of works, Calvin is much clearer and to the point:

    “Thus, too, we ought to acknowledge that the favor of God is offered to us in the law, provided by our works we can deserve it.” (Institutes, 3.17.2)

    “All such [legal] promises, by whatever name they may be called, are made under the condition that the reward is to be paid on the things commanded being done.” (Institutes, 3.17.6)

    “We certainly mean not to dispute that the righteousness of the law consists in works, and not only so, but that justification consists in the dignity and merit of works.” (Institutes, 3.17.13)

    It doesn’t get any clearer than that! Hence, if Adam had perfectly obeyed God’s law, he would have “deserved” the reward. It would have been “paid” to him as what was due under the terms of the covenant, and his justification would have “consisted in the dignity and merit of works.” Why? Because “The righteousness of works consists in perfect obedience to the law” (Institutes, 3.18.10). “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them’” (Romans 10:5). Moreover, Paul makes it crystal clear that “to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt” (Romans 4:4). Therefore, any nonsense about the Covenant of Works being a “gracious covenant” (whether from A.A. Hodge or anyone else) is flatly contradicted by Scripture. Grace and works are opposing principles that cannot be mixed in any way without destroying the very heart of the gospel:

    “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works [as it was under the CoW], it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.” (Romans 11:6)

    Therefore, it follows as a “good and necessary consequence” that the Covenant of Works was not a “gracious” covenant; for if the Covenant of Works was a “gracious” covenant, it would no longer be a Covenant of Works!

  122. Roger Mann said,

    August 6, 2008 at 10:51 am

    In addition to the above, Scripture declares that “the law is not of faith” (Galatians 3:12), since the law is “of works” and is therefore opposed to grace. Conversely, the gospel promise of justification “is of faith that it might be according to grace” (Romans 4:16). This is why Paul declares:

    “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about [since he would have deserved or merited it], but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’” (Romans 4:2-3)

  123. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    August 6, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Re 50:

    I didn’t know that we had to subscribe to Bavinck to be considered Reformed.

    And overall, are we really saying now that faith is not in fact a condition for the covenant of grace? So I don’t actually have to believe in order to receive justification? Cool.

  124. Mark said,

    August 6, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    One does not have to subscribe to Bavinck, Turretin, Calvin, or Pictet to be Reformed. The difference here is who is insisting who is outside the camp. The Westminster Confession does not demand merit language for the covenant of works so Westminster-subscribing ministers who demand it of their brothers in ministry are in plain violation of their vows to uphold the peace of the Church.

    I think Pictet was much clearer than Calvin on merit of works, but that doesn’t mean Calvin is a heretic.

    A bunch of stuff is being quoted from Romans about works and grace as if it had something to do with the covenant of works and merit according to keeping the “natural law” v. unmerited gifts. This is quite traditional. But it is not demanded by the Westminster Confession and Catechisms and it is exegetically wrong.

  125. TurretinFan said,

    August 6, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Mark wrote: “The Westminster Confession does not demand merit language for the covenant of works so Westminster-subscribing ministers who demand it of their brothers in ministry are in plain violation of their vows to uphold the peace of the Church.”

    a) The WCF contrasts the “Covenant of Works” with the “Covenant of Grace” (cf. WCF VII.II and VII.III).

    b) An important reason for making that distinction is to distinguish between merit and lack of merit.

    c) To assert that, “A bunch of stuff is being quoted from Romans about works and grace as if it had something to do with the covenant of works and merit according to keeping the “natural law” v. unmerited gifts. This is quite traditional. But it is not demanded by the Westminster Confession and Catechisms …” is seemingly to overlook the Scripture proofs provided for the WCF on the very subject.

    d) The claim that “it is exegetically wrong,” is interesting – but hasn’t been supported, as far as I can see.

    An example of the relevant exegesis is:

    ROM 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.

    For you see the first covenant was the way in which Adam merited death for himself and all those for whom he was the federal head, while Christ (fulfilling the covenant of works and dying a substitutionary death for those for whom he was the federal head) merited life for them.

    e) The argument that those who insist on orthodoxy are troublers of the peace of the church is simply wrong.

    -TurretinFan

  126. Mark said,

    August 6, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    #126

    “e) The argument that those who insist on orthodoxy are troublers of the peace of the church is simply wrong.”

    No, the fact that you can only appeal to the prooftexts, that are not and never have been the official standards of the church nor ratified deliverances of the Assembly indicates that I am probably right.

    “For you see the first covenant was the way in which Adam merited death for himself and all those for whom he was the federal head, while Christ (fulfilling the covenant of works and dying a substitutionary death for those for whom he was the federal head) merited life for them.”

    This is undeniable and uncontested. It also does not in anyway depend on a positively meritorious covenant of works. And, for the record, any claim that Adam’s merit of punishment, for himself or us, is mere pactum merit, is guilty of a grossly deficient and heterodox view of sin. God hates sin. He must punish sin. Christ really took that punishment on himself. Getting “pactum merit” confused with this turns the Christian story into a nominalistic game.

    What has been denied, with Turretin, is that Adam could not properly merit any reward by his righteous deeds.

    Rather, he could trust in God’s promise by continuing in perfect obedience and be given the promised reward.

    So if we all agree on this, why are we continuing an argument about a non-meritorious form of merit that can easily be articulated as simply sinless obedience?

    Really, we all agree on that point so why are we continuing to argue.

  127. TurretinFan said,

    August 7, 2008 at 8:05 am

    As to the issue of the footnotes, I believe the situation is more complex than you suggest (from an historical standpoint, and with respect to the WCF and catechisms).

    But as to the PCA’s own standards, I believe you will find that the footnotes are approved (though not part of the Constitution itself), if the following is to be trusted:

    The Scripture proof texts are essentially those of the Westminster Assembly, which have been approved by the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, but which are not a part of the Constitution itself. At the direction of the General Assembly these texts are presented in full. The King James Version has been used, since this is the English text that was in use at the time of the Westminster Assembly, the language of which is at times reflected in the Confession and Catechisms.

    (source)

    The OPC similarly publishes the WCF with prooftexts, although I cannot immediately verify whether they have officially endorsed those prooftexts in any way.

    “This is undeniable and uncontested. It also does not in anyway depend on a positively meritorious covenant of works.”

    Leaving aside the issue of confirmation in obedience as a reward for success in a trial period, is not life itself the reward of obedience, just as death is the reward for disobedience? Isn’t that how Christ’s sacrifice makes sense: the reward of his obedience is imputed to us, and the reward of our disobedience is imputed to him?

    “What has been denied, with Turretin, is that Adam could not properly merit any reward by his righteous deeds.”

    As the WLC puts it:

    Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
    A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

    The WSC puts it more concisely:

    Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the
    estate wherein he was created?
    A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of
    life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him
    to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of
    death.

    That seems to me a fairly clear statement of the principle that Adam’s reward for obedience under the covenant was life. Do you agree?

    -TurretinFan

  128. Mark said,

    August 7, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Of course I agree with the statements in the standards. Please uphold them and stop requiring merit.

    “Leaving aside the issue of confirmation in obedience as a reward for success in a trial period, is not life itself the reward of obedience, just as death is the reward for disobedience? Isn’t that how Christ’s sacrifice makes sense: the reward of his obedience is imputed to us, and the reward of our disobedience is imputed to him?”

    This statement needs to include that the command to be obeyed was to die in our stead. Otherwise, the cross is superfluous and all we needed was an obedient Christ without needing his propitiatory and substitutionary death.

    The reward for disobedience was death and the reward for Jesus obediently dying in our place was forgiveness and eschatological life.

  129. Mark said,

    August 7, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Your quotation about the prooftext proves my point. Let it go.

  130. Roger Mann said,

    August 7, 2008 at 10:09 am

    125. Mark wrote,

    The Westminster Confession does not demand merit language for the covenant of works so Westminster-subscribing ministers who demand it of their brothers in ministry are in plain violation of their vows to uphold the peace of the Church.

    The Westminster Confession and Larger Catechism clearly “demand merit language” regarding Christ’s obedience to the law in our stead:

    “Christ makes intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth, declaring his will to have it applied to all believers.” (Notice that the “merit of his obedience” is distinct from his “sacrifice on earth,” which proves that it was Christ’s active obedience to the law that is being spoken of here) — WLC 55

    “This perseverance of the saints depends…upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ.” — WCF 17.2

    Therefore, unless you want to argue that Christ fulfilled a different law than Adam was under (which is unbiblical and unconfessional — Gal. 4:4-5; cf. WCF 19.1-2), the Westminster Standards most certainly “demand merit language” for the fulfillment of the Law/Covenant of Works. Moreover, the fact that the Covenant of Works was a covenant of works rules out the possibility that it was a “gracious” covenant, as I pointed out in my previous post.

    A bunch of stuff is being quoted from Romans about works and grace as if it had something to do with the covenant of works and merit according to keeping the “natural law” v. unmerited gifts.

    The passages I cited have everything to do with “works of the law,” the very same law that both Adam and Jesus were under (Gal. 4:4-5; cf. WCF 19.1-2)! Therefore, if Jesus’ active obedience and fulfillment of the law constituted “merit” (as the Westminster Standards plainly teach), then “by good and necessary consequence” Adam’s active obedience and fulfillment of the law would have likewise constituted “merit.”

    This is quite traditional. But it is not demanded by the Westminster Confession and Catechisms and it is exegetically wrong.

    Wow! That’s one powerful argument, and completely destroys the points I’ve raised! Now I’m compelled to recant everything I’ve said. :-)

  131. Roger Mann said,

    August 7, 2008 at 10:31 am

    127. Mark wrote,

    And, for the record, any claim that Adam’s merit of punishment, for himself or us, is mere pactum merit, is guilty of a grossly deficient and heterodox view of sin. God hates sin. He must punish sin.

    If sin is the “transgression of the righteous law of God” (WCF 6.6; 1 Jn. 3:4), then I’m not sure why Adam’s “merit of punishment” cannot be characterized as covenantal or “pactum merit.” According to WCF 19.1-2, the Covenant of Works consists of “the law” as originally given to Adam and republished on Mount Sinai in the form of ten commandments (binding upon “all his posterity”). Therefore, sin is simply the transgression of God’s covenantal or pactum law, which means that the “demerit” of sin (or “merit of punishment”) is covenantal or pactum demerit. I honestly don’t see how this conclusion can be logically avoided, or how it constitutes “a grossly deficient and heterodox view of sin.”

  132. Roger Mann said,

    August 7, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Matt Perman has written a very good analogy of “pactum merit,” and I really can’t understand why anyone would object to merit as understood in this way:

    Analogies of this kind of merit are abundant. Take the game of football. A touchdown is not worthy of six points on its own, but simply because those who make the rules have determined this to be the case. No matter how good and praiseworthy a touchdown might be in itself, without this agreement among those who set the rules of football it would not obtain six points. But once it is determined in the rules that a touchdown is worth six points, a touch down is indeed “deserving” of six points. One could not withhold six points from a team that makes a touch down, for the rules state that a touchdown must receive six points.

    In the same way, perfect obedience would “merit” eternal life not because it is by itself worthy of eternal life, but because God has “set up the rules” such that perfect obedience brings eternal life. This is one reason it is so important to recognize that we are speaking of a covenant of works. For the fact that it is from a covenant arrangement that Adam’s obedience would have deserved eternal life shows that obedience is not, in itself, strictly deserving of eternal life. Without the promise of the covenant, perfect obedience would not have, in justice, obtained eternal life any more than doing something good for a local business when you are not employed by them obligates them to give you a paycheck.

  133. Mark said,

    August 7, 2008 at 11:00 am

    #132 Roger, I’ll try to write more when I can, but I have to say that this completely confirms my suspicion that claiming “merit” for Adam causes nothing but confusion.

  134. its.reed said,

    August 7, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Ref. 134:

    Mark, as you find time, I for one would appreciate your explication of why the concept of merit (in any form) is so anathema to you? I know you’ve offered such explanation in other places. Yet in light of the back and forth here I think it would be helpful for a simple summary as to why the animus.

    I’m trying to read all this fairly, and I can sympathize with your calls for us to acknowledge that we agree “in essence” and to drop any further debate. Yet, at least from the simple offerings of Turretin Fan (no disrespect in the word “simple”), I’m wondering why we should not ask you to desist with making such a big deal over the word merit, as it seems you are willing to acknowledge some degree of a merit principle.

    If this were a quibble, or a debate on a less important topic, I’d agree completely to simply let it be. Yet I suspect that you agree that the issues are important enough to make an issue of it.

    So my question, what is the problem with any sense of merit?

  135. TurretinFan said,

    August 7, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    “Your quotation about the prooftext proves my point. Let it go.”

    1) The selection of Scriptural proofs demonstrates the meaning of the WCF in the view of those selected those proofs.

    2) You seem to think that the proof texts selected are just “A bunch of stuff is being quoted from Romans … ” that are irrelevant to the correct meaning of the WCF.

    3) This suggests that you attribute to the words of the WCF a different meaning than the meaning attributed to those words by those who assembled the proof texts.

