Understanding Forgiveness

In response to Doug’s post, I have a few things to say.

Firstly, this isn’t the first time Doug has accused me of unwittingly denying justification by faith alone. What Doug seems to do in this post is say that I have basically turned understanding a doctrine into a work that then merits justification. What this accusation does, in effect, is deny that there is any notitia element to saving faith whatsoever. No doubt Doug would deny such a charge. But by his argument, it doesn’t really matter what one believes in terms of understanding. As long as there is this nebulous trust in Jesus, one is saved. Again, this is not something Doug would come out and say, and to some extent this is an extension of what he says. I am merely trying to point out here the logical consequences of denying the notitia element of faith, which, by the way, is all I’m arguing for.

When someone like me makes the claim that one must understand justification in order to be saved, what typically comes to mind in the view of critics of my position is that someone must understand Berkhof, Bavinck, Calvin, Luther, Owen, Buchanan, and Fesko in order to be saved. I am saying nothing of the sort. Can any adult (we’ll get to the problem of infants in a bit) be saved without any understanding at all of the mechanism by which one is forgiven? Can he be saved without knowing that Jesus died for him on the cross and took his guilt upon Himself, that it was a substitutionary sacrifice for sin? This is not jargon, nor is it esoteric. It is nothing less than the heart of the Gospel. I would argue that an adult cannot be saved without knowing this, and it is the lion’s share of the doctrine of justification. The double imputation is not all that hard to grasp either, but surely we would all agree that someone who believed and understood that Jesus died for him as a sacrificial offering is saved. Of course there are varying degrees of depth in which a person can understand this. But Doug seems to be denying that one even needs to understand this in order to be saved.

On the question of infants, I grant that notitia develops. Of course, we often give them too little credit for what they understand. Who is to say that an infant doesn’t know who Jesus is? An infant can certainly know (within minutes of birth!) who is mother is. John the Baptist understood who Jesus was, at least in a nascent way. So no, there is no denial of justification by faith alone in my theology, either explicitly, or implicitly.

Once more, John 15. There are several indicators of what Doug said isn’t there in the text, but actually is. First of all, Doug’s position that the branches are dead because they are fruitless, not fruitless because they are dead (which thus denies an ontological distinction between the fruit-bearing branches and the non-fruit-bearing branches) simply does not do justice to the terms of verse 2 and verse 5, and the whole passage. First point: the criterion of life is fruit-bearing (synonymous with “abiding”) in this passage, not sap. Doug does not do justice to my argument, because he does not see my point, which is that the non-fruit-bearing branch is ontologically different, having no ability to produce fruit, and is therefore as good as dead. Because they do not believe, they are condemned already. Verse 2 indicates that the criterion for whether the branch is taken away is whether it bears fruit or not, not whether it has sap or not. When Jesus continues his metaphor, fruit-bearing is explicitly linked with “abiding” (verses 4-5). Abiding equals fruitfulness, and not-abiding equals fruitlessness. Abiding equals life equals fruit. Therefore, any branch not bearing fruit has no life in it. Abiding always produces fruit. Therefore, if a branch is not producing fruit, it is not abiding, and therefore is not alive in the sense of fruit-bearing. What is tripping Doug up here is my language about not being alive because it is not fruit-bearing. The only kind of life that is important in this passage is the fruit-bearing life. Again, other kinds of life are simply not important here.

About these ads

69 Comments

  1. David Gray said,

    November 26, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

  2. greenbaggins said,

    November 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    And what does it mean to confess the Lord Jesus, but to believe in what He has done that it was done for me? People often quote that verse in a minimalistic way, as if doctrine therefore makes no difference. I am not necessarily saying that this is what you are doing. However, I have seen it quoted in such a way as to deny the necessity of any knowledge practically.

  3. November 26, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    David,

    I know that you know that the “believe” in Rom 10:9 is more than game repetition of words. Paul says “believes in thy heart.” That sounds a lot like true faith to me. Plus Paul adds what needs to be believed, a proposition if you will.

    Last I checked, we believe that true faith consists of notitia, assensus and fiducia. Assensus and fiducia require significant understanding of forgiveness and the object of faith – who Jesus is and what He has done; fiducia even more so. How can one trust in what one doesn’t understand on some significant level? Even the demons believe – and shudder!

    Upon reading the rest of Romans, I’m convinced that the mere game saying of magic phrases isn’t what the apostle had in mind.

  4. David Gray said,

    November 26, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    >And what does it mean to confess the Lord Jesus, but to believe in what He has done that it was done for me?

    I would say that it depends, amongst other things, on the capacity of the individual in question.

    >People often quote that verse in a minimalistic way, as if doctrine therefore makes no difference.

    I haven’t seen that done too much but I have seen it as a corrective to the idea that an extensive (and sound) exegesis is required of all the elect.

    > I am not necessarily saying that this is what you are doing.

    Good!

    > However, I have seen it quoted in such a way as to deny the necessity of any knowledge practically.

    Again, I think it depends on the individual. I’ve known adults of very limited intellectual capacity who I believe are among the elect. I certainly wouldn’t forswear the possibility.

    The verse can certainly be abused and it provides no defense for error but thankfully for all of us saving faith can exist with a great deal of error; both in concept and practice.

  5. David Gray said,

    November 26, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    >How can one trust in what one doesn’t understand on some significant level?

    It depends. My son trusts in a great many things which he doesn’t understand except possibly at the most basic level.

  6. Andrew Duggan said,

    November 26, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    >How can one trust in what one doesn’t understand on some significant level?

    It depends. My son trusts in a great many things which he doesn’t understand except possibly at the most basic level.

    When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

  7. David Gray said,

    November 27, 2008 at 2:56 am

    >When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11

    Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Mt 18:3

  8. GLW Johnson said,

    November 27, 2008 at 5:53 am

    The sad thing about DW and the FV is …a refusal to admit that they are ever wrong -ever. Instead they simply go back to their work shop and reconstruct their oringinal position with very subtle rearrangments all the while firmly maintainig their doctrinal distinctives. It doesn’t matter to them that one Reformed denomination after another has rejected their innovations they persist in campaign to have their FV distinctives accepted in the Reformed community.My Welsh friend ,Martin Downes, in his chapter in the book, ‘Reforming or Conforming?’ made this insightful observation based on his many years of study on heterodoxy. ” A refusal to be corrected and to hold onto views that deviate from the gospel is itself a form of immorality and ungodliness. If we do not hold firmly to the gospel, then we will have a chronically misshaped orthopraxy at a vital point.” (p. 244).

  9. David Gray said,

    November 27, 2008 at 6:12 am

    >The sad thing about DW and the FV is …a refusal to admit that they are ever wrong -ever.

    I haven’t noticed that tendency much on the other side either.

  10. GLW Johnson said,

    November 27, 2008 at 6:22 am

    DG
    I expect that kind of retort from the FV peanut gallery. I guess you are of the sme opinion as DW that the assessment of Reformed bodies like the PCA, OPC, etc. carry no weight.

  11. David Gray said,

    November 27, 2008 at 9:12 am

    >I expect that kind of retort from the FV peanut gallery.

    And I regrettably am not shocked at that kind of reaction. I don’t think either side has shown a tendency to admit error. Even if you believe the anti-FVists are entirely right theologically there has certainly been enough error to warrant admission in terms of conduct. If you choke on the peanuts it isn’t my fault…

  12. GLW Johnson said,

    November 27, 2008 at 9:38 am

    DG
    Yes, and I am not shocked that you are not shocked that you are indifferent to how the Reformed community has ruled on the FV.

  13. Stephen Welch said,

    November 27, 2008 at 10:13 am

    David, Gary Johnson is right, Wilson and his FV friends never admit they are wrong. Why should we admit we are wrong? We are affirming the confessional standards and will not waver on the gospel. Tell us where we are wrong and not willing to admit it. Certainly the moderators in this blog, including Lane do not claim infallibility. We are not going to tolerate the theological games the FV plays. Every Reformed denomination I can think of has condemned FV, so where are we wrong? The FV speaks in riddles and you come away more confused. God is not the author of confusion.

  14. David Gray said,

    November 27, 2008 at 10:15 am

    >Tell us where we are wrong and not willing to admit it.

    Well I stated above how some parties are.

  15. David Gray said,

    November 27, 2008 at 10:16 am

    You know there is at least one party, and I don’t think he’s alone, who at times give the appearance of believing that if he hold’s a correct theological position his personal conduct is irrelevant.

  16. Stephen Welch said,

    November 27, 2008 at 10:38 am

    David, I am sorry but I do not understand what you are talking about, so please clarify this.

  17. November 27, 2008 at 10:40 am

    This would probably be a good time to return to discussing theology, and in particular, the topic of Lane’s post.

  18. rfwhite said,

    November 27, 2008 at 10:51 am

    If I’m reading the text correctly, every fruitless branch is fruitless because a “branch cannot bear fruit by itself” (15:4a). A fruitless branch, then, may indeed be a “branch in Him” (15:2a) but it is also, as indicated by its fruitlessness, “apart from Him” (15:5). The relationship, then, of branches and vine – “in Him” – implies association but does not necessarily imply vital (life-giving) union and communion. What am I missing?

  19. greenbaggins said,

    November 27, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Dr. White, that is exactly how I would understand the text as well.

  20. ray said,

    November 27, 2008 at 11:14 am

    #15, well David you have made some kind of point with respect to understanding forgiveness and understanding justification by faith alone.

    A child like faith is a gift of God given to the elect alone. A repentant and contrite heart that confesses sin and pleads for forgiveness is also a gift of God given to His elect alone. The elect are precious to Him and for Christ’s sake saves them. Salvation is of the Lord. For example…The warning for us all who profess the Name of Christ are admonished in Revelation 2 about leaving our first love. That is a real danger and we need to remember just what it is we are fighting for here and why. In love for Christ the reformed rightly are protective of the truth of justification by faith alone/Christ alone and the attacks volleyed against this truth by the FV clan. We know who we are by nature … totally depraved, wholly unfaithful, unrighteous to a T …without that certain knowledge and assured confidence there is no gift of faith. We need that Gospel truth of Christ and Him crucified … His elect are that precious that He sent His Son to redeem them and them alone. Romans 10 makes that point later in verse 17 that faith comes from hearing , and hearing by the Word of God. True faith is a certain knowledge and assured confidence in which the Holy Spirit works by the Gospel in my heart … remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God , only for the sake of Christ’s merits. These are given to the elect alone.

    In do not want to forget my first love. Christ and His church. Neither do I want to forget just what He did for me a miserable worm…. the sinner. God is very particular as to whom He gives His love too. He loves His elect for the sake of Christ, has from all eternity, and has determined to save them in time … by Himself, for His own Name’s sake.

    Talk of our faithfulness, obedience with this topic…. quickly evaporates when the love of Christ reigns within us, as we cling only to Him and His righteousness for our salvation. For those where one’s faithfulness and obedience does not evaporate … that lesson has yet to be learned and those who would spurn knowledge and understanding …consider the admonishment of the Lord in the Gospel … such people perish for lack of knowledge. This is the sad reality throughout the Gospel.

  21. rfwhite said,

    November 27, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Follow-up question to #18: isn’t it the case that the “in Him” of John 15 is not univocal with the “in Him” of Eph 1?

  22. rfwhite said,

    November 27, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    One more addition to #18 and #21: We don’t have to contrast John and Paul on their use of “in Him” to notice that the meaning of “in Him” is not univocal. Can’t we say that the same point is observable within Paul’s corpus and in Rom 9-11, where covenant and election are not coextensive? Isn’t it the case, in fact, that, within Rom 11 itself, being a branch on the olive tree is not univocal with being one of the remnant?

  23. Scott said,

    November 27, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    “On the question of infants, I grant that notitia develops. Of course, we often give them too little credit for what they understand. Who is to say that an infant doesn’t know who Jesus is? An infant can certainly know (within minutes of birth!) who is mother is. John the Baptist understood who Jesus was, at least in a nascent way. ”

    Recently I heard a mother talk about how her son was born, he recognized his mother and was interacting with her while he was still in her womb. She described singing to him, talking to him and he would respond and kick, right then.
    She did not make these observations in the midst of any kind of theological discussion and she was quite confident of her assertions, and that the relationship was confirmed in that almost mystical bond that a newborn baby and her mother have.
    Many times we mistake cognitive ability (e.g. the ability to speak intelligibly to us) as the measure of whether someone has faith. But I see in Scripture that the same God who does a miracle to save us which immediately produces faith, can do so at any age, and any stage.
    This is a great consolation- God really is the author of our salvation. Our understanding of His ways is limited, but He is not limited in any way- and I am thankful for that.

  24. November 28, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    In #8, Gary said, “The sad thing about DW and the FV is …a refusal to admit that they are ever wrong -ever.”

    The really sad thing is that if I go back and show all the places I have admitted I was wrong, then I am proving Gary’s point in a weird kind of way. And if I don’t, then I let his point stand. Ah, well.

  25. GLW Johnson said,

    November 30, 2008 at 7:36 am

    DW
    Ok, please point out any of the FV distinctives that you now personally no longer hold.

  26. David Gray said,

    November 30, 2008 at 8:08 am

    >Ok, please point out any of the FV distinctives that you now personally no longer hold.

    FV distinctives as defined by whom?

  27. GLW Johnson said,

    November 30, 2008 at 8:13 am

    DG
    This doesn’t concern you. I asked DW. Besides , the FV distinctives, as addressed by both the PCA and OPC study reports, have been defended by DW.

  28. David Gray said,

    November 30, 2008 at 11:26 am

    >This doesn’t concern you. I asked DW.

    GLWJ, you only interact with posts directed towards yourself?

  29. Bob said,

    November 30, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    GLWJ

    Sincere question… Is it your belief that Pastor Wilson, if he does believe the FV distinctives as you understand them, is destined to the hereafter separated forever from God? (You know.. that place far far south of heaven.)

  30. November 30, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Gary, your point was not about doctrine, but was rather a point identifying what you believed to be a character flaw — an unwillingness to admit that you were wrong about something, doctrine included. And I have admitted that I have been in error on Calvinism, eschatology, baptism, sanctification, liturgy, and much more. A more plausible attack on my character would be to say that I am unstable, rather than intransigent. If shown to be wrong on this FV stuff, I would admit it honestly and openly, and my behavior in the past shows this to be the case.

  31. David Gadbois said,

    December 1, 2008 at 3:27 am

    Lane said Can any adult (we’ll get to the problem of infants in a bit) be saved without any understanding at all of the mechanism by which one is forgiven? Can he be saved without knowing that Jesus died for him on the cross and took his guilt upon Himself, that it was a substitutionary sacrifice for sin? This is not jargon, nor is it esoteric.

    I don’t see why this should be controversial. HC 21:


    True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also an assured confidence, which the Holy Ghost works by the gospel in my heart; that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

    I suppose DW would say that the above involves “studying hard and getting it right”, at least if he was consistent with this line of criticism.

  32. David Gadbois said,

    December 1, 2008 at 3:38 am

    Recently I heard a mother talk about how her son was born, he recognized his mother and was interacting with her while he was still in her womb. She described singing to him, talking to him and he would respond and kick, right then.

    Extending this to support an infant’s salvific knowledge of God is problematic. We know our mothers by experiential acquaintance. We know of Christ and His saving work only propositionally (through the preached and written Word). This view can’t do justice to what Romans 10 says about the necessity of preachers for saving faith. And how can an infant’s knowledge approach the criteria for the notitia of saving faith in HC 21?

  33. GLW Johnson said,

    December 1, 2008 at 6:27 am

    DW
    You still refuse to address the specifics of my question-acknowledging that you have changed your mind over the years about the various things you listed doesn’t touch any of the FV distinctives-which, despite the detailed refutation as set forth in the PCA and OPC reports, you continue to defend-and you persist in insulting the PCA SJC and its handling of the Wilkins case ( bear skinning is how you described it) as well as the actions of those in the PCA that are opposed to the FV views of Peter Leithart. You have perfected the art of Mexican hat dancing.

  34. David Gray said,

    December 1, 2008 at 6:50 am

    >And how can an infant’s knowledge approach the criteria for the notitia of saving faith in HC 21?

    So you are asserting that infants cannot be saved?

  35. December 1, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Gary, you are saying that failure to agree with you on these issues is sin. My point is that it could be — but that my history in working through doctrinal issues indicates that to be an unlikely explanation. What should the Marrow men have done when the General Assembly condemned them?

  36. GLW Johnson said,

    December 1, 2008 at 9:20 am

    DW
    Agree with me? Gee, Doug that is -as usual- not the issue. What about the overwhelming consensus of the Reformed community that has rejected the FV?

  37. December 1, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    David, RE #34,

    WCF 10.3 covers elect infants dying in infancy in this extraordinary case. The HC taken as a whole does not contradict the WCF in this regard.

  38. David Gray said,

    December 1, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    >WCF 10.3 covers elect infants dying in infancy in this extraordinary case. The HC taken as a whole does not contradict the WCF in this regard.

    Unfortunately in historical terms, particularly, infants dying is not an unusual or extraordinary case. I’m glad the HC is not in error in this matter. I was wondering if Mr. Gadbois was. It would be a treacherous thing to promote an absence of faith in God’s promises in this area.

  39. David Gadbois said,

    December 1, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    David Gray,

    Of course I would never say such a thing, regarding infants dying in infancy. The Canons of Dordt addresses the specific issue for us. It does not ground the election or salvation of these infants in their faith, but rather it grounds it in their membership in the Covenant of Grace (I:17).

  40. David Gray said,

    December 1, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    >Of course I would never say such a thing

    Outstanding! Glad to hear it.

    >It does not ground the election or salvation of these infants in their faith, but rather it grounds it in their membership in the Covenant of Grace (I:17).

    Can any be saved apart from faith?

  41. December 1, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Gary, to take one example — the PCA resolutions — what they reject there I also reject. Now what do we do? And again, what should the Marrow men have done when their views really were condemned by the General Assembly?

  42. GLW Johnson said,

    December 2, 2008 at 6:07 am

    DW
    The Marrow men would have whole heartedly rejected the FV. I can show you chapter and verse, but this is a hopeless conversation.

  43. December 2, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Gary, I am afraid you have changed the subject, and that is why the conversation appears hopeless. But it is just an appearance. I didn’t ask you what the Marrow men would have thought of the FV. I asked what the Marrow men should have done when their views were condemned by the General Assembly.

  44. GLW Johnson said,

    December 2, 2008 at 10:11 am

    DW
    Let me see if I catch your drift. Are you admitting that the FV views have indeed been rejected by the vast majority of the Reformed community? Are you then comparing the FV to the Marrow men who were unjustly dealt with by the General Assembly? Are you aware of the makeup of that General Assembly? One of my PhD courses at WTS was with David Lachman on ‘Scottish Presbyterianism’ which with dealt extensively with the Marrow Controversy. You did know, didn’t you ,that the General Assembly was controlled at the time by theological liberals? Now in light of this glaring difference -the conservative theologicall makeup of the Reformed denominations like the OPC and PCA that have rejected the FV and the not so conservative General Assembly-exactly how apropos is your analogy?

  45. David Gray said,

    December 2, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Pastor Johnson, nice job ducking the question.

  46. GLW Johnson said,

    December 2, 2008 at 11:35 am

    DG
    How would you know? Stop barking and pay attention. You might learn something. Go back and read the exchange. It’s bad enough that DW and the FV suffer from a distorted persecution complex ( you might remember DW comparing Steve Wilkins to Machen) and it is even worst when it extends into the peanut gallery.

  47. December 2, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Gary, I am not admitting or denying anything . . . just asking. I do know that the General Assembly of that time was drifting in a liberal direction. Is that not happening today? Exactly how much feminism would the PCA have to accommodate in order to qualify as a General Assembly drifting in similar ways? And if neo-nomianism was a characteristic of theological liberalism back then, then how does that charge apply to FV men, who are generally far more conservative than the PCA?

  48. December 2, 2008 at 11:49 am

    DW, are you appealing to the principle of the Marrow controversy (a dissenting group against a GA that was in fact out of accord with the Confession)? Or are you appealing to anything more specific than that with regard to the details of Marrow theology and the way in which the GA interpreted the Confession? It just strikes me that there is little affinity between the Marrow men and the FV at the theological level.

  49. David Gray said,

    December 2, 2008 at 11:51 am

    >How would you know?

    I comprehend the English language.

    >Stop barking and pay attention. You might learn something.

    Your imprudent language does not serve you well.

  50. GLW Johnson said,

    December 2, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    DG
    My profound apologies. I must remember to be more patient with today’s youth, little barking dogs and others who suffer from shortsighted loyalites to misguided causes.
    DW
    You are playing your hand out of desperation. Need I remind you that for the longest time the critics of the FV were described by the followers of the FV as the ” TR’s”. The men who made up the PCA and OPC study committees were hardly closet sympathizers to the feminist agenda that is currently making inroads in to various Reformed denominations. Now you know this Doug so why are you playing that card?

  51. David Gray said,

    December 2, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    >My profound apologies. I must remember to be more patient with today’s youth, little barking dogs and others who suffer from shortsighted loyalites to misguided causes.

    I assume you don’t permit your session to read what you write here…

  52. GLW Johnson said,

    December 2, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    DG
    What session? Like DW I am the Surpreme Bishop of my ecclesiastical domain.

  53. greenbaggins said,

    December 2, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    David, Gary most certainly did answer the question by attacking the parallel between the Marrow Controversy and the FV (at least if one compares the Marrow Men with the FV men). The reason they are not parallel is that the GA which condemned the Marrow men was liberal (read non-confessional), whereas the GA that condemned the FV was conservative (read confessional).

  54. December 2, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Lane and Gary, do you genuinely believe there is no liberal drift in the PCA? When the issue of women deacons — which Tim Keller is pushing right now — comes to the forefront, as it is currently doing, what will happen? And what will happen with the issue of women in the ministry after that? At what point will the currently confessional GA become unconfessional? As Dylan once put it, you don’t have to be a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing.

  55. GLW Johnson said,

    December 2, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    DW
    Do you really believe that the individuals that composed the OPC and PCA study committees on the FV were in anyway representative of a ‘liberal drift’? You are grasping at straws.

  56. Reed Here said,

    December 2, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Doug:

    You are shifting the discussion, and avoiding Gary’s initial questions. The issue is not whether or not there is any liberal shift in the PCA. Whether or not it is fair to use such a derogatory label, you do realize that it was the “liberal” camp (more or less) which did not want to bother with the FV issue? It was not folks like Tim Keller who made the FV such an issue that the PCA took action.

    This is either a disingenous ploy, or a demonstration of ignorance for which you are not known. Seriously Doug, this is just deflection. Gary’s given a fair (if not sarcastic :) ) opportunity for you to validly do away with some of our objections. It’s more sympathetic (not much) to say, “it’s no use,” than it is to try to shift the discussion.

  57. greenbaggins said,

    December 2, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    DW, liberal in what sense? One can be liberal on one issue, but conservative on another. The issue of female deacons is not the same issue as justification by faith alone. The GA was conservative on justification by faith alone, contrary to the GA of the Marrow men, who were liberal on the Marrow issue (not liberal on some other issue).

  58. December 3, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Gary, no, I do not believe that the study committees were made up of drifting liberals. I do believe that the GA in the PCA is drifting into liberalism in dangerous ways. Remember that when the liberals captured the mainline Presbyterian church, the vast majority of the ministers were still individually conservative.

    Reed, I agree that Tim Keller was not the driving force here. But which way did he vote? Which way did the squishy-soft majoritarians go?

    Lane, there is a difference between a GA being conservative, and a GA throwing the conservatives a bone.

    Just so everyone knows, this is not a shift in the discussion. Gary has pressed me repeatedly on all the Reformed bodies that have condemned the FV. My reply is two-fold. One is that some of the condemnations were written in a way that I could cheerfully set my signature to them, and so I am not sure how much information they conveyed. Second, councils and synods have erred and do err. That was my sole point on the Marrow men. That GA erred in its neo-nominan liberalism. This GA erred in other ways, and for other reasons. The Westminster Confession was written before the advent of theological liberalism, and so they were not limiting the possibility of error in a synod to liberals only. What do you do when all the bishops oppose Athanasius? or when the mainline Prebyterians wrong Machen? or the GA wrongs the Marrow men? Or when the PCA stacks their study committee like it was a cord of wood? You make a happy little raspberry noise in your heart, and continue on with your kingdom work. You guys need to realize that the mere passage of time will not make that PCA study committee any less risible.

  59. G.C. Berkley said,

    December 3, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    I don’t know, but I think we have a little more clarity in our thinking about theological issues since Athanasius’ day…

    So, I guess no synod condemnation will accomplish anything in this regard. Cuz, well, you can just think to yourself “the committee is as stacked as a cord of wood”.

  60. Brett said,

    December 4, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    “The sad thing about DW and the FV is …a refusal to admit that they are ever wrong -ever.” – GLW Johnson
    For those following this thread, please tell me you see the error in this accusation. Fine… claim that Pastor Wilson refuses to admit error on his FV teachings but this statement is absurd. Let’s think before we hack at the keyboard.

  61. greenbaggins said,

    December 4, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Brett, I have never seen an actual admission that a specific doctrine they had taught was wrong. I have seen many hypothetical admissions of wrong (“oh, if I have ever taught something wrong, I hereby retract,” which is NOT a retraction AT ALL), but no actual admissions of wrong, and I have kept pretty close tabs on the FV for quite a while now.

  62. Paul M. said,

    December 4, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    “And he says, quite rightly, that we frequently underestimate what infants can know. But I want to insist on the salvation of fertilized eggs, as well as infants, and I am quite interested in hearing Lane explain the “non-Bavinck-level” of understanding exhibited by such. I have no trouble saying that incipient faith has the characteristics of incipient notitia, assensus, and fiducia. Emphasis here on incipient, with gratitude that God is the one who judges these things. But if, as Lane insists, some recognizable form of notitia must be present, then he must say that all fertilized eggs, dying at that stage, are damned because they don’t have the intellectual wherewithal. And if these people are saved by some other extraordinary exception, then this means that the rest of us have to “get notitia,” making it something we do, which was my point.”

    Of course, ‘know’ needs to be defined.

    Do we mean something like, “true belief,” and then some extra-condition cashed out in post-Gettier analysis?

    If so, I find this implausible to grant the *actal possession* of to *infants*, indeed, “fertilized eggs.”

    Of course you don’t need to have actual faith (all the knowledge, understanding, etc., stuff included) at every second of your life. If *that* were required, then what if you died while sleeping? Or, in a coma? Or were in a PVS?

    At these times you have *dispositional* faith.

    And that’s how ‘faith’ (or knowlegde) can (should be) cashed out when speaking of “fertilized eggs.”

    It’s a conditional.

    An elect infant *would have* professed faith *if* he attained a certain level of cognative development.

    And of course it’s somewhat funny to read *paedobaptists* (and *Calvinists) taking the “all’s” and “every’s” associated with *actually* “believing in Jesus” and saying that has to be applied across the board.

    Credo: “Repent and be baptized.”
    Paedo: I believe that *adults* should do that.

    Arminian: “He’s the savior of all, especially the elect.”
    Calvinist: All doesn’t always mean all.

    Besides, using *infants* here to make some point about Lane (though I think Lane should change up his language about infants) not believing in justification by actualy professing faith alone strikes me as similar to those who use the “hard” cases in abortion to justify abortion, period.

  63. Brett said,

    December 5, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Greenbaggins, do you know any thing regarding the theological journey of Pastor Wilson? If so, how in the world can you claim he has not admitted error in his teachings. He says above… “And I have admitted that I have been in error on Calvinism, eschatology, baptism, sanctification, liturgy, and much more.” 30 posts later you say “I have never seen an actual admission that a specific doctrine that they had taught was wrong…” Seriously??? Maybe what you meant by “specific doctrine” was baptisms after 3pm on Thursdays. Make an effort to temper the absurdities (post 8) on the anti-FV side and it will be easier for me to listen to reasonable people like yourself.

  64. Reed Here said,

    December 5, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Brett:

    The issue was retractions from DW regarding FV positions. That is what Gary was talking about, and which DW chose to respond in a way that never actually addressed this specific topic.

    A fair question asked, to which DW was free to respond or not. He responded without substance. Your bloviating does not make that an absurdity.

  65. Reed Here said,

    December 5, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Try this:

    DW, a question for you, have you reversed your position on any FV tenet?

    If so, which ones and why did you reverse your position?

    There, straightforward, non-absurd questions. Responses that deal with anything else don’t apply. Any agreement with an anti-FV statement that you think is not addressing an FV position does not apply.

    It is fair for DW not to respond. Don’t waste our time saying such observations are absurd.

  66. Pete Myers said,

    December 5, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Goodness… these discussions really don’t achieve much do they?

    “The sad thing about DW and the FV is …a refusal to admit that they are ever wrong -ever.” – GLW Johnson

    That was the original charge. Clearly Doug has changed his mind on things in the past – HOWEVER – that doesn’t necessarily get to the heart of what (Dr, Rev, … ?) Johnson is saying. Rev Johnson is concerned that – when it comes to the FV matters – DW is not prepared to honestly take on board where he’s wrong.

    At the same time, DW is implying – I think (from reading this thread) – that he honestly, hand on heart, thinks he’s right before God on the issues, and that’s why he wont change his mind.

    Here’s two questions I suggest are put to Doug:

    1) Even though you may disagree with the decisions of many of the Reformed Presbyteries, Doug, have they made you honestly think twice about your position?

    2) Are you prepared to admit you’ve been wrong about anything you’ve held to that’s been thrown up in the whole Federal Vision debate?

    Asking Doug to admit he’s wrong on *everything*, or *most* of it, or even one of the *central* tenents of the FV doesn’t make any sense – why? – because it’s a *whole package*, if he rejects tenent 1, then 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, all fall down together too.

  67. Brett said,

    December 5, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Reed says… “The issue was retractions from DW regarding FV positions.”
    I guess what threw me for a loop was Pastor Johnson’s double use of the word “ever”. But apparently using the word “ever” twice emphatically doesn’t mean quite the same in your region of the United States that it does in mine.

    John: “Billy never tells the truth! Never!”
    Bill: “You’re referring to only when he’s talking about baseball right?”
    John: “Of course! Why in the world would you think otherwise?!”

  68. Pete Myers said,

    December 5, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Brett,

    I think the issue here is, that, Doug probably feels justified in pointing to the track record of his character before the FV thing started. However… it doesn’t feel like a satisfactory answer to the other guys.

    I’m sympathetic to Doug. I feel he gets a hard time. But I can see how him not pointing to an FV issue that he’s changed his mind on would be felt to be unsatisfactory. The point is – that’s the issue NOW, and that’s the issue that everyone cares so much about. It is possible to be humble on lots of things, but then get “stuck in a rut” on one particular hobby horse. That’s why Reed feels the issue is about “retractions regarding FV positions”.

  69. June 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    […] thinks that I am taking him to task because he simply affirms that saving faith must contain the element of […]


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 349 other followers

%d bloggers like this: