Union, Imputation, and Seals

Doug continues our conversation here. I have been on vacation all last week for some strange reason, so haven’t been able to get back to him on this. I will follow the same format as previously, and take a new section of the joint statement, followed by a reply to Doug’s post. My previous handling of the union/imputation section of the joint statement is here. I would say that I have changed in a much more strongly IAOC direction, affirming that it is essential to the WS and the 3FU. I would direct people’s attention to Jeff Jue’s fabulous contribution in Justified in Christ, and to Alan Strange’s equally important article in the 2008 Confessional Presbyterian Journal, both of which articles together completely kabosh the canard that the Westminster Standards do not teach the Imputation of the Active Obedience of Christ (IAOC). No one can responsibly take the position that the WS do not teach the IAOC without dealing with Jue and Strange.

The statement on union and imputation puzzles me for two reasons. The first is that the section seems to affirm the IAOC by saying that Christ is all in all for us, and that everything He has done is credited to us (His life, suffering, and resurrection). This would seem to affirm the IAOC. However, the second paragraph contradicts such an understanding (confirmed by the section entitled “Some Points of Intramural Disagreement,” which clearly states that the IAOC is not essential one way or the other to the FV). Exactly what relationship, then, does the statement of the first two sentences of this section have with the IAOC? How close is it supposed to be? The most important question here is not whether Christ’s righteousness becomes ours. All agree (Roman Catholics included!) that Christ’s righteousness becomes ours. The question is how does this occur? Does it occur in justification by infusion or imputation? If the latter, then how does the first paragraph stop short of the IAOC? The statement seems to give with one hand what it takes with the other. If one states that Christ’s perfect life, death and resurrection becomes ours by imputation, one is saying the IAOC. Incidentally, one of the most helpful discussions of the IAOC is in Hodge’s Systematic Theology, volume 3, pp. 142-150. The upshot of Hodge’s discussion is that Christ’s entire obedience fulfills all the demands of the law for us. I hope that the issue is clear here. Is the statement intended to express the IAOC but allow for loopholes for the other signers?

Secondly, I reiterate my concern (spelled out more fully in my previous handling of the section) with the term “union.” What precisely is meant by union with Christ in these two paragraphs? Absolute saving faith-union that is irrevocable? Or baptismal union that is losable?

Lastly, to answer three questions Doug thinks I have not yet answered: 1. What is a seal? A. A seal is a guarantee of benefit for worthy receivers. It is no guarantee if a nonbeliever breaks the seal by his unbelief. Then the seal becomes a non-seal (unless one wants to say that it seals condemnation). It still says that if the nonbeliever becomes a believer, it seals benefits again. God only can work this faith in a person. If Doug wants to say that baptism seals condemnation to unworthy receivers, I am not sure I would disagree with that.

2. Is baptism a seal of anything for the nonbeliever? A. It should be noted that Doug seems to think that signs and seals do different things. I am not so sure. A sign that says “Bismarck 20 miles” is supposed to be a guarantee that if one continues on that road in that direction, one will come to Bismarck, not to Minneapolis. A seal guarantees that no one has tampered with the letter sealed. A sign is a guarantee just as a seal is a guarantee.  But the promise of benefit is only to worthy receivers (which are only made worthy by the grace of God that comes in the gift of faith). Therefore, if the seal seals anything to unbelievers, it seals condemnation, not salvific benefits.

3. What is the relation of the seal to the thing sealed? A. Is the thing sealed understood to be salvific benefits for believers, or does it also include the condemnation for unbelievers? At any rate, the relation of the seal to the thing sealed is a relationship that the Holy Spirit has forged. And if the the thing sealed is present along with the seal, thus completing the loop, that means that the Holy Spirit has improved the baptism, adding faith by the seed of the Word.