    4) In the OPC’s preface to the WCF, it is written:

    The Scripture proof texts were originally prepared by the Westminster divines, revised over the years by a succession of committees, and approved for publication by various general assemblies of the OPC, but are not a part of the constitution itself.

    (source)

    5) If (4) is true, and if the suggestion noted in (3) is true, then you hold to a different sense of the words of the WCF than did the Westminster divines.

    6) For confessional subscription to be meaningful, there needs to be a shared understanding of the sense of the confession.

    7) The most reasonable sense of the confession is either the sense of the framers of the document (the Westminster divines or the founder of one’s denomination/ adopters of the standard for the denomination) or the sense presently given by the General Assembly of one’s denomination (i.e. either original intent or “as interpreted”).

    8) While we might debate the merits of original intent vs. contemporary interpretation, it sounds as though you acknowledge the traditional view differs from yours (“This is quite traditional. But it is not demanded by the Westminster Confession and Catechisms and it is exegetically wrong.”) and it also sounds like you would acknowledge that this traditional sense is the prevailing sense today in such denomination as the PCA and OPC.

    9) Therefore, within the context of the PCA/OPC, it sounds as though you are not – properly speaking – subscribing to the same thing as the WCF, but to the words of the WCF to which a different sense is attributed.

    10) Please note the numerous qualifiers and moderaters above, such as “seems,” “suggests,” and so forth. I place those there because of your comment, “Of course I agree with the statements in the standards.”

    11) In short, I’m not sure if your comment identified in (10) should be understood as affirming the statements abstracted from or in light of the conventional/traditional understanding.

    -TurretinFan

  136. Brian K said,

    August 7, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Reed from looking at this and past discussions on merit I believe the scheme that would be agreed upon by most is this:

    If Adam had obeyed it would have been pactum-merit. His sin (and ours as well) is truly-demeritorious. Christ’s work is truly-meritorious.

    The main point of contention is whether describing pactum-merit as a form of merit is a good idea. The problem comes when using the term ‘merit’ for both pactum and true merit. Ron Henzel’s comments on WLC 55 (comment #87) appear to assert that Christ’s work was merely pactum-meritorious.

    On the other hand it appears that Roger Mann denies that sin is truly-demeritorious. Either that or he believes that if Adam had rendered perfect personal obedience it would have been of such value to God that eternal life would have been a fair compensation for it.

    I also don’t know if commenters believe that Adam’s potential ‘merit’ is only analogous to Christ’s true-merit, or if they believe they are the same thing. There is a great deal of confusion in this discussion and the failure of the ‘merit’ side to consistently define which sort of merit and in which contexts is the root of it.

  137. Roger Mann said,

    August 7, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    137. Brian K. wrote,

    On the other hand it appears that Roger Mann denies that sin is truly-demeritorious. Either that or he believes that if Adam had rendered perfect personal obedience it would have been of such value to God that eternal life would have been a fair compensation for it.

    I affirm that sin is “truly-demeritorious” within the context of the covenantal law of God (since sin is the “transgression of the law”), and “truly-meritorious” within the context of the covenantal law of God (since righteousness is “obedience/fulfillment of the law”), regardless of who obeys or disobeys its commandments — for those are the “terms” of God’s covenantal law, which only has one standard:

    Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Galatians 3:10

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

  138. its.reed said,

    August 7, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    Brian:

    1. Thanks for your effort. I’d still like Mark to respond if he has time.

    2. Your response seems to stir up the mud more than settle things. E.g., your reference to pactum merit vs. true merit appears to rely on commonly understood and accepted definitions. While I’m not a scholar, I’m not a mental slouch and I’m not sure it is clear what is the “accepted” differentiation here.

    3. I’d say that there is enough confusion going around for both sides to share their load. Let’s not forget that while this is supposed to be a scholarly leaning blog, lots of rather common folks come here to listen and learn. I agree we need consistent definitions of merit here. Hence my original query to Mark.

  139. Mark said,

    August 7, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    #136

    A side-point: For time out of mind I have affirmed my willingness to work as brothers in the ministry with Pastors in the PCA who deny that water baptism is mentioned in Romans 6, even thought that is in flat contradiction not only to the prooftext to the Westminster Standards, but also to the actual statement on improving one’s baptism in the WLC that can only come from Romans 6.

    This is not some “concession” on my point, but simply the duty of one who takes the constitution as the constitution.

    Making the prooftexts a basis for questioning the Reformed Orthodoxy of ministers in the PCA is wither a result of ignorance or deception. There is no other explanation. If someone wants to defend certain prooftexts as right, feel free. But they are not the constitution. That is all.

    Reed, nothing in the Westminster standards required for me to affirm “merit” of Adam’s works in the covenant of works. Turretin is probably my favorite theologian from that period, but he isn’t the Constitution of the PCA.

    I am not making a big deal over some sort of alleged “pactum merit.” I am making a big deal over 1) any attempt to give Adam true merit, 2) any attempt to bully PCA pastors via blogs or committee to affirm merit in the Covenant of Works, 3) any rhetoric the smudges the creator-creature distinction so that creatures are really capable of meriting from the creator (see ch 16 “of good works” in the WCF), and (if we ever get there) 4) attacking theologians who question why we need the word “merit” when other serviceable words are available–even if I myself remain comfortable using the word as a description of the worthiness of the person and work of Christ which compensates for the unworthiness of sinners and reconciles them to God.

  140. its.reed said,

    August 7, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    Mark:

    Thanks for your comments. I do sympathize with your frustrations. I’m not one fishing for comments with which to attempt to hang you.

    I understand your four objections here. What I’m asking for clarification is something much simpler. What is the problem with:

    1. Affirming some sort of merit for Adam’s pre-fall relationship with God?

    2. Affirming some sort of merit-covenant of works scheme is inimical to the WCF (and WLC/WSC)?

    I.O.W. why is what I ‘ve learned is the rather “majority tradition” position problematic? From my perspective, I don’t see the issues which cause you in good conscious (or others) to make such a big deal.

    I’m honestly trying to understand. Thanks for your trust.

  141. TurretinFan said,

    August 7, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    “Making the prooftexts a basis for questioning the Reformed Orthodoxy of ministers in the PCA is wither [sic] a result of ignorance or deception.”

    The detailed explanation above should demonstrate that it is neither (at least from this side of the river), in this situation. But let me demonstrate that more clearly.

    Query: Does it matter what the words of the WCF mean?
    Answer: Yes.

    Query: Does the selection of prooftexts evidence understood meaning of the words of the WCF?
    Answer: Yes.

