Reformed Catholicity

I am going to take the next section of the Joint Statement by itself, which is different from my last treatment of the subject, wherein I took the section on Reformed Catholicity and the Covenant of Life in one section.

In my last treatment, I raised the all-important question of which works are excluded from the structure of justification. I have always thought it odd that Doug entitled this section “Reformed Catholicity,” when the statement is about justification. Presumably, he means to harp on the catholic (small c) implications of the doctrine of justification. But as I also said in my earlier treatment, the field is left a bit wide open. For instance, who is meant by “everyone that God has received into fellowship with Himself?” Everyone who says, “Lord, Lord?” Every denomination who says “Lord, Lord?” The most charitable reading of my first question is that all works are excluded. However, the statement in and of itself does not necessarily exclude all works from justification. If there were works that were not revealed to us by God, but which God made us to do by His Holy Spirit (and were thus not manufactured by man), then there is at least a theoretical category of works that could be included in justification. In the second sentence, there is a word that I believe is misplaced. His sentence reads, “Because we are justified through faith in Jesus alone…” I believe the word “alone” should not come after Jesus (although we certainly want to agree that salvation is found nowhere else but in Jesus), but after “faith.” Or, even better, repeat the word “alone” after faith and after “Jesus.” Now, again to be fair, Doug uses the term “sola fide” in connection with the term “correct formulations,” which plainly indicates that he believes there is a correct formulation of sola fide.

And, also as I wrote previously, my question is this concerning the second paragraph: is Doug saying that correct understandings of sola fide are not necessary for salvation, or is he merely saying that they are not sufficient? I would agree with the latter, but certainly not with the former. The demons understand the structure of justification by faith alone, and yet it is not sufficient. However, neither do I believe that one can be saved while believing that one gets to heaven by one’s works. One might ask about the faith of infants here, since they (probably!) cannot understand justification by faith alone. Certainly a valid question. I think that any genuine faith (or seed-faith as Calvin might say) that an infant has will necessarily grow up into an understanding of justification by faith alone. On the one hand, we don’t want to say that infants cannot be saved. On the other hand, neither do we want to say that one can be saved while having a completely opposite view of salvation to what the Bible says. Navigating between these two things is a touch difficult. Any saving faith definitely has trust as an element. That infants can have. True saving faith will also grow in understanding. So, I would say that an infant can have saving faith without understanding everything about justification. But such an infant will grow up and understand justification. An adult, on the other hand, needs to understand justification in order to be saved (though that is not all he needs to have), and must also trust Jesus.

I am curious as to what theologians the FV’ers have run across who say that a correct formulation of sola fide is an infallible indicator of true faith in Jesus. Or is there a target at all there?

In response to Doug’s last post, I will say just a few things. With regard to Wilkins, a differentiation that cannot be defined is not really a differentiation in the person’s theology, is it? Substitute the word “distinction” for differentiation, and the thought becomes clearer. “Oh yeah, there’s a distinction in the covenant between the decretally elect and the non-decretally elect, but I can’t for the life of me think of how to describe that distinction.” It would be like saying, “Oh yeah, there’s a distinction between justification and sanctification, but…uh…I haven’t the foggiest idea what it is.” Is there really a distinction in this person’s theology between justification and sanctification if he has no way to express it? The obvious distinction in the administration of the covenant would be between regenerate and non-regenerate, but Wilkins has NEVER said that, because he wants to say that non-decretally elect can still be regenerate in some way (though he would say that he is using the term in a non-WCF way, no doubt).

Secondly, regarding John 15 yet again, the questions Doug asks are simply not in the text. The text is simply not interested in how the suckers grew. There is no indication of how that happened. But the text does say that in terms of what counts (fruit) the unfruitful branches are not alive at all. These branches have the kind of faith that James condemns: “faith” without works. James says that faith without works is dead. It is not true faith at all. A fruitless branch in the sense that Jesus speaks of never bore fruit, and was thus never alive in the sense that counts in Jesus’ words. To talk about being alive in another sense is over-reading the passage, eisegeting details that don’t even exist. And, as I said, the phrase “in me” simply cannot bear the union-weight that the FV’ers put on it. He asks, “what are they cut out of?” They are cut out of the visible church. But to affirm some extra kind of non-salvific (or salvific, as some FV’ers do) union from this text way over-reads the text.

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22 Comments

  1. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    November 24, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Lane,

    It seems to me that the FV would say that while a faith that actually rests in and trusts Christ alone is sufficient for salvation, the precise and consistent articulation of that doctrine is not necessary. The target they have may be, for example, the Trinity Foundation, which, as the FV sees it, makes an intellectual work of proper doctrinal formulation (something the Pharisees excelled at) necessary to salvation. Wilson has certainly emphasized the child as the example of faith to the grown-ups: which of those in that scene was better able to articulate the teaching on the Messiah, and which was held as the example? The point is that we cannot put stock in our works of the law or in our intellectual formulations. Wilson would probably suggest that you have Jesus’ lesson backwards: Jesus calls the adults to become like children, while you say that we have to assume that the children will eventually be like the adults, in order to enter the kingdom. I’m not speaking for them, but I would say there is a real difference between Rome, which clearly formulates JBFA (6th session of Trent), then declares that doctrine anathema, and the local organist who has never really thought about doctrine in her fifty-odd years in the church (which is the church’s oversight and lack), but really trusts in Christ, singing happily and sincerely “Nothing in my hand I bring/ simply to thy cross I cling.” Now, we shouldn’t put her in charge of the Sunday school class, but that doesn’t mean she’s not in the kingdom.

    In his written replies, Wilkins did distinguish between the elect and non-elect:

    “First, they differ qualitatively. Thus, for example, though the non-elect are brought within the family of the justified and in that sense may be referred to as one of the justified, the elect person’s justification in time is not only a declaration of his present acquittal from the guilt of sin but also an anticipation of his final vindication at the last judgment. The non-elect church member’s “justification” is not. His “justification” is not the judgment he will receive from God at the last day. Second, the blessings conferred differ in their duration. The elect person perseveres and remains in a state of grace until the end of his life. The non-elect believer eventually forsakes the faith and falls away from the state of grace.”

    So, while you may not agree with his distinction, it is simply false to say he makes none.

    As for John 15, the FV is at least putting weight on the prepositional phrase that is actually in the text.. Jesus does not refer to branches “in the visible church,” but branches “in me.” And those branches are the ones that are either fruitful or fruitless. So, the categories in view in John 15 are fruitless branches-in-Christ and fruitful branches-in-Christ. And I haven’t read any FVers who ignore the differences between those branches–they just tend to emphasize that both kinds are said to be in Christ, which the passage says, rather than in the visible church, which the passage does not say. As for sap, etc., you certainly have no problem introducing horticultural info to clarify the parable, even when it is not there. There are Greek words to indicate those kinds of sucker “branches,” but those terms aren’t used in John 15 for the fruitless ones. Likewise, “sap” is never menioned in John 15, but basic horticultural knowledge indicates that branches in a vine (even parasitic ones) feed off the sap (called “fat”) that flows from the root (see, e.g., Rom. 11:17). So, basic horticultural knowledge on your side is perfectly legitimate, but BHK on the other (on the basis of Scriptural analogy) is eisegesis. Right.

  2. David Gadbois said,

    November 25, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    It seems to me that the FV would say that while a faith that actually rests in and trusts Christ alone is sufficient for salvation, the precise and consistent articulation of that doctrine is not necessary.

    On the contrary, the whole point of “Reformed Catholicism” is to make a Big Tent that covers even those who trust in their own works, in Mary, in the saints, and so forth. This old yarn about us “being justified by faith, not by faith in faith” is deployed precisely because FV and “Reformed Catholicism” want to accept into the fold “churches” that don’t hold to the Reformational solas, sola fide in particular. “Reformed Catholicism” is just a fancier, more respectable form of old-fashioned ecumenical koom-ba-ya-ism and limp-wrist-ism.

    James Jordan, for instance, recently suggested that Roman Catholics “improve their baptisms” by taking the Lord’s Supper at Presbyterian and Reformed churches.

    Unsurprisingly, there is overlap on this issue with NPP.

    The doctrine of justification is in fact the great ecumenical doctrine.

    Because what matters is believing in Jesus, detailed agreement on justification itself, properly conceived, isn’t the thing which should determine eucharistic fellowship.

    Jesus calls the adults to become like children, while you say that we have to assume that the children will eventually be like the adults, in order to enter the kingdom.

    What Lane has suggested should not be controversial – it is called progressive sanctification. Justifying faith may or may not be self-reflective, but a mature faith will become self-conscious so as to see (and continue to ensure by fighting temptations to the contrary) that it does not trust in anything else alongside of Christ.

    So, while you may not agree with his distinction, it is simply false to say he makes none.

    Lane’s charge against Wilkins would be falsified if Wilkins had something better than a mere formal distinction (a distinction without a difference). If Wilkins ever gets around to publishing a substantive and coherent distinction, one that does not simply shuffle around chronological differences (as opposed to ontological differences), then perhaps Lane should modify his charge.

    both kinds are said to be in Christ, which the passage says, rather than in the visible church

    Well, are we going to be biblicists or are we going to actually engage in systematic theology? Being in the visible church is certainly a way of being “in Christ”, in some sense. In the sense of being in covenant with Him. It need not be in the sense of mystical/existential/vital union. It certainly need not be in the sense of some incoherent quasi-salvific state that many of the FV postulate.

    The parallel in Romans 11 confirms Lane’s interpretation of the “in me” refering to the visible church. The ONE place in Scripture where Jesus’ parable is actually applied, Israel is in view. And Romans 9-11 tells us with some detail the various relations, qualities, and advantages Israel had as the covenant people of God who were “in Christ” in a sense. We’re all Reformed, right? We all believe Israel was the visible church of the Old Covenant, don’t we?

  3. November 25, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Joshua,

    I already answered your comments about John 15 in the last discussion and in my post John 15:2 – The same sap? The Reformed witnesses stand together on the interpretation that “in me” means by profession of faith, not possession of faith. No one was, is, or will ever be saved by the profession of faith apart from the actual possession of faith. FVers can make up their own interpretations if they want, but they are neither Reformed nor consistent with the universal Scriptural witness that the reprobate have no saving union with Christ at any time, ever.

    Your Wilkins quote makes Lane’s case much better than yours. Wilkins is granting justification without perseverance to the reprobate, basically espousing the same idea as Trent in the Sixth Session, Chapter XIII:

    Nevertheless, let those who think themselves to stand, take heed lest they fall, and, with fear and trembling work out their salvation, in labours, in watchings, in almsdeeds, in prayers and oblations, in fastings and chastity: for, knowing that they are born again unto a hope of glory, but not as yet unto glory, they ought to fear for the combat which yet remains with the flesh, with the world, with the devil, wherein they cannot be victorious, unless they be with God’s grace, obedient to the Apostle, who says; We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh; for if you live according to the flesh, you shall die; but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.

    That looks a lot like FV’s covenant faithfulness in response to the threats and curses. It for sure isn’t sola fide. Dr. Sproul, Sr., et al, are right on target by declaring that the gospel is at stake in this debate. Trent followed up with:

    CANON XVI.-If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema.

    Like the RCC, FVers deny the elect assurance of perseverance by introducing erroneous hurdles like covenent faithfulness and final justification. Nothing new under the sun.

  4. Sam Steinmann said,

    November 25, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    OK, I understand and agree that Trent was wrong, and that Canon XVI is rejected by the Reformed tradition (nearly) universally. (Nearly because I think it’s universal, but I could have missed something.

    That said, is anything in the first quote from Trent something any Bible-believing Christian (Reformed or not) would disagree with?

  5. November 25, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Sam,

    May I suggest viewing the statement in the overall context of Trent’s theology?

  6. Andrew Voelkel said,

    November 25, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    “An adult, … needs to understand justification in order to be saved (though that is not all he needs to have), and must also trust Jesus.”

    Brother,
    Please reconsider your statement quoted above. I think the scriptures leave open the possibility that immature and uniformed adult converts can be saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ.

    Consider the believing thief on the cross — it is likely he understood little about justification, but he recognized Jesus as Lord, and that seemed to be sufficient:
    Luke 23:39-43 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

    I think most PCA pastors would agree that an adult does not necessarily need to understand our Doctrine of Justification in order to be justified. But maybe I’m in the minority.

    blessings,
    -Andrew Voelkel

  7. curate said,

    November 26, 2008 at 1:32 am

    A fruitless branch in the sense that Jesus speaks of never bore fruit, and was thus never alive in the sense that counts in Jesus’ words.

    Is it the parable of the sower where the plant that once bore fruit is choked by the cares of the world, ceases to bear, and dies?

  8. greenbaggins said,

    November 26, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Curate, what evidence do you have that the choked plant ever bore fruit? That is precisely what is NOT said about that plant! In other words, such a plant is in precisely the same position as the non-fruit-bearing branch in John 15.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    November 26, 2008 at 9:12 am

    Andrew, part and parcel of justification is forgiveness. The mechanism of justification is the mechanism of forgiveness. If one does not understand how God can forgive us, then how can one believe that he is forgiven?

  10. curate said,

    November 26, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

    If it becomes unfruitful, it means that it was previously fruitful. Indeed, there is a necessary implication of previous fruitfulness.

    One cannot become unfruitful if one never bore fruit. How does a fruitless plant become unfruitful? The verb to become is not a synonym for to be.

  11. greenbaggins said,

    November 26, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    You are completely reading into ginomai a meaning that is not necessarily there. The word has a semantic range that includes “turns out,” “take place,” “to be” (contrary to your assertion), “prove to be,” “turn out to be.” See BDAG. The ESV’s translation is “and it proves unfruitful.” It is a complete assumption on your part that a contrary condition is implied in the verb, when nothing positive is said about the condition of the plant prior to the verb. You need to do a lot more work than that to prove that the state of the plant changed from being fruitful to being non-fruitful.

  12. curate said,

    November 26, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    OK, let us try out your assertion:

    … and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it is unfruitful

    This and this happens to the plant, followed by a statement of fact? No sequence of events, no consequence? The weeds choke it, and it was always unfruitful, so the action of the weeds is irrelevant to its unfruitfulness.

    Doesn’t work. Very forced. But no matter.

    Nah!

  13. November 26, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Lane’s analysis is backed up by the parable of the wheat and tares. In the parable, neither changes status – the wheat was always wheat and the tares were always tares.

  14. ray said,

    November 26, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    13. well said. In confessing Justification by faith alone is to confess Justification by Christ alone… wheat and tares – election and reprobation is not something that comes to our attention simply in the parable.It is stark reality throughout the Gospel. We are taught in Scripture this was the Lord’s intention for His creatures from before the foundation fo the world. Vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor.

    FV adherants need to get their facts straight. To be “in Christ” is to be one of God’s elect. It was His intention from before the foundation of the world to save them and them alone in Jesus Christ. But when you start advocating that God loves All men , that God loved Jacob and loved Esau less, and that God is well meaning in offering salvation to the reprobate and that is his intent …they just circumvented God’s intentions … your bound to screw up the truth that faith is a gift of God He gives to the elect alone … and twist that to mean that our faithfulness , our obedience in part justifies us as righteous.

    We are altogether unfaithful … there is none that doeth good …no not one. How is it this truth gets lost in the discussion. The saints of the church universal must be as Job, put his/her hand to the mouth … shut up … abhor ourself for what we are … and humbly repent in dust and ashes. He knew His Redeemer Christ lived … and that even if Christ would slay him, yet he would still trust in Christ. No man can or will say such things honestly unless the Spirit of Christ is within Him.

    Job’s three friends played the part and advocated the doctrine of the FV advocate …look where it got them… so becareful in how you are trying to exalt your supposed faithfulness …lest the Lord deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of Him the thing which is right, like His servant Job.

  15. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    November 26, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    A hodge-podge of answers:

    Re #2:

    I don’t disagree with anything you say about progressive sanct. or mature faith. But it’s not the progressive holiness that makes faith justifying, nor is it the maturity that makes it justifying. And in the original post, Lane said an adult “needs to understand justification in order to be saved…” But if that understanding is a function of progressive sanctification, then you’ve just made sanctification saving, which is Roman, not Reformed. I’m not clear why a simply faith that says “Jesus died for my sins,” or “Jesus took away my sins at the cross,” or “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe,” and stops there is not saving, just because the person is an adult.

    By the way, I share your concerns about Jordan’s comment and about the recent Trinity statement on welcoming RCs and EOs to the table–I even contacted the pastoral staff there about it, and did get some reply, but it didn’t by any means make me sanguine about that.

    As for Wilkins’ distinction, he does in fact say that there is first of all a qualitative difference, so it’s not just chronological. If, as Horton has argued, present justification is a bringing into time of the eschatological judgment, then there is a massive qualitative or ontological difference there. And Wilkins agrees with Leithart’s narrative ontology, in which the being of the person or character is not complete until the story has been told, and the end of the story reveals the character all along–cf. Leithart’s analogy that a marriage that ends in divorce was all along qualitatively different from one that does not. So, the justification of one who is decretally elect is, in fact, eternal–which is an ontological category–and the non-elect’s “justification” (notice the continued quotes to indicate homology) is merely temporal. That’s not a distinction without a difference: one will enjoy God’s favor for all eternity, the other will not.

    Romans 11:17 makes it clear that whatever the nature is of this ingrafting into the tree, it actually includes some participation in the life of the whole tree, yet there is a real warning that such a branch can partake of the life and yet be broken off. And, as I said, Rom. 11 is not talking about Israel as a whole being broken off (since there is still a remnant saved by grace, v. 1-6), but about the relation of particular Jews (although certainly the majority of these) and Gentiles to the one tree of the true Israel: notice that “some branches” were broken off–is there more than one Israel?–so that “you” (singular, an individual Gentile, in v. 17-22) could be grafted in.

    Re #3:

    If salvation is defined eschatologically (“eschatology precedes soteriology”), then Wilkins agrees that the non-elect do not have a saving union with Christ, since they fall away before full salvation. And, in fact, they never had a saving union with Christ, because their union was never going to result in that salvation, because they were not elect.

    As someone else said, that first quote from Trent is mostly unproblematic in itself. Are we not called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? Oh, wait, we’re not being biblicistic here. Chastity, by the way, was also faithfulness in marriage, not just celibacy. So we’re not called to that? Or to give to the poor? Or to fight to put to death sin? I thought this was progressive sanctification.

    I’m not so sure that I disagree with Canon XVI on the face of it, but that’s according to my own understanding of the epistemic terms. I would say that we don’t have epistemic certainty and infallibility in our own knowledge, as that’s a modernist ideal that I reject. Assurance of perseverance is by faith, which rests not in its own epistemic modality, but in its object, i.e., the promises of God in Christ. So, do I have an infallible knowledge of my perseverance? No, but I trust in the infallible God who gives perseverance in Christ.

    Re # 9:

    “If one does not understand how God can forgive us, then how can one believe that he is forgiven?”

    Um, because he trusts in God, whose ways are above our ways. You’re honestly saying that one who says “I don’t understand how God forgives me in Christ, but I believe that He does. I mean, how can one person pay for the sins of another? I don’t really know, but God has said that that is what He has done, so I’ll believe Him” is not justified?

  16. November 26, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Joshua,

    If salvation is defined eschatologically (”eschatology precedes soteriology”), then Wilkins agrees that the non-elect do not have a saving union with Christ, since they fall away before full salvation. And, in fact, they never had a saving union with Christ, because their union was never going to result in that salvation, because they were not elect.

    This is simply a slight of hand unsupported by Wilkins’ essays. Wilkins clearly and in writing assigns union with Christ along with saving benefits to the reprobate. No amount of spin will change what he wrote.

    The problem with your comments about Trent is that they ignore the context and doctrines that Trent was defending. Nothing happens in a vacuum. The RCC was saying that you are saved by grace plus works. Federal Vision’s “covenant faithfulness” smacks of the same flavor. That is my point, and I’m not the only one to make it.

  17. curate said,

    November 27, 2008 at 2:04 am

    no.13

    Lane’s analysis is backed up by the parable of the wheat and tares. In the parable, neither changes status – the wheat was always wheat and the tares were always tares.

    Interesting method. Parable interprets parable!

    Use a parable that is about not judging the church before time, to interpret an entirely different parable that concerns the different ways people receive the word!

  18. Stephen Welch said,

    November 27, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Joshua Smith, I do not know how much of the FV material you have read, but when I read such stuff (pardon the non-theological term, but I was trying to avoid a word that might not be appropriate for this venue) that I see on Reformed Catholic blog I do not see much difference from it and the Papist. As one contributer said earlier they are trying to include Rome under the “big umbrella” and frankly some of us still regard Roman Catholicism as a false church. The FV’s are confusing because they are not all consistent. Wilson does deny a covenant of works, so how could he affirm the active and passive obedience of Christ as the basis for my justification? This is not much different from the Romanist who denies that we are covered in Christ’s righteousness alone. I for one think that some who oppose the FV have been too tolerant of them.

  19. November 27, 2008 at 11:12 am

    RE #17,

    That’s called the analogy of faith – Scripture interpreting Scripture. Been going on for a long time.

    If you’re referring to John 15, I do not believe that can properly be called a parable. Parables don’t start with Jesus declaring “I am…” I believe that this is properly called a metaphor.

    That said, both passages deal with the corpus mixtum which is the visible church. Therefore, the passages may inform aspects of our understanding of the relationships of the elect and reprobate in that body. They must be and are consistent in their teaching. Jesus uses multiple parables to illustrate a point in Lk 15. Nothing strange or unusual here.

  20. David Gadbois said,

    December 1, 2008 at 4:21 am

    J. Smith said As for Wilkins’ distinction, he does in fact say that there is first of all a qualitative difference, so it’s not just chronological

    This is yet another formal assertion, for which there is no substantive content supplied. What is the qualitative difference? Or are you guys assuming that one can be within the pale of orthodoxy merely by making formal assertions? We must not, for instance, only assert that God is 3 and 1 in qualitatively different senses, we put coherent, defined, substantive content to it – God is 3 in person and 1 in being.

    So, the justification of one who is decretally elect is, in fact, eternal–which is an ontological category–and the non-elect’s “justification” (notice the continued quotes to indicate homology) is merely temporal. That’s not a distinction without a difference: one will enjoy God’s favor for all eternity, the other will not.

    So we go round and around some more, only to end up being able to define the distnction in terms of chronology.

  21. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    December 1, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    I’ll try to be even clearer: perseverance is not simply a matter of duration (which I presume is what is meant by “chronology”–although this latter term is more precisely about how one measures or keeps track of time through an order of events, which is not really what is in question). The duration of perseverance is the evidence of whether the thing was ever truly alive or not. So, the fact that the reprobate fall away is what finally shows that the seed was never truly alive.

    “…experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them…the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption…though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate…the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.”

    I find this quote from Calvin to be quite similar to what Wilkins says.

  22. December 2, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Joshua, RE #21,

    Calvin is saying nothing like Wilkins. Calvin makes it clear that the reprobate in the visible church “believe” they are saved, but are not regenerated and do not share in the saving graces of true faith or regeneration. God has not rescued them from death. WLC Q.63 nicely captures the same sense that Calvin expresses in the above quote. Calvin and the Divines agree that NO saving graces are imparted at any time to the reprobate. Wilkins (and other FVers) says that saving graces are temporarily imparted to the reprobate. Wilkins’ is an RCC or Arminian view, not Reformed.


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