Light on Luke 2

A very common view of what happened in Luke 2 goes something like this: Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem precisely as Mary was giving birth. They searched and searched but could not find hospitality anywhere because it was so crowded. Finally, they find a commercial inn where the inn-keeper (somewhat grudgingly!) gave them a smelly stable because it was all he had left. There are a number of misconceptions about this picture that I would like to correct by summarizing the arguments of Kenneth Bailey’s book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes on this passage.

First of all, we have two translation issues at which we need to look. Firstly, the force of verse 6 is important: “While they were there, the time came for her to give birth” (ESV). Other translations are similar. They came to be registered in the census, not for Mary to give birth. It just so happened that while they were there, the pregnancy ended. Presumably this left Joseph plenty of time to search for adequate accomodations.

Secondly, the translation of verse 7 and the “inn.” There is a word for “commercial inn” in Greek. Luke did not use it here. He used a word which Bailey argues convincingly ought to be translated “guest room.” The guest room would be a normal part of a three-room house, which consisted of a guest room, family room, and, connected by a very short stairway (4 steps), a stable. People of that time kept their animals indoors both for warmth and for protection from theft. But no people would ever be housed in the stable. In other words, Joseph and Mary found a normal house in which to stay. However, the guest room of that house was already full, and so the family with which they stayed made them a part of their family by having them stay in the family room. Nowhere does the text say that Jesus was born in a stable. That is a myth created by centuries of tradition and, unfortunately, many otherwise good hymns. the mangers were actually two or three feet (a la the stairs) higher than the stable, and were troughs cut into the floor of the family room. They were cut low so that the sheep or ox (or any other animal kept there) could eat with relative ease in the middle of the night without stepping in the feed or getting manure into the feed.

And now for some cultural considerations: 1. Joseph was of the family and lineage of David, which was held in high honor. Any descendent of David would be much more likely to receive good  hospitality than bad. 2. Mary was close to giving birth. Women in labor were top priority in the realm of hospitality. Women took care of other women. The idea that Mary would have to give birth in the smelliest part of the house, or worse yet in a commercial inn’s stable is ludicrous, given the standards and importance of hospitality of the first century. 3. Witness the reaction of the shepherds. If the shepherds had come to see Joseph and Mary in a stable, they would certainly have taken them away, saying something like this, “How dare this town give you such a poor reception! We can do better than that!” If the shepherds returned, rejoicing for all they had seen and heard (vs. 20), that would certainly include the level of hospitality that they had seen given to the family. The fact that they returned without taking Mary and Joseph with them indicates that they could not give any better hospitality to the family than what they were already receiving.

Speaking of the shepherds, Bailey reminds us that they were considered very low-class. This fact gives special emphasis to the sign given to them by the angel. Being wrapped in swaddling clothes (like a peasant!), and being placed in a manger (in other words, in a normal person’s house, not a mansion or palace) would give them hope that they could actually see this child and would not be repulsed as being unclean (which they were most of the time, ceremonially speaking). This was a Savior for them. Is He yours as well?

You Should Subscribe

Every thinking Christian owes it to himself to subscribe to the Confessional Presbyterian Journal. You can subscribe by clicking here. Here are some reasons why you should subscribe:

1. Chris Coldwell is the editor. Not only does he work his tail off (at almost no profit!) to get this journal into print (thus indicating a profound labor of love!), but he is also extremely learned in all matters confessional.

2. Even if you absolutely hate confessions and people who like confessions, you still need to know what they are about. This journal is one of the very best ways of finding out what confessionalism looks like. The case is made there as well as it can be made.

3. It is the best confessional journal in print. In my opinion, it even ranks higher than the Westminster Theological Journal and the Mid-America Theological Journal.

4. It is accessible. Even though written according to scholarly standards, the writing is edited to be clear. Any Christian with a decent education can read and profit by this journal.

5. There is a great deal on right now for all four volumes at $50. The page size is large, and therefore you are getting the equivalent of 4 volumes of 500 pages each. And that includes shipping.

6. I am now the reviews editor. I realize that this is reason enough for some of you to run pell-mell in the opposite direction, avoiding it like the bubonic plague (Hey, get back here, you!…). However, my editorship does not start until the ’09 journal (although I did proof a few pieces in the ’08 journal). The ’08 journal includes my very first published work. So all 3 of you who desire to have everything I ever write, this is the necessary first step.

Efficacy Once Again

This time, I feel it necessary to run a whole post in response to Doug without moving on to the next section in the joint statement.

Again, the charge has been made that I am out of accord with the standards on the efficacy of baptism. Again, the charge does not hold up when examined closely.

First point: my examination of the grammar of the WCF, chapter 28 was focusing in my last post on section 1. Doug simply does not address my grammatical interpretation of section 1 anywhere, but throws a grammatical interpretation of section 6 at me. It is impossible to claim victory in an argument if the opponents’ actual arguments are not addressed. So, once more, THIS is my grammatical interpretation: the words “sign and seal” apply to all the items in the series: ingrafting, regeneration, remission, giving up unto God, and walking in newness of life. It would be exactly parallel to saying this: I believe that God is eternal, unchangeable, and infinite in His wisdom, power, glory, blessing, etc. The words “eternal, unchangeable, and infinite” in the first series are intended to apply to all the attributes in the second series. This is what the FV has missed in its reading of WCF 28.1, and what Doug simply does not understand, or refuses to acknowledge.

On to 28.6. The whole question may be entirely summed up in this question: what is the nature of the grace promised, exhibited, and conferred? Is the nature of that grace the sign and seal, or the thing signed and sealed? In this regard, Doug asks what a seal is. A sign is not too difficult for us to understand. A sign points us somewhere. A sign that says “Bismarck 20 miles” will not normally lead us to expect that, if we follow that sign, we will come to Moscow, Idaho in 20 miles. A seal, on the other hand, is more difficult. Here is the WCF’s definition of what sacraments as signs and seals do:

Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and His benefits; and to confirm our interest in Him; as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church, and the rest of the world; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word (WCF 27.1).

So signs and seals represent Christ and His benefits, confirm our interest in Him, put a visible difference between the church and the world, and engage us to serve God. Notice that there is no confusion here between the sign/seal and the thing that is signed/sealed. This section is immediately followed by one of the most helpful confessional statements in the whole of confessional literature on sacraments:

There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other (WCF 27.2).

I think one of the key points here is to ask the question about sacramental language: when we use the term “baptism,” for instance, do we mean to include only the sign, the sign and the thing signified, or the sign, the thing signified, and the sacramental union? Baptism can surely refer to any of these three formulations. I think there is a problem at just this point in Doug’s and my miscommunications with each other on baptismal efficacy.

For our purposes here, then, we can talk primarily about two parts: the sign/seal, and the thing signed/sealed. Now, for those who receive the sacrament in a worthy manner (by the grace of God), the thing signed/sealed will come to pass either before, during, or after the sign/seal. It is inevitable. The thing signed/sealed is regeneration/ remission of sins, newness of life. But the sign itself as distinct from the thing signed/sealed is not regeneration, remission of sins, newness of life, but rather a signpost and a seal of it. Seals were used to close up a letter with wax so that everyone knew who had sealed it. No one had better touch that seal, or there would be serious consequences. God puts His seal upon the baptized as a warning that no one (least of all the person himself!) should tamper with that sign, or serious consequences will result. For believers, then, baptism functions as a clear and visible sign, and a security-inducing seal that God loves us and has called us to be members of the covenant of grace.

There are two equal and opposite errors, then, when it comes to sacraments. The first error is to disconnect completely the sign/seal from the thing signed/sealed. Some Baptists do this, and certainly the Anabaptists do this. If you believed them, there is no connection at all between sign/seal and thing signed/sealed. WCF 27.2 clearly guards against this error. The equal and opposite error is to confuse the sign/seal and the thing signed/sealed. Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and (I believe) FV’ers have done this. They have done this in different ways, of course. For instance, no one is accusing the FV of transubstantiation, which is an idolatrous confusing of sign and thing signified in the Lord’s Supper. Nor have I seen the Medieval interpretation of baptism in the FV, wherein baptism cleanses one from original sin, and all sin thereafter isn’t covered. Rather, the way in which the FV interprets the WCF results in a confusion of sign and thing signified.

This is what I mean: in the first paragraph of the Joint Statement’s section on baptism, there is no differentiation between elect and non-elect. Baptism does the same thing for all people baptized. So, when baptism means that it is into the redemptive-historical Regeneration, it is true for all baptized. There isn’t even any qualification such as “worthy receivers.” The only possible qualifications are the word “obligates” in the first paragraph, and the first three sentences of the second paragraph, which, however, do not qualify the statements in the first paragraph by means of synchronic distinction between elect and non-elect (decretal), but only by means of diachronic distinction. Thus, baptism does the same thing for all in the church. This is what is wrong, since baptism does NOT do the same thing for all in the church. The thing signified in baptism, by the way, is not primarily judgment, but salvation and regeneration. Thus, the decretally non-elect never receive the thing signified. The heart of the sacrament for us is not a duality of judgment/blessing. The heart of the sacrament is the positive side given to us because of the negative side that Christ endured. So, we should say that the heart of the sacrament as it comes to us is grace (if we are of the elect).

Jay Adams Has a Blog!

Over here.

HT: Nick Batzig

The Lord’s Supper and the Sacrament of Baptism

The next section of the Joint Statement deals with the Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to discuss this one very much, since it is necessary to say either nothing, or else an entire book. I have no disagreement with this section except with the issue of paedo-communion, into which topic I shall not foray at this time. I have only one question regarding it: I would assume that affirming the real presence of Christ in the Supper but denying the local presence of Christ means that Christ is present in (or “by”) the Holy Spirit. While this is not stated (and I think it might have been just a little clearer had they done that), it seems to me to be implied. It would be nice to have that confirmed, I suppose. Maybe at a point after this second critique of the joint statement, Doug and I could start on a debate about paedo-communion. Just a thought.

On to Doug’s last reply to me. First issue: is the visible church connected to Christ? In the sense that it is the body of those who profess faith in Christ, it is connected to Christ. But what in the world is meant by “connected” in Doug’s post? I confess to being unable to answer his query unless that word is more carefully defined. It is similar to “formally united.” What does that mean? I could think of ways it could be taken that are orthodox, and ways it could be taken that are heterodox.

Second point: regeneration. I have to admit to being utterly confused by Doug’s second paragraph. For one thing, baptism is spoken of in the WCF as a sign and seal of regeneration in the ordo sense, not in the historia sense. That is because WCF 28.1 (which Doug referenced) never refers to Matthew 19, but only to Titus 3:5 in the proof texts. Titus 3:5 is obviously referring to the ordo salutis when it speaks of “not because of works…but by mercy,” and then in verse 7  talking of justification. Verse 6 is the clincher here: the Holy Spirit is poured out on us in regeneration, clearly referring to the ordo salutis. So, I am still at a loss as to how baptism initiates us into the historia salutis, but not into the ordo salutis, and how it initiates us into the Regeneration (understood redemptive-historically) when there is zero biblical evidence to support that conclusion. I don’t find that in Matthew 19, Titus 3, or WCF 28. Part of the problem here also is the term “into” in the Joint Statement. The Statement says “baptism is into the Regeneration.” If it had said that baptism was a sign and seal not only of a believer’s regeneration, but also of the transition from death to life, which is in turn part of a greater renewal, and that the sacraments remain signs and seals, and that baptism is not necessarily actually initiating us into that renewal, but is rather a sign and seal of it, I could go along with it. But again, the language of sign and seal, which is not only confessional but biblical is nowhere present in the Joint Statement’s treatment of baptism (or the Lord’s Supper, for that matter).

Third point: concerning misrepresentation of the phrase “efficacy not limited to the point of administration.” Let me clarify. Having looked over what I said, I realize that I wasn’t clear. I did not mean that all FV’ers maintain the position that I said was “the FV interpretation.” It was simply an FV interpretation that I had seen. I don’t ever remember Doug advocating it. And I don’t actually remember which FV’er advocated it. I think it was Barach, Meyers, or Horne, one of the three.

But I was heartened to see Lane move closer to the Westminsterian position on baptism than other FV critics have been thus far willing to do. He repeats some of the qualifiers that the Confession gives (those to whom the grace belongs, in His appointed time), but he does appear to acknowledge that this baptismal grace is saving grace, and not just sanctifying grace. It is hard to do otherwise when the Confession says that the grace promised in the sign and seal of baptism (covenant of grace, ingrafting, regeneration, remission of sins, and commitment to walk in newness of life) is really exhibited and conferred on that group of people demarked by all the qualifiers. And for the record, I agree with all those qualifiers. I also agree with exhibited and conferred. Me and the Westminster divines, we’re like that.

This would be amusing if I weren’t banging my head on the wall, which hurts. First is the suggestion that FV critics are by and large nowhere near the Westminster Standards when it comes to baptism, which is frankly ludicrous. Secondly, it is plain as a pikestaff to me that Doug hasn’t understood my position in the slightest. My position is that the grace conferred in baptism is a signing and sealing grace, not a saving grace (if “saving” is understood in the narrower ordo salutis sense of the Philippian jailor’s question). It is a saving grace (in the sense of means of grace) in the sanctificatory sense. That was the whole point of my grammatical analysis of 28.1. WCF 28.1 does NOT say that the grace exhibited and conferred is equal to ingrafting, regeneration, remission, etc. Rather, the grace exhibited and conferred is that the person now has a sign and a seal of all those things. The sign and the seal is not equal to those things. Rather, baptism is a sign and seal of those things. This is how the grammar of the passage works. It says that baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, a sign and seal of ingrafting, a sign and seal of regeneration, a sign and seal of remission of sins, etc. Signs and seals are not equal to the things they sign and seal. Doug needs to reread section 5 of chapter 28 to assure himself that baptism does not equal regeneration, even in those who use the sacrament properly! Regeneration can happen without baptism. And if baptism can be a delayed reaction type of thing (which Doug admits), then baptism does not confer regeneration on people. What baptism represents confers regeneration on people. A very common criticism of the FV is that it ties way too closely together the sign and the thing signified. They must not be separated, or confused. Sacramental language is possible (WCF 27.2). But with the FV, it is usually difficult to know when they are using sacramental language and when they are not. They are not clear.

Lastly, faith once more. The problem that I have always had with the FV position on things is that it flattens out the distinctions among Adam, Christ, and us. I have heard things like this from at least some FV’ers: Adam was saved by faith, Christ was saved by faith, and we are saved by faith. It is as if everything Adam did or believed had to have been the same as what Christ did and believed, which is also the same for us. I was happy to see that Doug agrees that Adam’s object of faith is different from ours. However, problems arise when we start talking about faithful obedience. If Adam would have inherited eternal life on the basis of faithful obedience, and we can only inherit eternal life on the basis of faithful obedience, then there really isn’t any difference between Adam and us except that the object of faith is different. The point I wish to make here is that the Covenant of Works means that Adam would have inherited eternal life on the works principle, in contrast to us, who inherit eternal life on the faith principle, and NOT on the works principle (unless you are talking about Christ’s works). But if one starts talking about faithful obedience, then the categories start to get muddied.

A Reformed Ecclesiology

The last volume of Horton’s four-volume series is a Reformed, covenantal look at the doctrine of the church. It is quite possibly the best treatment of the doctrine of the church that I’ve ever seen. It is not for the faint of heart, as he interacts with postmodernity, culture, philosophy, and theology in one rich feast.

The book is divided into three main parts with an additional introduction. The introduction is quite important, as it sets the context for all that follows, placing the church in its redemptive-historical context between the age of Christ’s presence- now absence, and the Holy Spirit’s absence- now presence. He argues here that this already-not yet structure provides deep resources for addressing the paradigm first posed by Paul Tillich of “overcoming estrangement, meeting a stranger” and the additional “the stranger we never meet.” He argues that a covenantal ontology belongs with “meeting a stranger.” He has challenged many dichotomies as being false in this series (such as legal/relational, atonement/Victor, forensic/participational). Here in ecclesiology we can see that the church is placed in such a way as to address unity/plurality, justified/sinful, already/not yet, eschatological/historical, new world/old world. The church is, in other words a battleground of ideologies.

The first main part deals with the church as a creation of the Word, not the creator of the Word. As such, he rightly and closely connects sacramental theology precisely here, as Word and Sacrament may never be separated.

The second main part deals with the attributes of the church as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

The third main part deals with the eschatology of the church, the direction in which it is headed.

This really covers just about everything of importance, and his interaction with other proposals is deep, appreciative and fair. This is certainly the most important book published on the church in a very long time.

Here are just a few quotations I found helpful:

The nihilistic eros of the consumer society, which seems to have drawn much of American Christianity into its wake, creates a desire that can never be satisfied. Ads and shop windows offer us a perpetual stream of icons promising to fulfill our ambitions to have the life that they represent: a fully realized eschatology. Handing our credit card to the salesperson can be a sacrament of this transaction between sign and signified. Yet this anonymous space of endless consumption is the parady of the palce of promise: true shalom (pg. 59).

All there is to know is “worded” by God in creation, providence, redemption, and consummation. This linguisticality has its deepest ontological source in the Trinity itself, with the Son as the archetypal Word eternally begotten of the Father. Thus, to get behind or above language, one would have to get behind or above God (pg. 41, footnote 17).

Holding on to a few scraps of “sayings” (always ethical), we might focus all of our energies on answering the question, “What would Jesus do?” but then we would have no connection to what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for the ungodly. The church would then be our work, inspired by Jesus, but our work nonetheless (pg. 30).

Republication of the Covenant of Works?

This book says YES!

Love Divine and Unfailing

The newest volume in the Gospel According to the Old Testament series is now out. It is a volume on Hosea, and it is a dandy. It is just the right book to hand out to the people in the congregation as a pastor is preaching through the book, and it is an excellent book to read before preaching through Hosea.

In the introduction, Barrett pegs most people as they “study” the Bible:

Part of the problem in most Bible study is that unless the message is on the surface, the average reader moves on in his reading, kicking up dust until coming across an obvious surface lesson (p. xvi).

Indeed. If only people would persevere in their Bible study, they might be able to make heads or tails out of, say, the Minor Prophets. Barrett promises something better, and he delivers.

He says this about Hosea as a whole: “Understanding the theology of marriage as a biblical symbol and type of God’s relationship to His people and specifically of Christ’s relationship to His church is essential to grasping the significance of Hosea’s experience” (xxi). As a side note, I appreciate the capitalized references to God. It doesn’t appear that very many people do that anymore. However, I think it furthers clarity of thought, especially when pronoun references come thick and fast, and one wonders what is the antecedent of a certain pronoun. It becomes clear when the pronoun is capitalized. This should be done in Bible translation as well.

The book is divided into three main parts: background (entitled “Just the Facts”); “Lifestyle Evangelism” (dealing with the life of Hosea as constituting a message); and “The Sermon,” dealing with the message of Hosea. There is also an extremely helpful appendix dealing with Hosea 11:1 as Matthew 2:15 interprets it.

Here are several quotations that I found helpful: “The Lord was using his whole miserable, tragic experience of personal sorrow and emotional distress to portray a vivid lesson to Israel” (p. 74); (commenting on “wife of whoredom” in Hosea 1:2) “It most likely refers to Gomer’s latent bent toward immorality that surfaced not long after the marriage” (p. 80, in an excellent discussion of the various views on the phrase); “This is a key link to the spiritual parallel: God loves us in spite of what He knows about us” (p. 81); “But even if she was physically attractive, her inward character was so repulsive that loving her made no sense. As amazing as Hosea’s love for Gomer was, it pales in comparison to God’s love for us” (p. 84).

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know why in the world Hosea is in the Bible, and what kind of a message the book is giving to us.

On Baptism

I will follow the same format by looking at a new section, and then responding to Doug’s post.

The next section of the joint statement is on baptism. I will start with a question: what does “formally” mean? In the first sentence of the section in question, the sentence reads “We affirm that God formally unites a person to Christ and to His covenant people through baptism into the triune Name…” (italics original). “Formally” as opposed to what? Vitally? If all is meant here is that baptism puts one into the visible community of the people of God, I agree. However, there are less confusing ways of saying it than “unites a person to Christ,” however qualified. I agree that baptism obliges a person to covenant loyalty to God, which does mean repentance and trust in Christ, as the statement says.

However, the last statement of the paragraph is problematic. For one thing, baptism is nowhere in the context of Matthew 19:28 (which is the only time παλιγγενεσίᾳ is used in this way; cf. BDAG). If anything, faith is the context in the story of the rich young ruler. Entrance into the kingdom is surely described in terms of repentance (repenting of idolatry of wealth) and faith. Baptism is thus not in view here. Therefore I conclude that the Joint Statement illegitimately uses Matthew 19:28 to make its point, which is hence unbiblical. I would only add that the Joint Statement puts a division between the time of Regeneration (or eschatological Regeneration) and personal Regeneration, which is actually refuted by other Scriptures, most notably 2 Corinthians 5:17a, which reads thusly: ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις: The translation should go something like this: “If anyone is in Christ, new creation!” The phrase καινὴ κτίσις (“new creation”) indicates not so much the individual aspect of regeneration, but the global re-creation that comes with the person and work of Christ. Thus, the first part of the quotation indicates the personal aspect of renewal, and the second part of the phrase indicates the global aspect of renewal. The train of thought runs thus: if someone is in Christ, then that is part and parcel (and proof!) of the new creation that Jesus brings. That this interpretation is correct is born out by the second half of the verse: τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά. Translated “the old things are gone; look! the new things have arrived!” So there is an inseparable relationship between the individual and the global aspects of renewal.

What does this mean for the Joint Statement’s take? It means that it is self-contradictory. In the second paragraph, the statement rightly says that baptism does not automatically result in an “effectual call” or rebirth. This would be the individual ordo salutis aspect of baptism being discussed here. However, such an individual aspect must be divorced from the historia salutis, if baptism does in fact initiate one into the eschatological age of renewal of which Matthew 19:28 speaks. In other words, according to this statement, baptism initiates one into the historia salutis, but not into the ordo salutis, according to the Joint Statement.

Lastly, this statement is rather puzzling: “But we deny that trusting God’s promise through baptism elevates baptism to a human work” (italics original). Firstly, why would saying that baptism is a human work elevate baptism? Wouldn’t that rather denigrate baptism? Secondly, is this denial prompted by a critic claiming that the FV’ers are “elevating” baptism to a human work, or is it merely a forestalling of a possible criticism that hasn’t actually been levelled at them?

The statement says absolutely nothing about baptism being a sign and seal of renewal. Rather, it speaks of actual initiation into the historia salutis. See, this is the language of WCF 28.1, which says not that baptism actually ingrafts one into Christ, but that baptism is a sign and seal of a person being ingrafted into Christ. This is clear from the commas and the “of’s.” Thus, the grammar clearly states that baptism is to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, a sign and seal of his ingrafting into Christ, a sign and seal of regeneration, a sign and seal of remission of sins, and a sign and seal of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. So baptism in the WCF is a sign and seal. That is the nature of its grace. Its grace is of a signing and sealing nature. That contextualizes 28.6 which states that the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred. Notice the qualifiers of this statement: 1. only to those to whom the grace belongs; 2. in His appointed time (which means that God’s timing indicates when the grace will take effect). This last phrase gives the lie to the FV interpretation of the first part of the same section. That FV interpretation says that when the WCF says that the efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered, it means not a “delayed reaction” type of thing, but rather a “continuous effect” type of action. It is clear from “in His appointed time” that a delayed reaction type of grace is indicated here, since it is grammatically related to the same grace being conferred. This whole section is a necessary prophylactic against charges which are sure to come that I have abandoned the Westminster Standards in my view of baptism. Rather, it is the FV which has abandoned the confessional understanding of baptism as signs and seals.

Now, to respond to Doug’s post:

Suppose I were to say something like this — would Lane find it acceptable or not? I am honestly asking. “The instrumentality of obtaining the glorified state was faith resulting in staying away from the forbidden tree in the first covenant, and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus in the second covenant. This is non-negotiable.” Of course I agree that the first covenant was conditioned on Adam’s obedience. Of course, just as our salvation is conditioned on Christ’s obedience. But obedience is a human action, and therefore requires human intentionality. That intentionality will either exhibit faith in God or it will not.

I am uncomfortable with this expression for a number of reasons. The most important reason is that is blends together the pre-Fall state of mind of Adam and the post-Fall necessity of saving faith. Whatever one might want to call what Adam knew before the Fall, “saving faith” cannot be it, since Adam needed no saving. Secondly, I still find problematic the idea that Adam had “faith” in the first covenant. Again, if one means notitia, assent, and trust, then Adam had faith. If one means faith as an instrument of laying hold of the righteousness of another, then Adam did not have faith. David Gadbois made a good point in the comments to the previous section. The ground of Adam’s obtaining the final glorified state is his own righteousness. When that failed, Christ obtained it for us. And therefore Christ’s obedience is the ground of our salvation now, and our faith lays hold of it. If the parallel were exact, then Adam would have to have faith in his own works, which simply doesn’t compute.

For the life of me, I cannot see the cash value of insisting that Adam had to have the opportunity of obeying God without an attitude of faith. I just don’t get it.

This is an extension of what I said, not what I said, or even implied. I have already outlined how Adam had “faith,” and how he did not have faith, and why I think saying that Adam would have obtained the glorified state by faith is misleading in the extreme. The question here that I am concerned with is this: on what basis would Adam have obtained the glorified state? Faith isn’t the ground. Adam’s obedience was. That is the material point, because of Christ’s work in the second covenant, securing our glorification NOT by faith, but by works. So, this formulation by no means forbids us from saying that Adam had “faith” in the sense of knowledge, assent, and trust. I merely deny that faith was in any sense the ground of his elevation to the glorified state. The Belgic Confession is helpful here: “Jesus Christ, imputing to us all His merits, and so many holy works which He has done for us and in our stead, is our righteousness. And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with Him in all His benefits, which, when they become ours, are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins” (BC, article 22).

On notitia, Lane wants to insist on its necessary presence, while at the same time leaving room for the salvation of infants. 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.

I think this would be my answer to this: notitia develops organically. In a saved person, whether egg or adult, it is present. It is an egg notitia in an egg person, and it is a chicken notitia in a chicken person (by which I mean an adult, of course, not a coward). Here’s why I say this: notitia is part of the image of God. Everyone knows that God exists. That is implanted in the very nature that we possess. Therefore, an egg can have that as well. And a regenerated egg has that as part of his egg-like faith. A non-regenerated egg has notitia as something it is already trying to suppress in unrighteousness. A notitia that is connected to trust is something that God provides. So, it is not something that we go out and do.

One note on John 15. I do not believe that Doug has answered any of my exegetical points. I am therefore content to let it lie there and in the judgment of the readers as to which one of us has a more biblical understanding of the passage.

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