    Come on, surely despite your comments about bullying, you cannot deny that those are the answers to those questions.

    And I think I recall you once subscribing to the idea that:

    We affirm that all who subscribe to creeds and confessions should do so with a clean conscience and honest interpretation, in accordance with the plain meaning of words and the original intent of the authors, as can best be determined.

    (FVJS p. 3)

    It would seem (from the two queries above) that you are forced to acknowledge that prooftexts selected by the Westminster divines would be helpful at establishing the original intent of the authors. If that is so, why do you now bridle at resort to evidence of the original intent?

    As for why it is important that the covenant of works have merit, the answer is simple:

    If the covenant of works is not one of meriting life by obedience (Adam failing), then Christ could not merit life by fulfilling the law. But if Christ did not merit life, then God is not strictly just in giving life to the elect. Thus, there is a ripple effect if one begins to deny that the covenant of works was a covenant of merit. There are also other ripples (such as confusion over the difference between the covenant of grace and the covenant of works).

    If you remove merit from the covenant of works, you remove merit from Christ. Yet the WCF specifically states:

    II. This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own free-will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

    (WCF XVII:II)

    Query: How did Christ merit life?

    Answer:

    IV. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfill it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.

    (WCF VIII.IV)

    It is important to understand the basic principle at work here:

    a) Adam merited death by the law. He was guilty.
    b) Christ merited life by the law. He was innocent.

    But Christ was slain to satisfy justice for us. He is our vicarious, substitutionary atonement. By double-imputation he was punished and we are made free. That is why the concept of merit is important.

    I certainly have no interest in “bully[ing] PCA pastors via blogs” to hold to the orthodox and Scriptural view, but one is somewhat troubled when one sees selective quotation used to deny the very thing that the quoted person affirms (particularly when that quoted person is one’s favored theologian). Furthermore, you don’t seem particularly bothered by the concept of imputation, so I’m not sure why the use of the description of merit should bother you.

    -TurretinFan

  142. Mark said,

    August 7, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    “It is important to understand the basic principle at work here:

    a) Adam merited death by the law. He was guilty.
    b) Christ merited life by the law. He was innocent.”

    Could the defenders of “pactum merit” who say they agree with Turretin and Pictet please demonstrate this by answering this false theology?

    Thank you.

  143. its.reed said,

    August 7, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Mark:

    No disrespect, but such comments leave many of us out of the conversation. How about a full statement.

  144. TurretinFan said,

    August 7, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Mark wrote: “Could the defenders of “pactum merit” who say they agree with Turretin and Pictet please demonstrate this by answering this false theology?”

    I answer: You assume too much.

    Turretin writes:

    Such is the perfection of the atonement, that it corresponds to the justice of God revealed in the Word, to the demands of the law, and to the miseries and necessities of those for whom it was made. Had it been in its own nature deficient, and derived its sufficiency only from God’s acceptance of it through mere grace, then the victims under the law might have possessed equal efficacy in making atonement for sin, contrary to Heb. x. 4. Its perfection is derived from its own intrinsic fulness of merit. It is perfect: (1.) In respect to parts; because it satisfied all the demands which the law makes upon us, both in relation to the obedience of life and the suffering of death. By enduring the punishments due to us, it has freed us from death and condemnation. And by its meritorious efficacy, it has reconciled God the Father to us and has acquired for us a title to eternal life. (2.) It is perfect in degree; for Christ has not only done and suffered all that which the law claims of us, but all this in a full and perfect degree; so that nothing more, in this respect, can possibly be desired. The perfection in degree is derived from the infinite dignity of the person who suffered and the severity of the punishment exacted. (3.) Hence follows the perfection in its effects. In respect of God, it has effected an entire reconciliation with him; in relation to sin, it has wrought full expiation and pardon; and in relation to believers, its effects are perfection in holiness and complete redemption, both as to deliverance
    from death, and as to a title to life and its possession.

    (Turretin, On the Atonement of Christ, 1859 ed. p. 68)

    And Pictet writes:

    And not without reason is this office assigned to faith, before all other graces, because it alone, out of all the others, can subsist or stand with divine grace, seeing that it is employed, as it were, in the mere receiving and aprehending of an object which is placed without it, and because, as Toletus a Papist observes, by faith it is more clearly shewn how man is justified, not by his own merit, but by the merit of Christ, and by it alone is “boasting excluded.”

    (Pictet, Christian Theology, p. 370)

    I don’t suppose you’ll see too much scolding from my brethren who have been emphasizing the correct idea of pactum merit to you, for they will read my comments (and Turretin’s and Pictet’s) in light of my earlier analogy and the other statements of both Turretin and Pictet. It is not me, sir, who is bucking the teachings of Scripture and calling orthodox doctrine derived from Scripture, “false theology.”

    Now, I notice you have stopped bringing up the “footnotes are not part of the constitution” defense. Do you acknowledge their evidentiary role in the important question of original intent, and do you maintain your adherence to the important of original intent in honest subscription?

    -Turretinfan

  145. TurretinFan said,

    August 7, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Incidentally, in the event that I am mistaken and any of the Green Bagginses or anyone else thinks I need a scolding and wants to approach me privately about it, my email address is available through my blogger profile.

    “False Theology” is a serious charge, and presumably one that a pastor would not lightly fling about.

    -TurretinFan

  146. Roger Mann said,

    August 7, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    140. Mark wrote,

    Reed, nothing in the Westminster standards required for me to affirm “merit” of Adam’s works in the covenant of works.

    I’ve already refuted this oft repeated canard in post #131, which you haven’t even attempted to answer — which appears to be a pattern with you. You are quite adept at making assertion after assertion, but not so much with producing persuasive arguments or attempting to answer the arguments made by others.

  147. Roger Mann said,

    August 7, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    142. TurretinFan wrote,

    As for why it is important that the covenant of works have merit, the answer is simple:

    If the covenant of works is not one of meriting life by obedience (Adam failing), then Christ could not merit life by fulfilling the law. But if Christ did not merit life, then God is not strictly just in giving life to the elect. Thus, there is a ripple effect if one begins to deny that the covenant of works was a covenant of merit. There are also other ripples (such as confusion over the difference between the covenant of grace and the covenant of works).

    Absolutely correct — which is why I will never budge an inch on this issue. Whether intentional or not, those who deny merit in the Covenant of Works are undermining the gospel. And a little leaven leavens the whole lump.

  148. Ron Henzel said,

    August 8, 2008 at 8:03 am

    David,

    I’ve been quite busy these last few days, and haven’t really been able to find time to reply to your comment 119. Even now I’ll have to do my best while making a hastier response than I would prefer. I wrote in comment 116:

    In my mind it’s not a matter of there being two types of conditions. Instead it’s a matter of what we can properly call a condition, and what we cannot.

    I made this statement on the basis of something I quoted from Bavinck back in comment 93:

    …regeneration, faith, and conversion are not preparations that occur apart from Christ and the covenant of grace nor conditions that a person has to meet in toto or in part in his or her own strength to be incorporated in that covenant. Rather, they are benefits that already flow from the covenant of grace, the mystical union, the granting of Christ’s person.

    [Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, volume 3, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2007), 525. Emphasis mine.]

    I then made the point that if faith is a benefit that flows from the Covenant of Grace, then it is actually a gift from God, and the only way we can then speak of it as a “condition” is if we understand it as a condition that God meets on our behalf. (Ron DiGiacomo tried to make the case that any obedience Adam might have hypothetically rendered under the Covenant of Works would have been a “gift” from God on the same level that faith is a gift from God under the Covenant of Grace. I do not believe he succeeded, one reason being that faith comes directly from a special operation of the Holy Spirit, whereas Adam’s obedience would have been rendered by his own power.)

    Bavinck actually elaborated on the status of “conditions” in the Covenant of Grace earlier, when he wrote:

    The head of the covenant of grace is at the same time its mediator. For that reason, from the moment of its public announcement, it comes with the demand of faith and repentance (Mark 1:15). In the beginning Reformed theologians spoke freely of “the conditions” of the covenant. But after the nature of the covenant of grace had been more carefully considered and had to be defended against Catholics, Lutherans, and Remonstrants, many of them took exception to the term and avoided it.

    In the covenant of grace, that is, in the gospel, which is the proclamation of the covenant of grace, there are actually no demands and no conditions. For God supplies what he demands. Christ has accomplished everything, and though he did not accomplish rebirth, faith, and repentance in our place, he did acquire them for us and the Holy Spirit therefore applies them. Still, in its administration by Christ, the covenant of grace does assume this demanding conditional form. The purpose is to acknowledge humans in their capacity as rational and moral beings; still, though they are fallen, to treat them as having been created in God’s image; and also on this supremely important level, where it concerns their eternal weal and eternal woe, to hold them responsible and inexcusable; and, finally, to cause them to enter consciously and freely into this covenant and to break their covenant with sin. The covenant of grace, accordingly, is indeed unilateral: it proceeds from God; he has designed and defined it. He maintains and implements it. It is a work of the triune god and is totally completed among the three Persons themselves. But it is destined to become bilateral, to be consciously and voluntarily accepted and kept by humans in the power of God.

    [Ibid., 229-230.]

    I hate to cut Bavinck off at this point, since his prose continues just as wonderfully as the portion I cited here, but I don’t want my comment to become too long.

    You write:

    Ron, I wouldn’t be so quick to label the arrangement of the CoG as an “improper” condition, if this is your meaning. Mark does have a valid point, since WCF uses the following wording:

    requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved

    We have an “if faith, then salvation” sort of construction here, where faith is a prescriptive requirement of the covenant. So it would not be “improper” to call faith a prescriptive condition. [...]

    Yes, and I, with Bavinck, would apply this, and what you wrote after it, to the outward administration of the Covenant of Grace, but not to its essence.

    I do, however, have a problem with one thing you state at the end of comment 119:

    Whereas in the CoG the condition (faith) *is* compatible with a reward granted by a principle of grace (4:16).

    If we acknowledge, strictly for the purpose of accounting for the difference between the outward administration of the Covenant of Grace and its essence, that there are two different ways of taking the word “condition,” I think we must apply the same care to the word “reward,” lest it be equated with a “wage” (to use Paul’s language in Romans 4) for faith.

    I wish I could write more, but I’m already late for where I have to be!

  149. TurretinFan said,

    August 8, 2008 at 8:09 am

    By the way, further to Turretin and Pictet quotations, we could Witsius’ testimony as well (link to Witsius hosted at my blog). I await Pastor Horne’s explanation of (or apology – in either sense – for) his charge of “false theology.”

    It would be helpful, when he answers for his charge, if he will explain whether he thinks I’m sharing space under the bus with Doctors Witsius, Pictet, and Turretin (as well as with the Westminster divines who selected the prooftexts he so loathes, and others such Murray et al. who confirmed them). If so, I must say that I’m quite comfortable here in luggage class, though it seems to be getting a bit crowded.

    -TurretinFan

  150. Mark said,

    August 8, 2008 at 10:52 am

    #147 Since I affirm the merit of Christ, nothing in your comment is relevant except the completely meritless inference that if Christ obeyed the Law and Adam obeyed (was supposed to obey) the Law, then it follows that, if Christ’s obedience was meritorious, so Adams was (or would have been).

    That simply doesn’t follow.

  151. Mark said,

    August 8, 2008 at 10:59 am

    #145

    The point Turretin makes is exactly write:

    “The perfection in degree is derived from the infinite dignity of the person who suffered and the severity of the punishment exacted.”

    This does not apply to Adam who was not the God-man.

    Adam –> demerit
    Christ –> merit

    If a creature could merit then we lose Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo, and we have a god who is on a common level of being with humanity, a pagan idea Paul contradicts in his sermon on Mars Hill (Acts 17).

    God is not served with human hands. We merit nothing from him. Not even as creatures apart from our sin. That’s exactly the point that Turretin, Pictet, and others defend.

    Any complaint about a “serious charge” on this blog, after the war of aggression and libel that has been waged now for years without repentance of shame, is simply another item of hypocrisy that God will deal with in his own time.

    See you before the Throne, folks.

  152. Mark said,

    August 8, 2008 at 11:00 am

    “repentance OR shame”

  153. GLW Johnson said,

    August 8, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Mark
    It is your winsome ways and delightful conversational tone that makes you so endearing.

  154. TurretinFan said,

    August 8, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Mark,

    I respectfully entreat you either to substantiate your charge of “false theology,” or to express the “repentance” you are so quick to mention. It should be obvious to everyone that if (as you seem to claim) the Reformed tent is big enough to include you it must also be big enough to include me (seeing as I only teach what Turretin, Pictet, Witsisus, and the Westminster divines taught).

    Even if you had been libeled by me (and you have not) that would not excuse your own misbehavior. You should know that.

    Your argument based on selective quotation of Turretin (again) just demonstrates either your inability (a) to grasp the argument presented or (b) to respond to it. Undoubtedly the degree of Christ’s merit is exalted by the dignity of his person, that is not the issue.

    There should be no doubt from either side that the value of Christ’s atonement far exceeded (as to the degree of its intrinsic merit ) the merited punishment of all mankind.

    The issue is in the part of Turretin that you omit (one presumes consciously, since it comes first in the quotation): namely that Christ’s merit was perfect, “In respect to parts; because it satisfied all the demands which the law makes upon us, both in relation to the obedience of life and the suffering of death.”

    In contrast, your argument from Adam’s lesser degree of dignity (as merely the head of the human race) is rather like an argument that because a baron has very inferior dignity to an emperor, that therefore the former is not noble. It is absurd.

    -TurretinFan

  155. Roger Mann said,

    August 8, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    151. Mark wrote,

    #147 Since I affirm the merit of Christ, nothing in your comment is relevant except the completely meritless inference that if Christ obeyed the Law and Adam obeyed (was supposed to obey) the Law, then it follows that, if Christ’s obedience was meritorious, so Adams was (or would have been). That simply doesn’t follow.

    Of course it follows — it necessarily follows by strict logic. If Christ merited eternal life by His obedience to the law, then Adam would have merited eternal life by his obedience to the law, for the law promises “eternal life” to all who perfectly obey its precepts (Matt. 19:16-17; Rom. 7:10; 10:5; Gal. 3:12; etc.). Thus, as I said before, your oft repeated canard in post #131 has already been refuted. Continuing to make assertion after assertion — such as, “That simply doesn’t follow” — hardly makes a persuasive argument.

  156. Roger Mann said,

    August 8, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    152. Mark wrote,

    The point Turretin makes is exactly write:

    “The perfection in degree is derived from the infinite dignity of the person who suffered and the severity of the punishment exacted.”

    This does not apply to Adam who was not the God-man.

    In addition to what TurretinFan wrote, you are also mixing categories here. No one’s arguing that Adam could have redeemed sinful men by suffering an atoning death in our stead (which is what the Turretin quote about Christ is referring to). We’re talking about sinless Adam meriting eternal life by his active obedience to the law, which is what the law promises to those who perfectly obey its precepts (Matt. 19:16-17; Rom. 7:10; 10:5; Gal. 3:12; etc.).

  157. Brian K said,

    August 8, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Roger Mann, then by that same strict logic it was unnecessary for the Messiah to be God. If a mere sinless human can merit eternal life and Christ’s merit and Adam’s merit are the same thing then by strict logic Jesus could have been a mere man. Take this quote from A. A. Hodge that Ron Henzel posted earlier on the definition of true merit:

    (1.) The word “merit,” in the strict sense of the term, means that common quality of all actions or services to which a reward is due, in strict justice, on account of their intrinsic value or worthiness. It is evident that, in this strict sense, no work of any creature can in itself merit any reward from God ; because — (a.) All the faculties he possesses were originally granted and are continuously sustained by God, so that he is already so far in debt to God that he can never bring God in debt to him. (b.) Nothing the creature can do can be a just equivalent for the incomparable favour of God and its consequences.

    Are you arguing that both Adam and Christ were to true-merit eternal life, or do argue that neither person was to true-merit eternal life. Your strict parallel between the two persons on the question of merit logically demands that you affirm this of both or deny it of both.

  158. Roger Mann said,

    August 8, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    158. Brian K. wrote,

    Roger Mann, then by that same strict logic it was unnecessary for the Messiah to be God. If a mere sinless human can merit eternal life and Christ’s merit and Adam’s merit are the same thing then by strict logic Jesus could have been a mere man.

    No, it does not follow “by that same strict logic” that it was unnecessary for the Messiah to be God. Only the sinless God-Man could redeem sinful man by dying an atoning death in their stead. Prior to the Fall, there were no sinful men to redeem, and after the Fall Adam was subject to the curse of the law for his own sin. Thus, it was absolutely necessary for the Messiah to be the sinless God-Man in order to redeem us from the curse of the law.

    Are you arguing that both Adam and Christ were to true-merit eternal life, or do argue that neither person was to true-merit eternal life.

    I’m arguing that both Adam and Christ were to merit eternal life by actively obeying the precepts of God’s covenantal law — which constitutes covenantal or pactum merit — and is precisely what the law promises (Matt. 19:16-17; Rom. 7:10; 10:5; Gal. 3:12; etc.). Why is the concept of pactum merit so difficult for some of you to understand?

  159. Roger Mann said,

    August 8, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    By the way, I’m not setting forth some strange or new concept of pactum merit here — this is what has been taught for hundreds of years by some of the most eminent Reformed theologians:

    XXV. Such a perfect observance of the laws of the covenant, quite to the period which God had fixed for probation, had given man a right to the reward. Not from any intrinsic proportion of the work to the reward, as the grosser Papists proudly boast; but from God’s covenant, and engagement, which was no ways unbecoming him to enter into. Nor had man, before the consummation of his obedience, even in the state of innocence, a right to life. He was only in a state of acquiring a right; which would at length be actually acquired, when he could say, I have fulfilled the conditions of the covenant, I have constantly and perfectly done what was commanded; now I claim and expect that thou my God will grant the promised happiness. (Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants between God and Man)

  160. TurretinFan said,

    August 8, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Brian K.,

    a) I’ve not seen anyone argue that strict-sense merit is relevant to Adam.
    b) Nevertheless – given the covenant – had Adam obeyed, Adam would have deserved/earned/merited life (for as long as he continued to obey), though such desert, earning, and merit must be qualified as per (a).
    c) Isn’t (b) as qualified by (a) pretty much clear from Scripture?
    d) And it is Christ’s obedience that deserved/earned/merited life (which Christ voluntarily gave up in favor of us, taking our deserved/earned/merited punishment instead).

    -TurretinFan

  161. TurretinFan said,

    August 8, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    One further qualification is in order. I haven’t seen any Reformed folks make such a claim. Papists would assert that man (including Adam) is able to do strictly-meritorious works. Such a claim is based on a deficient understanding of the law or perhaps on a failed attempt to justify the superstitious and idolatrous worship practices associated with the so-called veneration of the saints.

    This again emphasizes the importance of sound theology.

    -Turretinfan

  162. Mark said,

    August 8, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    I am gratified by some recent concessions (#161; #157). But they are entirely inconsistent with earlier statements. What we have here is that the imputation of Christ’s active obedience is *not* strict merit but rather “pactum merit.” This is, to say the least, not an obvious meaning of all the insistences that we must have both Chrsit’s actvie and passive obedience imputed to us. Anyone would think these two types of obedience are both the same kind of merit.

    So, if we want to insist, that Jesus both merited (by strict worth) forgiveness and “merited” (according to meeting covenant conditions), eschatological glory and acceptance into eternal life, and this is all imputed to us (we are regarded as having suffered the curse we deserved and as having met the criteria for acceptance into eternal life) then I’m fine with that. But this distinction has *not* been maintained as far as I can tell in these comments. It only surfaces under direct repeated challenge and then vanishes in the fog again at the first opportunity.

    But notice the dual confusion. On the one hand, “merit” as covenant conditionality will lead us to some safe way of speaking of “meritorious faith” which I still find unsafe and worth avoiding. On the other hand, the works of the mere creature and the works of the God-man are both considered “meritorious.” even though the Reformed theologians (maybe not Witsius, I have no idea) constantly claimed otherwise.

    Bottom line again, the Westminster Confession and Catechisms contain a complete and sufficient formulation of the Covenant of Works without using the word “merit” in reference to Adam’s works.

  163. TurretinFan said,

    August 8, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Mark wrote:

    Bottom line again, the Westminster Confession and Catechisms contain a complete and sufficient formulation of the Covenant of Works without using the word “merit” in reference to Adam’s works.

    One easy way to do so would be to speak Mandarin Chinese. Is this is a serious position? English is a rich language and one can express lots of concepts without using particular words, if one chooses to do so. The question was never really about the English word but about the concept behind the word.

    If someone wishes to mock themselves by posting this kind of supposed bottom line, I will laugh along. But then I’d encourage the more serious reader to consider the arguments more fully considered explained and distinguished by the likes of Machen (link) and Owen (link).

    I will conclude with a quotation from A.A. Hodge:

    13. How can it be proved that Christ’s active obedience to the precepts of the law is included in that righteousness by which we are justified?

    1st. The condition of the covenant of works was perfect obedience. This covenant having failed in the hands of the first Adam, it must be fulfilled in the hands of the second Adam, since in the covenant of grace Christ assumed all of the undischarged obligations of his people under the covenant of works. His suffering discharges the penalty, but only his active obedience fulfills the condition.
    2d. All th.e promises of salvation are attached to obedience, not to suffering, Matt. xix., 16 ; Gal. iii., 12.
    3d. Christ came to fulfill the whole law, Is. xlii., 21 ; Rom. iii. 31 ; 1 Cor. i., 30.
    4th. The obedience of Christ is expressly contrasted with the disobedience of Adam, Rom. v., 19.

    (Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines in Theology, 1866 ed. p. 387)

    -TurretinFan

  164. Mark said,

    August 8, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    “1st. The condition of the covenant of works was perfect obedience. This covenant having failed in the hands of the first Adam, it must be fulfilled in the hands of the second Adam, since in the covenant of grace Christ assumed all of the undischarged obligations of his people under the covenant of works. His suffering discharges the penalty, but only his active obedience fulfills the condition.”

    So, again, Christ’s blood is insufficient to forgive the failure to discharge the condition. The blood of Christ does not atone for sins of omission?

  165. Roger Mann said,

    August 8, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    167. Mark wrote,

    I am gratified by some recent concessions (#161; #157). But they are entirely inconsistent with earlier statements.

    I have conceded nothing. As I indicated before, you are either confused and have been arguing against a position you don’t fully understand, or you have simply erected a straw man that you could easily take pot shots at. But nothing I stated in post #157 is in the least bit inconsistent with any of my earlier statements.

    So, if we want to insist, that Jesus both merited (by strict worth) forgiveness and “merited” (according to meeting covenant conditions), eschatological glory and acceptance into eternal life, and this is all imputed to us (we are regarded as having suffered the curse we deserved and as having met the criteria for acceptance into eternal life) then I’m fine with that.

    It sounds to me like you are the one conceding something here. However, for the sake of clarification, while I fully accept the fact that Jesus had “strict worth” or “inherent value” (indeed “infinite value”) as the God-Man, it is incorrect to deny that His atonement was pactum merit. For the Father accepted Christ’s atonement as satisfaction for sin on the basis of a covenantal pact between He and the Son. Indeed, the only way that the death of Christ could be accepted on behalf of others is if God freely decided to accept such a death by prior covenantal agreement. In other words, Christ’s inherent value as the Son does not rule out the covenantal aspect that was necessary for Christ’s death to be accepted as the payment for our sin.

    Bottom line again, the Westminster Confession and Catechisms contain a complete and sufficient formulation of the Covenant of Works without using the word “merit” in reference to Adam’s works.

    You still haven’t answered my refutation of this assertion — you simply keep asserting it over and over again, as if it had never been addressed. It reminds me of the “Emperor who had no clothes.”

  166. Roger Mann said,

    August 8, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    165. Mark wrote,

    So, again, Christ’s blood is insufficient to forgive the failure to discharge the condition. The blood of Christ does not atone for sins of omission?

    No, Christ’s blood is fully sufficient to forgive our failure to discharge the condition of obeying the law. His death completely atones for all of our sins. Nobody ever claimed otherwise, including A.A. Hodge in the above quote. In fact, he made this quite clear when he said, “His suffering discharges the penalty [which includes the penalty for failing to discharge the condition of obeying the law], but only his active obedience fulfills the condition.” What part of that is hard to understand?

  167. Mark said,

    August 9, 2008 at 12:37 am

    #166 The emperor has no clothes scenario has seems quite appropriate, thought not in the direction you allege.

    #167 I think I made may point about convex and concave v. peanut butter and jelly in an early comment on this thread.

    Bowing out. We’ve reached the nub of the problem, so that may be good. But what you call logic I call absurd. So it is a sandbox argument at this point.

  168. Roger Mann said,

    August 9, 2008 at 11:09 am

    168. Mark wrote,

    Bowing out. We’ve reached the nub of the problem, so that may be good. But what you call logic I call absurd. So it is a sandbox argument at this point.

    I figured you’d be bowing out soon, as that is what you have done every time I’ve debated you on this blog so far. As soon as you start to get pinned down you cry “uncle” and run home. If it wasn’t such a serious issue, it would actually be funny. As far as my logic being “absurd,” I suppose it would seem absurd from the La La land of Federal Vision double-speak, where “up” means “down,” and “down” means “up” (as long as it suits your purpose). I’d love to see you demonstrate how my logic is “absurd,” rather than simply asserting it over and over again (what Vincent Cheung calls “Psycho Assertionism”), but I won’t hold my breath waiting.

  169. TurretinFan said,

    August 9, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Since Mark won’t be rejoining the discussion here, the following summarizes the short series of blog posts I’ve provided relevant to the discussion:

    A. Witsius on Christ’s Righteousness

    B. The Real Turretin and Pictet on Christ’s Righteousness

    C. My own thoughts and distinctions with respect to merit and Adam (in which I distinguish the point I’m making from the good points Ron makes on his blog)

    D. Relevant Material from Edwards and Charles Hodge

    E. Response to Objections, with material from A.A. Hodge, Robert Shaw, and Thomas Boston

    Only to the Glory of God,

    -TurretinFan

  170. Manlius said,

    August 9, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Wow, Mark’s final comments are tough, but Roger’s are just downright mean. What a way to end a discussion. Ouch.

  171. Ron Henzel said,

    August 9, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Seth,

    You wrote way back in comment 61:

    If the PCA will not discipline and get rid of Mark Horne, Bill Smith, Jeff Meyers, and many other FV proponents in their ranks, then the denomination should not be surprised when the next generation grows up and leaves the PCA for another denomination or sadly, for the world.

    I want and need a doctor who will not only diagnose a cancerous tumor, but will aggressively treat it. The PCA has diagnosed the cancer of the FV; now it is time to aggressively treat it. There are tumors in more places than Louisiana. If the PCA fails to treat this growing cancer, then she will die a slow and painful death.

    At first I thought the “tumor” language you used in the second paragraph that I cite above here was a tad on the strong side, and I was surprised that no one cried “Foul!” over it. Now I’m beginning to wonder if you understated the matter.

    This morning Jeff Meyers wrote the following in a comment on the Evangelical Catholicity blog:

    Man, everybody in conservative Presbyterian circles talks as if Westminster was the high-point, and therefore the end-point of Reformation era creed-writing. But it often strikes me to be exactly the opposite—a sterile document that signaled the end of creative theological reflection in the Reformed churches. And what do we think? This 17th-century scholastic document will be enough for the next 100 years? 500 years? Silly. Just silly.

    I responded to it a while later, writing in the comments section:

    Jeff,

    If the WCF is “exactly the opposite” of “the high-point, and therefore the end-point of Reformation era creed-writing,” then you would seem to be saying that it is the low point. But if it is simply “a sterile document that signaled the end of creative theological reflection in the Reformed churches,” why do you pastor a church that declares the following in its constitution?:

    Subordinate to the Holy Scriptures, this Church adheres to the Reformed Faith as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Westminster Larger and Shorter catechisms as approved and adopted by the P.C.A. These documents are incorporated herein by reference and stand as part of this Constitution, as though fully set forth herein.

    My comment was in moderation status for a little while, but eventually someone approved it, so I assume that someone beside the moderator saw it (perhaps even Meyers himself?). When I looked again perhaps an hour or so later, however, it had been deleted. I guess someone couldn’t deal with it.

    But perhaps someone here can explain to me how a PCA senior pastor thinks he can get away with dissing his denomination’s central doctrinal standards so contemptuously. (Mark, are you still reading here?)

  172. Roger Mann said,

    August 9, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    170. Manlius wrote,

    Wow, Mark’s final comments are tough, but Roger’s are just downright mean.

    Mark has a habit of being rude and demeaning to those he interacts with, and frankly I’m getting tired of it. Here’s a few examples for those who may have forgotten:

    #50 is just ignorant…These kind of crap accusations don’t ever stand up in real court situations (as opposed to kangaroo “study committees”). That more than explains my continuance in good standing as a minister of the Gospel over against the stellar intellectual arguments and rigorous fact-finding pervading these blog comments. (Post #62)

    Any complaint about a “serious charge” on this blog, after the war of aggression and libel that has been waged now for years without repentance or shame, is simply another item of hypocrisy that God will deal with in his own time. (Post #152)

    …nothing in your comment is relevant except the completely meritless inference… That simply doesn’t follow. (Post #151)

    Bowing out. We’ve reached the nub of the problem, so that may be good. But what you call logic I call absurd. (Post #168)

    I could cite many other examples from previous threads, but the above is a good representative sample. While a few brave folks have called him on it here and there, overall he has continued to get away with this type of nonsense unchecked. Sorry, but I won’t be one of those who lets him get away with this unchecked any longer. I stand by what I wrote. It was the truth and needed to be said.

  173. TurretinFan said,

    August 10, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    I should update my list at item 170 with a further entry:

    F. A further rebuttal based on Anselm, more Boston, and Ralph Erskine mixed with my own thoughts

    -TurretinFan

  174. Ron Henzel said,

    August 11, 2008 at 7:05 am

    Roger,

    Regarding comment 173: the stuff you quote here is pretty tame compared to the vile venom Mark was spewing at the height of the FV controversy, just prior to this year’s GA and before Wilkins & Co. bolted from the PCA. It’s not the case that only “a few brave folks” are willing to call him on his current shenanigans. It’s more like, now that he’s ratcheted down the shrillness of his rhetoric about 132 notches or so, we’re all so relieved that we don’t have to put up with the racket he used to raise around here that now when he says things like the kind you cite many of us just say to ourselves, “Oh, that’s just Mark!”

    When I lived in the Chicago areas we had tornadoes and miserable winters. Now that I live in Florida I’ve been through five hurricanes. When I visit Green Baggins I endure Mark Horne (and a few others). In time, you adjust.

  175. Ron Henzel said,

    August 11, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Roger,

    Also, I’m a bit more alarmed by the fact that Horne’s senior pastor, Jeff Meyers, has gone on record as believing that the Westminster Confession was “exactly the opposite” of the “high-point” of the Reformed confessions (and thus, I presume, the low point), and that he finds this doctrinal standard of his own denomination to be “a sterile document.” What can you expect from someone who serves under “leadership” like that?

  176. its.reed said,

    August 11, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Brothers:

    Mark’s behavior, as unbecoming as it is, is not something we should discuss here. This is not to say you’ve stepped over a line; rather that you’re close to one (one I find myself regularly tempted to dance upon – and I’m not a very good dancer).

    Ditto for Jeff Meyers.

    Probably it is best to say here simply that we’re saddened by their choice of rhetoric and how they choose to engage in debate with those whom they are to give the respect of a fellow confessor of Christ. That should speak enough for those who have ears.

  177. Roger Mann said,

    August 11, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Ron,

    Point well taken. Thank you for the additional background information. I, too, was concerned with what Meyers said. I limited my comments to Mark only because he was the one I had been going back and forth with on this blog.

    Reed,

    Warning heeded. I honestly had no intention on further commenting on Mark’s behavior. After the accusation of “downright meanness” on my part in post #170, I felt I needed to provide a little context as to why I said what I said. I was pretty much done at that point. I would much rather debate the issues with well reasoned arguments than repetitive assertions and ad hominen attacks.

  178. its.reed said,

    August 11, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Amen!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 302 other followers

%d bloggers like this: