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).

About these ads

303 Comments

  1. Pete Myers said,

    December 18, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Hehehe, nice little dig in my Anglican direction, Lane ;)

    It does open up a whole host of questions, though… which I’ll fire your way, if I may.

    If we can acknowledge a sliding scale of objectivity in the sacraments, then it probably runs like this… using the Lord’s supper as an illustration. Christ is present in the following ways:

    Roman Catholic (Transubstantiation – the elements are physically his body)
    Lutheran (Consubstantiation – his physical body is present alongside the elements)
    Anglican (Real Spiritual Presence – Christ is really present in the power of the Spirit)
    Anabaptist (Purely Symbolic – it’s just bread, man… Jesus is everywhere isn’t he?)

    ALL of my Anglican friends would call themselves Reformed, read Calvin, and believe what Calvin says about the sacraments in the Institutes (or think we do!). We’d be Presbyterians, some of us, if that were the national denomination. (I’m talking about my Evangelical Anglican mates that is – don’t ask about the rest of ‘em)

    So, may I – cheerfully – ask where your concept of Presbyterianism sacramentalism fits in my little line above? And just how many shades of grey it is away from us Anglicans? And where we’ve been reading Calvin wrong then?

    Oh, and Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley – where are they in relation to where you guys are? That’s a particularly poignant example – as they were all burnt at the stake for disagreeing with Rome on the very issue of the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s supper.

    Sorry if I’ve come in too heavy on a throw away comment :)

  2. greenbaggins said,

    December 18, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I guess I’ve been thinking more of practicing Anglicans, as opposed to the historical documents. As a historical movement, Anglicans were Calvinists in so many ways, including the Lord’s Supper. Calvin’s view is my view. I have no doubt also that many Anglicans today, including, it seems, yourself, have embraced the Calvinistic understanding of Christ’s presence in the eucharist. What I’m referring to in the post is what I’ve seen in practicing Anglicanism: a return to mysticism (and by the way, some sectors of Presbyterianism are going this way as well) and sacerdotalism. It certainly wasn’t a dig at you. But then, the post was also more about baptism than the Lord’s Supper on that particular point, anyway.

  3. Pete Myers said,

    December 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Ah.

    Well if you’re talking about American Episcopalianism… some of us over here are even wondering if secular historians will call that a different religion entirely in a hundred years time or so.

    Liberal Anglicans over here are nice people, but hopelessly, dangerously wrong. Liberal Anglicans over there seem to almost practice voodoo. In fact I’ve heard rumours that some of them do.

  4. Pete Myers said,

    December 18, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    And… I guess I *want* to hold to a Calvinistic understanding of the sacraments. Part of my interest in your blog and Doug’s blog, is to flush out whether my understanding of Calvin is right or not.

  5. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 18, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Doug and Lane separately:

    The discussion about sign and seal has me wrapped around an axle. So for clarification …

    True or False? Explain as needed. (Some of the questions turn on possible ambiguities)

    (1) The grace promised in baptism is the cleansing of sin and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.

    (2) The grace promised in baptism is actually received by baptizees when (and if) they believe.

    (3) Baptism is also (or therefore?) a formal sign of membership in the visible church.

    (4) Baptized unbelievers receive no grace in baptism.

    (5) Baptized infants are cleansed of sin at the moment of baptism.

    (6) We baptize children of believers because they belong to the covenant.

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

  6. Pete Myers said,

    December 18, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Ooooo! Pop quiz.
    Let me see if I get any of these right:

    1) Doug – Yes, sort of… Lane – No
    2) Doug – Yes, Lane – Yes, … both need qualificaiton though
    3) Doug – Yes, Lane – “Depends what you mean by formal membership”
    4) Doug – No, they receive some grace, but it’s ultimately (eternally) gonna make them worse off, Lane – Yes
    5) Doug – No, Lane – No (Interestingly, Augustine – Yes)
    6) Doug – Yes, Lane – Yes, with qualificaiton (they belong to the administration of the covenant).

    Now we get to see if I’ve actually managed to understand anyone in anyway so far…

  7. Stephen Welch said,

    December 19, 2008 at 7:57 am

    In reference to historical Anglicanism The 39 Articles would certainly reject anything that is close to transubstantiation. Contrary to what some may think Reformed people have much in common with our brothers who still affirm the 39 articles. J. C. Ryle is one of my favorite writers.
    Pete, as far as the pop quiz, if Doug and Lane are affirming the same things on baptism what is the issue. I would certainly like some clarification. I would certainly agree with many of us who oppose FV (which was introduced by N.T. Wright) that Doug’s position on number 4 is on shakey ground. This is the issue that creates a real problem for many of us.

  8. Stephen Welch said,

    December 19, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Pete, it is nice to have a true Anglican aboard :-). I went back and read Lane’s entry again and I think he is referring to Anglo-Catholics and not Anglicans such as yourself. I am a minister in Eastern Canada and most of the Anglicans here are not only liberal and reject the 39 Articles but are Anglo-Catholic. Some of them are hard to differentiate from papists.

  9. Pete Myers said,

    December 19, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Steve, Hi!

    I don’t know how much you follow global Anglicanism, but ironically, GAFCON seems to be some kind of mesh between Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals. Now, some qualifications need to be made here – true Anglo-Catholics aren’t what they were in Ryle’s day anymore. But basically, there are reasons for some of us to feel uneasy about GAFCON for those sorts of reasons.

    Having said that, from the way you speak, it sounds as though you’re putting the dangers in a different order to me. Maybe I’ve misunderstood? But that’s interesting… so I’d say this, to “rate seriousness of error”:

    Anglo-Catholicism: level 1 seriously wrong.
    Roman Catholicism: level 10 seriously wrong.
    Liberalism (especially in it’s North American forms): level 1,000,000 seriously wrong.

    That’s not to say that Anglo-Catholicism is somehow ok – it’s to try and express how much MORE seriously wrong Liberalism is, even from Rome. At least Rome and the AC’s are still holding to godly ethical standards like being clear that homosexual practice is a sin… and at least they’re still clear that the Presbyterate is to be reserved for men only.

  10. Pete Myers said,

    December 19, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Steve,

    To try and answer your question in #7.

    They both affirm some things that are the same. They both affirm some things that are similar. There are some things where they just disagree. From my reading of things (which could be flawed!)… they do disagree in some substantial areas – but not necessarily as much as Lane thinks they do. I realise that statement may be a red rag to a bull, sorry if it feels that way.

    More clarification:

    2) They both agree that baptism is actually a means of grace, delivering the grace promised in baptism… but they disagree on what that promised grace is. Doug thinks that the benefits of Christ’s work are imparted through baptism as a means (either before, at or after the baptism if the person is elect). Lane thinks that the promised grace *is* the signing and sealing. That’s why – on the surface – they should both answer yes to that question… but under the hood there’s different things going on.

    4) This issue is the most misunderstood/misinterpreted in this whole discussion it appears to me. Having read Wright, Wilson, and talked to lots of Anglo-Catholics, I don’t think the three are in the same place on this issue. The vast majority of anti-FV stuff I’ve read doesn’t feel like it’s dealing with where the FV really are on this point. It is particularly at 4) that I feel anti-FV guys seem to too quickly draw connections between the FV position and other positions they don’t like, rather than reading the FV on their own terms.

    I fully understand that last paragraph will be annoying to some. I’m not saying it to annoy.

  11. December 19, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Pete, way to go. You understand what I am getting at. And Stephen, the heartburn over “grace” in #4 is understandable, but think of it as the same kind of thing as the word grace in common grace. If we Reformed can see God’s grace in His sovereign government of the unbelieving world, I don’t see why we can’t — so long as we don’t confuse it with saving grace — do the same with the common operations of the Spirit.

  12. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 19, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Doug, are you affirming Pete’s answers to (1) – (6)? Just want to be clear here.

  13. Pete Myers said,

    December 19, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    #12, Jeff,

    I’d warn now, that even if Doug did affirm my answers… trying to sum up the positions with neat yes/no questions may actually cause more confusion, rather than clarification.

    The danger is, always, that you straight-jacket a person into a particular system of thought. A process which often makes things look horribly disfigured afterwards.

    It’s a bit like how my next door neighbour’s son tries to categorise every object into either “car”, “toy” or “telly”. Under those circumstances, trying to explain to him what my baby son Josiah is, was pretty funny.

  14. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 19, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Yes, there is that danger (hence the “explain if necessary” clause). However, I find that True/False questions are very useful at isolating points of agreement and disagreement.

    In this case, I am befuddled by the last three Doug/Lane exchanges and would like to understand exactly where Lane and Doug disagree on the nature of grace promised in baptism.

    I promise to try very hard not to straight-jacket either one.

    Jeff Cagle

  15. Reed Here said,

    December 19, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Pete, Ref 11 (1 of 2):

    Yes, this is how I’ve understood Doug and the FV to be speaking. In fact, I would say that most of the anti-FV critics here well understand this.

    Doug is taking an area of reformed theology which has does not get discussed often, that of the common operations of the Spirit in the Elect (ECM) and Non-Elect Covenant members (NECM).

    There is no misunderstanding here Pete. In fact about a year ago we had a rather lengthy discussion on the nature of “temporary faith”, a topic at the heart of the idea of the common operations of the Spirit. See these links here (this is what I posted previously for you to review):

    Justifying Vs. Temporary Faith, Part 1
    Justifying Faith Vs. Temporary Faith, Part 2
    Justifying Faith Vs. Temporary Faith, Part 3

    Doug (the FV) would maintain that we do not understand what they are saying because we use key terms in a more narrow fashion than does Scripture. Thus we argue they are saying things they are not saying because of our own “narrowness” error.

    We, on the other hand, argue that we are doing no such thing, and that Doug (the FV) equivocates in its use of terms, and such equivocations violate the teaching of Scripture. If I might give one example, John 2 references a couple different types of belief. We equivocate when we do not account for these differences (I’m not making any argument for or against the FV, just offering an illustration).

    It would be nice for Doug (the FV) to offer broader acknowledgement that we “get it,” even if we disagree. That is, we do understand what they are trying to say. We simply believe that they do not recognize that they are equivocating.

  16. Reed Here said,

    December 19, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Pete, Ref 11 (2 of 2):

    It would be nice for Doug (et.al.,) to acknowledge we do understand what he is talking about here with reference to his common operations of the Spirit reference.

    To offer whatever conciliatory words possible, we agree that this is a principle taught in Scripture, to wit that the Spirit does operate in non-elect covenant members in manners that at the very least appear to be the same elect covenant members. For clarity, we use these definitions:

    Elect Covenant Members (ECM): those whom the Spirit operates to unite them to Christ and give an eternal experience of all the blessings of the Covenant of Grace.

    Non-Elect Covenant Members (NECM): those whom the Spirit operates to give them an experience of blessings that are at least similar to those experienced under the Covenant of Grace.

    You will note that the last definition is not exactly parallel to the prior one. This gets right to the heart of the issue. Doug (the FV) wants to maintain that the NECM experience blessings under the Covenant of Grace, but that theirs is a temporary experience. Most often, the FV argument is structured to say that the NECM experience all the blessings of the Covenant of Grace (some individuals may hold particular scruples), excepting perseverance.

    This does get to the critical issue: how is the Spirit’s work in the ECM differentiated from that in the NECM. It is here, I believe, that Doug (the FV) makes the critical error; and which I believe if corrected might resolve a lot of the differences (at least I hope).

    With reference to this question, there are two basic options:

    1. The Spirit’s work in both the ECM and the NECM flows from the Covenant of Grace, or
    2. The Spirit work in the elect is of the Covenant of Grace (CoG), while the work in the non-elect is not.

    Imagine the Venn diagram. Option no. 1, the position of the FV, has two subsets (ECM & NECM) contained in the larger set (CoG). Under this scheme, common operations of the Spirit is the term for the NECM’s experience of the CoG.

    1. One set with two subsets: (CoG blessings: [ECM: complete, eternal]; [NECM: partial, temporary])

    Option no. 2, the position of the FV critics, has two different sets: the Covenant of Grace, and the Common Operations of the Spirit (COS).

    2. Two sets: (CoG blessings: [ECM: complete, eternal]); (COS [NECM: partial, temporary])

    Does this help at least note the nature of the differences? Option 1 says both ECM and NECM experience the same Christ in the same way, with the only difference being that the NECM will lose their experience of Christ.

    Again, it would be nice for Doug (the FV) to admit he is understood by his critics.

  17. Stephen Welch said,

    December 19, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Pete, living in Nova Scotia I am very well aquainted with GAFCON. I believe J.I. Packer and Ed Hird are part of this organization. Some like Ed Hird are charismatic, but I think the majority of those in GAFCON would be evangelical. I am not sure I understand all of your argument but when I refer to Anglo-Catholics I mean those who would affirm particulars of the Oxford movement; ornate vestments, high liturgy, ritual, apostolic succession, Mariology, and a more Romanish sacramental system. My point is that historically Anglicans would be closer in theology and practice to those of us in the Reformed tradition, obviously with the exception of church government. I would agree that Rome is orthodox on issues of morality, but many of us in the Reformed tradition would consider it a false church, therefore I don’t see Romanism as more seriously wrong than liberalism. They are both a stench in the eyes of God.

  18. Stephen Welch said,

    December 19, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Correction to number 17: “therefore I don’t see Romanism as less wrong than liberalism.”

    Sorry for the error. My finger hit the submit comment box too quickly.

  19. Stephen Welch said,

    December 19, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    To # 11: Thanks Doug for your input. Let me say first off that I have an issue with the term “common grace” (no I am not Protestant Reformed). I prefer the term providence but I will not deviate onto another topic. I think when we are talking about saving grace we affirm what the Scriptures teach that God grants saving grace to all the elect through the means of faith. I understand what you mean by common operations of the spirit, but this is not what I understand FVisionists to say. This has not been clarified in the past and this is what causes the heartburn. God only grants saving grace to the elect. Baptism is a sacrament that calls members of the visible church to lay hold of the promises of God by faith. If the one baptised never comes to faith he is condemned. Grace is contingent on trusting in Christ and his promises.

  20. Stephen Welch said,

    December 19, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Thanks Reed for your last two entries. This is the problem with the FV, that its critics misunderstand them. How can we misunderstand something that is clearly stated. This had been the problem with the FV and continues to remain the problem that they are not always clear on things and use language that goes beyond Scripture.

  21. Pete Myers said,

    December 19, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Ok, there’s a few things that I feel I’d like to, and should, respond to here. I’ll try to do a different issue for each comment.

    Firstly, though, thanks to Steve and Jeff – good stuff from both of you. Thanks to Jeff in particular for that explanation. And thanks, Jeff, for pointing me to those posts. I have to say that I couldn’t find where you’d pointed them to me previously, sorry about that.

  22. Pete Myers said,

    December 19, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    #17 Steve, on Anglo-Catholicism,

    I’m using permeable definitions here, sorry if that’s unhelpful. GAFCON is great in many ways. But both in the CofE, and in Anglicanism internationally, we (evangelicals) are making uneasy alliances.

    I think you can distinguish between degrees of gospel error. Two errors may be gospel errors, but, one can be more serious than the other. Some examples:
    1) One error can immediately result in more temporal evil than another… e.g. liberalism is essentially less ethical than Romanism.
    2) One error can be more “infectious” than another… e.g. liberalism can move across tradition boundaries quite easily.
    3) Anglo-Catholicism strikes at the doctrines of salvation. Liberalism strikes at the doctrines that underpin our ability to understand and accept the doctrines of salvation. Liberalism thus has a corroding quality that will last for generations.
    4) I think, humanly speaking, there’s more hope that true faith among the laity will remain more intact under an Anglo-Catholic ministry than under a Liberal ministry.

  23. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 19, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    That was Reed. :)

  24. Pete Myers said,

    December 19, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Reed, – thanks.

    Yeah, Jeff, sorry, it’s late here, 12am (I’m staying up because our son’s ill, and I’ve got to feed him every hour… I’m not obsessed by this!)

  25. Reed Here said,

    December 19, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Pete:

    See no. 15. The links did not stick when I first posted the comment. I’ve fixed it so you can get to them.

  26. Pete Myers said,

    December 19, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Reed,

    Thanks… when I said “couldn’t find” – I meant that when you had previously pointed me to the “posts you asked me to read” – I really honestly did search and search and couldn’t find where you’d *listed* those posts (that’s not to imply you hadn’t).

    I’m actually reading through the comments section of the first post now – I was able to find them given the titles – but having the links will save me time :)

    Can I just say, Reed, that from what I’m reading on those comment threads, you are engaging with people in a remarkably godly and irenic way.

  27. Reed Here said,

    December 19, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Thanks Pete. Yet I too have my moments of weakness and sinfulness. Still, Christ is sufficient.

  28. Pete Myers said,

    December 19, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Reed,

    I made your Venn: http://www.metepyers.com/spirit_operation.png
    Hope that helps someone.

    Ok, some things to say here.

    1) My view of the FV is essentially a view of Doug Wilson… he’s the one I’ve read the most of… that’s not to say I haven’t read others, but – basically – if I take, understand, or think-I’m-engaging-with a “Federal Vision” position, it’s gonna be Doug’s. I think simply by saying that it will be very useful context for you.

    I find Doug a phenomenally helpful and insightful bloke.

    2) I *don’t* think that Justifying Faith is the same as Temporary Faith. I find the concept of Temporary Faith a very useful category, and is one of the things I’ve felt is a great helpful higlight/insight of the FV for me personally. But I feel very uncomfortable with people saying that they’re the same except for perseverance.

    Now here I have a problem, though. Because Doug doesn’t think that JF and TF are the same except for perseverance. At least if I’ve understood him correctly that’s the case. I find myself hard pressed to believe that Jim Jordan does. The stuff I’ve read of Jordan has been really amazing (I have his commentary on Daniel).

    If he *does* believe that JF and TF are the same (bar perseverance), then I think he’s wrong… and I don’t understand why Doug doesn’t say “Yeah Jim’s wrong there – and that’s a very unhelpful thing to say. Come on Jim…” But I’d need to be pointed to something of Jordan’s where he addresses this.

    3) Putting those confusions aside for a moment, then, and just talking about Doug, (being I’m a “Wilsoner” rather than an FVer), I don’t think this is fair to Wilson:

    “Option 1 says both ECM and NECM experience the same Christ in the same way, with the only difference being that the NECM will lose their experience of Christ.”

    So I think Doug would say that the ECM and the NECM experience the same Christ, in a different way.

    But let me move onto where I currently am. Using Hebrews 6v4-6,

    “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”

    “Taste” is used in 2v9 to describe Christ who “tasted death” for everyone. I haven’t got the greek to hand, neither do I know how to post greek in these little comment boxes. But you can check that. But, the point is, I think “taste” is to emphasise the reality of the experience, rather than cast doubt on it.

    The things which the reprobate has fallen from are real, and they are left unable to return to the reality. These things are: repentance, enlightenment, heavenly gift, Holy Spirit, goodness of God’s Word, powers of the age to come.

    In order:
    – repentance – they were living for Christ as their King
    – enlightenment – they did understand the gospel
    – heavenly gift – I *do* equivocate on what this means, let’s say that it’s a genuine experience of *rest*, now.
    – Holy Spirit & powers of the age to come – I think this is the work of the Holy Spirit, in the covenant of grace, to make people more like Christ, in a limited way. I realise that’s vague (for brevity)… ask me more about it if you want.
    – goodness of the Word of God – experiencing all of those benefits, this person KNOWS the gospel is good for them.

    However – precisely the very thing missing here is *faith*. In fact faith that proves itself in loving good works. So the writer to the Hebrews goes on to explain that he is confident that they are people who have faith – it is those with faith who inherit the promises (6v12)… and how does the writer know that? He can’t see into their hearts – because of the demonstration of that faith in their work and love (6v10).

    Let me put this in terms of faith… and therefore put this in a much more human perspective. I think that temporary faith has notitia and assensus, but not fudicia. I think that justifying faith has notitia, assensus and fudicia.

    All the benefits that come from the Covenant of Grace, to the non-elect member, are benefits that are tied to notitia and assensus.

    They know (notitia) and believe (assensus) Christ is Lord, and have renounced evil and turned to him. But they’re not trusting him (fudicia).

    They know the gospel (notitia) and believe it (assensus), but they don’t trust the gospel (fudicia).

    Their view of the world, and understanding is brought some relief by the great truths of the gospel… but because they’re not embracing that with trust, when their experience goes downhill, or when something that looks like a better offer comes along – then fall away (seed on rocky ground and seed among thorns).

    Some of this right thinking leads them to behave in a much wiser way that is more in line with who God is. Thus they appear more godly. However, there’s a certain zest missing from this apparent “obedience”. They fit very nicely into the sentiment of Ecclesiastes 7v16-17.

    So… this Reprobate Covenant Member (covenant member because they have signed on the dotted line to Christ being their king) looks, feels – and even thinks, incredibly like an Elect Covenant Member. I think that’s the entire point of Hebrews 6 – it’s supposed to be harrowing.

    But there is a fundamental difference between the RCM and the ECM – fudicia. And therefore love.

    Well, there you go Reed. Now help me see how I’m wrong :)

  29. Pete Myers said,

    December 19, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    FIDUCIA, sorry not FUDICIA.

    Goodness it’s late and I’m tired. But that’s just a smokescreen – to be honest my Latin is rubbish, that’s all it is… rubbish Latin.

  30. Kyle said,

    December 19, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Reed & Pete,

    I’d want to put a big “visible church” (or “external covenant”?) circle around both sets in Opt. 2, I think.

  31. Reed Here said,

    December 19, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    Ref. 28, Pete:

    You are right: Doug (the FV) will not say that justifying faith is the same as temporary faith. In fact, they will make it quite clear that they are not the same.

    You need to add one critical thing, something which should be obvious from the Venn diagram. Doug (the FV) has maintained that the temporary beneifts experienced by the NECM are the same benefits as experienced by the ECM. I.e., temporary faith is a temporary justifying faith.

    The same goes for all other benefits. The NECM experience temporary: election, justification, faith, repentance, etc. Assuming the Venn diagram is accurate (as far as it goes), the FV only has two options:

    1. An arminian understanding of the covenant of grace – this is something the FV categorically rejects.
    2. A calvinistic understanding of the CoG for the ECM, and an arminian-like understanding of the CoG for the NECM.

    I think the second option is where the FV ends up. Admittedly they will not agree. Yet consider that both the FV and arminianism holds that a real experience of the CoG can be lost. The FV differs in that it maintains that this can be lost because the NECM are not given the benefit of perseverance.

    This is why some critics have concluded that the FV is yet a new version of arminianism.

    All that aside, consider discipling your congregation using this system. What hope do they have? The FV has spent much ink arguing against a subjective Christianity, searching internally for confirmation of one’s elect status. The FV opts then for an objective basis, teaching their people to pursue the obedience of faith.

    Even with all the qualifications in the world, this ends up teaching the Christian to look to their own obedience for assurance. Again, I recognize the qualifications the FV will bring to bear. The problem is that when you teach the Christian to look to anyone else other than Christ you invariably introduce a host of problems.

  32. Reed Here said,

    December 19, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Kyle: Absolutely. I knew some more qualifications were needed. I just got a little tired, and ran out of time. I was hoping the prior conversations would be sufficient to note that Covenant Member was short-hand for external/Visible Church. But your qualification is critical, in that this is a key distinction blurred by the FV.

  33. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    December 19, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    On the Anglican question:

    When I was in New England, my wife and I attended an Anglican church for a few months. The majority of folks I spoke with there were largely Calvinist in sacramentology, whether they knew it or not. My inclination is that this is probably the case with the majority of Anglicans who would not describe themselves as “Anglo-Catholic”.

  34. Kyle said,

    December 19, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Pete,

    If I may also suggest this thread:

    Startup with Xon [Hostetter]

    I don’t believe Xon has ever fleshed out his argument (most unfortunately). IMO, it is quite emblematic of the whole FV controversy to date.

  35. jared said,

    December 19, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    Reed,

    You say,

    Yet consider that both the FV and arminianism holds that a real experience of the CoG can be lost. The FV differs in that it maintains that this can be lost because the NECM are not given the benefit of perseverance.

    This is quite an oversimplification. The “benefit” of perseverance isn’t the only thing the NECM lacks. It should not be problematic that a NECM loses his real experience of the CoG, it’s kind of part and parcel to the whole visible church thing. Every member of the visible church has had a real experience of the CoG, though not all experience it fully/completely (i.e. savingly). Contrast this with Arminianism in which even those who have (supposedly) experienced it fully/completely can still fall away. Under the Arminian scheme one can lose genuine salvation. The FV’ist does not say the NECM has genuine salvation even though they have similar experiences as ECM via the common operations.

  36. curate said,

    December 20, 2008 at 2:02 am

    no. 35

    I am one FVer who believes that the true apostate does indeed have genuine salvation.

    If not, an entire line of argument in the Hebrews is a non-sequitur.

    The danger of falling away, according to the author, is that there can be no restoration. Restoration would need another cross of atonement, since the apostate has thrown away the benefits of the first and only cross.

    Since it is given to (the) man to die only once, Christ cannot die again for the apostates sins!

    All that is left is a certain expectation of the fire that will consume the adversaries of God.

    If, as is being argued here, the apostate never participated in the benefits of the cross, this argument collapses. The cross has not been slighted, and thus the apostate never was an apostate at all.

    There is therefore every opportunity for him to repent and be saved, because he never was saved at all.

    In this way a central biblical reason for persevering despite trials and persecutions is rendered null and void.

  37. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 5:14 am

    Reed,

    Laying aside the whole FV position for a moment, and taking one concept in isolation:

    The reason I outlined my view of Hebrews 6 is because I partly agree with curate in #36. I agree insofar as the apostate has to have participated in some real benefits of the cross, in order for those benefits to be slightly, and hence making subsequent re-repentance impossible.

    However, in my exegesis of Hebrews 6, I used the passage to outline what benefits the apostate had received when he was in the Covenant of Grace.

    The point is, that, I want to say – with you Reed – that the apostate who is currently a member of the Covenant of Grace, does not have all the same things that an elect member of the Covenant of Grace does – but only temporarily. The things I think they do have are: repentance, enlightenment, heavenly gift, Holy Spirit, goodness of God’s Word, powers of the age to come, belief (i.e. notitia and assensus). Crucially, the things I think they DON’T have are: unity with Christ, with it’s associated benefits (i.e. justification, regneration, etc.)

    But I also want to say, with curate, that the benefits the apostate has do come from the Covenant of Grace.

    Unity with Christ: the baptised apostate with temporary faith both appears to be united to Christ, and, in calling Christ his king, is like a sojourner in the Kingdom. But – he’s not spiritually united to Christ – Ephesians 2 just isn’t true of them.

    Pastorally, I warn my congregation of the genuine dangers of apostasy. I warn them with the harrowing images of Hebrews 6 that describe how an apostate has some sort of genuine experience of Jesus, and has genuinely benefitted from the Covenant of Grace. I warn them that these warnings should make them sit up, pray, examine themselves, yearn for deeper teaching about Melchizedek, and cast themselves on the living God.

    Then… I encourage them, by affirming that I can see their love… reminding them of the times when they were persecuted, or suffered, for Christ, and how Christ faithfully held onto them and pulled them through, and that God is just, and therefore will not/cannot let them go. I tell them that gives me great confidence that they are those of faith, who will patiently wait until Christ comes to get them.

    I’m now totally confused where I am here.

    Am I actually, essentially, agreeing with you Reed?
    Or am I actually, essentially, putting forward an FV position?
    Or am I in some kind of third way?

    Either way – can you see how it’s possible to affirm that an apostate has received New Covenant blessings, but not be the same as an Elect Covenant Member?

  38. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 5:15 am

    #37, second paragraph should read:

    “in order for those benefits to be slighted” (as in rejected/cast aside).

    Sorry, I don’t know why I’m making all these typos – I even proof-read my comments, and still don’t spot them.

  39. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 5:22 am

    #34, Kyle,

    Yeah, in reference to the thread on Xon, it appears that on this thread I am trying to offer precision on

    1) what he calls the “actual good things” that the elect and non-elect recieve from the covenant.
    2) in what senses a non-elect person can be united to Christ.

    This thread has now turned into me (an FV sympathiser, who’s maybe not that clever) trying to work those things through with Reed (an anti-FV, who’s probably cleverer than I am).

    By the end of this process, I’m expecting either:
    a) Reed to have become FV.
    b) Me to have become anti-FV.
    c) Lots of clarity, and added precision to this part of the debate, where we establish the boundary lines more clearly.

    Or some sort of mixture of those things.

  40. David Weiner said,

    December 20, 2008 at 6:56 am

    no. 36

    I am one FVer who believes that the true apostate does indeed have genuine salvation.

    How many of a person’s sins are covered when he/she receives ‘genuine salvation?’ Ans: ALL of them!
    At ‘genuine salvation’ God says He is reconciled (eternally) to the believer and when He says this He knows all about the ‘apostasy’ that the person has not yet committed. He is satisfied eternally and yet you give the poor believing sinner the power to change God’s unchangeable mind. What amazing power the FV gives to us weak humans.

  41. GLW Johnson said,

    December 20, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Curate
    You do know that your opening remark in #36 reveals what many of us over here have long thought- the FV a banana peel on the slippery slope into the ditch of Arminianism-you are at the bottom.

  42. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 20, 2008 at 7:19 am

    The Federal Vision typically divides into so-called “dark” and “lite” over the experience of the NECMs (where “lite” and “dark” are as in “Guiness”). The “lite” side, which I believe includes DW and the FVers in the PCA, holds that NECM has an experience that springs from common grace and imitates the salvific benefits to the ECM. For the “lite”, the subjective experience of salvation and the subjective experience of apostasy can be the same, even though there is a real and objective internal difference between them.

    The lite side can easily make the case that he stands within the Confession; but the pastoral concerns that Reed indicated in his penultimate para of #31 still remain.

    The “dark” side holds that the NECM is marked from eternity to be lost, so that he experiences a real salvific grace of God *except* for receiving perseverance. The NECM can receive the indwelling Holy Spirit and even a temporary forgiveness of sins, but does not receive at any time the grace of persevering. This side has more difficulty making a clear case for being in conformity with the Confession.

    Hope that helps,
    Jeff

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 20, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Clarification: The lite side can easily make the case that he stands within the Confession … on the issue of justification. The issue of the church is another matter.

  44. curate said,

    December 20, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Jeff, if I am reading you aright, the apostate received genuine benefits from the cross, which is why he cannot receive them again after falling away. But he did not have faith, and was never truly saved.

    With no hint of irony or mockery then, there are thus two categories of benefits to be had from Christ – salvation proper, and other the benefits which you have listed that do not include salvation!

    I must confess that it had never occurred to me that Jesus died to give some people one class of benefits, and other people a different class of benefits.

    One cross, two different categories of benefits.

  45. curate said,

    December 20, 2008 at 8:01 am

    no. 42

    The concerns that you mention, about not looking to one’s works in addition to the cross leading to loss of assurance, sounds to me like a kind of baptistic once-saved-always-saved, hyper-Calvinist antinomianism.

    Seriously.

    It is a false piety to tell someone to look to the cross alone for their salvation. Justification is by faith alone, but assurance is a different thing.

    It seems to me that it is falsified by a simple reading of scripture. Works are absolutely one source of assurance. Read I and II Peter. Faith without works cannot save. The end.

  46. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 20, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Hi Roger,

    In #42, I’m trying to outline the difference between various FV positions, not my own.

    My own view is that apostates receive benefits from God’s common grace, but not from the cross, much as Saul received a kind of influence of the Spirit yet without ever repenting. I think that avoids your critique in #44.

    Re: #45. I haven’t really laid out a complete position here, so it may be a bit confusing.

    In point of fact, I have no problem with our works functioning as a cumulative encouragement of assurance. I think this is implied in WCoF 18.1, 3 by the phrases “endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him…” etc.

    So let me dispute your last sentence, “The End.” I think more needs to be said in order to distinguish not two, but multiple different views.

    I’m open to correction on the labels, BTW.

    On one view, put forward by Ryrie and Z. Hodges, we are saved by grace through faith, “The End.” For them, grace is not free if we have any whiff of works being used as assurance of our salvation.

    I fully agree that this view is blatantly and obviously in contradiction to the Scriptures.

    On yet another, the standard “Lordship Salvation” model, we are saved by grace but we can look to our works as an objective metric of our salvation.

    On still another, the standard “Sonship” model, we are saved by grace and our works reveal our continued need for repentance and a return to the cross. The use of works as an objective metric is acknowledged as a possible help, but caution is entered to not make too much of works or confuse them with a cause.

    On still another, the “NPP” model, we are saved by faith as the entrance badge into the Covenant; but we maintain our position through our works.

    If we summed up the concern about the FV, especially FV “dark”, it is that it sounds too much like the NPP model.

    But note that none of the models save the first is actually anti-nomian. Rather each one affirms the Christian’s obligation to the Law.

    Jeff Cagle

  47. Reed Here said,

    December 20, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Jared and Pete:

    Just one thought in response at this point (I promised my wife a hard day of focusing on other pressing needs).

    When we talk about the experience of the CoG by the ECM as opposed to the NECM, it is essential to keep in view the distinction between internal/external, inwardly/outwardly, visible/invisible, or to use the Bible’s most common terms, fleshly (this world order)/Spiritual (next world breaking into this world). That the FV wants to drop (in some cases) or at least re-define these terms is problematic. If you come to the FV arguments with these distinctions in view, you will assume things that the FV is not necessarily saying (and in some cases explicitly denying).

    Note in my distinctions that we are talking about the Spirit in His role as the One who applies the benefits of redemption. This is where the Venn diagram distinctions are critical:

    > Is it that the NECM and the ECM both experience the Spirit’s application of the beneifts of redemption (fully for ECM, partially/temporary for the NECM, no intention to provide an exhaustive list here Jared)?

    – OR –

    > Is it that the Spirit applies the benefits of redemption only to the ECM, and the Spirit applies, not the benefits of redemption, but benefits that a common to both (i.e., similar) yet are actually not from the CoG (inwardly, spiritually apprised)?

    The FV maintains the former. Roger is very consistent here.

    Without disrespect to Roger, I do agree with Gary’s assessment. This position slides into a form of arminianism. Note the what the FV has constructed is two different experiences of the Spirit’s application of the benefits of redemption:

    1. The ECM experience the traditional calvinistic never to be lost ordo salutis version.
    2. The NECM experience a modified calvinistic eventually to be lost ordo salutis version.

    The professing Christian is urged to look to his walk of faith, and measure it by his obedience, in order to achieve some hope that he is of no. 1, not no. 2. Meanwhile, John says, “they went out from us because they never were of us.”

    As to Heb. 6 we’ve debated the exegesis of this passage many times here. We remain divided between those who see apostates as ones who experienced the Spirit’s application of the benefits of redemption temporarily (FV), and those who see the apostates as ones who experienced common operations of the Spirit’s work that never was an application of the benefits of redemption.

    Jared, Pete, I second Kyle’s recommendation of the discussions with Xon Hosteter. It was, for the most part very congenial and informative.

  48. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 10:40 am

    #47, Reed.

    fyi: I’ve started looking through that Xon discussion already.

    Reed: I’m struggling to now see how your comment really pulls the conversation along from what I’d said in #28. Sorry if that’s just me being a little dim.

    So, where I’m perceiving the anti-FVs standing: (position A)
    1) Blessings for NECM are not from the CoG, but from Common Grace.
    2) There’s a distinction in the fundamental nature between what the ECM and NECM experience , not just a distinction in the amount of time they keep the blessings for.
    3) This distinction is between the visible/invisible.

    Here’s what seems to be both attributed to the FV, and what some FVers in this conversation are saying: (position B)
    1) Blessings for the NECM are from the CoG.
    2) Fundamentally the NECM and the ECM experience the same blessings, but the NECM only receive them for a limited amount of time.
    3) The visible/invisible distinction is the big error the anti-FVers are making.

    However, I’m not in either of those spots – so correcting me as though I’m in the FV position is talking past me slightly (I realise that’s unintentional, and the conversation is complicated): (position C)
    1) I think blessings for the NECM *are* from the CoG… but they’re only the blessings that take place as side effects of the eternal blessings (the ebs are not in any way passed to the NECM either now or ever.)
    2) There *is* a fundamental difference between the blessings the NECM and the ECM receive. But the difference is not that one is from the covenant and the other isn’t.
    3) The distinction is between fleshly/spiritual (this world and next world). Which are not synonymous with the visible/invisible category. So the NECM can have invisible (but fleshly) blessings.

    Finally – I don’t think Doug could be fairly summarised by position B.

  49. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2008 at 10:44 am

    One of the most incredibly important things to define here is the nature of the covenant of grace. Is it the case that the covenant of grace has no relation to decretal election whatsoever, and that there are people who are part of the covenant in its substance, but not decretally elect? Or is it the case that the covenant of grace is made with Christ and in Him the elect? The latter position is not necessarily Baptist, as Westminster Larger Catechism 31 proves: Q. With whom was the covenant of grace made? A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

    The reason this position is not Baptist is that there is a distinction to be made between the *substance* of the covenant, on the one hand, and the *administration* of the covenant on the other. Scott Clark would use language like “inner” and “outer.” This distinction is at the very least parallel to, if not identical with the visible/invisible church distinction. “Not all Israel are of Israel,” as Paul would say. So right here there is a significant challenge to the FV definition of “non-elect covenant member.” The WCF definition would rather be “non-elect visible church member.” It is of the essence of Calvinism to say that non-decretally elect folk never receive saving benefits of any sort. They receive common operations of the Holy Spirit, which often look like saving benefits, but are not the same thing. The whole point here is this question: what do the non-elect members of the visible church receive? I think that question is at the nub of the whole FV controversy. And it is a complete denial of Calvinism to state that they had saving benefits, and then lost them.

  50. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I should add a further argument here, one that I have made before:

    1. Forgiveness of sins requires the forgiveness of all sins.

    2. Original sin is part of all sin.

    3. Therefore the forgiveness of sins requires the forgiveness of original sin. The two are **inseparable.**

    4. Forgiveness of original sin implies regeneration.

    5. Therefore forgiveness of sins implies regeneration.

    6. Therefore, anyone who has their sins forgiven is also regenerated.

    7. Therefore, anyone who is not regenerated does not have their sins forgiven.

    8. The non-decretally-elect are never regenerated.

    9. Therefore the non-decretally-elect never have their sins forgiven, even temporarily.

  51. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Lane,

    Helpful, thanks. Can you just sketch out for me the difference between the Covenant of Grace the New Covenant?

    I think I may be moving towards you here.

    Specifically:
    Is the church defined by “the New Covenant”… and only some of those in the New Covenant are members of the Covenant of Grace. On the last day, those in the NC and the CoG will be synonymous… right now they’re not.

    Could I then say that non-elect can receive some of the NC blessings (no way near all of them – nor forgiveness of sins, i.e. the one that matters… I’m not claiming that), but the non-elect receive no blessings from the CoG?

  52. Reed Here said,

    December 20, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Pete:

    At this point I sense a lot of repeating going on that might be better answered by the previous discussions here. No intention to ignore you. Rather, as I look at the kinds of questions you are asking, I realize that I need to deal with more fundamental issues first, before the questions you ask can be answered.

    Take for example, your observation that the NECM blessings “are” from the CoG , albeit “side” blessings (your no. 1), but these blessings are not from the CoG (your no. 2). There appears to be a lot of clarification on how to reconcile these, or there needs to be a lot more thinking to qualify so that the obvious contradiction is removed from your profession.

    Again, suggestive to me that you will benefit from a lot more reading on the subject.

    Also, I think Lane’s “correction” of terms here is essential, and I ask that my comments be accordingly revised: ECM = Elect Visible Church Member (EVCM), whereas NECM = Non-elect Visible Church Member (NEVCM).

    I do recognize there is a sense (externally, fleshly viewed) in which the NEVCM are in covenant, but what the FV means by this is dramatically different from what the reformed standards mean by this. Accordingly, even though the FV eschews the visible/invisible distinction, I think Lane’s correction is helpful.

    Jared, Pete, Lane’s last comment is also very, very helpful in working through what we perceive to be the problems with the FV. We do recognize that the FV does say a lot of the same things we do, e.g., only the elect get to heaven, yet in that the FV will equivocate in what such terms as elect mean, mere assertion of the correct formulations while maintaining positions which contradict shows not a fuller explanation, but a confused and self-contradictory explanation.

    Lane’s observations demonstrate the type of biblical consistency in formulation at which the FV fails.

  53. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2008 at 11:27 am

    I would equate the NC with the CoG. However, I would also say that there is a covenantal administration of the NC/CoG that includes the non-elect. Hence baptism, for instance. This understanding of the covenant is most certainly that of Witsius, Van Mastricht, Voetius, Turretin, and the WCF. The covenantal administration also includes the common operations of the Spirit that the Holy Spirit gives to the non-elect, which include many benefits, such as sitting under the preaching of the Word, enjoying the fellowship of the saints, receiving the sacraments (although the non-elect cannot properly receive any of these, of course).

  54. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2008 at 11:28 am

    In other words, the administration of the covenant is not the same as the substance of the covenant, which is salvation.

  55. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Reed, 2 things.

    1) You’ve misunderstood me, and that’s why there’s a brazen contradiction. I was saying in my (2) that there IS a difference between NECM and ECM, but that difference is NOT because one is blessed from the CoG and the other isn’t. That’s totally consistent with my statement in (1).

    I’m fully prepared to admit that I may be wrong. I understand your request for me to do more reading – *I am* doing that. Please could you not be quite so quick to dismiss me as just ignorant and not assume I’m capable of such an obvious contradiction… maybe read me a little more carefully first? Because, I’m also struggling with the fact that possibly *some* of what you feel is “going over old ground” is you not reading me properly, or, you collapsing different positions into each other.

    I’m trying to be humble. I really am. But it’s hard to be when my attempts at being humble, are used in a way that feels a little patronising.

    2) I *have* said that I think I’m moving in your direction after Lane’s comment. You don’t seem to have recognised that. Let me make it really explicit: I’M NOW IN TWO MINDS ABOUT THE COG BLESSINGS COMING TO THE NON-ELECT.

    Happy? :)

  56. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Lane,

    I’m genuinely thinking that your substance/administration distinction is actually almost exactly where I am, except I’m not using the terms correctly?

    …and that I’m equivocating slightly (though not purposely).

    …needless to say (again), my position is shifting during this conversation, sorry I realise that’s annoying. (but – incidentally – isn’t that what you want?)

  57. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Pete, you’re a genuine seeker. Nothing you have said yet has irritated me in the slightest degree. You’ll find I have a long, long fuse anyway. You’re nowhere close to blowing it. :-)

  58. Reed Here said,

    December 20, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Pete:

    Again, face to face communication is much, much easier. You assume too much condescencion on my part (any at all is too much) :-)

    Yes, I should have read more carefully, and thus I stand corrected in using that as an example.

    My point still stands, and it is not one that assumes your ignorance or is dismissive of you. All I was trying to say was that your questions presume other things that need to be questioned first. In other words, answers to some of your questions will only lead to prior questions, etc.. I’m hoping that reading some more of the context of the coversations here might be the most effective way of addressing your questions. Again, I’m trying to be helpful, not condescendingly dismissive.

    And no, I’m not happy about any movement toward “my” position. I’m not engaged here to win the argument ;-) My reasons for being involved are much more serious than my own satisfaction at hearing someone say, “you’re right.” In God’s mercy, those words are less and less appealing to me every day.

    Pete, your last comment to Lane is typical of at least some of the responses all of us have made here. Equivocation is not a function of the FV per se, as much as it is one of those failures of the flesh we all share in, in which we all must watch ourselves.

    And no, it’s not annoying to see a position shift. That’s part of the process. You need not be so apologetic Pete. The reason why men as different as Gary and Doug, or Roger (Curate) and me can debate here is because we try not to take ourselves too seriously, and instead try to reserve the seriousness for the issues at hand.

  59. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED THIS!

    Ok, you’ve got me. I just turned back to Witsius. And – I don’t know what it is – but it feels like scales have fallen from my eyes. I also had another peek at an article on apuristansmind that I’d remembered reading a while ago, but went back there, and paid more attention to it this time: http://www.apuritansmind.com/Baptism/ShepardThomasChildrenAdministrationCovenant.htm

    I think the thing is that I can still see the helpful thing in the FV position – why it’s attractive – but I don’t need the FV formulation in order to get there. The last paragraph of that page really does encapsulate the things I’ve found helpful in the FV stuff, but manages to avoid the category confusion (the category confusion that I KNOW GET):

    “3. Hence you may see what circumcision once did, and baptism now seals unto; even to infants the seal is to confirm the covenant; the covenant is, that God (outwardly at least) owns them, and reckons them among his people and children within his visible church and kingdom, and that hereupon he will prune, and cut, and dress, and water them, and improve the means of their eternal good upon them, which good they shall have, unless they refuse in resisting the means; nay, that he will take away this refusing heart from among them indefinitely, so that though every one can not assure himself that he will do it particularly for this or that person, yet every one, through this promise, may hope and pray for the communication of this grace, and so feel it in time.”

    So, actually, I really wasn’t that far off in my description of what’s happening in Hebrews 6. The things the apostate fell away from in 6v4-6 ARE REAL, but the things that were missing from the apostate all along in 6v9-12 ARE ALSO REAL.

    Basically, I think I need to work a lot harder on my exegesis of the individual elements of 6v4-6. But the essential difference between 6v4-6 being fleshly and outward, and 6v9-12 being spiritual and inward fits perfectly with the two dimensions of the covenant – outward and inward, substance and administration.

    Immediately I think I can see the implications this has on how we talk about the efficacy of the sacraments (or rather – more significantly – what we infer from the efficacy of the sacraments). And paedofaith is not a necessary inference of infant baptism (though I’m still convinced by Calvin’s seed-faith as a consequence of paedo-regeneration for some elect infants).

    Things like paedocommunion, though, still feel fairly convincing… but I think I’ll just wait until Lane Doug debate this one.

  60. jared said,

    December 20, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Reed,

    RE: 47,

    I would maintain (with the FV) the former. I would not push it as far as Roger has in saying the NECM has experienced genuine salvation because I don’t believe genuine salvation can be lost. I also don’t think denying the NECM genuine salvation necessarily creates two categories of covenantal benefits; at least in the way Curate seems to think it does. He says,

    With no hint of irony or mockery then, there are thus two categories of benefits to be had from Christ – salvation proper, and other the benefits which you have listed that do not include salvation!

    And you echo,

    Note the what the FV has constructed is two different experiences of the Spirit’s application of the benefits of redemption:

    1. The ECM experience the traditional calvinistic never to be lost ordo salutis version.
    2. The NECM experience a modified calvinistic eventually to be lost ordo salutis version.

    I do think the Venn diagram is helpful but I don’t think it sets up this scenario at all. The CoG is not something that exists separately (though I would say it exists distinctly) from the visible/invisible church. In the diagram we see that the anti-FV separates the CoG from (at least) the visible church. It isn’t explicitly diagrammed but one can easily infer it and can clearly see why the concept of NECM doesn’t even make sense to the anti-FV system. On their scheme if you are a covenant member then you are elect. But this setup, I believe, creates the problem of separating the CoG from the visible church.

    I also think more problems are created on this point by John’s language in 1 John 2. It is obvious that “us” is supposed to be referring to those truly saved but John says “they went out from us” and then he says “they did not really belong to us”. This immediately (for me) raises the question: How did they “go out” if they were never really “in”? John, undaunted by this question, continues, “For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” Okay, so it wasn’t just a grammatical slip after all. John makes a distinction between “belonging” to “us” and actually being among “us”. Now put this into the context of our modern theological language and this debate between the FV and anti-FV. I think we can all agree that the “us” is obviously ECM. So what are those that “went out” and didn’t remain with the ECM’s? From whence did they go? We all want to say that once ECM always ECM but there’s that tricky “from us” or “from ECM”. So Curate (and those FV “dark” I suppose) says “Exactly. They once were of us but no longer are because they didn’t remain.”; apostates from genuine salvation, or dare I say apostates from ECMembership. The problem with this view is that John says they didn’t really belong to us/ECM. And on this note the anti-FV says “Exactly. The CoG is all or nothing and they’ve shown they got nothing because they didn’t belong in the first place. That they didn’t remain is evidence they never belonged.” The problem with this view is that John says they went out from us/ECM. The anti-FV wants to maintain there are only ECM and that “NECM” is, for all practical purposes, a non-referential descriptor.

    So what’s the solution? Here is where the inner/outer, invisible/visible (and whatever other slashes you want) comes in to play. The FV (at large) wants to maintain the CoG, like the church universal, has an invisible/visible element to it. The anti-FV wants to maintain the invisible/visible distinction for the church universal only and not for the CoG. So, only those who are members of the invisible church are members of the CoG. On this point I think the FV position is more robust, that is, it is able to accommodate more of what (and how) Scripture says about covenant and church membership.

    Now, as for two categories of benefits. I think it is easier (and better) to think of covenantal benefits as being a pool. The “common operations of the Spirit” do not occur outside of the covenant. So whatever those are, having them is predicated on actually being a member of the covenant. This is only possible if we think of covenant membership in terms of church membership with the visible/invisible distinction. All who are visible members of the covenant can/do/will experience those common operations of the Spirit. As an aside, I think (along with the FV to a certain extent) such experiencing also necessitates some union with Jesus. Now the question becomes (as it has been for quite some time now) what is common and what is not? Saving faith is not common, otherwise there would be no need for an invisible/visible distinction. This means some other important things are not common: justification, definitive sanctification (but not progressive sanctification; oddly enough), and perseverance. To keep this post from being much longer than it already is, I would say that there are not two categories of benefits but there are two categories of faith: living and dead. I would say that repentance is common; it results in the fruition of either living faith unto salvation or dead faith unto greater punishment. In both cases, however, it results in a covenant member (typically evidenced via baptism). The one with living faith is ECM and the one dead faith is NECM. The ECM “belongs to us” and the NECM “goes out from us”. I hope this isn’t too convoluted…

  61. curate said,

    December 20, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    no. 46 Jeff

    Terms get confused, and need re-clarifying. When people say that we are saved by grace alone, it needs to be qualified. The areas where there are absolutely no works involved are election, justification, regeneration, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and adoption.

    But the word salvation includes these things while being still bigger. It also includes sanctification, healing, victory over enemies, resurrection, escape from bondage, and so on.

    James makes it clear that we are justified by works, so in a sense we are saved by works, and not by faith only. Yes, the works follow election and justification, and without them our faith is dead, and cannot save us, as he teaches.

    So when people say we are saved by grace, they may very well mean it in an heretical, antinomian sense.

  62. curate said,

    December 20, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    no 46 Jeff

    I am an advocate of the NPP. Having done the hard work of working through Tom Wright’s Romans commentary verse by verse and passage by passage, I can confidently report that justification by faith alone is safe, as is election.

    The NPP does not challenge the classic Reformed doctrines at all.

  63. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    #60 Jared,

    Actually, the anti-FV position is positing an inward/outward aspect of the Covenant of Grace. That’s Lane’s whole thing about the substance and the administration of the Covenant of Grace.

    Actually, on this, we ironically need to press language for precision *both ways* now. Because, if someone who is Non-Elect is part of the covenant administration, how appropriate/inappriopriate is it to say they’re a Non-Elect Covenant Member?

    And if, Jared, you’re saying the FV position is that there is inward/outward membership – then why are they disagreeing with the tradition Reformed way of putting things?

    In actual fact, the FV conflates the church with the Covenant. It’s not properly defining the distinction between the two. No… actually that’s not fair… what’s happening is the FV is defining the disitinction – but it’s not working that distinction out consistently.

  64. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    #62, Curate,

    I think it’s a shame that Wright’s “future justification” is put in opposition to past justification unfairly.

    So just because Wright believes there is a justification in the future, doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in a justification in the past. And they don’t operate in the same way.

    I also think that people aren’t fair to Wright on this.

  65. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Pete, I think the majority of critiques of Wright are more focused on the fact that Wright is playing musical chairs with the loci of systematic theology. Wright will say, for instance, that justification is not primarily about soteriology (how one gets saved), but primarily about ecclesiology (about the church, and how one tells who is in the church and who is not). So, although Wright is happy to say “justification by faith alone,” he does not mean the same thing by the term “justification” that the Reformers do. Wright will also say that imputation is not hindered in his way of thinking. However, what Wright does not take into account here is that his formulations do not adequately distance themselves from Roman Catholic formulations. Union with Christ is not a substitute for imputation.

  66. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    And, by the way, I have read through every bit of Wright’s Romans commentary (as well as all his other major works) and can testify that justification by faith alone is most definitely undermined by his formulations.

  67. Reed Here said,

    December 20, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Jared:

    I’ve think this paragraph helps identify an error in your understanding of the FV critics:

    “The anti-FV wants to maintain the invisible/visible distinction for the church universal only and not for the CoG. So, only those who are members of the invisible church are members of the CoG. On this point I think the FV position is more robust, that is, it is able to accommodate more of what (and how) Scripture says about covenant and church membership.”

    Not so. We do indeed affirm that the NEVCM are members of the CoG. However, the NEVCM are only members of the CoG in terms of its external/visible perspective. Our contention is that the FV (at least) flattens the distinction between the external/visible and internal/invisible perspectives.

    Hence, your criticism ala 1 John 2 does not apply. Of course the NEVCM were “among” us in that they were visible members of the CoG (see Pete’s Witsius reference above, very helpful Pete). And of course they went out because they were not “of” us, sharing in the experience of the ECM.

    I think Jared you may not be giving enough credence to the equivocation that is still maintained by the FV.

    As to the Venn diagram, please allow both Kyle’s and Lane’s corrections to apply. I assumed these nuances, not wanting to take the time to repeat at length things said previously. Please forgive me for that.

    Anyway, take another look at the diagram, from the perspective of the visible/invisible distinction. Is the “common operations of the Spirit” an expression of the Spirit’s work in applying the benefits of redemption (i.e., inward/Spiritual), or is something separate from this?

    I would argue the latter, as it appears to me that this better accounts for the teaching of Scripture.

    The FV posits two classes of inward/SpiritualChristians, those who prove to be so in the End, and those who prove not to be so in the End. This seems to me to at least add a degree of confusion that is simply not necessary.

  68. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    #65, Lane,

    “I think the majority of critiques of Wright are more focused on the fact that Wright is playing musical chairs with the loci of systematic theology. Wright will say, for instance, that justification is not primarily about soteriology (how one gets saved), but primarily about ecclesiology”

    Yeah, you’re right there.

    Reed & Jared,

    I agree with you, Reed. And we can pin down some of this confusion using your words:

    “We do indeed affirm that the NEVCM are members of the CoG. However, the NEVCM are only members of the CoG in terms of its external/visible perspective.”

    I agree that NEVCM are only “members” in this external, rather than the internal, sense. However, “the FV” is not drawing this distinction clearly enough.

    And so when Reed says “no, they’re not members of the CoG”…
    it’s being heard as:

    “there is no connection *at all* between the visible church and the CoG”

    whereas all Reed means is:

    “they are not members of the Covenant inwardly. (that’s not to deny their outward membership)”

  69. greenbaggins said,

    December 20, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Pete, you’ve hit upon it exactly.

  70. Pete Myers said,

    December 20, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    woohoo!

    Took me a while to get there, but hey!

  71. Reed Here said,

    December 20, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Pete: rather it took s all a little while.

    I think you can see why folks like Lane and I do have sympathy with some of the concerns that motivate the FV proponents, while believing that their solution confuses rather than helps.

  72. Reed Here said,

    December 20, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    P.S. thanks for clarifying for me as well.

  73. Pete Myers said,

    December 21, 2008 at 3:17 am

    Reed,

    I think what would be helpful for people like me, would be to try and articulate the positive things the FV is highlighting, using more traditional Reformed formulations.

  74. GLW Johnson said,

    December 21, 2008 at 8:35 am

    PM
    Would that be like trying to find traditional Reformed ways to express the concerns of the Socinians and the Open theists? Maybe there is a way to couch Joseph Smith’s Mormonism in acceptable Reformed catagories.

  75. Pete Myers said,

    December 21, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Gary,

    No, there are helpful things that the FV are highlighting, that guys like me have been attracted to. I can now see the essential problem underlying FV theology. And so I’d want to articulate the helpful things using theology that’s more consistent. Doing that would help me, and guys like me, to not think that we have to accept everything in the FV, in order to get the bits that are useful – because the useful and right bits can be found elsewhere.

    For example, I had another discussion with my boss today (who’s an Anglican minister, but is credo-baptist). I was able to affirm all the positive things about covenant membership of my son to him, while being able to draw very careful distinctions between what was substantial, and what was administrative.

    Ironically – my boss’ credo-baptism means that he’s confusing the inward and outward aspects of the covenant, which was what I was doing with my sympathic FV position. I say “ironically”, because – having only been thinking like this for 36 hours now – I think that the FV category confusion between substance and administration is the same confusion that baptists have.

    That’s not meant as a dig, or a slight, at my FV brethren. Please understand that up until a day or so ago, I too was suspicious that the anti-FV camp were being baptistic. But now I’m of a mind that it’s actually the other way around on this particular point of doctrine.

  76. Pete Myers said,

    December 21, 2008 at 10:05 am

    Gary,

    Actually I *can* use traditional Reformed ways to express the concerns of Open Theists. I think I’d say:

    “Yes, I very much feel your concern for recognising that we must recognise that God treats us as morally independent beings – and that’s not pretend, it’s real.”

    The place where I depart from them, is in the answer. So while the Open Theist says:

    “Therefore… we must deny even God’s foreknowledge of the future.”

    I’d say in contrast, (pulling this from my current favourite author Herman B)…

    “Therefore… we must affirm man’s will as an independent secondary cause of events, that while being under the control of God’s sovereign will, and working alongside his will as the primary cause, is yet still a cause in and of itself.”

  77. GLW Johnson said,

    December 21, 2008 at 10:59 am

    PM
    Thanks, a good response.

  78. Pete Myers said,

    December 21, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks Gary, I’m working some things through here, and so sorry if it’s hard to track what position I’m actually holding to.

    There’s still other FV distinctives that I’ll need to work through, I think – I’m particularly looking forward to Lane and Doug bash through paedocommunion.

  79. jared said,

    December 21, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Reed,

    You say,

    We do indeed affirm that the NEVCM are members of the CoG. However, the NEVCM are only members of the CoG in terms of its external/visible perspective. Our contention is that the FV (at least) flattens the distinction between the external/visible and internal/invisible perspectives.

    I think what the FV does is demonstrate that there are a multitude of variations within both visible and invisible membership. I get the impression that all parties agree that only EVCM’s are also members of the invisible church but this simply cannot be so with the CoG. Why? Because NEVCM’s exhibit both external and internal realities of those common operations of the Spirit. This seems obviously so given that the common operations of the Spirit aren’t (and I might argue can’t be) only external. So it isn’t that the FV flattens out the distinction as much as it broadens the applicability in one arena (covenant membership). You chide,

    I think Jared you may not be giving enough credence to the equivocation that is still maintained by the FV.

    No, I just don’t see it as this great erroneous equivocation. In fact, it seems to me that the FV is offering more helpful distinctions between covenant membership and church membership, distinctions which accommodate the language of Scripture better. I might suggest that the core of the problem is the difficulty of modifying traditional (read solidified) Reformed noetic categories. But surely seven Reformed denominations and several edited compilations can’t be mistaken… You continue,

    The FV posits two classes of inward/SpiritualChristians, those who prove to be so in the End, and those who prove not to be so in the End. This seems to me to at least add a degree of confusion that is simply not necessary.

    I’m not sure how it adds a degree of confusion rather than clarity. I can see how you’ve confused it though, the FV does posit two classes of Christian but this has been explained. The first class is composed of the elect and the second class is not. The first class receives all the external and internal/spiritual benefits of the CoG and the second class receives only those non-saving external and internal/spiritual “common” benefits. The first class are members of the visible and invisible church and the second class are only members of the visible church. What’s confusing? If anything it gives a better picture of what the second class is apostatizing from: real benefits, both external and internal. I can even understand Roger’s position if we broaden the concept of justification/salvation in the way the NPP does. I disagree with it, but I understand how one arrives at that point given the data (up to and including mono-covenantalism which, in my opinion can be a danger to the true gospel but is not necessarily or inherently so).

    Pete,

    Lane’s whole thing with substance and administration is compatible with my understanding of the FV scheme, which I’ve loosely sketched in this post.

  80. curate said,

    December 21, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    no. 79

    What the guys here need to explain to me is how it is that non-elect people can receive benefits from the cross. You guys say that the NECMs receive only external benefits. Do these come from the cross?

    It seems to me that the logic of the anti-FV position demands that the NECMs receive nothing from Christ.

    Is that correct?

  81. jared said,

    December 21, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Roger,

    I should think that any/all benefits of covenant and church membership come from the work of Jesus on the cross. I don’t think NECMs receive only external benefits. I’m reminded of a phrase that I’ve heard quite a bit in my church experience: Jesus’ death was sufficient for all but only efficient for the (decretally) elect. Feather this out some and we can say that His death is more than capable of obtaining those benefits the NECM enjoy in their allotted measure and duration. Even if the NECM receives only external benefits, these must be from Christ. I don’t think the anti-FV logic necessarily excludes this conclusion.

  82. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 21, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Curate (#80):

    It seems to me that the logic of the anti-FV position demands that the NECMs receive nothing from Christ.

    Or, that NECMs receive common grace in an intensified form.

    If we think of the Church as the new Israel, containing within its boundaries both the elect and the non-elect, then we note the following:

    (1) Non-elect family members are “sanctified” by means of their family connections (1 Cor 7). I take this to mean that they are set apart and marked as holy normatively — that is, they *ought* to be holy. Compare this to the situation within Israel, in which all were normatively required to obey and worship God alone, though many were unbelieving. This is the covenant requirement. But with the requirement comes the benefit: they are marked externally as God’s own. This is the argument that Paul makes in 1 Cor 7, justifying the fact that spouses of non-believers should remain married. Why are their children covenant members (“clean”)? Because their unbelieving spouses have been sanctified.

    (2) As members of the visible Church, the non-elect have access to the word and to worship. Compare this situation to that within Israel in which the qahal composed of all Israelites came out to worship.

    (3) To the extent that God protects His church, the non-elect share in this protection, except at points when God prunes off unbelieving branches.

    We can call all of these benefits “spillover benefits” from proximity to the Church.

    Now, are these benefits “from the cross”? One could make that argument, I suppose: if not for the cross, then there would be no Church and therefore no spillover benefits.

    Or one could call them equally a kind of common grace, since any person could share in it by attaching himself externally to the Church if he so chose. And in fact, some who are false teachers do exactly that.

    But either way, none of these benefits are a part of the salvation package that one receives in proper union with Christ.

    In my view, those spoken of in Hebrews 6 are experiencing the spillover benefits — I think the language of “tasting in the Spirit” is a reference to worship. And yet, because they have not “entered into God’s rest” (ch. 4), they remain under judgment.

    Jeff Cagle

  83. Reed Here said,

    December 21, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    Jared, a few quick thoughts:

    1. I do not affirm that “common operations of the Spirit” is a species of the CoG’s inward application.

    2. The terminology inward/outward suffers, in that it suggests that only the former has spiritual effects. This is not so. Rather both are experiences across the full breadth of human existence, body and soul. This was why I earlier dabbled in the biblical terms “flesh” and “Spirit”; the former being a reference to existence under the curse, and the latter to existence in union with the Spirit. Both have in view material and immaterial experience, body and soul.

    3. The danger in not noting this distinction is that we must then posit two different applications of the CoG (understood in terms of point no. 2). If “common operations of the Spirit” are a subset, then we have a temporary experiences of the exact same benefits of redemption experienced by the EVCM; temporary faith, temporary justification, temporary election, etc., which amounts to a form of arminianism for the NEVCM.

    4. That this introduces confusion is not found so much in the laying out of the system (although I challenge you to consider that the amount of ink spilled so far cannot be accounted for simply by saying us critics are dense :-) ). Rather the confusion is seen in the application to the life of the believer. Invariably a believer discipled under the FV scheme will struggle with his status (“am I EVCM or NEVCM?”), and the resolution can only be found in the pursuit of one’s “faith” obedience. I highly doubt that the FV will not escape its own brand of Pharisaical tendencies – as a result of its formulations. Any who avoid such will do so merely at the mercy of God (and I’m grateful for that mercy, so don’t consider me throwing stones in a glass houes).

    And yes, it was chiding (thanks for picking up on my gentle intentions). If I may again, I still think it sticks. E.g., a substantial part of your understanding and comfort with the FV has to do with your interpretation of it via the accepted notion of visible/invisible church. Yet this is a principle that is at best an unwelcome relative in the FV’s house. Doug’s book Reformed Is Not Enough makes this very clear. To observe that he and other FV proponents offer a salve (after challenge), that he does not reject the V/I church notion, does not mitigate his animus against it, and indeed that the whole system assumes its uselessness. The FV in essence ignores the V/I distinction. Thus your use of it in interpreting the FV leads you to not take seriously the equivocation that flows from the FV because you are reading into the position understanding from an interpretive grid it does not use.

    And yes, I do recognize that Doug and others offer clarifications (in some places) that seem to affirm the positions we affirm. Again, given the equivocation that occurs, I cannot see how I should be comfortable with such clarifications. At best, they are just confused themsleves. At worst they indeed have redefined fundamental parts of the system in such a manner that they can use all the same words – and mean exactly the opposite what I mean.

  84. jared said,

    December 22, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Reed,

    1. Why not? How can the Holy Spirit work outwardly without also working inwardly. Given the context of covenant, any outward change is always the result of some inward change. The NEVCM who turns from a life of despicable sin isn’t merely changed outwardly. He experiences an inward reality that can only be experienced via the CoG. I imagine this change can run so deep that occasionally we would be unable to distinguish between the NEVCM and the EVCM (and in some cases we may even think their positions are switched, given our judgmental proclivities). Are there any instances of the Spirit working only externally in Scripture? None come immediately to my mind.

    2. This is helpful. But we’re not talking about spiritual effects, per se, rather we are talking about the activity of the Spirit. It’s “common operations of the Spirit” not “common spiritual effects” or “common operations of the spiritual.” I agree that the Spirit works externally, but I don’t think He can work externally only. Whatever external effects He procures are the result of His internal working, that’s sort of His game: change from the inside out.

    3. If the common operations of the Spirit are a subset of what? I am thinking they are a subset of covenantal blessings/benefits, but such a subset does not create a temporary experience exactly like that of the EVCM’s experience of redemption. Given Roger’s particular view I can see what amounts to a form of Arminianism but his isn’t the only take. As I understand it, FV would say the NEVCM does not have genuine salvation so there is no back-and-forth a la Arminianism. And in Roger’s view there’s no back-and-forth either: once they apostatize there’s no coming back. So while it might look like Arminianism, it doesn’t smell or taste like it. I do get the pastoral concerns/problems raised by this view, but (1) that isn’t a valid reason for eschewing it; especially if it is more biblical and (2) not all FV views create those problems, or at least create them in the same degree.

    4. Yes, I think there’s density on both sides, which is why sitting on the fence is soooo nice ;-) Seriously though, every Christian struggles with their status; it’s a part of growing in grace. Assurance comes easy to some hard to others and not at all to still others. Fortunately salvation is not dependent on assurance and WCF 18 completely addresses all other concerns in this section of your post. The EVCM can infallible know, the NEVCM only deceives himself. So how do you know whether you’re deceiving yourself or not? This isn’t a problem that arose from FV theology, nor does FV theology compound it. If anything I’ve found many of the FV distinctions to be helpful in this manner, especially on their renewal of the NT emphasis on works/obedience within the context of living faith. Romans is a perfect example of this. The first half is all about faith and the second half is all about walking in that faith. The transition in chapters 7, 8 and 9 is pure Holy Spirit inspired brilliance. We get everything from God by faith alone, and because we have been given everything we are to go and do unto all others as God has done unto us. Sounds a bit like James doesn’t it? And and John and Peter and the Gospels… We’ve spent so much time focusing on the faith side that the works side seems foreign to us. You say,

    And yes, it was chiding (thanks for picking up on my gentle intentions). If I may again, I still think it sticks. E.g., a substantial part of your understanding and comfort with the FV has to do with your interpretation of it via the accepted notion of visible/invisible church. Yet this is a principle that is at best an unwelcome relative in the FV’s house. Doug’s book Reformed Is Not Enough makes this very clear. To observe that he and other FV proponents offer a salve (after challenge), that he does not reject the V/I church notion, does not mitigate his animus against it, and indeed that the whole system assumes its uselessness. The FV in essence ignores the V/I distinction. Thus your use of it in interpreting the FV leads you to not take seriously the equivocation that flows from the FV because you are reading into the position understanding from an interpretive grid it does not use.

    This is why I’m a sympathizer and not a proponent, as it were. I still don’t see the equivocation you keep talking about, though. The FV “parallel” is straightforward enough: visible = historical and invisible = eschatological. I’d say this is more of a rhetorical (or semantic) impasse than an actual equivocation. But I digress…

  85. curate said,

    December 22, 2008 at 1:20 am

    nos. 81; 82.

    If we say that no saving benefits are given to the NECM, then how can we say that they have fallen from grace? They have fallen from having nothing but a sign that was never sealed. IOW they have fallen from nothing to nothing. They were under wrath and they are still under wrath.

    If they did receive some benefits, the kind that anybody within close proximity to real Christians and the church can have, the kind that even the unbaptized can have simply by going to the fellowship, then they do not flow from the cross, but from some other source.

    1. What meaning, then, do you grant to the reality of apostasy? Apostasy from what? Not Christ!
    2. Apart from the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit that I am truly God’s son, what assurance does your position give me that I am truly saved?

  86. Pete Myers said,

    December 22, 2008 at 4:21 am

    #84,

    Jared, I think what Reed is trying to protect – the issue behind the issue – is whether or not the blessings that are received by NEVCM’s ***were bought at the cross***.

    That’s what’s making Reed twitchy.

    Now, he’s already very helpfully drawn the distinction between inward/outward language and spiritual/fleshly language – I think this is crucial. Of course the blessings the NEVCM experiences operate on the whole man. But I reckon Reed would probably go further, and affirm, that the blessings an NEVCM experiences as part of the covenant community, are blessings that are somehow derived from their connection with the outward administration of the Covenant of Grace.

    But Reed really wants to call that common grace, because, it’s not that the NEVCM is experiencing 30% of the ordo salutis, and then is dropped overboard.

    Actually, Berkhof talks about a “Covenant Common Grace”… which is the common operations of the Spirit active toward those in the sphere of the Covenant.

    The point is, that Reed is trying to keep the line firmly drawn between the substance of the covenant, and the NEVCMs. But that doesn’t mean that those who are in the outward administration of the covenant aren’t blessed in *a particular and distinct way over above pagans by their experience of the outward administration of the covenant*.

  87. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 22, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Reed (#83):

    The terminology inward/outward suffers, in that it suggests that only the former has spiritual effects. This is not so.

    This is a very interesting point. One thinks of the four soils of the parable; clearly, the rocky and thorny soils represent types of non-saving (but obviously internal) faith.

    And yet, the point of the wheat-and-tares parable is that there is an apparent similarity but an unseen difference between the saved and the unsaved. Is it fair to classify the difference as an internal one?

    I wonder whether the essential difference is that the ECM is sealed by the Holy Spirit per Eph. 1.14 and experiences vital union with Christ.

    Jeff

  88. Reed Here said,

    December 22, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Jared:

    I thought I was being clearer. Sorry that I’m not. Take a look at what Pete is saying, at the Venn diagram (as modified to understand visible/invisible), and my point no. 2.

    I am not saying the NEVCM only receive something “externally” if by that we mean that they only receive material and not immaterial benefits. Yes, they receive a work of the Spirit. What I am saying is that they do not receive a work of the Spirit’s application of the benefits of redemption.

    If we place what they receive in the same category as the inward/Spiritual, same as that received by the EVCM, then we end up saying they receive a temporary/partial version of the exact same thing that the EVCM receive. This is materially no different than arminianism, and brings with it all the same problems.

    The “common operations of the Spirit” are the Spirit’s working in the NEVCM so that they experience in common with the EVCM the experience of the Spirit’s blessings “externally” on the Visible Church. They do not receive a temporary election, union, faith, justification, santification, et.al., that is merely a sub-set, a variety of the same that the EVCM receive.

    I wish it were more of a semantical (rhetorical) impass, but we’re not the one’s who’ve been maintaining that “reformed is not enough.”

    Have you read the previous posts of Lane’s interaction with Doug and Xon? Is it really true that both sides are speaking past one another?

  89. Reed Here said,

    December 22, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Jeff:

    I admit to not being up to speed on the arguments. I’m tempted to pull out Calvin, Turretin, Owen, et.al. and see what they say.

    I do think we need to say yes the NEVCM do experience an inward work of the Spirit, and no it is not the same as that experienced by the EVCM. I think the FV would say the same. The issue, then, in my view, is the nature of the distinction between the two.

    Your notion of vital union is helpful. I’m may be remembering wrong, but I thinkk the FV will not agree with this. I think at least some of them will argue that the NEVCM experience a “real” union, and some have explained that to mean “vital”.

    This is why I introduced the flesh/Spiritual distinction. If we can show from Scripture that what the NEVCM experience is only the Spirit’s work under the realm of existence of the flesh, and that they never experience the Spirit’s work under the realm of the new Spiritual existence, then I think some headway may be made. This, for instance, would allow us to account for the similarity (including even using similar terms, cf., the “cut-off” language of Jh 15), while at the same time maintaining the absolute distinction between the two.

    My chief concern continues to be the clarity needed by the sheep.

  90. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 22, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Curate (#85):

    If we say that no saving benefits are given to the NECM, then how can we say that they have fallen from grace? They have fallen from having nothing but a sign that was never sealed. IOW they have fallen from nothing to nothing. They were under wrath and they are still under wrath.

    The phrase “fallen from grace” occurs only once that I’m aware of, in Galatians 5:

    Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.

    (So interestingly, Paul argues here *against* the very covenantal nomism that NT Wright and Shepherd argue for. But I digress…)

    The question is whether we understand this passage to mean

    (1) You who are seeking to be justified by the law have at one time been in Christ, but now you are separated from Christ.

    OR

    (2) You who are seeking to be justified by the law have formerly professed the Gospel; you are now denying it. This denial, if true in heart, is the path to damnation, even though your leaders claim it is the path to salvation.

    In other words, the questions are, “Where, spiritually, did they begin and where are they now?” Option (1) answers the questions in the extreme: they began saved; they are now lost. Option (2) answers the questions less definitely: they began by affirming the Gospel; they are now denying it.

    I would argue for (2) and against (1) on the following grounds.

    First, Paul doesn’t know the state of their hearts. It is more reasonable that he would be speaking from the point of view of his observations (I almost wrote “external”, but Reed has successfully chased me away from that term :) ).

    Second, if we correlate (1) with Hebrews 6, then we conclude that their falling away into damnation must be permanent. Recall that on your account of Hebrews 6, we must have “once damned, always damned.”

    What then is the point of Paul’s warning here in Galatians? Why is he wasting his time warning people who are past hope?

    This consideration casts doubt on the idea that “fallen away from grace” means “not saved.”

    Third, he does not seek to convert them to the Gospel, as one might expect if they are in a state of non-salvation. Instead, he seeks to return them to walking by faith, “keeping in step with the Spirit”. He speaks to them as if they are Christians while still saying that they have fallen from grace.

    I think this last point makes it impossible that “fallen away from grace” means “fallen out of salvation.”

    So from these considerations, I conclude that Paul is speaking without definite knowledge of their salvation status. Instead, he is speaking relative to his own observations: you Galatians are on a path that leads to damnation (even though it claims salvation). Return once again to the Gospel, not only as a beginning point, but as the way to remain in the Covenant. Paul, like all ministers, is limited in his knowledge and therefore must speak to what he *sees* in the Galatians, not to what they *are* (which he does not know).

    Thoughts? Also, see whether these are helpful.

    Jeff Cagle

  91. GLW Johnson said,

    December 22, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Here is Wm. Perkins on Gal. 5:4
    “Wheras Paul saith,’Yee are fallen from grace’, some gather, that the children of God may quite from favour of God. Answer: Men are said to be under grace two ways, First, in the judgement of infallibility; and thus only the Elect are under the Grace of God. Secondly, in the judgement of Christian charity; and thus all that profess Christ,(though indeed hypocrites)are under the grace of God. And in this sense Paul saith ,that the whole church of Galatia is under the grace of God. And they are said ‘to fall from grace’, not because all were indeed under the favour of God, and at lenght cast out of it; but because God makes it manifest to men, that they were never in the favor of God. Thus Christ’s enemies are said ‘to be blotted out of the book of life’, Psalm 69:28. When God makes it manifest that their names were never written there. Secondly, I answer, that Paul speaks not this absolutely, but upon condition,’if you will be justified by the law’. And therefore v.10 he saith he ‘be persuaded bettr things of them’. ( ‘Commentarie or Expostion Upon The Five First Chapters of the Epistle to the Galatians’, 1602) p.333

  92. curate said,

    December 22, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Jeff and Gary, you have given an acceptable answer, in that it meets the criterion of intelligibility and usage. The apostate has fallen from what looked at the time like salvation, but wasn’t.

    I fully agree that that accurately describes a frequent event. I do not agree that it describes every instance of apostasy.

    The problem is that the second class of men are described as having been sanctified by the blood. (Hebrews 10). That sounds to me like a falling away from something that was purchased by the cross, not a mere common operation of the Spirit.

    My second question was how your position assures me that I am truly saved, apart from the inner testimony of the Spirit. What if I am one of those with a true faith but a weak sense of assurance?

    What will you say to assure me that I am saved?

  93. curate said,

    December 22, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    To be clearer, how do you avoid preaching doubt instead of faith?

  94. jared said,

    December 22, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Reed & Pete,

    RE: 86,

    Pete says,

    Jared, I think what Reed is trying to protect – the issue behind the issue – is whether or not the blessings that are received by NEVCM’s ***were bought at the cross***.

    I don’t know how else they could be bought. There are no CoG blessings/benefits that are not a result of Christ’s redemptive work. Nor are there CoG blessings/benefits that can be had apart from some (real, though obviously not vital) union with Jesus. Pete continues,

    Now, he’s already very helpfully drawn the distinction between inward/outward language and spiritual/fleshly language – I think this is crucial. Of course the blessings the NEVCM experiences operate on the whole man. But I reckon Reed would probably go further, and affirm, that the blessings an NEVCM experiences as part of the covenant community, are blessings that are somehow derived from their connection with the outward administration of the Covenant of Grace.

    I’m not sure how to respond. So we are agreeing that the blessings/benefits the NEVCM experiences are both physical and spiritual (whole man). But somehow this is done by only the outward administration of the CoG? Perhaps more detail needs to be given about the categories “administration” and “substance” before progress can be made in this vein. Are we wanting to say the substance of the covenant is just those elements which obtain eternal life and the administration includes everything except the substance? It seems like things are getting more and more complicated on this side of the “conversation”. Pete continues,

    But Reed really wants to call that common grace, because, it’s not that the NEVCM is experiencing 30% of the ordo salutis, and then is dropped overboard.

    This is problematic. Even non-church members are privy to common grace but not to anything CoG related. We are, on both sides, maintaining that the NEVCM is gaining access to something more substantial than that; aren’t we? It seems to me we should be, at least. Moving on,

    The point is, that Reed is trying to keep the line firmly drawn between the substance of the covenant, and the NEVCMs. But that doesn’t mean that those who are in the outward administration of the covenant aren’t blessed in *a particular and distinct way over above pagans by their experience of the outward administration of the covenant*.

    So you want to call it common grace but you also want it to be something more than what pagans get. I understand wanting to keep the line firmly drawn between the substance if by “substance” we are referring to those elements which obtain eternal life. Clearly the NEVCM is not participating in the CoG to that extent. But how does this prevent them from getting involved to the brink (wherever it may lay)? The NEVCM participates in some manner that enlivens them spiritually even if only temporarily. Reed picks up, RE: 88,

    If we place what they receive in the same category as the inward/Spiritual, same as that received by the EVCM, then we end up saying they receive a temporary/partial version of the exact same thing that the EVCM receive. This is materially no different than arminianism, and brings with it all the same problems.

    I would say it is categorically the same but obviously not functionally the same. The NEVCM can only receive a temporary/partial version of what the EVCM receives because they don’t have access to the substance. This is materially different from Arminianism because Arminianism says they can/do receive exactly the same thing, not just a temporary/partial version. Reed continues,

    The “common operations of the Spirit” are the Spirit’s working in the NEVCM so that they experience in common with the EVCM the experience of the Spirit’s blessings “externally” on the Visible Church. They do not receive a temporary election, union, faith, justification, santification, et.al., that is merely a sub-set, a variety of the same that the EVCM receive.

    Ok, what about “internally” on the visible church? What about “internally” on the CoG? I can agree that they don’t receive a temporary election (if we understand that to refer to decretal election), they don’t receive a temporary justification (if we understand that to refer to one-time declaration/imputation of righteousness), and I don’t believe they receive a temporary sanctification (if we understand that to refer to definitive sanctification). I do believe they have a temporary faith and union (because if it wasn’t temporary then they wouldn’t be non-elect). These are real (i.e. not fake) even if they are false (i.e. not genuine). This is why they fall away and the blessings/benefits (of the CoG and visible church membership) is what they fall away from. I think FV theology is flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of views on this point (e.g. Roger’s position as contrasted to, say, Doug’s). Reed finishes,

    Have you read the previous posts of Lane’s interaction with Doug and Xon? Is it really true that both sides are speaking past one another?

    Which previous posts? I’ve been mostly lurking here for almost two years now (I think) so if they were as recent as that then I’ve probably read them. And I don’t think both sides are speaking past one another, per se, rather I think the FV is mostly speaking past the anti-FV and I think that is largely because the anti-FV is unwilling (or unable?) to reconsider certain elements of some of their noetic theological categories. I also completely understand this unwillingness because it kept me a full preterist for almost 4 years. And, since I’m a fence-sitter, I don’t think this is completely one way (notice I said FV is “mostly” speaking past the anti-FV).

  95. Reed Here said,

    December 22, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Jared:

    I think you need to interact with my efforts to distinguish between “benefits of redemption’ and “common operations of the Spirit.” You assume that the latter is a subset, an expression of the former. I am maintaining not.

    If you do not reckon with this distinction, then your responses are ignoring the key point of my argument here. I’m not offended if you do so. But you will continue to feel like I am not getting it, something I don’t believe is fair at this point.

    At this point, I’m not going to take the charge that I don’t get it because I’m unable/unwilling to follow the adjustments the FV makes to noetic theoloigcal categories. I get it; I’ve demonstrated numerous times that I get it. I just do not believe their adjustments are Scripturally valid. I’m actually quite tired of the argument – no matter how many times I accomodate it and offer some posts demonstrating I get it, somehow my counter arguments simply mean that I really don’t get it after all.

    Frankly Jared, it’s a silly charge.

    It is telling that you acknowledge a categorial but not functional arminianism for the FV’s understanding of the NEVCM. I think I understand where you are going. I’ve listened to FV advocates explain how they would minister to VCM (indiscriminate of election). They tend to use the traditional arguments – to the contrary of at least the categorical arminianism of the position. This is called confusing the sheep.

    Further, your noting decretal brings this all back home. Practically speaking the FV argues that since we cannot know our decretal status or anyone else’s, all we have is an undifferentiated election, practically speaking. This results in equivocation and the categorical arminian distinction into a functional distinction for both EVCM and NEVCM.

    Don’t disreagrd me too fast here. Consider how the FV is taught in the congregation. All the theoretical distinctions that may be offered, at the end of the day, disappear from the conversation. “You can’t know whether you are decretally elect or “covenantally elect, EVCM or NEVCM, so pursue “faith” obedience. Vern’s point about “covenant objectivity” is on target here.

    [By the way, are you bothered that the FV in essence says, "we don't disagree with the Westminster Confession's chapter on Assurance. We just believe it's inadequate. Much better is to look to your objective covenant status, your baptism, and your faithful obedience." Phariseeism is right around the corner Jared. This is neither where assurance comes from or evangelical obedience.]

    I’m willing to believe that pastors given to the FV don’t intend the burden they are placing on their congregation’s shoulders. Yet that does not eliminate the crushing load.

  96. Pete Myers said,

    December 22, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Jared,

    I had a look back through Louis Berkhof today. His chapter on common grace actually deals explicitly with some of the conversation we’re now having.

    He distinguishes 3 kinds of common grace, which he claims are found within Calvin’s thinking (but Calvin doesn’t use the terms necessarily).

    1) Universal common grace (All creatures)
    2) General common grace (All mankind)
    3) Covenantal common grace (All those who are connected to the covenant)

    When Reed says “common grace” – I don’t know how he’s meaning the term – but within it, there can be distinguished different types of common grace.

    Berkhof also addresses the issue of how these blessings relate to the atonement. He argues that Reformed theologians have held back from saying that common grace was “bought” by the atonement… however they acknowledge that the whole universe benefitted from Christ’s death and resurrection.

    Putting aside the issue of how NEVCMs are blessed… if we first consider the reprobate who are never found within a whiff of the covenant – then would you agree that it’s fair to say that **they** benefit from Christ’s death in some way, but not through atonement?

    Jared – I understand your concern here, I’m sympathetic to the FV too. I guess, though, that on this particular issue, I can see that grasping this distinction “inside” the covenant is pretty important – and that by making that distinction you don’t automatically fall into the mistake of denying the real value of the church.

    Specifically on two things you say:

    So we are agreeing that the blessings/benefits the NEVCM experiences are both physical and spiritual (whole man). But somehow this is done by only the outward administration of the CoG? Perhaps more detail needs to be given about the categories “administration” and “substance” before progress can be made in this vein.

    I think this is a very helpful suggestion. Actually the “FV” position *also* distinguishes between the EVCM and NEVCM… well at least Doug does (and he’s the guy I’m a fan of). I’m not going to comment on what’s been labelled “FV dark”, that makes no distinction other than that the Non-Elect don’t persevere, as, I haven’t come across that view personally.

    The point is, that both parties *are* defining these two categories. I find this extraordinary, actually, that there is so much talking past each other. Much of the discussion is not: *Is* there a distinction between the EVCM and the NEVCM in the covenant? The question is: *What* is this distinction?

    I hope it’s fair to say, then, that we have these two categories… so… can we move away from debating whether they exist or not, and move onto discussing how we define and populate them? And is everyone happy using the language of “substance” and “administration”… I think it avoids all the obvious errors and misunderstandings of “inward” and “outward”?

    And I don’t think both sides are speaking past one another, per se, rather I think the FV is mostly speaking past the anti-FV and I think that is largely because the anti-FV is unwilling (or unable?) to reconsider certain elements of some of their noetic theological categories.

    I’m maybe not qualified to do so (not being a North American Presbyterian)… but I agree with you. But, as I’ve tried to point out above, we can use the noetic categories of the anti-FV more than we’ve done so. So where it is possible, and where those categories do, actually, already exist… it would be helpful for the FV to use them.

  97. Vern Crisler said,

    December 22, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Re: 84
    Jared said:
    “[E]very Christian struggles with their status; it’s a part of growing in grace. Assurance comes easy to some hard to others and not at all to still others…. So how do you know whether you’re deceiving yourself or not? This isn’t a problem that arose from FV theology, nor does FV theology compound it. If anything I’ve found many of the FV distinctions to be helpful in this manner, especially on their renewal of the NT emphasis on works/obedience within the context of living faith.”

    The FV solution starts from a quasi-Kantian premiss that we can’t know the noumenal (God’s decree) but only the phenomenal (being within the covenant). Hence, FV says not to worry about whether you’re elect, just worry whether you’re in the covenant.

    While this sort of “objectivism” might have an appeal to those who are fearful and in need of some empirical data to shore up their assurance, it eventually leads to Phariseeism. In the FV view, assurance is ultimately based on a mechanical, empirical, or external condition. Merely reflect upon your membership in the covenant and this condition will show you that you are elect, not like all those sinners outside the covenant.

    Obviously, if you are basing your assurance on the mechanical and empirical, then it becomes very important that you don’t do anything to jeopardize your place in the covenant. That means you can never criticize the gatekeepers of the covenant (elders or ministers), and you must submit to them even if they’re wrong, trusting that God will ultimately set things to right. Timidity in the laity is the consequence of this view, and pride and arrogance among the clergy is the effect it has on the leaders of the church.

    It does no good to point out that FVists do not follow their own advice. Rarely, if ever, do they submit to anyone who might threaten to undermine their own power. And when an FVist finally realizes he’s being inconsistent, he’ll either rejoin the Reformed faith, or swim the Tiber to Rome.

    Jared, I had to laugh when you spoke of the FV and “their renewal of the NT emphasis on works/obedience within the context of living faith.” As if Reformed people before FV never spoke about works and obedience in relation to faith! We had to wait for the geniuses of FV to instruct us about the realm meaning of James.

    Cordially,

    Vern

  98. Pete Myers said,

    December 22, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Vern,

    Got to admit, I’m a little confused when you say this:

    The FV solution starts from a quasi-Kantian premiss that we can’t know the noumenal (God’s decree) but only the phenomenal (being within the covenant). Hence, FV says not to worry about whether you’re elect, just worry whether you’re in the covenant.

    Is it fair to say that I can’t know the noumenal about others (not even my wife, not even my children), but I can know the noumenal for myself?

    The thing that I find compelling about Doug Wilson’s theology, is the way he challenges the baptist assumption that we can make declarations about people’s elect status here and now. Due to personal circumstances for me, I find myself regularly having lots of discussions with baptists I’m working alongside – and am fed of of hearing them say:

    “But you shouldn’t baptise your child, because you can’t know for sure that he’s a real Christian”.
    “But I can’t know for sure that anyone is a real Christian, can I? So doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t baptise anyone?”

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 22, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Jared (#94):

    I would say it is categorically the same but obviously not functionally the same. The NEVCM can only receive a temporary/partial version of what the EVCM receives because they don’t have access to the substance. This is materially different from Arminianism because Arminianism says they can/do receive exactly the same thing, not just a temporary/partial version.

    The “FV-dark” position actually does hold that they do receive the same thing, save for perseverance.

    So one interesting question is how those who are “FV-dark” ended up there. Was it because the logic of the FV position drives them there, and they are simply more self-consistent than their FV-lite brethren? Or was there some other consideration?

    I lean towards the former.

    Jeff Cagle

  100. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 22, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Pete M (#98):

    Is it fair to say that I can’t know the noumenal about others (not even my wife, not even my children), but I can know the noumenal for myself?

    Not for Kant. In Kant’s epistemological scheme, there is a gulf fixed between the noumenal and the phenomenal. That gulf is bridged essentially by structures in the mind that provide an intuitive framework by which we map phenomena to certain noumenal concepts. Thus, concludes Kant, we can have synthetic, a priori statements.

    But the cost is that we never know whether our synthetic, a priori statements are actually True. They are simply intuitively obvious.

    Kant has a lot going for himself, but there’s something fishy also. Christians, for example, believe that God has pierced the veil separating noumenal and phenomenal by means of language — the word — and incarnation — the Word.

    Now to your Baptist friends (I have some, too :) )

    The thing that I find compelling about Doug Wilson’s theology, is the way he challenges the baptist assumption that we can make declarations about people’s elect status here and now. Due to personal circumstances for me, I find myself regularly having lots of discussions with baptists I’m working alongside – and am fed of of hearing them say:

    “But you shouldn’t baptise your child, because you can’t know for sure that he’s a real Christian”.
    “But I can’t know for sure that anyone is a real Christian, can I? So doesn’t that mean we shouldn’t baptise anyone?”

    Yes, you’re spot on. The argument

    (1) We cannot know if X is a Christian
    (2) Therefore we cannot baptize him

    Is logically equivalent to

    (2′) We are baptizing X
    (1′) Therefore we can know if X is a Christian.

    (1′) is patently absurd. And if you pursue this with an honest and clear-thinking Baptist, he’ll qualify: “We aren’t making this argument, really. What we’re really saying is…”

    (A) Baptism is a symbol of washing away of sins and participation in Christ’s death (“buried with Christ in death/rise again to walk in newness of life…”), and
    (B) This symbol makes sense only for those who are Christians, and
    (C) It is an abomination to apply it to those who are not Christians, so
    (D) We ought, as a matter of prudence (“due dilligence”) apply it only to those who give some credible profession of being Christians.

    There are two flaws with this argument. First, the logic of it would require the Israelites to refrain from circumcising their children (note that this point does *not* require a strict parallel between circumcision and baptism; only a sufficiently close parallel meaning: cleansing/cutting away of sin as in (A)).

    Second, empirically, there is no apparent difference between the ratio of believers to unbelievers in gospel-preaching baptist churches and gospel-preaching presbyterian churches. So “due dilligence” in baptism makes no apparent difference. (John MacArthur objects to infant baptism on the grounds that it fills churches with baptized unbelievers. Really? How different is this from baptist churches?). Instead, preaching the gospel seems to be the determining factor between churches with high ratios of believers v. low. Imagine that.

    So the FV solves the baptist problem by speaking to the outward covenant: the child belongs to the covenant, therefore, he gets the sign. (N.B.: in the CREC, member churches are not required to practice paedobaptism. “Reformed” meets “catholicism.”)

    The problem is not that Doug’s argument is factually incorrect, but that it is overly distorted. Belonging to the covenant externally is but one perspective on our knowledge of the Church. If we exaggerate this perspective, we end up concluding that the Visible Church is the whole show, this side of history; this is the claim in the JFVS: We further affirm that the visible Church is the true Church of Christ, and not an “approximate” Church. It’s that last denial that pushes the theology over the top and into problems. If the Visible Church is the true Church and not an approximation, then it follows that all its members are truly saved. OR, that they can lose their salvation.

    OR, that some really fancy complexities get introduced (but to no avail IMO).

    So yes, Doug’s approach helps deal with the Baptists. But so do other Reformed approaches that don’t absolutize the Visible Church.

    Regards,
    Jeff Cagle

  101. Vern Crisler said,

    December 22, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Spot on Jeff!

    Vern

  102. Pete Myers said,

    December 22, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    #100,

    Good, good, good… thanks Jeff, that’s cleared that up for me.

  103. jared said,

    December 22, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Reed,

    First things first, I’m not saying you don’t get it. You asked me about sides, not about particular individuals. Now, onward! You say,

    I think you need to interact with my efforts to distinguish between “benefits of redemption’ and “common operations of the Spirit.” You assume that the latter is a subset, an expression of the former. I am maintaining not.

    I have. And I am not assuming the latter is a subset but something that is separate but no less internal/spiritual and real. I will outright agree with you that NEVCM’s do not receive the benefits of redemption. They receive a temporary variant that looks strikingly similar on the outside but is ultimately empty on the inside. If the common operations of the Spirit were a subset of the benefits of Redemption then it would be necessary to argue that the NEVCM participates in those benefits but only at the level of “common”. This doesn’t make any sense to me since none of the benefits of Redemption are common. Further, I think FV theology is stretchy enough to accommodate this view even if many FV’ers (like Roger) don’t hold to it and even if many FV critics don’t think it is so stretchy. Continuing,

    Further, your noting decretal brings this all back home. Practically speaking the FV argues that since we cannot know our decretal status or anyone else’s, all we have is an undifferentiated election, practically speaking. This results in equivocation and the categorical arminian distinction into a functional distinction for both EVCM and NEVCM.

    I don’t know of any FV’er who disagrees with WCF 18, so we’ll have to simply agree to disagree on this point. Moreover, I don’t think FV theology necessitates this position; i.e. one could classify himself as an FV advocate while still maintaining that it is possible to know our decretal status (again, take Doug as an example). And those FV’ers who do argue that we cannot know our decretal status, well then just plain disagree with them. Your excursion:

    [By the way, are you bothered that the FV in essence says, "we don't disagree with the Westminster Confession's chapter on Assurance. We just believe it's inadequate. Much better is to look to your objective covenant status, your baptism, and your faithful obedience." Phariseeism is right around the corner Jared. This is neither where assurance comes from or evangelical obedience.]

    Are you quoting an individual or generalizing? Looking to your covenant status, remembering your baptism (which I would include in the looking) and your faithful obedience are exactly the things WCF 18 lay out as the path(s) to assurance. Not in as many words, obviously, but not less implicit either; so I don’t know why someone should think the WCF inadequate on this point and I would disagree with anyone who does. If WCF 18 is not crushing then I’m not sure how the FV’s admonishing of covenant status, baptism and obedience are crushing It seems to me, here, that the FV is instantiating the phrase “endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before Him” of 18.1. What does that, specifically, entail? Well, looking to your covenant status, remembering your baptism and remaining faithful seem like really good places to start. Phariseeism is always right around the corner unless you are a “free gracer” (i.e. hyper-antinomian). FV theology may be more prone to it but that doesn’t make it un-Reformed, wrong or unhelpful.

    Pete,

    You say,

    When Reed says “common grace” – I don’t know how he’s meaning the term – but within it, there can be distinguished different types of common grace.

    Fair enough. I can concede to calling what the NEVCM has “common grace” if by that we mean 3. It doesn’t change anything substantially, just more labels and terminology. You continue,

    Berkhof also addresses the issue of how these blessings relate to the atonement. He argues that Reformed theologians have held back from saying that common grace was “bought” by the atonement… however they acknowledge that the whole universe benefitted from Christ’s death and resurrection.

    This is understandable. Though, again, if the CoG is made accessible only by the atonement and we are saying the NEVCM has covenantal blessings/benefits (i.e. he only has them because he is in the covenant) then how can we say they (the blessings/benefits the NEVCM has) aren’t atonement-bought?

    Putting aside the issue of how NEVCMs are blessed… if we first consider the reprobate who are never found within a whiff of the covenant – then would you agree that it’s fair to say that **they** benefit from Christ’s death in some way, but not through atonement?

    I’ve heard this put forth before but I’ve not pursued the idea enough to express an opinion one way or another. The way you’ve structured it causes me to pause. You are making a conceptual differentiation between “Christ’s death” and “atonement” as if the former is simply a fact of history and the latter is something more personal. Am I right? If so, then I don’t know what benefit could be had from the historical fact that Jesus died; it’s like a point on a time line which can’t affect anything. Moving along,

    I’m maybe not qualified to do so (not being a North American Presbyterian)… but I agree with you. But, as I’ve tried to point out above, we can use the noetic categories of the anti-FV more than we’ve done so. So where it is possible, and where those categories do, actually, already exist… it would be helpful for the FV to use them.

    Indeed. There is much agreement between FV and their critics and it seems to me like those agreements are where the springboards should be placed. The FV certainly has not done itself any favors by creating new categories where/when none were needed.

    Vern,

    You say,

    The FV solution starts from a quasi-Kantian premiss that we can’t know the noumenal (God’s decree) but only the phenomenal (being within the covenant). Hence, FV says not to worry about whether you’re elect, just worry whether you’re in the covenant.

    We certainly can’t know all of God’s decrees and we don’t need to posit Kant in order to know this. Also, I’m pretty sure the FV says not to worry at all, just keep on keepin’ on in the faith. Which, oddly enough, is exactly what FV critics say. And, even more oddly is this is exactly what Paul says! Something tells me coincidence is not involved. Yet you continue,

    While this sort of “objectivism” might have an appeal to those who are fearful and in need of some empirical data to shore up their assurance, it eventually leads to Phariseeism. In the FV view, assurance is ultimately based on a mechanical, empirical, or external condition. Merely reflect upon your membership in the covenant and this condition will show you that you are elect, not like all those sinners outside the covenant.

    I don’t think any FV advocate would say that assurance is ultimately based on a mechanical, empirical or external condition. At least those who agree with WCF 18 wouldn’t. Those conditions can put you on the right path to obtaining assurance, but they are not the basis of it. I don’t imagine everyone comes to have assurance in the same manner, largely because we all have our individual and peculiar faith walks. As I say above, Phariseeism is going to be a problem for any system in which faith and works are inseparably tied together and irrespective of how they are tied. You’re next two paragraphs aren’t really contributing anything, so on to the last,

    Jared, I had to laugh when you spoke of the FV and “their renewal of the NT emphasis on works/obedience within the context of living faith.” As if Reformed people before FV never spoke about works and obedience in relation to faith! We had to wait for the geniuses of FV to instruct us about the realm meaning of James.

    Glad I could get a laugh out of you! I never (nor have I ever) implied that the FV was the first to speak about works and obedience in relation to faith. There’s that whole renewal thing, as in “it has previously been addressed but has become taken for granted” kinda thing. The FV says you gotta have faithful obedience and the FV critics say you gotta have faith that produces obedience. Distinction without a difference? When you get into the respective details, I think so; but thanks for the response.

    Jeff,

    You say,

    So one interesting question is how those who are “FV-dark” ended up there. Was it because the logic of the FV position drives them there, and they are simply more self-consistent than their FV-lite brethren? Or was there some other consideration?

    How do hyper-Calvinists arrive at their conclusions? Because the logic of Calvinism drives them there or something else? You know, one of those situations (okay that was a poor pot-shot, but still). The FV-dark folks seem more inclined to Shepherdism and/or NPP and a lot of those categories and distinctions aren’t necessary for/to FV theology (once again, Doug as an example). So whatever that’s worth as for my leaning towards the latter.

  104. Reed Here said,

    December 22, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Jared:

    Are we readinng the same WCF?

    “II. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.”

    The things you listed are exactly not listed here. Paragraph 4 does not alter this.

    Aside from that Jared, you are aware that you’ve constructed your own modified position? We’re not debating the FV here (dark or light).

  105. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 22, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Jared (#103):

    How do hyper-Calvinists arrive at their conclusions? Because the logic of Calvinism drives them there or something else?

    Touche’ :)

    And of course, this question has to be explored as well, since we’ve all encountered those who want to paint Hoeksema and Calvin with the same hue of predestination.

    The answer, I think, is clear: Calvin allows for a difference between God’s decretal will and God’s preceptive will. HH does not. Therefore, Calvin can say that God offers salvation to the whole world, but in His secret decrees only permits some to come to faith (see commentaries on 1 Tim 2.4 and John 3.16). Hoeksema, on the other hand, would reject this as positing two wills in God. In this, however, he stands apart from the large mass of Reformed theologians.

    So it is not the logic of Calvin’s system, but rather “Calvin’s system plus one” — the one added assumption that the unity of God’s will prohibits speaking of “God’s preceptive will” — that leads to hyperCalvinism.

    But now the declaration in the JFVS that “the Visible Church is the Church of God, and is not approximate”, this has a positive tendency to mark all within the bounds of the Visible Church as partakers of salvation. Certainly, Wilkins’ analysis of Ephesians 1 exhibits this tendency.

    He feels compelled to move from “the letter is addressed to the church in Ephesus” to “therefore, every blessing declared in the letter must be true for each member of the church, head-for-head.” We see in the exegesis the same syllogism: the VC in Ephesus is not approximate; therefore, what is true for the Church as a whole is true for each member without distinction, including the salvation package of sealing with the HS, forgiveness of sins, predestination to election, etc. (cf. “The Federal Vision”, p. 58).

    So why then does DW not follow in the same path? Because he adds one additional premise: that there is in fact an “external/internal distinction” between the ECM and NECM.

    (Let’s leave aside here Reed’s provocative point about the language of “internal” and “external”, and take the E/I distinction to mean simply that there is a spiritual difference right now in time between those who are effectually called and those who are not. That is how the term has been used so far in the discussion.)

    (To be fair to Wilkins: as the controversy developed, he began to speak in general terms of an E/I distinction also. But without specific details, he was unable to persuasively argue that he held a meaningful E/I distinction. Note his response here and items 4 and 6. Note particularly the weight of emphasis: on the continuity of language in the Scriptures between the ECM and NECM)

    The E/I distinction, if followed to its logical conclusion, would necessitate two things:

    (1) That the Visible Church is only an approximation of the true Church — that there is, right now, a real and invisible difference between branches that will one day be broken off and branches that will not. AND,

    (2) That the Invisible Church is not merely eschatological but also has a present meaning.

    So the E/I distinction sits in tension (IMO) with the FV pronouncement on the Church. I think that FV-darks see this and move to make their theology more self-consistent by rejecting an E/I distinction. Doug’s “FV plus one” is unstable and will ultimately lead either to FV-dark or else to an abandonment of the understanding of the VC as a non-approximate church.

    Jeff Cagle

  106. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 22, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Curate (#92/93):

    My second question was how your position assures me that I am truly saved, apart from the inner testimony of the Spirit. What if I am one of those with a true faith but a weak sense of assurance? What will you say to assure me that I am saved?

    Let’s modify the question a bit, since I will never encounter someone whom I know to have true faith.

    Let’s take a test case:

    Alice is a baptized member of a church who worries that she is a fraud. She gets frustrated with her children, suffers from depression, and can identify a couple of different besetting sins that lead her to wonder: “Am I really saved, or have I just been faking it?”

    In her case, I would encourage her to trust in the promises of God. I would tell her to “look to her baptism” — not the fact that *she* was baptized, but to what that baptism means — the promise of cleansing of sins. I would speak often of Jesus as her great high priest and anchor for the soul.

    (and I would encourage her to see a physician about the depression, but that’s another story).

    So … that’s an answer that certainly lies in the “objective” category. I’m not encouraging her to seek a subjective experience that will confirm her salvation. But the objective facts that lead to assurance are not facts about her life (member of the Church, baptized) but instead are facts about Christ.

    Jeff Cagle

  107. jared said,

    December 23, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Reed,

    I think so; section two tells us what that assurance is, not how it is obtained. The middle of section one and all of section three tell us how we get it and what it looks like and what it does:

    18.1 – “…yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace…”

    18.3 – “This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.”

    I think this is more than general enough to accommodate FV’s specific items. You ask, “Aside from that Jared, you are aware that you’ve constructed your own modified position?” Why, yes I am. If we’re debating my particular position it likely isn’t to be an FV debate proper (or strictly). You will also find that you and I agree on more things than you and the FV do. I’ve a long standing habit of (mostly) doing precisely what Pete has recently (the end of comment 96) suggested the FV should do. It’s okay to climb on top of the fence on much of this controversy; the view is great and it’s much more stable than either side realizes (or even grants). We are, however, debating the FV. You’ve been saying they equivocate and I’ve been saying they don’t. You’ve been saying the FV amounts to practical Arminianism and I’ve been saying not necessarily; and so on. You see, if the FV is completely wrong and incoherent then it’s stands to reason that my “novel” integration of some FV elements is dubious. So I defend those areas of the FV from which I’ve gleaned and disagree with it where I think it is wrong. The difficulty is that the critics want FV theology to be this singular system when it (clearly) is not. This makes criticizing The Federal Vision an imprecise activity even given the Joint Statement. It’s unfortunate that official church documents and statements like this have to be written in the formal manner they typically are; why not write it like a normal paper or a book? Sure would make things easier for everyone, I think; but maybe that’s just me. I don’t think academia is overrated (certainly not!), just the formal style of her journals and the height of her towers. I suppose, though, that’s not likely to ever change; another unfortunate. Sorry for the tangent, I’ll stop rambling now…

  108. Pete Myers said,

    December 23, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Jared, #103

    I think the key thing we’re debating here is whether you can be receive any benefits from Christ’s death without them being “bought” in terms of “atonement”. So the crucial paragraph in your answer for me is:

    The way you’ve structured it causes me to pause. You are making a conceptual differentiation between “Christ’s death” and “atonement” as if the former is simply a fact of history and the latter is something more personal. Am I right? If so, then I don’t know what benefit could be had from the historical fact that Jesus died; it’s like a point on a time line which can’t affect anything.

    Firstly, just to clear this up, I’m not drawing the distinction between the former being a “fact of history”, and the latter being “something more personal”.

    The distinction I’m drawing is: that a Reprobate Non Covenant Member (because more anacronyms is just what we need!) does receive some benefit from Christ’s death, but they don’t receive that benefit because Christ “atoned” for anything for them personally.

    Let’s see if I can reach out to a point of consensus, and then we can reason on from there… ok? (especially since I still feel very sympathetic to your position, and building on consensus is the way I prefer to do things):

    Here’s the minimum I reckon we could agree on, on this point: We both agree that Jesus died on the cross, and that bought the salvation of the Elect. If Jesus didn’t die on the cross, then the Elect would never be saved – in fact there’d be no Elect, there’d be no salvation. And if that were the case, then, as soon as Adam would have sinned, then, he, and the entire human race would have been instantly cast down into Hell. There would be no reason for God’s patience with these vessels of wrath – strict justice would apply – and judgement would fall immediately.

    However, by dying for the Elect, and atoning for their sin, there is now a reason and a basis for God to be patient with the RNCM (Reprobate Non-Covenant Members).

    For this reason – even though they are personally completely untouched by the atonement itself (Jesus paid nothing for them) the RNCM are benefitting from the cross (I guess you could say they’re benefitting from the atonement – but I’m just avoiding that language because it confusingly implies that Jesus paid something for them).

    So, Jared, can we agree that some people has benefitted from the Cross of Christ, even if nothing was paid for them by his Cross of Christ? Is this a point of consensus we can build on?

  109. Todd said,

    December 23, 2008 at 9:20 am

    Vern, as usual,# 97 nailed the real problem. The FV phenomena has as its center the desire for ecclesiastical power. The FV ultimately is not an intellectual problem, but a moral one. The existence of FV in Reformed circles is a warning to all of us ministers, since already in Reformed thinking we have a high view of the church, not to raise it any higher, thus making ourselves the center of our people’s spiritual existence instead of Christ.

    Todd

  110. Reed Here said,

    December 23, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Ref. 105:

    Jeff, well done, well done. Much clearer than I’ve been,

    Ref. 107:

    Jared, I guess I am hearing something in your formulation that I do not find in the FV pronouncements. Evangelical obedience is different than that defined as “faithful” obedience by the FV. The first is something I find flows from joyfully resting in the finished work of Christ. The latter ends up being something itself to be rested in. Note the distinction, resting in Christ or resting in my obedience.

    I am aware that some FV, like DW, will heartily disagree with me. So to be fair to them, I do acknowledge they speak of evangelical obedience. Yet they apply it in a manner more consistent with Shepherd’s “faithful”obedience.

    As long as you’re quoting 18.1 and 18.3 with references to the means the Spirit uses to bring us assurance, not in any way the means we use, or the means as the ends that bring assurance themselves, then I’m o.k. with how you’ve said it.

    The longer I study all this, the more I find myself appreciating the Marrow of Modern Divinity and other such works. Marshall’s The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification would be good for meditating on these things.

    I like Jeff’s explanation about the FV-light vs. full-bodied FV (better than FV-dark). I agree with your comment about the FV being an imprecise activity.

    (I call that an expression of it’s equivocating nature :-) Agreeing to disagree here, still we try to find the “common” ground, the positions most FV advocates affirm, and debate that. Further, we do need to grant the FV advocates the acknowledgment that they believe their system is essentially a whole cloth, and not inconsistent. This is the basis of their claim that we critics don’t get it. If we would just read their comments via the system, all our concerns would fade away.)

    In this manner (imprecise) I have thought from the beginning that the FV is like “progressive” dispensationalism. The FV (as broadly formulated) is inconsistent and therefore unstable. At best it is just a way-station between positions, a position that has a foot in two other more consistent positions (like progressive dispensationalism).

    This is (partly) where my “arminian” challenges come from. I am looking, at least I think so, at those parts of the system which are most consistent (cohesive), and observing that the direction is arminian-like. I know full well that an individual’s own inconsistencies will mitigate such a slide. As well, I am not suggesting that the FV boils down to nothing more than arminianism. Similarly it would be foolish to say that arminianism boils down to pelagianism. To use the “boiling” analogy, there are different ingredients in the three different pots (pelagianism, arminianism, the FV), but the stock in each pot is the same. There is a fatal flaw in all three, revolving around the individual’s own efforts, differently spiced to be sure, but in the end the same brew.

  111. jared said,

    December 23, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Jeff (#105),

    You say,

    So it is not the logic of Calvin’s system, but rather “Calvin’s system plus one” — the one added assumption that the unity of God’s will prohibits speaking of “God’s preceptive will” — that leads to hyperCalvinism.

    Of course I agree with you, I don’t think the logic of Calvin’s system leads to hyper-Calvinism. But what about the FV? You say,

    But now the declaration in the JFVS that “the Visible Church is the Church of God, and is not approximate”, this has a positive tendency to mark all within the bounds of the Visible Church as partakers of salvation. Certainly, Wilkins’ analysis of Ephesians 1 exhibits this tendency.

    Yes, but that is not a necessary movement. That some (many or most?) move in such a direction is not a result of this particular element, rather it’s a result of whatever else they are bringing to that element. Continuing,

    He feels compelled to move from “the letter is addressed to the church in Ephesus” to “therefore, every blessing declared in the letter must be true for each member of the church, head-for-head.” We see in the exegesis the same syllogism: the VC in Ephesus is not approximate; therefore, what is true for the Church as a whole is true for each member without distinction, including the salvation package of sealing with the HS, forgiveness of sins, predestination to election, etc. (cf. “The Federal Vision”, p. 58).

    And I would disagree with him. Just because the letter is addressed to the church doesn’t mean the letter’s contents are true for everyone “head for head”, as it were. This is a leap caused by something other than the JFV statement, not a logical extension of it. It also commits the basic fallacy of division. Just because the church has salvation it doesn’t follow that all her members also have salvation; there are more things that need to be taken into consideration when we begin talking about individuals. Moving on,

    So why then does DW not follow in the same path? Because he adds one additional premise: that there is in fact an “external/internal distinction” between the ECM and NECM.

    I don’t think it is so much that he adds an additional premise as much as it is that he recognizes the illogical structure that puts one on such a path (he’s got a degree in philosophy you know; maybe that’s why I like him…). You suggest,

    The E/I distinction, if followed to its logical conclusion, would necessitate two things:

    (1) That the Visible Church is only an approximation of the true Church — that there is, right now, a real and invisible difference between branches that will one day be broken off and branches that will not. AND,

    (2) That the Invisible Church is not merely eschatological but also has a present meaning.

    I don’t think the E/I necessitates (1). The visible church doesn’t need to be an approximation of the true church in order to maintain the difference/division of elect and non-elect. It has been my understanding that the true church is both visible and invisible here and now. I think this is why the JFVS says the visible church is not an approximation of the true church, but is the true church. The WCF doesn’t seem to disagree:

    25.2 – “The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children…”

    The only difference between the visible church and in invisible church, as far as the WCF is concerned, is that the invisible church contains “the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one” while the visible church contains “those throughout the world that profess the true religion”. In other words, the invisible church is composed only of the elect and the visible church has elect and non-elect. These aren’t two different or separate churches are they? That would be an odd interpretation of the Confession, I think. It seems to me that the visible church is like the lounge where everyone gathers and the invisible church is like the family room where only those who really live there retire to after all is said and done: same entity, different perspectives. If that is the case then the visible church isn’t merely an approximation of the invisible church, rather it’s the entry way for it. The WCF seems to paint that picture in the rest of chapter 25 by going on to say that the visible church is “given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints”. The alternative is to say they really are two different churches and, in that case, the visible would be just an approximation. We should also, then, change the name of this chapter to “Of the Churches”. As an aside, if I’m only a member of the church that is approximating the true church then I want to go ahead and just move along into the true church.

    Pete (#108),

    You ask, “So, Jared, can we agree that some people has benefitted from the Cross of Christ, even if nothing was paid for them by his Cross of Christ? Is this a point of consensus we can build on?” Sure.

    Reed (#110),

    Like I said, you and I are closer to being on the same page than you and most FV advocates. As you are defining them here: Evangelical obedience, yes! Faithful obedience, no! Though I have been working with the presumption that they are largely equivalent (hence my frequent use of “faithful obedience” instead of “evangelical obedience”). It seems to me that evangelical obedience is faithful obedience; as I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t know how anything could be considered as obedience apart from the context/presence of faith. You say,

    In this manner (imprecise) I have thought from the beginning that the FV is like “progressive” dispensationalism. The FV (as broadly formulated) is inconsistent and therefore unstable. At best it is just a way-station between positions, a position that has a foot in two other more consistent positions (like progressive dispensationalism).

    I think this is because the FV isn’t (or wasn’t intended to be) the kind of thing that one formulates. It’s supposed to be a way-station between decidedly Reformed positions. I don’t think “revolving around the individual’s own efforts” is necessarily a fatal flaw, it’s necessary to avoid complacency and the logical consequences of “all grace all the time” a la Zane Hodges’ free grace theology. So the FV looks like it’s pushing for Rome and their critics look like they are pushing for Dallas. Of course neither is really the case, in my opinion, and I’m not entirely sure which one would be worse.

  112. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 23, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    John 3:6-9 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can this be?”

    Nicodemus with all of his theological ducks lined up perfectly, with all his education, his status, his privileges, his position as ruler and teacher of the law was a lost sinner. He was blind to spiritual things. He did not understand the words of Jesus. Nicodemus, a circumcised Jew, needed to be born again by the Spirit if he wanted to see the kingdom of God.
    Did Jesus tell Nicodemus he needed to be baptized to see the kingdom of God?

    In the next chapter of John, a Samaritan woman who was a total outcast, and who definitely had a mixed up bag of pagan and Jewish theology, had her spiritual eyes opened to see her Savior – she was a sinner saved by grace. She was the most unlikely candidate who was born again by the Spirit.
    Did this Samaritan woman run back to her town and tell people they needed to be baptized to see and know the Messiah – to experience the efficacy of His grace? John records that she simply brought them to Jesus and many believed – many were born again.

    My parents had me baptized as an infant in the Episcopal Church; 20 years later I was born again when Christian college friends shared the Gospel. The Holy Spirit orchestrated the circumstances, the time, and the people. You could say that my baptism was made efficacious – not at the time of my baptism, but when as a college student I was born again by the Spirit. I know because when I picked up my dusty Sunday School Bible from the 4th grade and started reading the Gospel of John, my spiritual eyes were opened and the words came to life for the very first time. That was not just an emotional experience; that was the Holy Spirit testifying and sealing God’s Word in my heart. I have complete assurance of my salvation because of the authority and promise of God’s Word and the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart. Jesus promises that He will never forsake me nor will He lose any one of His sheep.

    As Christian “covenant” parents, we did the same thing that the Samaritan woman did – we took the responsibility and the privilege of leading our three little ones to Christ. We did not assume whether they were elect or not elect -we simply brought them to Jesus so that they too could be born again. All three came to Christ and were born again at a very young age before they were baptized. The Holy Spirit engineered the circumstances, the time, and the place of their second birth. They all heard the story of the shepherd who left the ninety-nine to search for the one lost sheep. That was the story that led them to Christ. Their wonderful testimony of God’s grace is different from ours – they do not remember a day they were without Christ. We do not tell them to look to their baptism for assurance of salvation. We tell them to look to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit will confirm and seal those words in their hearts.

    My point in all of this is that spiritual rebirth is solely the work of the Holy Spirit. Like the wind, we do not know how, when, or if a person is to be saved or whether he is elect or non-elect. Jesus’ words are very clear on this: we simply cannot tell or know. The minute any one of us assumes or ties salvation to a sacrament, an ecclesiastical authority, any outward religious ritual, or covenant/non covenant status, we attempt to take on the role of the Holy Spirit and deceive ourselves. That is a very dangerous and misleading practice because it violates Scripture. We may be able to make converts to a religion, but we cannot put a person in a right relationship with God. The Holy Spirit works in amazing, mysterious, and wonderful ways. Our privilege is the same privilege given to the Samaritan woman – to testify of God’s grace in our lives and bring others to Christ.

    Christmas Blessings and Grace to you all

  113. Pete Myers said,

    December 23, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Jared, #111,

    Great… so with that agreement in place, are you fine to agree with Berkhof when he draws this distinction between special and common grace?

    Special grace is supernatural and spiritual: it removes the guilt and pollution of sin and lifts the sentence of condemnation. Common grace, on the other hand, is natural; and while some of its forms may be closely connected with saving grace, it does not remove sin nor set man free, but merely restrains the outward manifestations of sin and promotes outward morality and decency, good order in society and civic righteousness, the development of science and art, and so on. It works only in the natural, and not in the spiritual sphere. It should be maintained therefore that, while the two are closely connected in the present life, they are yet essentially different, and do not differ merely in degree.

    And a second question… what do you make of Berkhof when he says this:

    No, amount of common grace can ever introduce the sinner into the new life that is in Christ Jesus. However, common grace does sometimes reveal itself in forms that can hardly be distinguished by man from the manifestations of special grace as, for instance, in the case of temporal faith.

    I guess that you’d be happy to agree with the first quote… but the second one (which is obviously talking more particularly about what Berkhof labelled “Covenantal Common Grace”) you may take issue with?

  114. jared said,

    December 23, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Pete (#112),

    I can agree with the first quote but only in as much as the common grace spoken of is not also equivalent to (3) in your #96 post. That common grace is not only “in the natural” as Berkhof might say. In other words, “covenantal common grace” can not be just “common grace” (as defined in the first quote) with covenant clothes. Thus, I can partially agree with the second quote since I would distinguish common grace from covenantal common grace. No amount of common grace can introduce the sinner into the new life, but I should think covenantal common grace does just that; otherwise why make it a third category? The seeds that don’t get planted in the good soil still exhibit some life (except for the ones that get eaten by the birds).

  115. Pete Myers said,

    December 23, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Jared, #113,

    Yep, I thought that might be the case.

    But what I’d ask you now, though, is why can’t an NEVCM be receiving some kind of blessing from the Covenant of Grace, that is distinct from what the Non-Elect receive as part of their (no. 2 type) “General Common Grace”… but at the same time is not “bought” for them by the atonement.

    In other words – why must we insist that the blessings the NEVCM receives from the covenant mean that they’ve had something atoned for?

    You could say that my question is trying to get to the heart of the distinction between a sinner coming into new life, or a sinner coming into the new life.

  116. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 23, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Jared (#111):

    (A) Just because the letter is addressed to the church doesn’t mean the letter’s contents are true for everyone “head for head”, as it were.

    (B) This is a leap caused by something other than the JFV statement, not a logical extension of it.

    (C) It also commits the basic fallacy of division. Just because the church has salvation it doesn’t follow that all her members also have salvation

    I agree with your assessment (A), but not for reason (C). It sure looks like a fallacy of division, but I convinced myself over two hours in the car today that this is not the case.

    The fallacy of division amounts to attributing a property to the parts that is true of the whole. But Paul’s letter does not attribute properties to the whole; quite the contrary — he attributes properties such as forgiveness, adoption, and sealing to individuals.

    Now, as a digression, the Arminian account of Eph 1 does attribute v. 5 to the church as a whole: God has predestined the Church to salvation as a unit, but the population of that unit is not predestined.

    But the Reformed account appeals to the larger ecclesiology in Ephesians. The Church is not an empty container to be population, but rather the Church itself consists of a temple built of people (ch. 2) or as a body built of people (ch. 4).

    Anyways, the relevant point is that all the Reformed agree that Eph. 1 is attributing properties to individuals.

    Wilkins’ error, then, is simply that he counts the individuals incorrectly.

    I (and you?) would say that Paul speaks to all as individuals in Ephesians 1 with a presumption that what he says *ought* to be true of all (because of their profession of faith), but without knowing whether or to what extent his presumption is correct. That is, he is speaking approximately, using a judgment of charity.

    In so doing, I (and you?) are implicitly agreeing with Murray, who held that there is but one Church and not two — but the one Church has a visible and an invisible aspect to it.

    Wilkins denies the approximate view above on the grounds that (a) it robs us of the ability to speak to our churches truthfully, and (b) that Paul does not qualify his speech in any way to indicate approximation. No, the Visible Church is not an approximate Church, but the Church of God. Paul’s words are addressed to all as individuals; therefore, they must be true of all as individuals.

    (Just so I know where we are — have you read “The Federal Vision”?)

    So contra (B) above, I see a direct line requiring no additional premises from the JFVS on The Church to Wilkins’ take on Eph 1.

    Thoughts?

    Jeff Cagle

  117. Pete Myers said,

    December 23, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Jeff, #115

    I’ve been thinking very carefully about Wilkins’ argument for a few days now, because it’s one of the arguments that I’ve found most compelling about the FV:

    Wilkins denies the approximate view above on the grounds that (a) it robs us of the ability to speak to our churches truthfully,

    Here’s where I’ve got to on it – would appreciate your thoughts. I don’t think a judgement of charity robs us of the ability to speak to our churches truthfully, because (among other reasons) we’re talking to them based on what they’re professing to us.

    If my congregation member says “I love and trust Jesus Christ”, and I say “that’s great, you only do that because God chose you and gave you faith”… then if that person turns out to fall away I’m not the one who was lying.

    Obviously in the real world of being a pastor, I’d want to make sure I’d explained more to them than just that, and I’d have more to go on than just 6 words… but you get the idea. Thoughts?

  118. jared said,

    December 23, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Pete (#114),

    Because all of the blessings of the CoG were bought via Christ’s death; the very existence of the CoG is predicated on Jesus’ work so I don’t see how their could be elements of it that weren’t bought. Does that make sense? There are no covenantal blessings/benefits which can be separated from being in Jesus and there’s no “being in Jesus” apart from the atonement. It seems to me that this is why the NECM’s judgment is more severe. They are rejecting/losing/apostatizing from something more substantial than just common grace which even non-covenant members are given.

    Jeff (#115),

    You say,

    The fallacy of division amounts to attributing a property to the parts that is true of the whole. But Paul’s letter does not attribute properties to the whole; quite the contrary — he attributes properties such as forgiveness, adoption, and sealing to individuals.

    Except the letter begins “to the saints”, i.e. to the body of believers in Ephesus. He attributes properties such as forgiveness, adoption and sealing to individuals as a group, not individually. Wilkins illogically concludes that since Paul is speaking to the group and attributes these things to the group they must, therefore, be true of everyone in the group. If that’s not a fallacy of division then I need to go and give back my degree! You say,

    But the Reformed account appeals to the larger ecclesiology in Ephesians. The Church is not an empty container to be population, but rather the Church itself consists of a temple built of people (ch. 2) or as a body built of people (ch. 4).

    I don’t think the Arminians would disagree with you on these points. I honestly don’t see a meaningful difference between saying Paul is talking to the church as individuals and saying he is talking to individuals as the church. You continue,

    I (and you?) would say that Paul speaks to all as individuals in Ephesians 1 with a presumption that what he says *ought* to be true of all (because of their profession of faith), but without knowing whether or to what extent his presumption is correct. That is, he is speaking approximately, using a judgment of charity.

    Yes, I would say that Paul is speaking to all as individuals even though the “you”s and the “your”s are clearly referencing the church as a whole and not any particular individual. I agree that he speaks to them with the presumption that what he says ought to be true of all them because of their profession of faith (or because of their covenantal status, as the FV might say). I don’t know why you want to say this means he is speaking “approximately”; that seems confusing and unnecessary to me even given the judgment of charity. And I do think (with Murray, but not necessarily the WCF?) that there is one church with two aspects (or perspectives, or facets, or whatever). You say,

    Wilkins denies the approximate view above on the grounds that (a) it robs us of the ability to speak to our churches truthfully, and (b) that Paul does not qualify his speech in any way to indicate approximation. No, the Visible Church is not an approximate Church, but the Church of God. Paul’s words are addressed to all as individuals; therefore, they must be true of all as individuals.

    I think I might deny the approximate view (or language at least) on the same grounds. The last sentence here where you lay out Wilkins’s view is exactly what I was referring to by charging him with committing the fallacy of division. Maybe he’s only approximately committing it? Also, I have read “The Federal Vision” except for Lusk’s chapters, and I didn’t read it in order, and I read Jordan’s chapter more than once… and liked it. You finish,

    So contra (B) above, I see a direct line requiring no additional premises from the JFVS on The Church to Wilkins’ take on Eph 1.

    But I still maintain (C) and so (B) still seems to be the case.

  119. curate said,

    December 24, 2008 at 1:30 am

    The two Jeffs and Jared

    I have the feeling that you speak so generally of common grace that you lose sight of the actual descriptions of these people.

    Would you please explain why the apostate in Hebrews 10 who has been sanctified by the blood of Christ has only received common grace available to any church-connected unbeliever, and not cross-purchased benefits.

    This is not a trick question or a snide have-a-go.

  120. Pete Myers said,

    December 24, 2008 at 6:27 am

    Jared, #117, & curate, #118,

    The Reprobate who never has anything to do with the covenant, is blessed by the Covenant of Grace. He’s blessed by the existence of the covenant of grace. On that we’ve previously agreed.

    So it’s possible to benefit from the covenant, without having anything atoned for you. I’d guess I want to say, then, that coming at this thing systematically, without going into any detail of NEVCMs at all – your explanation for why NEVCMs must have something atoned for them in order to be blessed by the covenant of grace isn’t strictly necessary.

    The meat of the thing, then, lies in verses like 2 Peter 2v1, and Hebrews 10v29, which curate keeps (helpfully and rightly) pointing to. I think these verses are the chief reason why we would want to say that it is a necessary conclusion that the NEVCMs have had something atoned for them. But if these verses don’t force us to that conclusion, I think we have enough pieces of an alternative system on the table to say that another conclusion is at least possible.

    Of those two verses (there are others I recognise)… I’d suggest that, actually 2 Peter 2v1 is the one that looks more damaging to the non-FV position than Hebrews 10v29.

    Owen addressed both verses in his commentary on Hebrews 10. First he offers this explanation… which from my reading seems to be the explanation that Lane is giving to these sorts of discussions:

    Every thing that takes off from a high and glorious esteem of the blood of Christ as “the blood of the covenant,” is a dangerous entrance into apostasy: such is the pretended sacrifice of the mass, with all things of the like nature.
    The last aggravation of this sin with respect unto the blood of Christ, is the nature, use, and efficacy of it; it is that “wherewith he was sanctified.” It is not real or internal sanctification that is here intended, but it is a separation and dedication unto God; in which sense the word is often used. And all the disputes concerning the total and final apostasy from the faith of them who have been really and internally sanctified, from this place, are altogether vain; though that may be said of a man, in aggravation of his sin, which he professeth concerning himself. But the difficulty of this text is, concerning whom these words are spoken: for they may be referred unto the person that is guilty of the sin insisted on; he counts the blood of the covenant, wherewith he himself is sanctified, an unholy thing. For as at the giving of the law, or the establishing of the covenant at Sinai, the people being sprinkled with the blood of the beasts that were offered in sacrifice, were sanctified, or dedicated unto God in a peculiar manner; so those who by baptism, and confession of faith in the church of Christ, were separated from all others, were peculiarly dedicated to God thereby. And therefore in this case apostates are said to “deny the Lord that bought them,” or vindicated them from their slavery unto the law by his word and truth for a season, 2 Peter 2v1.

    But then, Owen goes on to explain that in the case of Hebrews 10, he thinks that the “he” is referring to Christ. So, rather than the verse reading:

    How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which Christ sanctified that person?

    Owen thinks the verse reads:

    How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which Christ sanctified himself to be high priest?

    I’m still not sure what I make of Owen’s preferred interpretation. But since his first one is the one that’s the most popular on these comment threads here, what do you make of it?

  121. Pete Myers said,

    December 24, 2008 at 6:44 am

    #117,

    Sorry, Jared, just to make that first assertion a little clearer:

    3 categories we’re using:

    1) Elect Visible Covenant Members
    2) Non-Elect Visible Covenant Members/Covenant Common Grace
    3) General Common Grace

    You’re saying:
    A – for (2) to be distinct from (3),
    B – (2) must share in the atonement of (1) in some way,
    C – otherwise, how can we describe (2) as being blessed by the covenant?”

    I’m saying:
    A – (1), (2) and (3) are blessed by the covenant somehow,
    B – (1) definitely through having something atoned for, but (3) definitely not through having something atoned for,
    C – So, unless we’re explicitly told otherwise, (2) does not have to have anything atoned for them in order to be blessed by the covenant.

    Neither do I think the argument follows that “in order to be different from (3), (2) must have something atoned for them.”

    And finally – the FV guys are concerned that the non-FV guys aren’t making clear enough distinction between (2) and (3).
    But the non-FV guys are concerned that the FV guys aren’t making clear enough distinction between (1) and (2).

    It would be nice to hear the non-FV give a clear definition of the line between (2) and (3). However, doing this, while throwing in loads and loads of caveats about the distinction between (1) and (2) would not help the FV hear you properly.

    But it would be also nice to hear the FV give a clear definion of the line between (1) and (2). However, doing this, while throwing in loads and loads of caveats about the distinction between (2) and (3) would not help the non-FV hear you properly.

  122. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 24, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Except the letter begins “to the saints”, i.e. to the body of believers in Ephesus. He attributes properties such as forgiveness, adoption and sealing to individuals as a group, not individually.

    No, now you’re committing the fallacy of composition. Just because the individuals are plural in number, it does not follow that he is speaking to them collectively rather than as individuals. That is, Paul’s phrase “to the saints” is subtly different from your gloss “to the body.” Now, splitting hairs on the basis of this one verse is unjustifiable, so consider …

    The Church, as a whole, does not get sealed with the Spirit. The individuals who make up the church do. The Church is not predestined to be adopted as a son. The individuals who make up the Church *are* predestined to be adopted as sons. The Church was not included in Christ when it believed. The individuals who make up the Church were included in Christ when they believed.

    And so on. In other words, Paul is speaking to a collection of individuals, not to the church as a single unit.

    Jeff Cagle

  123. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 24, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Jared (#118):

    My reply above was a bit hasty. Let me try again:

    [Paul] attributes properties such as forgiveness, adoption and sealing to individuals as a group, not individually. Wilkins illogically concludes that since Paul is speaking to the group and attributes these things to the group they must, therefore, be true of everyone in the group…

    …I would say that Paul is speaking to all as individuals even though the “you”s and the “your”s are clearly referencing the church as a whole and not any particular individual.

    A good model for a group and its parts is a computer folder with files therein.

    (An example of fallacy of division would then be if someone changed the folder name and expected that the file names inside would also change.

    A fallacy of composition could occur if someone deleted all the files in a folder and assumed that the folder was automatically deleted also.)

    Arminian ecclesiology treats the church as a folder. It is the folder that is predestined to adoption, while the individual files within the folder can come and go according to free-will.

    In your replies above, you shift back and forth between the church as a group (folder) and the church as individuals (files), which makes life challenging.

    So if we rephrase Wilkins in folder model language, he is not saying

    (1) Paul addresses the Church as a folder, so
    (2) Everything he says about the Church must be true of all of the individual files in the Church.

    That would certainly be a fallacy of division. Instead, he is saying

    (1) Paul addresses the individuals in the Church without distinction (he has “selected all the files in the folder”)
    (2) So therefore, we must read the attributes in Eph. 1 in this way.

    It’s a logically valid argument — it’s just that (1) is an incorrect premise.

    Better?

    Jeff Cagle

  124. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 24, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Curate (#119):

    Would you please explain why the apostate in Hebrews 10 who has been sanctified by the blood of Christ has only received common grace available to any church-connected unbeliever, and not cross-purchased benefits.

    Fair question. And what’s a “have-a-go”? :)

    I think the author to the Hebrews has to speak according to what he is able to see. We (theologians) speak glibly of “those who are really saved” without, sometimes, acknowledging that we cannot produce any way to measure such. On the one hand, we are justified in making the distinction because of the wheat-and-tares parable and the four-soils parable and Jesus’ warning to those who cry “Lord, Lord” but do not do as he commands.

    But on the other, we have need to admit that we can’t plug a salvation-o-meter into someone and measure his true faith.

    I think this is what the author to the Hebrews is contending with as he speaks to his audience. Consider:

    “…by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. ”

    “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

    But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”

    Which is it? Are they the righteous ones who will live by faith, or those who will shrink back? Have they been made perfect forever, or should they expect fearful and raging judgment? The author does not know — but he has confidence based on their former obedience that they are the righteous ones (cf. Heb. 6.9).

    But what he’s *not* saying is that they can cause an ontological change in their status by means of obedience or of falling away. No, the root determines the fruit, as Jesus repeatedly taught.

    So what then? Why warn them? Because the warnings are the means God uses to stimulate them to persevere. The warnings — which in this case are God’s word! — are used of the Spirit to bring about repentance. (In their case, it appears to be repentance from continuing the Jewish sacrifices).

    Now to the question: why not cross-purchased benefits? Because Christ’s death paid for sin at the time of his death; thus, it is not possible that sins could be temporarily forgiven on the basis of Christ’s death. Judgment for them might be temporarily postponed, just as judgment for Israel’s sin was often postponed and just as final judgment on the world has been postponed. But postponement is not forgiveness.

    So to my mind, we need to maintain the bright line that Christ’s death really accomplished forgiveness, the satisfaction of God’s wrath. And if so, then we cannot attribute it to anything other than forgiveness.

    Jeff Cagle

  125. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    December 24, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Re #120:

    Pete, as much as I admire John Owen, the Greek really does not leave much room for his interpretation. The subject of the main sentence is specified by the trio of substantive participles (“the one who trampled down…and counted…and mocked…”), and there is really no way to get “was sanctified” to have any other subject, especially as it follows so closely on “the one who counted,” which is clearly the main subject, i.e., the apostate. If the author of Hebrews had wanted to indicate someone besides the most immediate antecedent (“the one who counted), he would have need to use a demonstrative pronoun (“that one”) to refer to an antecedent that was more distant in the sentence. I don’t know how much Greek you know, and I don’t want to sound condescending, but I’ve seen folks assert that the previous antecedent to “he” in the phrase “by which he was sanctified” must be “the son of God,” because is it the last noun before “he was sanctified.” Actually, it’s not–the participle “having counted” is clearly a substantive, that is, a noun, so “the one who counted” (one word in Greek: egesamenos) is the nearest antecedent to the subject of “was sanctified.”

    Besides this, the blood of the covenant is the blood of the sacrifice–but Christ was the sacrifice himself, and the sacrifice is never said to be sanctified by the blood of the covenant, but rather the people (Ex. 24:8).

    Thus, both the Greek syntax and the biblical context are opposed to Owen’s position.

  126. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    December 24, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Re #124, etc.:

    Wasn’t one of the benefits that Christ’s death purchased for his people the coming of the Holy Spirit? Yet certainly the apostates may participate in that benefit, Heb. 6:4. So, there are unique covenant benefits that can accrue to the NECM that are different in kind from the common grace given to unbelievers at large.

    I think we’ve been here before: since the HS is part of the powers of the age to come (v.5), and that entire order of the age to come can be called the Regeneration (Matt. 19:28), then the NECM participates in “regeneration” to some degree. This actually goes to Lane’s comments about the historia salutis vs. the ordo: it seems pretty clear from Heb. 6:4-6 and Matt. 7:22 that there are those who participate in the historia–i.e., the present inbreaking of the Spirit-motivated eschaton–without actually participating in the ordo, since they do finally fall away.

  127. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    December 24, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Re #106 (and, with it, 115):

    The problem, Jeff, with your approach to Alice, is that pointing to her to obective realities about Christ, instead of about her, leaves her with no connection to Christ, and thus, no connection to those truths about him. Often the one who is struggling with an apparent lack of sanctification feels as though the theology of Scripture is true, but is far away from them; they feel disconnected with the life of Scripture, even though they would acknowledge the truth of the doctrine. Alice needs to feel that *she* belongs to Christ, that these theological facts mean she is one of Christ’s own. The fact that she was baptized means that she is baptized into Christ, and he does not allow his own to fall away. Now, that is simply a pastoral statement, not a categorical one. To one who thinks that because he’s baptized, then he can do whatever, the pastor needs to apply Heb. 10:29 in its strong form, or Matt. 7:21-23. Check out Gregory the Great’s Book of Pastoral Care for a discussion of how the preacher needs to address the variety of people in his congregation differently. And no, that doesn’t mean I’m going to Rome!

  128. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    December 24, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    As for the whole conversation in the 80’s (comment numbers, that is, not decade), it seems to me that the FV (and Horton) are actually trying to clarify the question, since “inward” seems to be somewhat ambiguous (e.g., comment 87), and they seek to clarify the question by using the Biblical categories of eschatology. That is why the FV places the emphasis on perseverance, but it is vital to notice that perseverance is not simply a matter of duration. Rather, perseverance is the historical and human indicator of a real, ontological difference between the benefits enjoyed by the elect and reprobate. Leithart’s comments that a marriage that ends in divorce was always qualitatively different from one that does not, even if they looked the same, and even felt the same, at various points.

    I think the FV sees a danger of introspection, of people looking inside themselves for signs of true faith in their own hearts (as in the mystical syllogism). But, the point is that the heart can deceive one: those addressed in Matt. 7:21-23 didn’t seem to think there was any problem in their hearts. So, the language of “inward/outward” seems susceptible to problems, since one could experience inward feelings of peace or whatever, yet not truly be in Christ. That is why they emphasize the external, objective aspects of the covenants: the baptized one belongs to Christ, point final (as my French prof used to say). Not, “the baptized one belongs to Christ, if he or she believes enough, or finds a desire to please God in his or her heart, or if…” But a fact. Now, that fact has two applications: to those who a struggling, a comfort (you are Christ’s and he has said that those who belong to him will never fall away), while to those who are presuming, a warning (baptism will only increase your blame unless you live as one who is dead to sin). Neither of those two classes should depend upon their “inward” experience, since the former will not feel close to God, while the latter will feel that all is right, when it’s not. So, it may help to deal with different categories and terminology that is not as liable to ambiguity.

  129. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 24, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    There is only one person who is saved and going to heaven – that is the sinner who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. All your other subcategories and labels are ridiculously futile and fall short of God’s glory.

    Yes, you have a variety of sinners in the congregation, but there is only one brand of salvation that covers every sin – Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. Genuine faith will always produce the fruit of grateful obedience.

    Federal Vision theology and its off shoots is a system of religion. It turns the church into a corporation and denies a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a religion of works and another gospel. It has poisoned many churches, turning whole congregations away from Christ.

  130. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    December 24, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    But should we treat every sinner exactly the same? Should say exactly the same thing to the drug dealer that I say to the mother in the congregation who has served family and church faithfully for years and is now struggling with depression? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

    The point is that pastoral care requires an understanding of the right sort of word to say to different situations, even if the same central message is the same.

  131. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 24, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Joshua (#127): Hi!

    Alice needs to feel that *she* belongs to Christ, that these theological facts mean she is one of Christ’s own. The fact that she was baptized means that she is baptized into Christ, and he does not allow his own to fall away.

    Well, let’s qualify immediately that pastoral counseling is highly individual. But still and all, the Alice I have in mind is not helped by the fact of her baptism at all.

    The fact remains that many who are baptized do fall away. What then can she conclude from the fact of her baptism, if she’s looking for certainty? None’t’all.

    Now, to be fair, I have talked to some who look back to their baptism as a defining point in their spiritual lives, a positive declaration that they have passed from death to life (These are usually credobaptists, BTW). So for some, the fact of baptism helps.

    But in the end, our goal for Alice and all others is that they would look to Christ and him alone for salvation. So … why should I not encourage A to trust in Christ’s promises? This was Luther’s approach to assurance, and I find much to recommend it.

    The best point is that the end product is faith in Christ, rather than faith in some other fact (like baptism).

    But again, all of this is wrapped in an understanding that people are really different.

    Jeff Cagle

  132. Pete Myers said,

    December 24, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    #125, Joshua,

    Yeah, I don’t think I agree with Owen’s preferred interpretation. That’s why I gave a long quote with his explanation of the more traditional explanation. Which I think deals with the text pretty well.

  133. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 24, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    #130 Yes – if both have never put their trust in Christ as their Savior.
    Do not be ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, for the Jew or the faithful server in the church and also for the Greek or the drug addict in need of deliverance (Romans 1:16).

    At our Christmas Eve service, we were each given a teacandle. At the end of the service we were each asked to turn our candle on for the decade in which we came to trust in Christ as our Savior. The lights in the sanctuary were turned off and beginning with 1930, a few candles were lit. 1940..1950 more lights. 1960..1970 more and more candles lit up the darkness. 1980..1990..2000 over 3000 lights for Jesus! What a powerful and awesome testimony to God’s grace! How many different stories of broken lives made whole were behind each of those candles in the dark! But all you could see were the lights of Jesus. That’s what this dark world needs to see.
    Merry Christmas

  134. David Gadbois said,

    December 25, 2008 at 1:02 am

    A few thoughts:

    1. I know that my habit of cross-referencing the Three Forms of Unity on these issues has been regular and frequent to the point of being comical, but I think it serves as a good ‘reality check’ for my Presbyterian brethren.

    As I reflect on the Heidelberg’s Lord’s Day 25, Lord’s Day 26, and Lord’s Day 27, I am struck by how strong the Catechism is on baptism’s assuring character in salvation, yet how weak it is on establishing a *causal* connection between the baptism and salvation. It is, rather, indirect, in that baptism engenders faith, and it is by faith alone that we are justified. Notice especially Q&A 65:

    Q. It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all his blessings: where then does that faith come from?

    A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel,
    and confirms it through our use of the holy sacraments.

    Notice also the priority given to the preached Word – it produces saving faith, whereas the sacraments *confirm* that faith. I find it difficult to shoehorn the FV’s ‘Baptismal Regeneration Lite’ doctrine here. Sacramentalists don’t like Q&A 72 especially.

    2. Regarding the meaning of baptism being a ‘seal': the meaning must be rooted in the actual biblical usage, that is the usage in Romans 4:11 (which, in context, is in reference to Abraham’s circumcision functioning as a seal). The idea that seems to be behind this is the idea of a royal seal. I don’t know how ancient the practice is, but we might think of medieval kings who used a signet ring to stamp an imprint of their royal crest or symbol onto hot wax in order to ‘seal’ a letter and guarantee the authenticity and royal authority behind the letter.

    3. Regarding Hebrews 10, I’ll just say that there are too many legitimate exegetical options on the table that are compatible with the Reformed doctrine of salvation for anyone to be compelled to adopt FV or Arminian alternatives. For those who haven’t, I’d recommend reviewing the following:

    http://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2007/01/01/hebrews-1029-and-apostasy/

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/11/admonitions-in-epistle-to-hebrews.html

    A. The verse is talking about Christ being sanctified. Owen’s interpretation gains plausibility by the proximity of ‘Son of God’ to the relevant pronoun.

    B. The verse is talking about the covenant being sanctified by Christ’s blood.

    C. R.F. White’s thesis that 10:29 is an “example of reproachful irony (sarcasm).”

    D. That the ‘sanctification’ of the apostate is merely the state of being set-apart covenentally, that is the set-apartness of being in the visible church and being under the administration of the covenant of grace.

    E. The author of Hebrews is talking figuratively or in cultic language. So this category doesn’t match up with our dogmatic categories of either progressive or definitive sanctification, or regeneration. Had that been the case, we would expect something like ‘sanctified by the Spirit’, as we find in the Pauline corpus, not ‘sanctified by the blood’, as in Hebrews.

    F. The verse is describing a hypothetical situation only. We are being pushed to think counterfactually as a method of persuasion.

    Personally, I think that either A. or E. are most likely to be correct. But that doesn’t matter too much – unless I were to find considerations that falsified not just some, but ALL of the above options- not merely made the options improbable or unlikely but practically impossible from an exegetical standpoint – then we are justified in holding to the Reformed position and seeing any of the above interpretations of Hebrews 10 as live exegetical options.

    Of course, I don’t believe there are such a comprehensive set of defeaters, and since it can be demonstrated that the rest of Scripture teaches *determinatively* the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, we can conclude that at least one of the Reformed exegetical options for Hebrews 10 is correct, and that all of the Arminian exegetical options (even the ones that are contextually plausible) are false.

    The Federal Visionists do not join with the Arminians in explicitly denying Perseverance of the Saints, but instead attempt to strike a compromise by modifying the doctrine, reducing it to mean ‘perseverance of the elect’, which is closer to the Lutheran position. That is to say, they undermine the Reformed position and deny it in substance if not form. They fabricate a sort of quasi-salvific experience for the reprobate, so that a ‘saint’ who is really and vitally connected to Christ loses that status.

    4. On a systematic level, if we want to deny Perseverance of the Saints, we have to chuck Limited Atonement. Christ dies to justify not only the elect, but also some of the non-elect (at least for a time), specifically the non-elect who are within the covenant. We lose the infallible efficacy of Christ’s cross-work and run into the same problems Arminians have concerning double jeopardy.

    On a practical level, we are also then made to maintain our justification by our faith and/or faith-filled works.

    5. I’m glad to see people reading and referencing Berkhof. There are few better antidotes to FV poison than Berkhof.

  135. jared said,

    December 25, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Jeff asked me if I had read “The Federal Vision” and I had, all except for Lusk’s chapters (which I’ve, since read). He basically sums up my point:

    “Whatever grace reprobate covenant members receive is qualified by their lack of perseverance. Augustine rightly distinguished ‘predestination unto grace,’ which was only temporary, and did not lead to final salvation, from ‘predestination unto perseverance,’ which did issue forth in eternal life. Perseverance is not merely the caboose on the end of the salvation train (to quote Doug Wilson again); rather, its presence or absence qualifies one’s whole participation in the ordo salutis.”

    And,

    “Apostates are judged more severely than other unbelievers precisely because they entered into God’s gracious covenant and then broke that covenant… They are condemned not merely as unbelievers, but as unfaithful spouses, disinherited sons, and traitorous citizens.”

    Also, Joshua has basically said everything I would’ve said in response to Jeff, Reed and Pete. Lusk, I think, hits on one of the things which I think is key to all the “talking past” and much of the confusion (mostly the FV’s fault, but not entirely):

    “When we speak of the elect, the regenerate, the sanctified, and so forth, we usually have reference only to those who enter into final salvation. This decretal perspective is biblical and important to maintain. But it is not the Bible’s primary way of speaking. More often than not, the Bible speaks covenantally and does not draw immediate distinctions between those in the covenant who are eternally saved and those who will someday apostatize.”

    I don’t know why this couldn’t be the reason for judgments of charity. The authors of Scripture certainly didn’t know who was eternally saved and who wasn’t. Lusk argues that the warnings in Scripture are meant to drive us to look to Jesus, not to ourselves; he says, “Assurance is thus a function of faith in Christ, not our own ability to gut it out to the end.” Why? “It is the ever-present danger of apostasy that drives us to continually cling to Christ as the One in whom saving grace and full assurance are found.”

    Roger (#119),

    You say,

    Would you please explain why the apostate in Hebrews 10 who has been sanctified by the blood of Christ has only received common grace available to any church-connected unbeliever, and not cross-purchased benefits.

    I am arguing that any grace received on this side of the covenant is cross-purchased, so any benefits that result from it are also cross-purchased. Otherwise the NECM (or NEVCM) loses nothing more than any ole regular non-believer loses. However, I’m not entirely sure it is necessary to say that the “sanctified” of Hebrews 10:29 is referring to what has come to be called definitive sanctification.

    Pete (#120, 121),

    You say,

    The Reprobate who never has anything to do with the covenant, is blessed by the Covenant of Grace. He’s blessed by the existence of the covenant of grace. On that we’ve previously agreed.

    This is a little deceptive. The reprobate who never has anything to do with the CoG is not blessed by it, but is blessed by it’s existence. Unless you were being redundant (for clarification), I would disagree with you. When you say “is blessed by the CoG” do you mean “blessed by the existence of the CoG” or something else? Do you see the distinction and why it should concern me? You continue,

    So it’s possible to benefit from the covenant, without having anything atoned for you. I’d guess I want to say, then, that coming at this thing systematically, without going into any detail of NEVCMs at all – your explanation for why NEVCMs must have something atoned for them in order to be blessed by the covenant of grace isn’t strictly necessary.

    Except that it is because being in the covenant and not being in the covenant are two fundamentally different positions. The NEVCM doesn’t benefit simply from the existence of the CoG; he’s a member, he gets more. You say,

    The meat of the thing, then, lies in verses like 2 Peter 2v1, and Hebrews 10v29, which curate keeps (helpfully and rightly) pointing to. I think these verses are the chief reason why we would want to say that it is a necessary conclusion that the NEVCMs have had something atoned for them.

    No, the chief reason we want to say the NEVCM has had something atoned for them is because they are VCMs. It’s kind of the way covenants work; do you think only those truly a part of Israel made it to the promised land? Did the high priest’s yearly sacrifice not cover everyone without eternal distinction? For those who were not elect that sacrifice was condemnation, not justification. There are many examples of this throughout the OT. The same is true in the CoG, the blessings/benefits they receive are ultimately curses that will eventually produce only a more severe punishment. It wouldn’t make sense to punish them more severely if all they have is common grace with a meaningless descriptor placed in front of it. Owen, it seems, is saying (more or less) what I am saying:

    “For as at the giving of the law, or the establishing of the covenant at Sinai, the people being sprinkled with the blood of the beasts that were offered in sacrifice, were sanctified, or dedicated unto God in a peculiar manner; so those who by baptism, and confession of faith in the church of Christ, were separated from all others, were peculiarly dedicated to God thereby.”

    This is, like Lusk is saying, undifferentiated blessing(s). It does not distinguish between elect and non-elect. How could it? Those doing the sprinkling couldn’t know, those who are baptizing can’t know. This is why the warnings in Scripture are not all hypothetical situations or hyperbole; they are real threats made to VCMs. I think Lusk is right when he says that Scripture doesn’t always (or even primarily) use a fine-toothed systematic comb making the particular and specific definitions/uses that we have today. I’m not bashing systematic theology, either, because it is necessary and unavoidable but we want to make sure Scripture keeps our system in check rather than using our system to keep Scripture in check.

  136. curate said,

    December 26, 2008 at 1:04 am

    I wish you antis would speak with one voice. Its all so confusing. You are so slippery with your definitions that its hard to pin you down. Clearly it’s a ploy to inject confusion into the church and lead it to Rome.

    :) (with irony)

    What it boils down to is that you all know the truth in advance of reading the Bible, so that when you come across Hebrews 10 and 2 Peter 2 you KNOW that it cannot mean what it so plainly says.

    Yes, the apostate was sanctified by the blood, but what does that mean? you ask yourselves. The unanimous answer is that he was BY NO MEANS sanctified by the blood and the cross. Jared excepted here.

    The tried and trusted method is recourse to figures.

    Trouble is that you would never say of a lapsed Christian that he trampled underfoot the blood that sanctified him, and insulted the Spirit of grace. You say that he was never saved in the first place – and that is saying something different.

    So this is where I say, so long, farewell, auf wieder sehen, good-bye. I am off to have tea with the Pope, and after I will be meeting with my local chapter of Jesuits to find more ways of casuistically twisting the truth.

    A blessed Christmas-tide to all of you.

  137. Reed Here said,

    December 26, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Roger:

    You say, “What it boils down to is that you all know the truth in advance of reading the Bible, so that when you come across Hebrews 10 and 2 Peter 2 you KNOW that it cannot mean what it so plainly says.”

    C’mon Roger, enough with such silly accusations. (You make this one at least every 3 months or so :-) ).

    We’re doing the same as you: we read, we question, we talk to others, we pray, we read some more, we study, and we come up with our own judgments based on what we each individually believe is sound, that is consistent with the Bible’s teaching.

    We could just as easily lay the same charge against you – bringing your preconceived grid to the text, you make it fit your system. The idea that somehow you are not doing this, while we are, is just silly, and not deserving of serious consideration.

    We are alike: apart from the illumining of the Spirit of Christ, we are left to the darkness of the noetic effects of the Fall. I agree that either side could be, more or less, succumbing to these noetic effects in any given statement (or even the whole system). But that is not proof, nor cause for assumption of the worst in your opponent’s arguments.

    Exegesis has been offered numerous times to you. I’ve yet to see you debate the exegesis. You merely offer the same unsubstantiated condemnation of your opponent’s position.

    Fair well. Enjoy your tea with the Pope, but please keep as many Jesuits on that side of the pond as you can. You know, if the label “dark” when applied to some FV proponents’ positions is to be taken as a metaphor for beer, your position is akin to FV-port, the thickest and darkest I’ve yet to run across. But don’t sweat it – keep drinking this heady stuff and you’ll eventually become a full-fledged arminian and join the tee-totaler ranks. :-) (Complete cheeky you know).

    P.S., recognize that this whole post is written from the perspective of the judgement of charity, just like the Bible’s use of such language for those who merely profess faith from their own flesh, not from the regenerating presence of the Spirit. How else could I write you? Well, maybe I could write you from an FV perspective, and simply just hack you off as a poser. Naaahh – I have better hopes for you than that.

    Hope your Incarnation Day celebration was mighty.

  138. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 26, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Curate (#136):

    Hope you had a Merry Christmas.

    The thing about defending myself against the charge of preconceived notions is that — I can’t. It’s like defending myself against a charge of having subconscious motives.

    So I won’t try to plead innocent to approaching the text with my mind made up. Hopefully, you’ll admit the same possibility for yourself … ?

    When I read Heb 10.29, it does not appear to me to have a “plain meaning” that the apostate was saved and then fell away. I can’t reconcile that reading with vv. 14 and 39, which *plainly indicate* an ontological difference between the saved and the unsaved.

    So please consider that one man’s “plain meaning” may be another man’s “pet interpretation”?

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

  139. David Gadbois said,

    December 26, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Jared,

    In your reasoning you’ve forgotten your Atonement Basics 101. Christ’s atonement doesn’t just buy anything, as if it were one of those delightful Visa gift cards. It does one thing – it propitiates God’s just wrath against sinners, that they may be declared righteous in the divine courtroom. The benefits we, the elect, have come by way of that justification and adoption. Talk of it “purchasing” various benefits for the non-elect is both incoherent and unbiblical.

    No one would deny that there are side-effects of the atonement. But those side-effects would even encompass those outside of the church, not only those within the visible church. That doesn’t mean that Christ has made atonement for them, or purchased those benefits for them.

    Reed – actually, Curate would be a barleywine, not a porter.

    Really, we get enough lectures about “plain meaning” from our dispensational friends. Israel means Israel, don’t you know, Curate?

  140. Reed Here said,

    December 26, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    David: I’ll adopt that as a friendly correction.

    Roger: If I ever get across the pond, maybe you can take me to a good pub where I can sample said barleywine.

  141. jared said,

    December 26, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    David Gadbois,

    You say,

    In your reasoning you’ve forgotten your Atonement Basics 101. Christ’s atonement doesn’t just buy anything, as if it were one of those delightful Visa gift cards. It does one thing – it propitiates God’s just wrath against sinners, that they may be declared righteous in the divine courtroom. The benefits we, the elect, have come by way of that justification and adoption. Talk of it “purchasing” various benefits for the non-elect is both incoherent and unbiblical.

    No, I haven’t. I just recognize that Scripture isn’t as cut and dry as systematic theology (or theologians) would like it to be. This is exactly what the FV is getting at; you say “The benefits we, the elect,” and, without any qualifications. Like Lusk says, we are accustomed to terms having a particular and specialized meaning and have gotten into the habit of thinking those terms can only be used in that specialized way in Scripture (as opposed to just in our systematic theologies). So who are “the elect”? Well, in one sense (Confessional, systematic) they are those, and only those, who are predestined unto eternal life. In another (and FV argues the more biblical) sense they are all visible church/covenant members without distinction. When Paul says not all who are “from Israel are Israel” you can legitimately replace “Israel” with “the elect” and get not all who are “from the elect are elect”. Or replace it with “the chosen people” or “the sons of God” or “the bride of Jesus” and so on. It doesn’t change the meaning of the passage but it does (or should) change our understanding of how the concept of election works in Scripture. And by change I don’t mean replace, which is what the FV is charged with doing that it doesn’t actually do. So, when you ask “Is every single one of the elect going to heaven?” The answer can be “yes” or “no” depending on what concept of “elect” is being utilized in that particular discussion.

    The FV would prefer to use the latter concept (the one where all who are baptised are elect) primarily because it is more practical since the only elect (predestined unto salvation) person you can know is yourself. This in no way means they (or I) have forgotten “Atonement Basics 101″. You continue,

    No one would deny that there are side-effects of the atonement. But those side-effects would even encompass those outside of the church, not only those within the visible church. That doesn’t mean that Christ has made atonement for them, or purchased those benefits for them.

    So the side-effects of the atonement are not from the atonement, is that what you are trying to say? And you say I’m being incoherent? The only side-effect those outside the church receive is that they get to enjoy God’s creation until He brings the full number into His kingdom. The non-elect who are within the visible church get much more than that. And no one is saying that Jesus made atonement for those outside the church or those non-elect inside the church. Well, maybe Roger is saying that but I’m certainly not. Especially if by “made atonement for” we mean “saved” and by “saved” we mean “can’t ever fall away”. Does this mean those benefits/blessings the NEVCM receives weren’t atonement-wrought? How else could they be gotten? It is precisely because Jesus didn’t atone for them that their covenant experience is temporary and why their punishment is more severe. They are participating in something they aren’t supposed to be but because of the nature of things they get to, temporarily anyway. In other words, if you are on this side of the covenant, it isn’t necessarily the case that Jesus has atoned for you. You are, however, experiencing things that only those atoned for are supposed to be experiencing. You aren’t experiencing everything if you haven’t been atoned for, but there are common things to which everyone in the covenant has access to because of the atonement.

  142. rfwhite said,

    December 26, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    David G, Reed Here, et al.,

    My memory may be failing me, but have not some noted Reformed theologians seen a text such as 1 Tim 4:10 as relevant to the discussion of whether divine benefits of all sorts come to all sinners without exception? More broadly, the argument I recall being made is that, if sinners enjoy any benefits, special (redemptive) or common (non-redemptive), from God, that enjoyment must have its legal basis in the atoning work of Christ.

    At this point, I’m not necessarily saying that doctrine is true. I am saying that it is a teaching I’ve heard (unchallenged) for 30 years, and that 1 Tim 4:10 has been a text that has been exegeted as implying such a doctrine. In fact, didn’t this exegesis appear in a WTJ article by S. M. Baugh (was it 2006)?

  143. curate said,

    December 27, 2008 at 1:51 am

    Reed and Jeff

    Thanks for your good wishes. You know that I wish you all well. Christmas service was awesome, as I read to my congregation the homily for Christmas Day from the Book of Homilies. What a clear statement of the faith, and how ably put.

    The barley wine over here is the fare of the homeless and desperate. I am a whiskey drinker myself, which is 40 percent proof, a bit stronger than barley wine. I take it like I take my theology – neat.

    I found this in a sermon of Martin Luther for the first Sunday after Christmas, and thought that it spoke directly to sacramental efficacy.

    Warning: his application of justification by faith alone and the power of the sacraments are not for the weak! Those with a baptistic theology should be accompanied by an adult.

    Galatians 4.1-7 Point 13. In the preceding epistles we have heard that to be a Christian it is not enough simply to believe the story of Christ true–the Cain-like saints possess such faith–but the Christian must without any hesitancy believe himself (to be) one to whom grace and mercy are given, and that he has really secured them through baptism or through the Holy Supper.

    When he so believes, he is free to say of himself: “I am holy, godly and just. I am a child of God, perfectly assured of salvation. Not because of anything in me, not because of my merits or works, am I saved; it is of the pure mercy of God in Christ, poured out upon me.” To such extent will he appreciate God’s precious mercy, he cannot doubt that it renders him holy and constitutes him a child of God. But he who doubts, disparages to the utmost his baptism and the Holy Supper, and censures as false God’s Word and his grace in the sacraments.

    The question you need to ask yourselves is whether your doctrine of justification is in fact the Reformation version or not.

  144. curate said,

    December 27, 2008 at 2:20 am

    … In the light of the quotation above, you need to ask yourselves is whether your doctrine of justification is in fact the Reformation version or not.

    Not one of the Reformers disagreed with Luther on justification by faith alone, and the means of its conveyance and delivery – the sacraments.

    You guys do. That means that on justification it is not the FV that is heretical – but you.

    Where I differ from them is in not refusing to acknowledge you as Christians.

  145. Ron Henzel said,

    December 27, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Thus it is not baptism that justifies or benefits anyone, but it is faith in that word of promise to which baptism is added. This faith justifies, and fulfils that which baptism signifies….

    It cannot be true, therefore, that there is contained in the sacraments a power efficacious for justification, or that they are “effective signs” of grace. All such things are said to the detriment of faith, and out of ignorance of the divine promise. Unless you should call them “effective” in the sense that they certainly and effectively impart grace where faith is unmistakably present. But it is not in this sense that efficacy is now ascribed to them; as witness the fact that they are said to benefit all men, even the wicked and unbelieving, provided they do not set an obstacle in the way—as if such unbelief were not in itself the most obstinate and hostile of all obstacles to grace.

    [Martin Luther, "On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church," in Three Treatises, from the American Edition of Luther's Works, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, reprinted 1984), 188-189.]

  146. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 27, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Dr. White (#142):

    Did the arguments include the language of “temporary justification” for the non-elect?

  147. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 27, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Curate (#144):

    …you need to ask yourselves is whether your doctrine of justification is in fact the Reformation version or not.

    Not one of the Reformers disagreed with Luther on justification by faith alone, and the means of its conveyance and delivery – the sacraments.

    You guys do…

    Now see, I don’t even agree with your premise. Why did Zwingli and Luther split at Marburg in 1531? Over the means of operation of the sacrament of communion.

    Or consider the differences between Luther and Zwingli and Calvin on baptism.

    I guess we’re at an impasse on this point. Various ones here have argued that the FV has gone beyond Reformation doctrine into a quasi-Arminian or quasi-Catholic view of justification and the sacraments. Your response is to quote Luther to some effect and argue that you follow in the original stream of thought as the first Reformers.

    Likewise, you have argued that various critics of FV have abandoned the Reformed doctrine of justification and the sacraments. My response has been to quote Calvin (I have a paleo-Calvinistic streak, in case you hadn’t noticed).

    So what would a way forward look like at this point? The usual approach is to try to specify differences and points of agreement, agree on the data, and then try to hammer out a common framework. It’s a lot of work. If it would benefit the unity of the Spirit, then it would be worth it … but otherwise, perhaps should we leave it here?

    Jeff

  148. rfwhite said,

    December 27, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Jeff Cagle, no, the notion of temporary justification was not a category considered. Only common grace for the non-elect, special grace for the elect.

    Perhaps someone would tell us in what temporary justification consists, by what means (instrument) it is appropriated, and what benefit(s) belongs to the sinner as a result of being temporarily justified. For example, I see that, according to the WLC, justification is “an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which He pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in His sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.” I presume, for instance, that in temporary justification God does not pardon all sins of a sinner, else how could the temporarily justified sinner be liable to final judgment? If God does not pardon all sins in temporary justification, which sins does He not pardon and why does He not pardon them? In what other ways does temporary justification differ from non-temporary justification? Or, again, is temporary justification appropriated by faith, and, if so, does the faith that appropriates temporary justification differ from the faith that appropriates non-temporary justification? If the two differ, in what particulars do they differ? I ask for the sake of understanding. I’d happily take a bibliographic reference as an answer.

  149. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 27, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Dr. White (#148):

    Hee-hee — Google gives a number of hits with the title

    “Justification for Temporary Limited Appointment”

    with the URLs at .gov websites.

    Imagine the confusion when one reads too quickly — “Temporary Limited Atonement”!?! :)

    Here is a thoughtful discussion of the temporary benefits to the non-elect: Rich Lusk, Do I Believe in Baptismal Regeneration? (answer: not really). See appendices 3 and 4 for discussion of temporary forgiveness, citing Matt 18, Heb 6, and 2Pet 1.

    Also available in print is Lusk’s article in “The Federal Vision” on Heb. 6 and the reality of apostasy (ch. 9).

    Dr. Jordan’s appeal to the British Reformed tradition suggests (through a quotation) that “certain of those who are not predestinated can attain the state of regeneration and justification.”

    Dr. Leithart’s (helpful!) article on 2 Peter 1.

    Dr. Leithart’s article on baptism and justification, in which he argues that baptism is a “public declaration of justification” (but note that the word takes a different sense here in Leithart than in the Confession).

    It’s interesting to note that we were talking about this same thing almost a year ago. It’s like Casablanca or something. “Post it again, Roger!”

    Or Groundhog Day: we’re doomed to repeat ourselves until we can figure out how to make progress.

    Jeff Cagle

  150. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 27, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Thank you rfwhite (147)

    I would like to ask the curate: Are you restricting the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and justification to the outward observance of the sacraments? To the authority of the visible church? Are you not replacing the sole mediating work of Christ with the church?
    Are you not limiting the work of God to merely outward religious ceremonies? What makes your teaching any different from that of the Pharisees? From Rome?

    There were three great principles that won the battle of the Protestant Reformation: the sufficiency and supremacy of the Scriptures, the right of private judgment and discernment, and justification by faith only, without the deeds of the law.

    These three principles were the keys of the whole controversy between the Reformers and the Church of Rome. And, now once more they are the keys of the controversy between today’s Reformers and the proponents of the Federal Vision.

    If we keep firm hold on these principles, our position is unassailable – no weapon that the Federal Visionists can forge against us shall prosper. But if we give up on any one of them, our cause will be lost.

    Sadly, that is what has happened to many reformed churches, seminaries, and presbyteries. In choosing to show charity towards the advocates of the Federal Vision and maintain unity (without the truth), many who call themselves reformed are now outflanked and surrounded. Many church leaders are unable to maintain their ground; they are no longer able to resist.
    The tragedy is that many in leadership have laid down their arms and surrendered.
    That is why Paul urgently warns all believers to “Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thess. 5:21)

  151. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 27, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    mistake – thank you 148!

  152. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 27, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    #149
    Can a believer read the Bible and understand the truth without having some “church authority” or theologian interpret the meaning for him? Are you trying to seek out the truth or find others who support your personal opinions?

    Can I ask you a personal question? Do you know if you personally have “temporary limited atonement” or full atonement? And, how do you know which one you have?

  153. jared said,

    December 27, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Lauren Kuo,

    Jeff is not a FV advocate; he was giving R.F. White some resources.

  154. rfwhite said,

    December 27, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Jeff Cagle, thanks for the references. Some of these I’m familiar with, some not. Even so, I’ll see if they provide specific light on my questions or remind me of what I already knew but had misplaced in my memory.

    My interest, as you might guess, is that it’s one thing to assert that “temporary justification” or “temporary forgiveness” etc. is a benefit for NEVCM; it’s another thing to define what it means to be temporarily justified, forgiven, etc.

    As I skim back over the post from last year, there wasn’t much in the way of definition provided then either, exegetically founded or not. Gabe Martini took a stab at it, but didn’t get us much farther than by negation (“temporary faith is not saving faith”) and by noting that temporary faith’s likeness to saving faith’s was not real but apparent. Fine observations as far as they go. Still not far enough.

  155. David Gadbois said,

    December 27, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Jared said The FV would prefer to use the latter concept (the one where all who are baptised are elect) primarily because it is more practical since the only elect (predestined unto salvation) person you can know is yourself. This in no way means they (or I) have forgotten “Atonement Basics 101″

    I think we all understand the FV’s use of ‘elect’ in a broader manner. You still haven’t taken even the first step in actually addressing the point I actually raised. Christs’ atonement is not some generic charge card that purchases anything. Rather, it ‘purchases’ by reconciling sinners to God, that they may be acquitted and adopted by God unto blessings. Since the atonement does not secure this reconciliation for the non-elect (decretally speaking, obviously), how can it ‘purchase’ blessings for them?

    So the side-effects of the atonement are not from the atonement, is that what you are trying to say? And you say I’m being incoherent?

    No, I’m saying that side-effects of the atonement are not atonement itself.

    And no one is saying that Jesus made atonement for those outside the church or those non-elect inside the church.

    Perhaps you’d better keep track more carefully of your own words: “No, the chief reason we want to say the NEVCM has had something atoned for them is because they are VCMs. It’s kind of the way covenants work…”

    . Does this mean those benefits/blessings the NEVCM receives weren’t atonement-wrought? How else could they be gotten? It is precisely because Jesus didn’t atone for them that their covenant experience is temporary and why their punishment is more severe.

    The problem here is that you are trying to posit a category of blessings purchased by the atonement that accrue to those who haven’t been atoned for. As if the atonement purchases some generic, impersonal set of blessings that may or may not belong to the sheep that He has atoned for.

    In other words, our benefits don’t get ‘purchased’ as if they were impersonal objects in isolation, that maybe a non-elect person could run across on the street and pick up. You still seem to have the idea of a Visa gift card buying commodities in mind.

    I hope you do realize how exotic and kooky your viewpoint has become at this point.

  156. David Gadbois said,

    December 27, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    RF White, here is what Berkhof has to say about common grace in relation to the atonement in the chapter on common grace in his ST:

    [Concerning the reprobate] perhaps it can be said that it is not necessary to assume a specific judicial basis for the bestowal of common grace on man in view of the fact (a) that it does not remove the guilt of sin and therefore does not carry pardon with it; and (b) that it does not lift the sentence of condemnation, but only postpones the execution. Perhaps the divine god pleasure to stay the revelation of His wrath and to endure “with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction,” offers a sufficient explanation for the blessings of common grace.

    Reformed theologians generally hesitate to say that Christ by His atoning blood merited these blessings for the impenitent and reprobate. At the same time they do believe that important natural benefits accrue to the whole human race from the death of Christ, and that in these benefits the unbelieving, the impenitent, and the reprobate also share.

  157. rfwhite said,

    December 27, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    David G, thanks for the Berkhof reference, which text I do not have here at my home office.

    I’m sure I’m in need of checking the context, but I find Berkhof’s statement uncharacteristically confusing. For instance, how does Berkhof differentiate between “the blessings of common grace” and those “important natural benefits that accrue to the whole human race” from the death of Christ? Perhaps the context tells. Still, it is useful to have this for follow-up. Thanks.

  158. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 27, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Lauren (#152):

    Thanks for the questions. Just to confirm what Jared said, I am not an advocate of the Federal Vision. I count many of the Federal Visionaries as brothers in Christ, not least because they are members in good standing of my own denomination. But with regard to the Federal Vision ideas proper, I have over the process of the past 18 months made some decisions about which positions are Scriptural and which are otherwise.

    You asked,

    Can a believer read the Bible and understand the truth without having some “church authority” or theologian interpret the meaning for him?

    Yes. And certainly on matters regarding salvation, the Scripture is plain.

    The one qualification I would add is that my own reading of Scripture is not infallible. Like anyone, I can get locked inside my own head. For that reason, I need “the wisdom of many counselors”, as Prov. 15.22 says, and find that dead counselors like Calvin are often as helpful as live ones like my pastor.

    However, there are three issues on the table in the FV debates that lead me to cite sources other than Scripture often. The first is the need to fairly represent peoples’ positions. That was the burden of #149 — rather than characterize the positions of Lusk or Leithart, I thought it fairest to let them speak for themselves.

    The second is the issues themselves: assurance, perseverance, election, sacraments. In many cases, the Reformers who came before us had to deal with those issues. So often, I will appeal to, say, Calvin or the Confession, not because they are interpretive authorities but rather because they do a skillful job of laying out the Scriptural teaching on these issues.

    (In fact, on the issue of Sola Scriptura, I recommend the book by Keith Mathison, “The Shape of Sola Scriptura.” It is an excellent summary of the issues surrounding the interplay between Scripture and authority. Matheson is a wise counselor who separates genuine “sola scriptura” from certain counterfeits).

    The third, which is at stake in talking with Roger (curate) is whether and to what extent the Federal Vision can genuinely claim to be Reformed, with the understanding that we both believe the Reformed tradition to be the best exposition of Biblical doctrine. And for that, we have to appeal to historical sources: did the Reformers in fact teach baptismal regeneration as Curate presents it? This is a historical question, and the primary sources are required for it. (my view: Luther — mostly; Zwingli — no; Calvin — no)

    But in all things, I think you and I would stand together in affirming that the Scripture is the only rule for faith and practice.

    Now, can I ask you a question? In #129, you challenged the use of “subcategories” in speaking of the unregenerate.

    In your view, why does Jesus in the parable of the soils divide unregenerate people into different subcategories? What, if anything, did He want his disciples to understand about the unregenerate by treating different kinds of them separately?

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  159. jared said,

    December 27, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    David Gadbois,

    You say,

    I think we all understand the FV’s use of ‘elect’ in a broader manner. You still haven’t taken even the first step in actually addressing the point I actually raised. Christs’ atonement is not some generic charge card that purchases anything. Rather, it ‘purchases’ by reconciling sinners to God, that they may be acquitted and adopted by God unto blessings. Since the atonement does not secure this reconciliation for the non-elect (decretally speaking, obviously), how can it ‘purchase’ blessings for them?

    I’ve already answered this. You say,

    No, I’m saying that side-effects of the atonement are not atonement itself.

    Obviously. You say,

    Perhaps you’d better keep track more carefully of your own words: “No, the chief reason we want to say the NEVCM has had something atoned for them is because they are VCMs. It’s kind of the way covenants work…”

    Or perhaps you should learn to read more carefully? The NEVCM has had something atoned for them, but they have not been atoned for. In other words, the NEVCM has blessings and benefits because Jesus has atoned for His (chosen, decretally elect) people. They are participating in a covenant that is not, ultimately, theirs. So, Jesus “bought” salvation for the elect (decretal) and as a result the non-elect who are in the covenant get a pretty good, but temporary, deal. Their “deal” is a result of the atonement (for those who will be saved in the end) but they, themselves, have not been atoned for. Is that a little more clear? You blithely continue,

    The problem here is that you are trying to posit a category of blessings purchased by the atonement that accrue to those who haven’t been atoned for. As if the atonement purchases some generic, impersonal set of blessings that may or may not belong to the sheep that He has atoned for.

    Except I’m not exactly doing this. The blessings the NEVCM have are personal and specific even if they are common (or “generic”) with the EVCM’s. They are bestowed in whatever measure God sees fit, just like all blessings. For example, some NEVCM stay in longer than others because they’ve been given, say, a stronger temporary faith; this certainly isn’t impersonal. So I am saying is that the atonement has purchased “generic” blessings that every single covenant member (without distinction) has access to or is given. They include, but are not limited to, repentance, presence of the Holy Spirit, access to the Lord’s Supper, and hearing the Word preached. Berkhof says Reformed theologians “generally hesitate” to say this, but I don’t know why they would (or should). I think we can go a step farther; he says “they do believe that important natural benefits accrue to the whole human race from the death of Christ, and that in these benefits the unbelieving, the impenitent, and the reprobate also share.” And, those reprobate who are also in the covenant “accrue” important spiritual benefits too; enough to warrant a more severe punishment.

    So if it’s “exotic and kooky” to maintain that Jesus’ death established the CoG and all the blessings therein (and even some extraneous “important natural benefits”), well I guess I’m okay with that.

  160. David Gadbois said,

    December 28, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Jared said I’ve already answered this.

    How does pointing to the use of varying ‘elect’ terminology answer the problem of benefits accruing to the non-elect who have not been justified and adopted by God? You aren’t putting the pieces together here.

    Or perhaps you should learn to read more carefully? The NEVCM has had something atoned for them, but they have not been atoned for.

    I just want to pause and let the craziness of that second sentence sink in for everyone for just a moment. Again, we are stuck with impersonal objects and benefits being “atoned for” regardless of any connection with a person who has been atoned for. This bizarre construction is not recognizably biblical or Reformed. This is a Visa card theory of the atonement.

    They are participating in a covenant that is not, ultimately, theirs. So, Jesus “bought” salvation for the elect (decretal) and as a result the non-elect who are in the covenant get a pretty good, but temporary, deal.

    This is the same, longstanding refusal of the FV to differentiate between the participation in the administration of the covenant (which applies to all the visible church) and the substance of the covenant (which only the invisible church receives by faith), which includes the cross-purchased benefits of reconciliation and adoption. So when you talk of the non-elect “participating in a covenant”, this glosses by the distinction. In other words, we’d only buy your argument if we already bought into FV premises.

    And, those reprobate who are also in the covenant “accrue” important spiritual benefits too; enough to warrant a more severe punishment.

    While benefits do “accrue” to the non-elect as a result of Christ’s death, NOT that those benefits were purchased by Christ’s death. He calls them “extraneous” in that they are side-effects of the atonement, not that they were atonement-purchased. Something can be a result of the atonement without being a purchased or atoned-for result.

    This isn’t hard to conceptualize. If you were to go out to a store and make a purchase today, there would be side-effects to you going out and making that purchase, some of them perhaps beneficial. Any number of incidental connections could be set in motion, whether intentional or not. That doesn’t mean that every beneficial connection to your purchase was itself purchased.

    Your position also suffers from the fact that benefits accrue, as Berkhof says, to even non-elect outside of the covenant. If, following your reasoning, the atonement purchased benefits for those non-elect inside the covenant, then it also purchased the benefits for those outside the covenant as well.

  161. Ron Henzel said,

    December 28, 2008 at 6:26 am

    It seems to me that a temporary justification requires, and even assumes, a temporary application of all the spiritual benefits of Christ’s atonement to non-believers by the Holy Spirit, since justification cannot be separated from all that Christ purchased for His elect. This would mean that some non-believers are temporarily redeemed, temporarily forgiven and God temporarily propitiated, temporarily reconciled to God, temporarily sanctified, temporarily sealed by the Holy Spirit, temporarily raised to newness of life, temporarily seated with Christ in the heavenly places, and temporarily inseparable from the love of Christ. When this temporary period of salvation is over, they are eternally damned, eternally alienated from God, eternally cast off into outer darkness, and eternally dead in their trespasses and sins.

    It is difficult to find any earthly analogy for this kind of arrangement, which is exceedingly strange since every aspect of true eternal salvation normally has such an analogy. Scripture employs words like, “redeem,” “reconcile,” and “propitiate,” all of which had prior usage in the earthly realms of commerce and government, and it uses them in unequivocally permanent senses. Has any society ever given a legal standing to a “temporary justification,” a “temporary verdict of not guilty,” or even a “temporary amnesty?” Perhaps in societies where the leaders are corrupt and duplicitous this may have actually occurred.

    So we have to ask the question: how is the state of these supposedly “temporarily justified” people any different from that of any other non-believer? What kind of deal are they getting that the run-of-the-mill unchurched infidel is not? How is God being temporarily propitiated in any respect different from having the wrath of God abide on someone? What kind of blessing does one receive from being temporarily sealed by the Holy Spirit? Are not all unbelievers simply kidding themselves when they presume that they will ultimately escape eternal punishment? Then how are the “temporarily justified” any different in this respect?

  162. Reed Here said,

    December 28, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Jared:

    You said: “They [NEVCM] are participating in a covenant that is not, ultimately, theirs. So, Jesus “bought” salvation for the elect (decretal) and as a result the non-elect who are in the covenant get a pretty good, but temporary, deal.”

    David said: “This is the same, longstanding refusal of the FV to differentiate between the participation in the administration of the covenant (which applies to all the visible church) and the substance of the covenant (which only the invisible church receives by faith), which includes the cross-purchased benefits of reconciliation and adoption. So when you talk of the non-elect “participating in a covenant”, this glosses by the distinction. In other words, we’d only buy your argument if we already bought into FV premises.”

    Jared, if I might jump in briefly, this is a very fair and on target criticism of the whole FV, and your use of it here. Assuming the best, you (the FV) are offering inclusive language without working out the biblical distinctions. E.g., to say (I’m paraphrasing the gist of the FV, your comments), the decretally elect are distinct from the covenantally only elect are two separate categories, yet both share in the same essence of the CoG – is at best to introduce a confusion into reformed doctrine that our forefathers long ago cleared away.

    It is unhelpful, and at best guilty of only confusing the sheep. There are clearer, simpler, and more biblically consistent ways to speak. To me, this is one of the greatest condemnations of the whole FV project, and one I urge you to consider. You’ve bought the FV hermeneutic so to speak, in my opinion ignoring the inconsistencies that lead to egregious teachings on the part of some FV proponents, with the blith apologia of others that we just don’t get it, or aren’t being fair.

    The FV at best is dangerous because it willingly speaks in a confusing manner. David is not missing or ignoring what you are saying. He is challenging the very hermeneutic you are using, challenging it’s actual validity. I suggest (no mean intentions here) that instead of him blithy passing over, he is actually saying, “wait a minute,” and you’re not seeing that.

    E.g., if you already answered a specific question, then why not simply reiterate your answer, maybe re-working in the possibility that you could speak clearer into David’s confusion. Maybe it is his problem, but do you not share responsibility with him to clear it up? Or, maybe it is your problem, and there is something wrong with your hermeneutic that together you and David could make some headway on.

    I for one remain persuaded that the FV is a proposed solution to an exagerated opinion of relatively secondary problems, that have better answers already put forward by traditional reformed perspectives. I’ve yet to see the need, the value, of the FV hermeneutic. It adds nothing new. It rather re-introduces old arguments in new forms, arguments that our forefathers abandoned as less than biblical years ago.

  163. rfwhite said,

    December 28, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    Ron Henzel, thanks for your comments and questions in 161. As you tease out the implications of attributing temporariness to God’s saving work and will, you expand on the same questions I was raising in 148. I’m sincerely trying to discern what it can mean to say that God saves sinners from their sins “for a time.”

  164. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 28, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    A quote from Xon that moves towards a definition:

    But clearly, as Rich Lusk’s quote shows, what we are talking about is some sort of ‘quasi-justification’. Something that is not necessarily the same as what we usually think of as ‘justification,’ but close enough that the it makes sense to use the word. This is what I tried to describe in TJ: a judicial verdict that brings about a positive change in status, but only temporarily. And you have modified TJ slightly here into “a judicial verdict of ‘forgiven’ from God.” And that’s an okay modification to make, especially since you seem to have some FV quotes to back up the word ‘forgiveness’ being used.

    But anyway my point is just that we need to be extra clear as to what we are talking about when we say ‘justification’ in J1. FVers are not saying that ‘justification’ in the full sense described in the Westminster Standards can be acquited, then lost. So I think we need to build some sort of qualification into J1. Perhaps we should continue to use the description given in TJ, so something like this results:

    J1: There is a verdict of ‘forgiven’ that can be acquired, then lost.

    The point is that FVers do not deny that there is also a verdict of ‘forgiven’ which can never be lost. So we have to be sure to speak of these things in a way that makes it clear that we are not discussing ‘justification’ full stop, as though there is one such thing as ‘justification’ and now we are debating whether it can be lost or not. We are really discussing two things that are subject to both similarities and differences. Similar enough to both be called ‘justification.’ But different enough that one is permanent and one is temporary.

    Xon’s appeal here is to Matt. 18 and the parable of the unforgiving servant.

    In his view, the servant was genuinely forgiven in a temporal sense, but never forgiven in an eternal sense, which explains why the servant is ultimately cast into jail until he should pay what he owes (which he can’t!).

    I suspect, though I don’t know, that there is a series of dots that runs from Leithart’s observations about and broadening definition of “justification” to this.

    Namely, that “temporary justification” would refer only to elective status and not decretal.

    Note that I’m not making a case here!

    Jeff

  165. jared said,

    December 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    David Gadbois (#160),

    You say,

    How does pointing to the use of varying ‘elect’ terminology answer the problem of benefits accruing to the non-elect who have not been justified and adopted by God? You aren’t putting the pieces together here.

    It doesn’t. The problem (once again) isn’t non-elect accruing benefits. The non-elect, regardless of their covenant status, receive some benefit(s) from Jesus’ death. Even if the only benefit they receive is prolonged judgment on account of the sheep. I don’t know how this can be disputed. You say,

    This is the same, longstanding refusal of the FV to differentiate between the participation in the administration of the covenant (which applies to all the visible church) and the substance of the covenant (which only the invisible church receives by faith), which includes the cross-purchased benefits of reconciliation and adoption. So when you talk of the non-elect “participating in a covenant”, this glosses by the distinction. In other words, we’d only buy your argument if we already bought into FV premises.

    Okay, but I’m not refusing to make such a differentiation (and I don’t think the FV is really doing so either). You are confusing me with your peculiar conception of the FV. So when I talk of the non-elect participating in the covenant I am speaking about their participation in the administration of it (which is the only extent to which they can experience it). I would further maintain that such participation is the only extent to which we can know for certain that anyone, besides ourselves, participates. In other words, I (and the visible church as a whole) cannot know whether any particular person or group of persons is participating in the substance of the covenant since it belongs to the visible church only in an unknowable (to us) portion. I can know that I am a member of the invisible church, but you can’t know I am, nor can anyone else but God. In this sense, then, the non-elect covenant member can be said to participate in the CoG to the same extent that the elect covenant member does (i.e. administratively). Let me be transparently clear here, though, because I think this is a bad way of describing things and it is apparently the primary way the FV wants to describe them. It is initially confusing, yes, but not entirely unhelpful given the (careful?) qualifications which have been made many times (at least in DW’s “flavor” of FV). Neither is it inherently or necessarily heretical. You continue,

    While benefits do “accrue” to the non-elect as a result of Christ’s death, NOT that those benefits were purchased by Christ’s death. He calls them “extraneous” in that they are side-effects of the atonement, not that they were atonement-purchased. Something can be a result of the atonement without being a purchased or atoned-for result.

    Yes, I get it now. The example you use following this paragraph is very helpful in showing me what was so baffling about my position. I can concede that all which comes via the administration of the CoG and even some of what is outside that administration is a result of the atonement but was not “purchased” or atoned-for, as you say. This doesn’t actually change the brunt or gist of my argument. I was using “extraneous” in relation to the CoG, by the way; those outside the covenant also benefit from the atonement in this “side-effect” manner though their benefits are considerably less than what those inside the covenant experience. Thank you for helping me speak more clearly about this. You say,

    Your position also suffers from the fact that benefits accrue, as Berkhof says, to even non-elect outside of the covenant. If, following your reasoning, the atonement purchased benefits for those non-elect inside the covenant, then it also purchased the benefits for those outside the covenant as well.

    I think I’ve mostly cleared this up by conceding the above, yes? In any case, thanks again for the help in clarifying my own thoughts.

    Reed (#162),

    You say,

    Jared, if I might jump in briefly, this is a very fair and on target criticism of the whole FV, and your use of it here. Assuming the best, you (the FV) are offering inclusive language without working out the biblical distinctions. E.g., to say (I’m paraphrasing the gist of the FV, your comments), the decretally elect are distinct from the covenantally only elect are two separate categories, yet both share in the same essence of the CoG – is at best to introduce a confusion into reformed doctrine that our forefathers long ago cleared away.

    What I am saying is that the decretally elect and the covenantally elect are two separate categories. That seems indubitable, yes? One category contains all who will be in heaven and the other contains only some; it could be said that the decretally elect are a subset of the covenantally elect. Moreover, they do share in the same essence of the CoG if we understand (or qualify) that “essence” to be administrative and not substantive, right? How is that unhelpful or confusing? You say,

    E.g., if you already answered a specific question, then why not simply reiterate your answer, maybe re-working in the possibility that you could speak clearer into David’s confusion. Maybe it is his problem, but do you not share responsibility with him to clear it up? Or, maybe it is your problem, and there is something wrong with your hermeneutic that together you and David could make some headway on.

    I don’t believe I’ve bought into the FV hermeneutic (whatever that is). It certainly hasn’t been shown that I have, at least. I’ve been trying to be peaceable with David but he seems utterly unwilling to consider the possibility that maybe he’s even just a little bit wrong on anything. I have an unfortunate habit of letting people reap the kinds of discussions that they sew; so if you (not you personally, Reed) are going to be curt and terse with me then you will succeed only in wearing thin my conversational patience thus making progress more difficult. However, if you are willing and open to honest discussion then you will find that conversations with me are often mutually edifying and beneficial (even if we only end in “agreeing to disagree”). I’ve shown (more than once on this very blog, if I am remembering correctly, and excluding my above concession) that I am willing to admit being wrong or at least to not being as clear as I could be. I do share responsibility with David to clear things up, but responsibility is a two way street (hence the “share”). In my opinion, if you are not willing to have your position(s) changed (as opposed to just, or merely, challenged) then you should not be participating in conversations such as these.

  166. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 28, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    My sincere apologies to Jeff. May God’s richest blessings be with you all in 2009.

  167. Ron Henzel said,

    December 29, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Dr. White,

    I hope I did not give anyone the impression that I actually believe in temporary justification. I’m not sure from your recent comment to me (163) that you drew this conclusion, but I’ll make this disclaimer just in case: I have no sympathy for it whatsoever, and I think that in my comment (161) I was asking similar questions to yours (in 148), except that I was asking how temporary justification is essentially different from ultimate condemnation, and you were asking how it differed from permanent justification.

    Either way, I will take you up on your request that I expand on the same questions you asked in 148 by simply stating what I see at this point: I am not aware of the Federal Visionists having any answers to these questions. As far as I can tell, they have never articulated the specific terms under which non-elect members of the visible church supposedly enjoy “salvation.”

    My experience with one of them—Doug Wilson—has been that when I ask these kinds of questions of him (and I think that’s only happened once) he claims he does not have it all figured out, but he believes it’s what the Bible teaches. So, as far as I’m concerned, it all boils down to this: FVists have chosen to adopt an Arminian interpretation of the warning passages in Hebrews (in particular), and are foolishly attempting crowbar Reformed theology into that interpretation. It is a fool’s errand, but as I see it that is what this all boils down to, in toto, end of story, game over, the bottle’s empty, somebody turn out the lights.

    Of course, if someone thinks I’m wrong about this, I’m prepared for that person to jump down my throat posthaste.

  168. rfwhite said,

    December 29, 2008 at 11:05 am

    167 Ron Henzel, speaking for myself, I understood that you were not affirming temporary justification. Your experiences mimic, in large degree, my own. For some time now, it has seemed to me that the FV explanation of the way the apostles speak of the visible church is very much along the lines of Arminius and Amyraut. That is, at bottom, Arminius and Amyraut urged that we must incorporate notions of conditionality, provisionality, and hypotheticality into our conceptions of the nature of human sin, the nature of divine grace, the nature of divine intentionality, etc. As far as I can tell, however, Scripture does not identify human sin, or divine grace, or divine intentionality as the locus of conditionality, provisionality, or hypotheticality. To the contrary, Scripture portrays other loci, e.g., human knowledge and faith, as the loci of conditionality, provisionality, or hypotheticality. It seems to me that passages like Col 1.23 and Rom 11.22 open windows on what the apostles were thinking when they spoke as they did about the members of the visible church.

  169. Reed Here said,

    December 29, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Jared:

    Sometimes word will never convey the sense we want them of them; my own failures make this more so. I meant not to chastize you unnecessarily, but rather to ask you to draw out even more your distinction making. Your response to David here as very helpful in this regard.

    I do track with you expressing your version of the FV, something I’d label as a generous re-reading via traditional categories of reformed concepts. There is nothing wrong with this. My only concern continues to be that some, such as DW, on the one hand insist they are lock-step with other FV proponents, on the other hand insist that they mean what traditional reformed doctrine has meant all along.

    I find sympathy for your’s and have been willing to engage in that myself all along (I think I have). I do have some sympathy with DW’s, althought I find this at times to be either disingenuous or evidencing a confusion for which he is not known.

    You say, “I can know that I am a member of the invisible church, but you can’t know I am, nor can anyone else but God. In this sense, then, the non-elect covenant member can be said to participate in the CoG to the same extent that the elect covenant member does (i.e. administratively).”

    This is the nub of it: what do we mean by administratively? I think I speak fairly when I observe that the FV has used, and continues to use, language that speaks of administratively in a manner either consistent with or similar enough to decretaly (not sure this is the opposite to adminstratively), as to at best be confusing. The response is usually to offer some distinctions, but insufficient ones. This is most often where the charge of equivocation comes in.

    I’m all for us learning together how to properly distinguish these things. My concern remains that these things appear to have already been worked out by our forefathers. The FV actually advances nothing, instead brings confusion – so why bother with it? I speak as a pastor who agrees that the pastoral issues the FV wants to address are valid.

    Consider Dr. White’s concerns in #168. I find myself in strong agreement with his sentiments.

    My challenge to you Jared flows out of your comfort you find in the hybrid DW-like version of the FV from which you are speaking. Truth be told, I think you are too generous. :-)

    This “lite” FV version is not the norm. I would go as far as to argue that most FV proponents will “amen” you in your understanding. Yet when pressed on the distinctions, they will offer: 1) a response that sees no need to make such distinctions, or 2) a response that equivocates, affirming two contradictory things, or 3) a response that demonstrates that the exact opposite of what the traditional expression means.

    I will willingingly acknowledge, that if the table were cleared of all but your (or even DW’s) version of FV, we could move toward some clarification. E.g., I think with a little more study on all our parts, you and I would agree on what administratively means and would self-consciously eschew any arminian-amyraut tendencies.

    I still remain willing to discuss with any who will.

  170. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 29, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Lauren (#166):

    No offense taken. I’m not always as clear as I need to be.

    God bless,
    Jeff Cagle

  171. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 29, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    #169
    Could it be that the distinction between the FV and the WCF is between two systems of religion?
    According to the FV, religion is a mere CORPORATE BUSINESS. You are to belong to a certain body of people. By virtue of your membership in this body, vast privileges, both of time and eternity, are conferred on you. It matters little what you are and what you feel. You are not to try or examine yourself by your feelings. You are a member of a great ecclesiastical corporation. Then all its privileges and immunities are your own. Do you belong to the one true visible corporation? That is the great question.

    According to the other system which evangelical ministers hold to and teach, religion is eminently a PERSONAL BUSINESS between yourself and Christ. It will not save your soul (temporary or eternally) to be an outward member of any ecclesiastical body whatever, however sound that body may be. Such membership will not wash away one sin, or give you confidence in the day of judgment. There must be a personal faith in Christ – personal dealings between yourself and God – personal communion between your own heart and the Holy Spirit. Have you this personal faith? Have you this felt work of the Spirit in your soul? This is the great question. If not, you will be lost.

    The question is: Which system should be taught? Which system is Biblical?

  172. jared said,

    December 29, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Lauren Kuo,

    You ask, “Which system should be taught? Which system is Biblical?” and the answer is both. Scripture teaches that Christianity is both corporate and personal; your hyperbole is not helpful.

  173. Ron Henzel said,

    December 30, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Jared,

    I think it would be more to the point if we shifted the key term in Lauren’s proposed dialectic from “religion” to “salvation,” because that is what I believe is truly at stake here. And I think this is what Lauren was actually getting at in her post, based on the language in her third paragraph, where she focuses on terms like “save,” “wash away…sin,” “day of judgment,” and “lost.” I trust Lauren will correct me if I’m misinterpreting her, but if I am then I think that’s all more reason to shift terms. Either way, I don’t see any hyperbole in her post; I think she’s hit it dead-on.

    In the conflict with the Federal Vision the actual question is whether salvation depends on the individual’s relationship to the corporate body of the church or on his or her direct relationship with God, and when you consider the FV’s doctrine of corporate election, of the sacraments, of temporary justification (and doctrines related to it), and its conscious undermining of the distinction between the visible and the invisible church (just to name four obvious points), it becomes increasingly clear that for the FV the answer is the former. It is nothing more or less than a retreat into the same medieval doctrines of salvation through the sacramental system of the church that the Reformers decisively and loudly rejected. The Scriptures declare, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31), not “Join a church and faithfully partake of the sacraments and you will be saved.” You can’t have it both ways.

  174. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 6:54 am

    Jared,

    I realise I haven’t been here for a while (Christmas sermon that needed work, holiday, etc.)

    #135,

    Jared, you do realise that I’m not “anti-FV” don’t you? When I first popped up on these comment threads I was actually very sympathetic after all the reading ’round I’d done. And actually I still agree with Doug in a number of areas. But on this particular issue of the distinction within the covenant, I think I’ve moved to a more traditional Reformed position. Doug may have been there all along, maybe, and actually I’ve simply misunderstood him, who knows?

    Anyway – I’m struggling to see you even recognise the non-FV position on this issue at the moment.

    That’s why I said quite loudly, that, I appreciate your big concern about the distinction between covenant members and non-covenant members. But you need to make clear the distinction between decretally elect covenant members and non-decretally elect covenant members.

    I don’t think many people here (certainly not me) have misunderstood Lusk’s distinction between talking about decretal election and covenantal election. My issue is not: “Aarrggghh!” you’re using the word election, that must be the decretally elect, and therefore I disagree with what you’re saying.

    Call this redundant if you want, but I’m saying it, because I don’t see a recognition of the issue in what you’re saying. If we take the three categories:

    1) Decretally Elect Covenant Members
    2) Non-Decretally Elect Covenant Members
    3) Non-Decretally Elect Non-Covenant Members

    The non-FV are saying “You are overemphasising the distinction between 2 and 3, so that the distinction between 1 and 2 is not clear.”

    This is a pretty important thing to get to grips with. The idea that Jesus has atoned for people in category 2 in some way, really is a novel idea. On this, traditional Reformed theology has put 2 and 3 in the same place when it comes to the atonement. Arminian theology puts 1 and 2 in the same place when it comes to the atonement. Some FV seem to be now shifting category 2 away from category 3 and towards category 1 when it comes to the atonement.

    What I’m trying to do, is to get us to list as many of the options for what’s going on in 2 as possible. The reason for that is because of the, essentially polemical, nature of the FV argument on this, which runs in the way you’ve outlined: “2 must be different to 3, therefore 2 must share something of the atonement with 1″.

    But, I’m trying to argue, 2 can be different to 3 without sharing something of the atonement with 1.

  175. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 7:03 am

    #171, #172, #172,

    I think this sharp distinction is unhelpful.

    It’s not helpful to Jared, in helping him to retain the things he’s got right, and move gently towards a non-FV position (which would be the aim of the non-FVers I presume?).

    It’s not helpful to a non-FVer, who’s now got to think of salvation in purely personal terms, or purely corporate terms.

    You’re not saved by inclusion in the church, but equally, inclusion in the church isn’t totally unrelated to personal salvation.

    There is a tendency in Western Christians to over-emphasise the personal over against the corporate. I think the FV, in reacting to this, have swung too much towards over-emphasising the corporate over-against the personal. But responding to that by swinging back too much again, isn’t that helpful.

  176. rfwhite said,

    December 30, 2008 at 8:23 am

    As an illustration of the problem highlighted in 172-75, see Peter Leithart’s essay, “Trinitarian Anthropology,” which appeared in E. C. Beisner, ed., The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros & Cons: Debating the Federal Vision (2003). There Liethart claims, “The church is the location where the salvation of humanity is already being worked (though not yet consummated), where humanity is being restored to harmony with the Triune God and where men are being restored to fellowship with one another. Anyone who enters the church participates in that salvation, just as anyone who joined the community of Israel participated in the saving exodus from Egypt.” And again, “If the church is the saved society, then membership in the church necessarily means participation in the saved society.”

    Like it or not, given such soteriological and ecclesiological statements, would we answer the Philippian jailer’s question, “What must I do to be saved?” as Paul and Silas did?

  177. Ron Henzel said,

    December 30, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Pete,

    You wrote:

    I think this sharp distinction is unhelpful.

    “Unhelpful.” That word’s coming up quite a lot on this thread. I find it unhelpful.

    It’s not helpful to Jared, in helping him to retain the things he’s got right, and move gently towards a non-FV position (which would be the aim of the non-FVers I presume?).

    I don’t find the variant “not helpful” particularly helpful, either. You probably didn’t intend it this way, but it comes off to me as a simultaneously vague and paternalistic form of scolding.

    It also seems to serve as camouflage for what you’re actually trying to say. Why are we being unhelpful? Because we’re not helping him “to retain the things he’s got right?” Have we contradicted anything he said that was right? Where? Or because we’re not moving him “gently towards a non-FV position”? So the real issue you have here is our harshness? I don’t think so. I don’t think you show your hand until the next sentence:

    It’s not helpful to a non-FVer, who’s now got to think of salvation in purely personal terms, or purely corporate terms.

    I think this is your real issue. You primarily don’t like what we’re saying than how we’re saying it. So I think it would have been more helpful if you had just come out and said at the outset, “You’re not helping Jared because you’re wrong and you’re giving him false information.”

    But even if we’re so unhelpfully wrong, at least we’re right about something, since you back-pedal a bit here:

    You’re not saved by inclusion in the church, but equally, inclusion in the church isn’t totally unrelated to personal salvation.

    OK, so we have some agreement. We agree that we are not saved by our inclusion in the church. In other words, the church does not mediate salvation for us; only Christ does. Good.

    But why do you assume that we are arguing that the church is “totally unrelated to personal salvation”? Did anyone here say that? Did anyone here say anything remotely like that? It’s an honest question: I haven’t had time to go through all comments to this post. If anyone did say such a thing, however, they didn’t say it in the comments you referenced.

    Not only is it a false accusation, but it’s an apples-and-oranges comparison. You might as well have said, “You can only make apple pie with apples, but equally, oranges are also a fruit.” But so what, if the subject is how to make apple pies?

    Likewise, so what if the church is not totally unrelated to personal salvation if salvation itself is still ultimately a personal and not a corporate affair? And it is.

    There is a tendency in Western Christians to over-emphasise the personal over against the corporate. I think the FV, in reacting to this, have swung too much towards over-emphasising the corporate over-against the personal. But responding to that by swinging back too much again, isn’t that helpful.

    I don’t think anyone here is going to defend they hyper-individualistic approach to the Christian faith that has characterized American evangelicalism since at least the early 19th century. On the other hand, I strongly believe that to suggest that this brand of Christianity is the reason for the Federal Vision taking the stands that it takes is wide of the mark. The FV is heading straight in the direction of Arminianism—I would argue it’s already 90 percent of the way there—and Arminianism is the Mother of All Christian Individualism.

    The FV’s emphasis on the corporate is simply a spiritual Berlin Wall designed to keep people in with fear, even though the FVists themselves admit that people individualistically climb over the wall and escape all the time. Contrast this with the Reformed faith where God meets us individually and personally by applying the benefits of Christ to each of us through His Spirit, and grafts each of us permanently in to His body.

    In the meantime, even though there certainly are important corporate aspects of salvation, the fact remains that the central aspects of the application of salvation to the elect are unalterably individual and personal. Justification is personal, not corporate. Election is of individuals, not groups. Regeneration happens to the individual; we are not individually regenerate because we are part of a regenerate body, rather the body is regenerate because it is made of regenerate individuals. Biblically, even the saving work of Christ on the cross, before it is applied has this individual, personal aspect, as Paul wrote, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, ESV).

  178. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 30, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Ron (#177):

    (1) But why do you assume that we are arguing that the church is “totally unrelated to personal salvation”? Did anyone here say that?

    (2) Likewise, so what if the church is not totally unrelated to personal salvation if salvation itself is still ultimately a personal and not a corporate affair? And it is.

    The problem with arguing against X is that it’s easy for one’s position to be read as the opposite of X. I think statements like (2) give rise to questions like (1). I think Pete is simply saying that statements like (2) go too far.

    The Reformed position, after all, is that salvation is both an individual and a corporate affair. Absolutely, as you say, regeneration, repentance, faith, and union with Christ are individual. And yet, union with Christ entails union with His Body, so that the “hand” and “foot” are bound to each other for the purpose of jointly sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s life.

    Romans develops salvation individually — until we hit chapter 9, at which point salvation is expressed in terms of an individual election within a corporate election.

    Ephesians develops salvation both individually and corporately. We as individuals are dead in our sins but are chosen to be adopted. At the same time, we are added as living stones into the temple that God is building for His Spirit.

    The Confession, after all, goes so far as to say that the Visible Church “is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

    So the challenge for us is to coordinate the individual and corporate aspects of salvation correctly — not to deny one at the expense of the other.

    Jeff Cagle

  179. Todd said,

    December 30, 2008 at 10:54 am

    “So the challenge for us is to coordinate the individual and corporate aspects of salvation correctly — not to deny one at the expense of the other.”

    Jeff,

    This doesn’t need to be coordinated again, our reformed confessions do this just fine. After all, isn’t this basically what the Protestant Reformation was all about? The FV exists by creating a straw man problem of their imagination, and then set themselves up as the corrector of the so-called problem. The Confessions are clear that justification, regeneration, sanctification are individual only, not corporate. Yet the confessions are clear of the importance of the visible church. Sorry DW, reformed *is* enough, all the FV’s confusing language, flattening of distinctions between the two covenants, strange interpretations of words like seal and election, have done nothing to help the Reformed faith. I’ll take the clear, consistent, Biblical explanations of these matters in the confessions any day. Nothing new under the sun.

    Todd

  180. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 30, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Todd (#179):

    Let me start by agreeing with you — I think the Confession gets it right, also. I also agree that the FV solution is not the right one. Even if “temporary justification” is not intended to mean “temporarily being forgiven of sins in the sight of God”, it is too easily mistaken for such.

    But now, is there a problem of individualism amongst PCA churches? Assessing that question fairly would require, I think, a huge sociological study of the PCA. Someone could probably get a PhD for it.

    The Federal Vision for all of its shortcomings has challenged me to put individualism on the radar screen.

    Consider for example Jeff Meyer’s critiques of how communion is practiced. He argues for paedocommunion, of course. And I disagree with him on this point. And yet, his arguments caused me to realize that there were about a dozen kids in our church who gave every evidence of being Christians, and yet had not become communing members because no-one had bothered to pursue the issue. We fixed that posthaste with communicants’ classes. But why did we overlook it? I think it’s fair to say that we overlooked it because we did not have a sufficiently corporate view of communion. It didn’t bother us that there were believing children in our fellowship who were being kept from communion for no reason at all.

    And again, he argues that we practice communion in a very individual way, not as a corporate meal as the early church did. And as a result, he argues, our communions lack the joy that they ought to exude.

    Regardless of whether one agrees totally with him, certainly we can admit that he’s raising a valid question: does our practice of communion have enough of the horizontal, corporate aspect about it?

    It’s not (in my mind) a question of rethinking the confession, but of critically examining our practices.

    Thoughts?
    Jeff Cagle

  181. Ron Henzel said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    Jeff,

    As I see it, both you and Peter have failed to demonstrate how my statement “goes too far.” And again, along with him you misstate the question as being one about what salvation “entails” as opposed to what it, to borrow Lauren’s word, “eminently” is.

    No one has disputed that salvation has a corporate aspect, and I don’t think it’s in any way fair to assert that I am affirming (not denying, as you put it) one aspect of salvation at the expense of the other. On the contrary, to say that we participate in salvation by attaching ourselves to the church, as Peter Leithart affirms in Dr. White’s citation above—by elevating the corporate aspect of salvation the way Leithart does is ultimately fatal to the personal aspect of salvation as taught in Scripture, since it is actually a mutilation of the corporate aspect.

    As I see it, to say that Romans 9 presents “an individual election within a corporate election” is to essentially say that God first elects a corporate group and then elects the individuals within it. It also requires that Romans 9 is primarily about corporate or national election rather than individual election. These conclusions have no place in Reformed theology, nor in an accurate handling of Romans 9. As Piper put it, “The position is exegetically untenable” (The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23, 2nd ed., [Baker, 1993], 73).

    Federal Vision defenders are like the rabbit whose head keeps suddenly popping up in different places at the arcade shooting gallery. Instead of dealing with the texts and points raised by their opponents (examples abound in 169, 171, 173, 176, 177, and now 179), they ignore them or misrepresent them and pop up with another text or point of their own that essentially begs all the questions.

    Your reference to Ephesians belongs in this category and compounds the question begging by implying that non-elect covenant members are among the “living stones” in the temple in Ephesians 2. At least that’s the way you seem to be connecting Ephesians to WCF 25:2, which is amazing, since it’s impossible to reconcile with WCF 6. It is even more difficult to understand WCF 25:2 in this way when we follow the logic of 25:5 and realize that once enough non-elect visible church members take control of visible churches they become “so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.” It is also exceedingly difficult to believe that the Westminster divines wrote WCF 25:2 without any thought of Article 29 in the Belgic Confession, which lists the distinguishing marks of elect visible church members.

  182. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    #177-179,

    Ron – I didn’t mean to slight anybody’s godliness in discussion. I’m sorry about that. I didn’t realise that using the term “unhelpful” would carry such weight. In fact I had thought it was a deliberately gentle way of speaking.

    Obviously that’s wrong, and I should have just used language like “simultaneously vague and paternalistic form of scolding”. Which would obviously have been much more irenic.

    [Pulls tongue from out of cheek]

    Seriously – Jeff has it in #178. The comment in #171 draws a sharp distinction between individuality and corporeality.

    People who are sympathetic to the FV are people who have gotten really excited by corporeality, and in many cases taken that too far. However, as Jeff and Todd rightly say – the traditional Reformed confessions take a very balanced position, accounting for the Bible’s individual and corporate language.

    If, in answering people who have swung too much toward the corporal, you draw a sharp distinction between the individual and the corporal, then you’re going to be heard by an FVer as simply affirming the hyper-individuality that we see all around us. – which is a real shame when, being Reformed, you don’t believe in that.

    When talking to people who are off-balance in one direction, then using language that could easily be confused for being off-balance in the other direction won’t bring clarity.

    Since the comments in #171 and #172 will look as though they’re a complete denial of corporeality to an FVer – when in actual fact they aren’t a complete denial of corporeality – they are, in that sense, unhelpful.

    As someone who is sympathetic to the FV, but is now – due to shifting my position – being thought to be anti-FV, I’m trying to point out why it is that FV people really don’t seem to “get it” from your perspective, and why they seem to draw so many unreasonable conclusions about what you believe.

  183. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I, of course, don’t mean “corporeality”, but “the corporal/communal”

  184. Ron Henzel said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Peter,

    The simple fact is that with some aspects of salvation, particularly eternal election and the application of regeneration and justification, there is a sharp distinction between individuality and corporeality in Reformed theology, there always has been, and this distinction is rooted in Scripture. I totally disagree with Jeff’s and Todd’s interpretation of the Reformed confessions, as I think I have already made abundantly clear.

    As far as how I’m heard by an FVer: I don’t see how they can honestly say I’ve gone “too far” in the direction of individuality based on what I’ve written here. And yet you yourself seem to be implying that very thing, and now I see why: you admit that you’re sympathetic to the FV, although it does sound as though you’ve also distanced yourself from it.

    Frankly, I don’t see how I could be any more clear, but if you have any suggestions, I’m open. In my opinion, if they have problems with the terminology employed by FV opponents, it’s because they’ve been schooled in an improper understanding of common terms. And if they don’t properly understand the arguments of Reformed opponents’ that are based on Scripture and the confessions, then it’s because they’ve steeped themselves in so much FV literature that they’ve become unfamiliar with what those texts actually say, and in fact may never have gained a rudimentary understanding of them in the first place.

    To draw an analogy that will probably not be welcomed by FVists: if your first exposure to theology came through Mormonism, it might take you quite a while to realize what Christians are really talking about. On the other hand, that is a problem that I can sympathize with. If we need to bend over backwards, as it were, and go the extra mile to be understood, so be it. Perhaps you can offer some suggestions.

  185. Todd said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    “I totally disagree with Jeff’s and Todd’s interpretation of the Reformed confessions, as I think I have already made abundantly clear.”

    Ron,

    Are you sure you wanted my name there? Are you mistaking me for someone else?

    Todd

  186. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Ron (#181):

    You ask me to read you carefully (“…you and Peter have failed to demonstrate how my statement “goes too far.””). That’s a fair request.

    In return, I would ask you to read me more carefully also. You have labeled me a Federal Vision defender, which is patently false. Likewise, your reading of me as implying that non-elect members are included in the living stones of Eph. 2 is utterly false.

    Can we step back a pace and try again?

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

  187. Ron Henzel said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Todd,

    You’re right—that was a bad slip on my part. I was writing with too much haste; your name does not belong in that sentence.

    Sorry!

  188. Todd said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Ron,

    No problem – happens to me too,

    Thanks,

    Todd

  189. Ron Henzel said,

    December 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Jeff,

    If I had seen your comment #180 before I posted my response to your comment #178 I would not have mistaken you for an FV defender. Since it took me a while to compose #181, your response to Todd did not appear on my screen until after I clicked on “Submit Comment.” If you gave indications earlier in the comment thread of your position on the FV, I missed them because I haven’t read every comment here word-for-word. I apologize for my confusion.

    In the flow of the context it did seem to me that you were both defending the FV and trying to interpret WCF 25:2 in the manner they do. I now see that I drew an incorrect conclusion.

  190. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    #184,

    Ron, do we have to make such a big meal of this?

    In #171 Lauren draw a sharp distinction between the individual and the corporal. Not only is that an unclear portrayal of the FV position, I think it’s also an unclear portrayal of the non-FV Reformed position.

    I’m not saying anything more than that – ok? I’m being honest and upfront about what I think about the FV and stuff – ok? I’m not coming at this as polemically as you, as being either part of the FV camp, or the non-FV camp.

    Very simply: Doug Wilson would affirm the need for personal, individual salvation, and he would also deny that you can be part of the final eschatological people of God without being personally individually saved. I think Leithart would say the same, however, Leithart would say – as has been quoted – lots of things that I would disagree with about the strength and importance of the corporate nature of the church.

    On the other hand, traditional Reformed theology wouldn’t say that the corporate nature of the church has nothing whatsoever to do with salvation.

    So to draw a sharp distinction between the individual and the corporate is something that is unclear, unhelpful, unwise, … or “wrong” – however you want to put it.

    If you look up the comment thread, Ron, you’ll see that I’ve been having a conversation with Jared, where I’ve been trying to get him to affirm that there are real differences between those who are personally saved members of the church and those who are not personally saved, but are still members of the church. But in having that discussion, I just don’t think it’s helpful to draw a sharp antithesis between the individual and the corporate in salvation, as that will communicate more than is necessary, or intended.

    Therefore, to explain: in #171, Lauren drew an antithesis that maybe wasn’t as fair, or useful, as it could be in a discussion like this – I’m sure Lauren’s a very fine and lovely person – all I’m saying is that this antithesis is too strong.
    In #172 Jared took exception to this.
    In #173 you affirmed Lauren’s antithesis.

    Now, Ron, I actually agree with you more than you’d think. I agree that salvation is – basically – where do I personally stand before the Lord Jesus Christ? And, I think we’d both agree that the church is not simply a bunch of saved individuals getting together – it is a corporately saved body (with some people there who shouldn’t be). I agree with you that tying the sacraments too closely to salvation is dangerous and mediaeval.

    With all this agreement here, there’s no need to fall out. I’m here to try and understand people better, and to try and work through some confusions I have personally.

    You said that you’re open to suggestions for how you could be more clear? Well… I made a pretty (in my opinion) gentle comment to begin with, that you chose to take offence at (there’s simply no reason why you have to read “unhelpful” in such an aggressive way). I apologised for causing offence, and tried to explain what I thought was unhelpful. And now you’ve decided that the best way to come back at me is with this sort of illustration – which you obviously know is unhelpful from the way you introduce it:

    “To draw an analogy that will probably not be welcomed by FVists: if your first exposure to theology came through Mormonism, it might take you quite a while to realize what Christians are really talking about. On the other hand, that is a problem that I can sympathize with. If we need to bend over backwards, as it were, and go the extra mile to be understood, so be it. Perhaps you can offer some suggestions.”

    The substantive point, is indeed: How much can we talk about salvation being individual and how much corporate?

    As for: Eternal election… I think everybody around the FV table seems to agree that the decretally elect are individually decretally elect, and there’s no cross-over here. I may have misunderstood something? Willing to be corrected.

    Regeneration… I think that only the decretally elect are regenerated. Jared wants us to take seriously the difference between those who are covenant members (even if they’re reprobates), and those who aren’t. I think that the Holy Spirit really does do something to reprobate covenant members that is distinct from the common grace operative outside of the church. I would use Berkhof’s term “covenant common grace” to talk about this… and I would say that there are aspects of it that are similar to actual regeneration. The discussion Jared and I have been having is whether this “covenant common grace” is “bought” at the cross – I think not.

    Justification… Only the decretally elect are justified, and they’re justified by faith alone. I therefore agree with the ordo salutis of regeneration, faith/repentance, justification. However, I think there’s a sense in which the decretally elect (and ONLY the decretally elect) are justified at the cross, at conversion, and on judgement day.

    However, here’s where the individual/corporate antithesis is drawn too strongly (from #171):

    “Have you this felt work of the Spirit in your soul? This is the great question.”

    Actually, when it comes to assurance, there is more than simply recognising the internal work of the Spirit in your soul. There’s your external sanctification, which is also a legitimate witness to your justification. A crucial element of that external sanctification would include your love for other Christians, and therefore fellowship. And, what’s more, the sacraments (which are corporate) are used by the Spirit to affirm your (individual) faith and assurance too.

    This is why I felt that the original antithesis put forward between the corporate and the individual was “unhelpful”.

    Are we in the same ballpark now?

  191. Todd said,

    December 30, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    “I think we’d both agree that the church is not simply a bunch of saved individuals getting together – it is a corporately saved body (with some people there who shouldn’t be).”

    This of course is nonsense. An institution cannot be “saved,” only people can be saved. You wonder why we react so strongly to the federal vision. It is because they are playing fast and loose with the doctrines we love and are zealous for. If a man tried to kiss my wife, I would react strongly. That man may protest my strong response by saying, “relax, dude, it’s not like I tried to commit adultery with her, I still recognize she is your wife.” Sorry, you mess with my wife, even a little, and you’ll get a strong response. You mess with justification, even a little, and you get a strong response.

    Todd

  192. Ron Henzel said,

    December 30, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Peter,

    Todd is absolutely right. He and I and other Reformed non-FVists can never agree that the church “is a corporately saved body (with some people there who shouldn’t be).” And his analogy is very much to the point here, and I don’t think he meant to imply that you messing with justification only a little here.

    It amazes me that you begin your comment by asking me, “Ron, do we have to make such a big meal of this?” and then you proceed to post 986 words. It’s even more amazing that you would ask whether we’re in the same ballpark after making a statement like that.

  193. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 30, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Ron (#189):

    No problem. Here’s my understanding of your position: Salvation is an individual matter with corporate aspects.

    I think I can understand that. You wish to maintain that individuals are saved, by grace through faith, and never by sole virtue of participation in the Church. So, “salvation is individual.” Is that a fair summary?

    And also, you believe that salvation has “corporate aspects” — that when we are saved, we are joined to the body of Christ in a visible way. Is that fair also?

    If so, then I would affirm all of that. But I would express it in the language, “Salvation is both an individual and a corporate affair”, by which I mean

    (1) Salvation is received as an individual, and
    (2) The salvation package includes being ingrafted into Christ’s body.

    Any objections to this?

    Now, you might wonder why I bothered with comment #178. I wanted to raise a fence to guard against saying “salvation is individual, period” without qualifying that the saved individual is always included into a visible body.

    We all, I suspect, have had to address individuals who claim salvation but want nothing to do with the visible church. To those, we can agree (I think) that the proper message is, “Salvation includes being attached to Christ’s body.”

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

  194. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Todd,

    Ok, so you disagree… I’m sorry I didn’t think that I was “messing with justification”. That’s why I spent quite a bit of time trying to outline what I think on that – as I don’t think I’m in agreement with what you guys call the FV. If talking to someone who holds an FV view just makes you angry so that you don’t feel able to talk it through with them – as you’ve outlined in your illustration Todd – then don’t comment on these FV related threads on Green Baggins… what are you trying to achieve by doing so?

    Anyone who wants to… let’s talk this through.

    Take Isaiah 53. In v6 Isaiah says “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

    Now, from my reading of Isaiah, he seems to be talking about the nation of Judah at this point – it is those in Judah for whom the suffering servant has died. More particularly, the remnant in Judah.

    The suffering servant will be a penal substitute for the remnant of Judah. Isaiah talks all the way through is book in corporate terms when it comes to salvation. That’s why, later, when he talks about Gentiles being saved… he uses the language of Gentiles being brought into the corporately atoned for people (56v5).

    That’s absolutely not to deny the fact that Isaiah thinks the individual must be contrite and humble in spirit (57v15).

    But one essential picture Isaiah uses of salvation is of a “place of corporate salvation”, which people flee to. Now, this is a valid picture of salvation, that in no way denies the reality of the individual being justified by faith.

    I am very, very surprised that you find it so hard to say that the church is more than a collection of saved individuals. Even more surprised for you to be so offended by that notion.

  195. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    #192,

    Ron, I’ve posted 962 words because… you seem to just be downloading lots of your concerns and thoughts about the FV onto me… and so I’m trying to be as explicit as I can about what I actually believe. Having done that: please stop reading the “headline heresy” without taking into account my caveats and qualifications.

  196. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    December 30, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    As an FV sympathizer on the corporate emphasis, I have to say that part of what some of them would say is that this whole discussion is an example of what they are trying to address: viz., the constant contrast between individual and corporate. Leithart in particular, I think, has talked about a social or relational anthopology: that individuals are what they are precisely in relation to others. So, this whole “is it individual or is it corporate?” is a false dichotomy. For salvation to be individual, it has to involve a different relation with people (first of all God and Christ, and then, necessarily, with the Church). The reprobate who were baptized are not shown to be apostate through some inner working, but through their departure from the body. Sanctification and the gospel are shown through how we treat other Christians. It’s not just an individual thing with some corporate aspects: for it to be an individual matter, it is necessarily also corporate. And, of course, for salvation to be a corporate matter, it must also be individual (thus, e.g., church discipline). There is one olive tree (Rom. 11), one Bride (Eph. 5, Rev. 20), one body, etc.

    It my view, it’s not just Evangelicalism that has given in to individualism. Our church, for example, has folks who simply won’t show up to church regularly, because they didn’t agree with the elders’ decision to go to weekly communion. Or, just think of our communion practice: heads bowed, private, silent prayer–what kind of fellowship meal is that? I don’t view these as just minor details, but as major flaws in the life of the church. And since individualism is the default mode of modern culture, it is important that we pay a great deal of attention to swimming the other direction.

  197. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    #196,

    Josh. If that’s all Leithart’s saying, then I agree with Leithart. If Leithart is also saying some of the things that are ascribed to him in these comment threads, then I don’t.

    As to the views you actually outline in your comment… putting aside the FV context… everything you say seems perfectly true, and Reformed, to me.

  198. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    December 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    By the way, even in individual justification, the corporate status is primary. That is, we must first be united to Christ (by true and living faith) to receive His righteousness by judicial verdict. There is one verdict of perfectly righteous that every individual Christian shares in, which is Christ’s. So, even to be justified in the traditional sense, we must be part of the body–eschatologically or invisibly speaking, of course.

    “And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us. Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him, all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him.” (Inst. III.i.1)

  199. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    December 30, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Thus, individual justification is, in fact, a corporate affair: we are justified because we are united to Christ, and so His status as righteous servant and beloved Son are, in fact, our own. And that’s exactly what baptism signs and seals: the ingrafting into Christ is what baptism is all about (Rom. 6).

  200. Todd said,

    December 30, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Pete wrote,

    “Ok, so you disagree… I’m sorry I didn’t think that I was “messing with justification”.

    The FV messes with justification. That is why our Reformed denominations reacted the way they did. They saw the danger. You may not see the danger yourself, but the reformed churches do; 3FU, Westminsterians, and Reformed Baptist all get it.

    “If talking to someone who holds an FV view just makes you angry so that you don’t feel able to talk it through with them – as you’ve outlined in your illustration Todd – then don’t comment on these FV related threads on Green Baggins… what are you trying to achieve by doing so?”

    You earlier bemoaned the fact that the anti-FV guys were turning enquirers off with their strong language. I was explaining the reason for the strong language.

    Take Isaiah 53. In v6 Isaiah says “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. The suffering servant will be a penal substitute for the remnant of Judah. Isaiah talks all the way through is book in corporate terms when it comes to salvation.”

    It’s called typology. The NT is clear that Isaiah 53 is Christ dying for the elect. That’s called fulfillment.

    “But one essential picture Isaiah uses of salvation is of a “place of corporate salvation”, which people flee to. Now, this is a valid picture of salvation, that in no way denies the reality of the individual being justified by faith.”

    That is closer to a RC view of the church than Protestant. The visible church is not a bus on its way to heaven, and therefore we tell people to hop on the bus of they want to be saved. No, the only answer to how to be saved is to believe in the Lord Jesus. Afterward, already saved, they usually join a local church as an act of sanctification and thankful obedience. The local, visible church is not saved, the elect of those churches are. The Lord has made this easy to understand, no need to complicate it.

    Todd

  201. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    #199,

    And, on efficacy Joshua, for the decretally elect do you believe that baptism is used by the Spirit to actually ingraft the baptee into Christ?

    Obviously, though, that’s not to say that the ingrafting is so tied to baptism that it couldn’t happen before, or after the action… or indeed happen even when the individual never gets a chance to receive baptism. On that point, I’m confident we’re all agreed – but I’ve got to keep stating these things, otherwise I’ll be randomly accused of some sort of heresy or other.

  202. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    #200,

    > You earlier bemoaned the fact that the anti-FV guys were turning enquirers off with their strong language

    [heavy sarcasm]
    Hmmmm… yes… and that’s proven to be a completely unjustified statement hasn’t it?
    [/heavy sarcasm]

    Seriously – I haven’t done that here. All I did was disagree with Ron in #172 that #171 was a fair antithesis to draw… which spawned a huge meal of a discussion where lots of FV theology has been downloaded into the way people are reading me, which I’ve tried to clear up by showing how my position isn’t the position that you dislike so much. But that hasn’t worked.

    Genuine question: Is it worth me trying to discuss this Isaiah thing with you, or are you just so fed up that you don’t want to deal with the discussion in any more depth?

    Genuine question, because I’m feeling a large smack of dismissivism from some of you… which in this instance I’m genuinely confused as to how I earned.

    Anyway – typology – I don’t think typology is the NT importing things into the OT text that weren’t there. So… knowing that the NT uses Isaiah 53 to talk of the elect – something I agree with by the way – how is it that Isaiah makes that point? In other words, how are we supposed to exegete Isaiah, not just eisegete the right interepretation into it?

    I think the answer is that Isaiah really is talking about the “place” of salvation. This “place” is Christ… and people are individually included or excluded depending on their heart condition – faith.

    You piece that together systematically exactly how Joshua has outlined. I am personally justified by inclusion in the corporate vehicle of justification, which is Christ.

  203. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    …And to make this desperately clear… the Roman Catholic church takes what I’ve said in 203, and applies everything to the visible church.

    But, actually people are included or excluded from the invisible church by faith… and I treat the visible church with respect, because it includes the invisible church, and represents it visibly… but the two are to be firmly, and robustly distinguished.

  204. Todd said,

    December 30, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    “Genuine question: Is it worth me trying to discuss this Isaiah thing with you, or are you just so fed up that you don’t want to deal with the discussion in any more depth?”

    I don’t mind discussing anything. You’ll just need to deal with strong reactions though when the traditional, confessional view of salvation is challenged by those calling themselves reformed. Another analogy – imagine you were arguing that sex before marriage is okay – that we have misunderstood the Scriptures on this. Let’s say you were actually sincere in your inquiry. Would you not imagine that such a premise would be responded to strongly, regardless of your level of sincerity?

    Anyway, I prefer traditional, easy to understand language when describing salvation. I have no idea what “corporate vehicle of justification” even means.

    Todd

  205. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    #204,

    You are encouraging me to react strongly now. I appreciate the theology on this blog, but sometimes, not the people. Frankly, I’m now finding you offensive too. I LOVE JESUS. And I find your insinuations, and pokes at me, very offensive. But because I love Jesus, I love you too, even though I feel a strong sense of dislike of you right at this moment.

    So, in the midst of finding each other offensive, let’s keep discussing…

    Isaiah is telling us that salvation is found in Jerusalem… flee to Jerusalem… flee to the city of salvation. How do I flee to this “Jerusalem”? By a humble and contrite spirit, by faith.

    So here, Isaiah has put his soteriology in both corporate and individual terms.

  206. Todd said,

    December 30, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Pete,

    Again, I am explaining the past reactions to the Federal Vision, not necessarily to your posts. I never said I found you offensive. The point is; we see justification being attacked, whether outright or subtly. That’s why the church courts have responded the way they did, and continue to do. It’s more than simply an in-house discussion. I understand you do not see it that way. But we do, thus the strong language. Why is this so offensive?

    Christ is the true Israel. To flee to salvation is to flee to Christ. The church is the bearer of this message, not what men flee to for salvation. You agree, right?

    Todd

  207. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Todd,

    “Again, I am explaining the past reactions to the Federal Vision, not necessarily to your posts. I never said I found you offensive. The point is; we see justification being attacked, whether outright or subtly. That’s why the church courts have responded the way they did, and continue to do. It’s more than simply an in-house discussion. I understand you do not see it that way. But we do, thus the strong language. Why is this so offensive?”

    Not a good answer. I’ve just had a load of stuff slung at me, and you turning the screw and implying stuff about me, I was irenic up to a point… but at the moment I finally lose my rag with you and say I’m fed up with your comments (not saying that was justified – not saying that I was overly aggressive either), to pretend that you’ve been reasonable all along does not wash with me. – Just saying this to answer your question.

    “Christ is the true Israel. To flee to salvation is to flee to Christ. The church is the bearer of this message, not what men flee to for salvation. You agree, right?”

    Some qualifications:
    1) Christ = true Israel (which is) the invisible Church. I’m fleeing to Jerusalem/Israel/Christ. I’m justified by becoming a member of true Israel (i.e. the body of Christ, i.e. by unity with Christ).

    2) So… visibly when I flee to Christ, I visibly in the world flee to the visible church, because this is where I “get” Christ. The visible church proclaims Christ… there are benefits from being a member of the visible church, but they’re not benefits that were “bought” at the atonement, … and in the long run they’re pretty rubbish. Fleeing to the “visible” church, is stupid and won’t save.

    3) Therefore, I treat the visible church with a lot of respect precisely because of it’s connection with the invisible church.

    Stuff you want to hear me say (and I’m happy to say):
    1) Of course, I am not saved because I’m a member of the visible church.
    2) Of course, there is a distinction between the visible and the invisible church.

    Do I pass the test now? Is this Reformed – or are you going to put me in the “you’re trying to french kiss my wife” camp?

    I’m trying to agree with your statement, while also protecting the doctrine in Ephesians 2v16 – unity with God is unity with other Chrsitians, because we are, together, the household of God, the body of Christ, the new Jerusalem, … a corporate body together… more than just a collection of saved individuals.

  208. Reed Here said,

    December 30, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Just a brief reflection on the Leithart quote provided earlier, is this not an example of the equivocation concerns?

    Joshua, I appreciate your qualifications of Leithart’s position, to wit that he is attempting to deal with social/relational anthropology. That does not remove the equivocation present in his language. What does he mean by “church” for example? Peter’s question concerning “baptism” is of a like nature.

    To counter that the visible/invisible distinction is off-target is, in my opinion, to ignore how the Bible itself speaks. We are not just dealing with a visible corporeality that is undifferentiated for all practical purposes. The Bible offers differentiation, and expects us to apply it in our own understanding and expression of faith.

    Again, not trying to be cute, but it is one of those “what do you mean by ‘is’?” questions. Admitting that Dr. Leithart himself might be considered FV-lite, he needs to address such questions a little more clearly.

  209. Reed Here said,

    December 30, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Todd & Peter:

    Not sure brothers, but there may be some misunderstanding based on not having enough context with one another.

    Todd, Peter, as he demonstrates, is responding from a presupposition of a traditional reformed doctrinal system. I think you get this, so thanks for letting me use your name as a place marker for some who may not.

    Peter, I think Todd has indeed become a place-marker, taking the place in the discussion for others who were offering strong comments at first. My read of Todd’s responses was not to be dismissive of you, or to try to offend, but to offer you explanation for the strong responses of others.

    If it helps, I think you have an example of the difficulty of this conversation. There seems to be some degree of not reading you in full context (i.e., your previous comments that enable me to read you differently here). Some read your comments without this context and hear a variation of an FV apologia. I agree that is not completely fair, but it may help you in responding to these folk with the irenic tone you wish to maintain. (You’re doing fine, don’t get tripped up)..

    Has there been some knee-jerk reacting? Yeah, I think so. Could some of this been better handled by asking clarification questions first? Absolutely.

    And not to excuse any such errors, I encourage you to look at this exchange as an opportunity for some sympathy. Most of us here have spent a few years offering sympathetic/generous listening to our FV brothers, and have not gotten very much in return. It does get tiring after a while. No excuse making, just some insight that will hopefully help in bearing burdens.

    The original issue was related to Lauren’s comment to Jared, and Ron’s defense of that to Jared/you. Given the number of comments, I’d suggest she did bring up a substantial subject, while we all may not have addressed ourselves to it very well. Let’s continue patience, forgive where necessary, and continue to pursue the substance of the conversation.

  210. Pete Myers said,

    December 30, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Sure, sorry.

  211. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 30, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    The infamous 171 just got online – I did not realize I had caused so much furor.

    I would like to add some context to my comment. I would like us to take a look at the seven letters that the Lord Jesus sent through John to the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 2-3). If you read these seven epistles, you will see that the Lord Jesus speaks of nothing but matters of doctrine, practice, warning, and promise. He sometimes finds fault with false doctrines, and ungodly, inconsistent practices, and rebukes them sharply. He sometimes praises faith, patience, work, perseverance, and gives these graces high commendation.

    But observe for yourself – you will not find the Lord in any of the letters dwelling on church government or ceremonies. He says nothing about sacraments or ordinances. He makes no mention of liturgies or forms. He does not tell John to write one word about baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, or even the apostolic succession of ministers. In other words, the leading principles of what may be called the “sacramental system” are not brought forward in any one of the seven epistles – not one.

    Why do I make a point of this? I do so because I believe the advocates of the Federal Vision would have us believe these things are of first, of cardinal, of paramount importance. They appear to hold to the view that there can be no church without an ordained minister – that there can be no godliness without a liturgy. They appear to believe that to teach the value of the sacraments is the first work of a minster, and to take care of the visible church is the first business of the people.

    Please don’t misunderstand me. Don’t get the idea that I see no importance in sacraments. I regard them as great blessings to all who receive them rightly, worthily, and with faith. I also respect and value a church that is well administered and has an evangelical ministry over one that does not.

    But, sacraments, church government, the use of liturgy, the observance of ceremonies and forms, are all nothing compared to personal faith, repentance, and holiness. Repentance toward God, personal faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and a holy life are far more important to our souls. Without these no man can be saved. These are the first and most important matters.

    Federal Vision advocates would have us be content with the mere outward form of religion. They would have us lean and rest on church membership and church privileges. They would have us feel satisfied that all is right because we attend church and come to the Lord’s table. They would have us forget this truth: He is not a Christian who is one outwardly – you must be born again – you must have a personal faith that works by love – that there must be a new creation by the Spirit in your heart. This, to me, is what is on the mind of Christ. These are the kind of things He dwells upon when writing seven times over to seven different churches.

    That is why I shared 171 – I believe there are two separate systems of Christianity in reformed churches today. We cannot deny their existence. The second system is the one we should cling to and teach for I am convinced that it is the system that Scripture teaches. No church will thrive so much as that in which repentance, faith, conversion, and the work of the Spirit are the great subjects of the minister’s sermon.

  212. jared said,

    December 30, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Hmm, where to begin? This will probably be too long but I’m going to do it anyway.

    Pete (#174),

    You say,

    Anyway – I’m struggling to see you even recognise the non-FV position on this issue at the moment.

    That’s why I said quite loudly, that, I appreciate your big concern about the distinction between covenant members and non-covenant members. But you need to make clear the distinction between decretally elect covenant members and non-decretally elect covenant members.

    No, I’ve been very clear about making sure there’s a distinction between the covenantal elect and the decretal elect (see my response to David Gadbois in #141). The coventantal elect includes the decretal elect but is not limited to them. You say,

    This is a pretty important thing to get to grips with. The idea that Jesus has atoned for people in category 2 in some way, really is a novel idea. On this, traditional Reformed theology has put 2 and 3 in the same place when it comes to the atonement. Arminian theology puts 1 and 2 in the same place when it comes to the atonement. Some FV seem to be now shifting category 2 away from category 3 and towards category 1 when it comes to the atonement.

    Again, this has been cleared up; see my response (to David, once again) in #165. It isn’t that the people in your category 2 that have been atoned for, but they receive covenantal benefits as a “side effect” of the atonement.

    Todd (#191),

    You say,

    This of course is nonsense. An institution cannot be “saved,” only people can be saved. You wonder why we react so strongly to the federal vision. It is because they are playing fast and loose with the doctrines we love and are zealous for. If a man tried to kiss my wife, I would react strongly. That man may protest my strong response by saying, “relax, dude, it’s not like I tried to commit adultery with her, I still recognize she is your wife.” Sorry, you mess with my wife, even a little, and you’ll get a strong response. You mess with justification, even a little, and you get a strong response.

    Except the church isn’t an institution, she’s a body; the Groom’s bride no less, so show a little more respect, would you? No body is playing fast and loose with anything but you, Ron and Lauren with your “tongues”.

    Lauren Kuo (#211),

    You say,

    That is why I shared 171 – I believe there are two separate systems of Christianity in reformed churches today. We cannot deny their existence. The second system is the one we should cling to and teach for I am convinced that it is the system that Scripture teaches. No church will thrive so much as that in which repentance, faith, conversion, and the work of the Spirit are the great subjects of the minister’s sermon.

    I believe there are many, many more than “two separate systems of Christianity” within Reformed churches today. We shouldn’t deny their existence, variety is to be expected given individuality. Since Scripture isn’t a systematic theology textbook, it doesn’t specifically teach any of those many separate systems that we have within the Reformed community. I agree that no church will thrive more than those in which there is genuine shepherding, but it’s odd that you would say that while at the same time seeming to deny the necessity for leadership and government. This is especially odd since Scripture sets forth the traits for the former and the parameters for the latter. In short, you are still drawing that incorrect (and very non-Reformed) distinction between individualism and community that I “chided” you for initially. In truth, I wasn’t trying to chide or rebuke you at all; I was responding (appropriately I think) to (1) your indirect sleight of me in your response to Reed who was responding (helpfully) to me and (2) to your gross mis-characterization of the FV as a whole.

    Oh, and Reed; maybe I am being too generous to the FV or maybe I’m “getting it” better than some (many? most?) of it’s critics? I don’t mean this as an insult to anyone but it hasn’t been difficult in the least for me to “work around” their confusing language, extended/expanded categories and supposed equivocations. My “hybrid” version of FV works only because (or only if) those elements I’ve adopted are sound. So far they seem to be because I’ve not had occasion to deny anything essential which the FV is supposedly denying. Sure I’ve not been crystal clear but you, Lane (with his initial posts and hosting of the blog; thanks Lane!) Pete, Jeff and even David have helped in that regard and I’m glad you guys are still willing to (reasonably rather than rashly) engage in the conversation.

    Huh, this wasn’t as long as I thought it was going to be given the number of comments that have appeared since my last one…

  213. Todd said,

    December 31, 2008 at 12:46 am

    “Do I pass the test now? Is this Reformed – or are you going to put me in the “you’re trying to french kiss my wife” camp?”

    Not sure, especially since you upped the ante with a “French kiss.” If you defend Wilkins and Leighthart on these matters, if you continue to speak of the sacraments as conferring justification, if you continue to make statements such as, “I’m justified by becoming a member of true Israel (i.e. the body of Christ, i.e. by unity with Christ)” then yes, you are playing around with the clear, Biblical doctrine by which the church stands or falls.

    Most of us anti-FVers see the FV teaching as heresy, whether they discuss these matters nicely with you or not. As with Lauren, I have seen the FV poison damage too many churches and individual Christians to play nicey-nice with it anymore. You are enamored with a bad crowd.

    Todd

  214. Vern Crisler said,

    December 31, 2008 at 1:12 am

    Amen Lauren, you’ve expressed the essence of the gospel. It’s good to hear it from time to time.

    Vern

  215. Pete Myers said,

    December 31, 2008 at 6:18 am

    #212, Jared,

    It isn’t that the people in your category 2 that have been atoned for, but they receive covenantal benefits as a “side effect” of the atonement.

    I’m sorry, I hadn’t clocked that you were saying this. That’s excellent, really excellent, compared to what I was hearing you saying. What exactly do you mean by “side effect” of the atonement? Could you be really specific as to how the covenantal non-elect are blessed by the atonement?

    #213, Vern,

    The problem I have with you, Vern, is your “Ready! Fire! Aim!” approach here. If you look at the way I’ve spoken about Wilkins and Leithart, you’ll see that I’ve said at various points “Well, if they’re only saying X, then that’s fine… but if they’re really saying Y, which everyone says they’re saying, then that’s really serious.”

    …having said that, I don’t remember saying anything about Wilkins in particular – so why you bring him up I don’t know. Probably just because you’ve decided that I’m an FV heretic, and are now just lumping me in with this crowd, whether that’s fair or not.

    if you continue to speak of the sacraments as conferring justification, if you continue to make statements such as, “I’m justified by becoming a member of true Israel (i.e. the body of Christ, i.e. by unity with Christ)”

    As politely as I can – either refute this, or just shut up. But piously declaring the judgment of God upon me, without defending your opinion, and without engaging with anything I’ve said is hardly “protecting the sheep” from that which is “dangerous”. Pastors are called to refute error, not rail against it. And just shouting at heresy makes it worse.

    Listen to Reed.

    What’s more, what you’ve quoted me as saying is basically what Joshua quoted Calvin as saying in #198:

    “And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us. Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him, all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him.” (Inst. III.i.1)

    On the efficacy of the Sacraments, to say that the sacraments are means that God uses to justify is not heretical. The Westminster Larger Catechism says this:

    Question 154: What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?
    Answer: The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.

    And it explains this about the sacraments in these questions:

    Question 161: How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
    Answer: The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

    Question 162: What is a sacrament?
    Answer: A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church, to signify, seal, and exhibit unto those that are within the covenant of grace, the benefits of his mediation; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces; to oblige them to obedience; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another; and to distinguish them from those that are without.

    Question 163: What are the parts of a sacrament?
    Answer: The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an outward and sensible sign, used according to Christ’s own appointment; the other an inward and spiritual grace thereby signified.

    And so, specifically the Lord’s supper, is so effectual, that I really am spiritually feeding on Christ when I take it:

    Question 170: How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s Supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
    Answer: As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, or under the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements themselves are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply unto themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.

    I believe that Todd, so I believe the sacraments – specifically baptism – really does confer justification (only to the the decretally elect who have been given faith by the powerful work of the Spirit, and not necessarily at the same time as the baptism, but maybe before, after or at the baptism… but they’re not so tied to together as to make baptism necessary for justification).

  216. Pete Myers said,

    December 31, 2008 at 6:35 am

    #215, I meant to say Todd, not Vern. Sorry Vern.

  217. Pete Myers said,

    December 31, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Todd, Vern, Ron, whoever else is interested.

    Ok, I’ve just read through some more Calvin, and the 39 articles (my confession, being Anglican). I think I’ve been a little muddled in what I’ve been saying about efficacy.

    I’ve been hearing you as Zwinglian. And subsequently have come over too strongly and can see that you’re hearing me as Lutheran. And I was also wrong too, but I’ll get to that.

    How’s this? :

    1) The sacraments are signs and seals.
    2) To put it another way – the sacraments are the “enacted Word of God”.
    3) Just like with preaching, the sacraments are testifying and confirming/affirming God’s grace to us.
    4) Just like with preaching, they only have any benefit for those who receive the sacraments with faith… receiving the sacraments without faith, makes you more liable and worthy of God’s judgment (just like those who’ve heard lots of preaching, but are still unrepentant, are incurring more wrath for themselves).

    5) Here’s the crucial bit you want to hear me say: The sacrament of baptism really does actually ingraft you into the visible church, but not the invisible church.

    6) And here’s something that I haven’t been clear on, and indeed think that I’ve only just got clarity on in my own mind. This is, I think, in real distinction from the FV – even Doug:

    Doug Wilson thinks that the actual act of baptism is the thing that the Spirit uses to confer regeneration, justification, etc. He adds lots of important qualifications to that, that distinguish him from an RC: not necessarily at the same time, those things can still be had without baptism, this only comes to the elect, etc.

    (The qualifications put Doug much more firmly in the Lutheran camp than the RC camp, in my view.)

    I, on the other hand, would say that the actual act of baptism is the thing that the Spirit uses to bolster, or give, me faith… the faith is then the “vehicle” for regeneration, justification, etc.

    Essentially the difference between Doug and me is, when it comes to how the gracious blessings of God are “delivered” to me: for Doug the sacrament is the vehicle as long as faith is present, for me the faith is the vehicle that is given/encouraged by the sacrament.

    I have just shifted from Doug’s position to this new position – though to be honest, no thanks to you lot shouting at me, purely thanks to Calvin (and a bit of Witsius).

    I have to say, though, that the Westminster Standards really feel unclear on this. After all, the answer to Question 162 I quoted above, says:

    to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces

    The answer isn’t entirely clear that all the other graces are strengthened as a result of the faith being strengthened.

  218. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 31, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Pete,

    You have articulated my position exactly (which is AFAICT Calvin’s). Here’s how I put it:

    (1) The sacraments are a physical sermon of God’s grace. Receiving the sacraments by faith has the exact same effect as receiving the spoken Word by faith.

    (2) The efficacy of the sacraments is faith.

    Thus, baptism really *does* do something — to those with faith. And to those without faith, it functions as condemnation against them, just as those who hear the word and reject it have dust shaken in their faces.

    Jeff Cagle

  219. Pete Myers said,

    December 31, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Thanks Jeff,

    I think I really do see clearly now where Doug is wrong on this issue too.
    And passages in scripture that seem to support his position that the sacraments are the vehicle of the blessing, like 1 Peter 3v21, are actually just talking about how the sacrament is also an act of faith. So being baptised is putting my faith in God for salvation… in that capacity “it saves”.

    Can anyone point me towards a good exposition of the Westminster Standards? To be honest, part of the cause of my confusion on this was that I was reading the Westminster Standards, which seemed to be closer to Doug’s position than Calvin’s.

  220. greenbaggins said,

    December 31, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I would encourage everyone who is a critic of the FV on this blog to give Pete a bit of space. He’s here to learn, and he has shown a very teachable spirit. The critic’s side of the FV is not going to persuade by being like vinegar. And Pete is not the one who has destroyed churches over here in the US (the geographical difficulty of the Atlantic Ocean being but one small part of the obstacles in his way!). He is a Brit, folks! That needs to mean something contextually. He is coming to this debate theologically, trying on ideas for size. We don’t need to tar and feather him, for goodness’ sake. I have known people who were deep into the FV come out of it, and I don’t think Pete is even that deep. Vinegar will not appeal to him nearly as much as sugar, I think.

  221. Todd said,

    December 31, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Lane,

    Got it – as I get older my cynicism rears its head more often. Too many repeated patterns. Pete, here’s the problem, and why I write so strongly to you. I’m having a real hard time buying the way you are presenting yourself. You come on this blog expressing great appreciation for DW, and admonishing the anti-FVer’s that we are turning people off over there with our overheated rhetoric and lack of charity in debate, and then declare your great respect for the visible church.

    And yet how has DW made a name for himself? By calling amil’s “gnostics,” non-paedo communists as people who starve their children, calling Christian parents who use the public schools for their children “covenant breakers,” by making a mockery out of the discipline process of legitimate churches and denominations, by publicly denigrating the PCA for stacking committees, by mocking the condemnations of the FV by most NAPARC churches, etc…I could go on and on. So when you come on board admonishing us to be nice and charitable to the FVers, and present DW in such a positive light, it smacks of disgenuinenesses; in other words, something smells awfully funny.

    But I will work with Lane’s explanation that you may be new to all this and not have a history concerning the FV, or you do not have another horse in this race you are not telling us. In other words, I will put my cynicism aside at his request. Or, if you want, I will shut up, at your request.

    I will say this; if you are a minister of the gospel, which I think you said you were, and you are coming to such important doctrinal conclusions this recently and quickly, you may consider taking a sabbatical to become better grounded in doctrine. After all, our calling is to be the ones who can strengthen our brethren in the doctrine we have studied well and become assured of. If we are not clear and grounded on the essential doctrines of the faith, how can we strengthen and teach others clearly?

    Todd

  222. Reed Here said,

    December 31, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Todd:

    That’s not necessarily a whole hearted agreement with Lane’s request. Please choose to interact with the intention to iron-sharpen, not to uncover a snake in the grass.

  223. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 31, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I would ask again, where in the Lord’s words to the seven churches does He mention anything about the sacraments, church government, the use of liturgy, the observance of ceremonies and forms?

    I never can believe, if a certain form of church government or a sacrament were so important as FV advocates say, that the great Head of the Church would have said nothing about it here. I should have expected to have found something about it to Sardis and Laodicea. But I find nothing at all. And I think that silence is a great fact.

    I can’t help but add ust the same fact in Paul’s parting words to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:27-35). He was then leaving them forever. He was giving his last charge on earth, and spoke as one who would see the faces of his hearers no more. Yet, there is not a word in the charge about the sacraments and church government. If ever there was a time for speaking of them, it was then. But he says nothing at all; and I believe it was an intentional silence.

    I am well aware that Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins, Peter Leithart, and the rest of their FV entourage may think that some of us take a “low view” on the sacraments and the visible church. It really does not matter that our view is thought of as “low”, just so long as our consciences tell us they are Scriptural. High ground, as it is called, is not always safe ground. What Balaam said must be our answer: “What the Lord says, that I must speak (Numbers 24:13).

  224. Todd said,

    December 31, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Reed,

    Not sure what you mean,”snake in the grass”. I’m not suggesting that Pete is part of a coordinated effort by FV proponents to soften the blow against FV, though I wouldn’t put that kind of thing past DW. But often in these type of debates, those who stay in the middle are sometimes much more emotionally committed to a particular side than they are letting on, for whatever reason. It’s like how people call conservative talk shows presenting themselves as moderates and independents, and then lambasting the conservative for uncivil discourse, all the while excusing the same on the other side. It at the least makes you question their self-proclaimed status as moderates or independents. Is it wrong to point out what at least appears to be an inconsistency?

    Todd

  225. Pete Myers said,

    December 31, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    #221, Todd,

    Thanks for your advice.

    The comments that I have made in various places about the way the anti-FV have spoken, have pretty much all sprung from the way anti-FV here, on this blog, have spoken to me, when I’ve simply been trying to understand things. What’s most irritating, is not even inflammatory language – it’s inflammatory language coupled with a lack of positive reasoning and refutation of things I’m saying.

    Yes, I have a lot of thinking to do, and I am painfully aware of my failures as a minister, as a servant of Christ, and as a Christian husband and father. My failures extend beyond theology to much more serious areas, such as my lack of godliness, and failures to control my tongue. In all of these areas I’m praying that I’ll grow, as I try and exercise humility, and look to Christ as my righteousness.

    I’m sure that all of us feel the seriousness of our failings before our glorious and perfect covenant God, both in our doctrinal understanding, and in our godliness in areas such as judgementalism, and the use of our tongues.

    If I were you, though, I would be very, very careful what you say to people. I know quite a few guys over here in the UK, who would take a wide variety of different positions on this FV discussion. Many ministers who are far more clever than me, would consciously say they don’t understand the issues, no matter what they think of them. Well respected, and amazingly godly men, with influence, have been attracted by FV theology. In contrast to them, I find some people here amazingly quick to declare God’s eternal judgement on people, without putting much time into discussion first.

    I was chatting to a chap the other day, who knew I’d been doing a bit of reading on this, and who was concerned about some recent arguments on our side of the water, that, have upset some of the fragility of the evangelical unity which feels very young over here. Evangelicalism is too fragile in the UK to have an argument as deep and as heated as you guys are having.

    What has made it’s way over here from the FV doesn’t seem to me to be anywhere near as serious as some of you guys have told me that Leithart, or Jordan have got to. Most of my experience of the FV over in the States is of Wilson’s writing… which from what I can tell is not as far out as Leithart or Jordan either.

  226. Pete Myers said,

    December 31, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    #224, Todd,

    Only just read your comment. The only thing I’ll say is this: As someone who is now becoming more and more convinced of the non-FV position in a number of areas, all I can say is that is ALL THE MORE REASON for me to think that the non-FV side of things has a greater responsibility to be more civil and more godly in discussion than the FV side of things.

    I think I’m seeing more clearly how some FV views are dangerous (if some of these FV guys really think what you say they think). If that’s the case, then nobody who, by God’s grace, has enough understanding to see that error should allow anything they do, or say, to put people off seeing the truth and the error clearly simply because of the way we speak to people.

    In contrast to your previous illustration, Todd, the more serious the error, the more godly the “good guys” have to be in responding to it. At least that’s the way we think about things in the UK. It could be a culture thing.

    #223, Lauren,

    Can I suggest that there are perhaps better arguments for what you’re advocating than an argument from silence?

    So, theologically don’t know how far away I am from you – we may be far closer than you’d think – but two things I’d say in response to your comments. They’re both of balance.

    Since the FV have over-emphasised the corporate, to the exclusion of the individual, you’re right to pull them (us?) up on that. But doing so by drawing such a sharp distinction between the individual and the corporate, so that they’re put in opposition to each other is, perhaps, not a balanced response. In reality, this is all I had been trying to say previously.

    A similar thing goes for the sacramental thing. There are lots of potential answers to your point about Revelation. One of which being, that, you could probably prove a lot – too much – using the argument that you’ve put forward. The early chapters of Revelation are silent on a lot of things, but that can’t be used as an argument to say that anything not in there is less important to the church.

  227. Reed Here said,

    December 31, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    Todd:

    Simple observation: an agreement with Lane’s admonition is not best responded to with a post in which one challenges the ministerial skills of another.

    I both understand and agree with the moderate/independent metaphor. Lane’s observation with regard to Pete’s across the pond status, at least to me, suggests that this is an insufficient explanation for Pete’s use of arguments that on other lips would suggest a disingenuousness (or at least a serious confusion) that warrants the kinds of challenges you’ve leveled at Pete.

    I think all of us FV critics should slow down and re-read Pete’s admonitions about our willingness to pull certain triggers. As I’ve challenged Pete myself, his critiques do at times seem misinformed, or at least not on target, due it appears to the lack of context issue. He’s accepted such admonishments well. We do not need to offer him the “either yuins with us or agin us” speech.

    E.g., I don’t read the kinds of things you see in Pete’s responses. I think his follow ups demonstrate that he is not affirming the kinds of FV things that at first it may sound like.

    Too many words Todd to make the simple point – there is a better way to interact with Pete and those like him. Chalk that up to my poor communication skills, and thanks for bearing with me.

  228. Todd said,

    December 31, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Reed,

    Okay – like I said, I may have been burned so many times by this type of thing that I’m too cynical. But I was sincere about the Sabbatical though – not putting him down in suggesting that, but rather frightened by witnessing a minister change so many positions so quickly. That type of openness has some praise worthy aspects to it, but somewhat scary for a minister of the gospel. Pete, it was not meant to be a put down, but a real suggestion, though I never think people will actually take my suggestions seriously anyways – slap myself for more cynicism.

  229. Reed Here said,

    December 31, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Todd:

    I do appreciate your sincerity and wish you continued blessings. And yes, your suggestions do carry weight, as you are not a flippant commenter, but one with seriousness.

    As one who has his share of scorch marks, I do sympathize.

  230. Pete Myers said,

    December 31, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    A few things:

    1) I haven’t even been to theological college yet.

    2) Having said that, I talk to lots of people who *have* been to theological college, but genuinely don’t understand the issues involved here. I talk to baptists in ministry regularly, who can’t even articulate the Reformed Infant Baptist case.

    3) I did some in house training for a couple of years in a well respected conservative evangelical church, a leading light in many respects… a church where I was taught that much Reformed theology was wrong, I was given an Anabaptist view of Biblical Theology (what’s called in some quarters “New Covenant Theology”, or “Modified Lutheranism”), and where I was told that the big problem with Reformed Theologians was that they didn’t read whole books of the Bible in context, but rather proof-texted – and that sort of proof-texting was built into the WCF. I was also taught that Tom Wright was misunderstood, and was – in the main – a sound guy.

    The crazy backward thing is, that some people there now think that Tom Wright is ok, but a bit funny, … but that Doug Wilson (this mysterious FV guy they’ve heard of) is a heretic. Don’t know about you – but that’s backwards.

    That particular anabaptist view of biblical theology doesn’t understand the visible/invisible nature of the covenant – and I personally know lots of people who are currently stuck in that mistake. They’d say that there is a visible/invisible distinction… but not in the covenant itself (rather the covenant is invisible, the church is visible, but the church is not an outward aspect of the covenant).

    In our second year, during our Bible readthrough, I shifted to a Reformed position… and started reading around for some more help… and found David Field and Doug Wilson (as well as the WCF, Calvin, Bavinck, and Witsius).

    So, that’s my “history”.

    4) I do think I’ve “moved” on several issues in discussion here… but I think that moving has only been a few feet – but because of your context over there, it looks to you like I’ve been flung miles, and miles and miles in a single bound. I’m saying things, and often they’re not qualified – but we seem to skip the “let’s get clarity” stage, and skip the “let me help you see how you’re wrong” stage, and go straight to the “you’re obviously wrong, you’re just not admitting it – repent or burn!” stage.

    5) Part of that, is, misinformation on the FV on my part. All I can say, is that I have read them too generously, I have read the moderates more than the extremes, and they obviously aren’t as clear as they could be.

    Todd – I will pray for your ministry, please pray for mine.

  231. Todd said,

    December 31, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    “Todd – I will pray for your ministry, please pray for mine.”

    Agreed

  232. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 31, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Could I ask a question to those in the PCA?

    The ad interim committee report listed nine declarations of error that are contrary or not in accordance with the WCF. Are we to conclude, then, that the official PCA position, is as follows: The PCA regards these errors as out of accord with the WCF, but NOT NECESSARILY OUT OF ACCORD WITH SCRIPTURE?

    The Mid-America Reformed Seminary report listed 45 errors that the faculty considered “serious theological error contrary to the teachings and doctrines of Scripture and the Reformed confessions”.

    Why did the PCA leadership choose to fall short of declaring these errors contrary to Scripture? I know the assignment was only to determine if the views on justification were contrary to the confession. And, I know the committee had time constraints. But why didn’t the leadership take the time to carry the assignment an important and vital step further? Isn’t this report more of an accommodation than a declaration of error? Doesn’t it exchange the sword of the Spirit for a wet noodle of manmade church doctrine? For the WCF is open to man’s broad interpretation, making it very easy for these and other errors to slip in under its radar screen. And, the WCF definitely does not carry the authority, weight, or conviction of Scripture.

    Do each of you in the PCA believe in your conscience that the views of the Federal Vision are contrary to Scripture?

  233. greenbaggins said,

    December 31, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Lauren, given the normal interpretation of the membership vows that state that a minister believes the WS to contain THE system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture, a declaration that such and such doctrine is out of accord with the WS is also a statement that it is out of accord with Scripture.

  234. Reed Here said,

    December 31, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Lauren:

    You’ve answered your own question, partly. The PCA committee was tasked as you noted, to determine if the FV was out of accord with the standards of our denomination. That they did not go beyond this is evidence of their humility and awareness that God only works through the pronouncements of His elders to the degree that these are consistent with His word. To go beyond their charge would be a violation of the 5th commandment.

    Beyond this however, consider that given the PCA’s acceptance of the Westminster Standards as expressing the system of doctrine of Scripture, by default a declaration that these are out of accord with the Standards is also a declaration that they are out of accord with Scripture. I am aware that some (both pro-FV and otherwise) have argued against this assumption. I think those on the committee would respond otherwise. (Bob, please correct me if you would).

    Finally, for me I have concluded that by and large the FV is heterodox. That is, it is not out and out heresy (e.g., such as Mormonism). Yet it is sufficiently defective from the Scriptures as to not be worthy of use, but rather should be disregarded and eschewed by our ministers. There is more detail here behind this opinion, but hopefully this will suffice.

    In the end, I view the FV proponents as I would other evangelical ministers in non-reformed denominations. They are not off the reservation, but they sure do spend lots of time looking over the fence.

  235. jared said,

    December 31, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Lauren Kuo (#223),

    You say,

    I never can believe, if a certain form of church government or a sacrament were so important as FV advocates say, that the great Head of the Church would have said nothing about it here. I should have expected to have found something about it to Sardis and Laodicea. But I find nothing at all. And I think that silence is a great fact.

    Of course the fact that Jesus is talking to churches is insignificant, right? Churches that, no doubt, had a form of government and administered the sacraments. It seems to me the argument from silence should be completely opposite of what you are making. It could be, just as easily and equally valid, the case that Jesus is taking for granted that the churches have a form of government and were administering the sacraments, and why shouldn’t He? You ask in #232,

    The ad interim committee report listed nine declarations of error that are contrary or not in accordance with the WCF. Are we to conclude, then, that the official PCA position, is as follows: The PCA regards these errors as out of accord with the WCF, but NOT NECESSARILY OUT OF ACCORD WITH SCRIPTURE?

    I’d say that’s fair and reasonable. But I’ve a pretty “biased” view of the report as well, so my opinion may be worthless to you on this point. You ask,

    Why did the PCA leadership choose to fall short of declaring these errors contrary to Scripture? I know the assignment was only to determine if the views on justification were contrary to the confession. And, I know the committee had time constraints. But why didn’t the leadership take the time to carry the assignment an important and vital step further? Isn’t this report more of an accommodation than a declaration of error? Doesn’t it exchange the sword of the Spirit for a wet noodle of manmade church doctrine? For the WCF is open to man’s broad interpretation, making it very easy for these and other errors to slip in under its radar screen. And, the WCF definitely does not carry the authority, weight, or conviction of Scripture.

    These are all great questions and the only good answer I can come up with is that R.C. Sproul’s voice pretty much destroyed any chance of allocating more time and a few more committee members to the writing of the report. I intend no disrespect to Dr. Sproul or those who agree with him about these matters but the report clearly needed more time and at least another member or two (and ideally members who were FV advocates). I truth, however, I honestly don’t know why this didn’t happen. In answer to your last question, I will say no. I don’t think much of FV theology is contrary to Scripture, but that’s because I think a large portion of it is a novel (if not sometimes confusing) reformulating of Reformed theology, which, in turn, I think is in line with what the Scriptures teach.

    Pete, I’m still working on a response to your #215; it is coming, just takin’ me some time to put together.

  236. Lauren Kuo said,

    December 31, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Lane, I believe you are saying, yes, the views of the Federal Vision are contrary to Scripture based on your vows.

    Reed, you believe that the views of the Federal Vision are heterodox, not heresy but defective from Scripture.

    Jared, you say, no, the views of the Federal Vision are not contrary to Scripture.

    Thank you for your honest answers. But, do you now understand why many have come to the conclusion that the PCA is in a state of confusion over justification by faith alone? Three different answers right in a row! My question to you now is why should anyone have confidence that the PCA has a strong commitment to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

    May God richly bless you all this new year as you seek to serve Him in the truth of His Word.

  237. Pete Myers said,

    December 31, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    #236, Lauren,

    Actually the fact that people are discussing the issues, and that the PCA has denounced some issues, and that people are arguing through how serious beliefs that they disagree with are… all of this is evidence of orthodoxy in the PCA.

    As to the responses. Actually the way you summarise Lane and Reed – those aren’t mutually contradictory responses. I disagree with baptists, but I believe they are heterodox.

    Actually Lane, Reed and Jared would all disagree with me about church government… but we’d all say that’s a heterodox issue too.

    In other words – the fact that Todd has been at my throat for a day or so demonstrates that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is alive and healthy.

  238. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 31, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Lauren (#236):

    Your post #211 was helpful because it expressed the “other side of the coin” — the importance of the Visible Church.

    As you may know, early in the Reformation, Zwingli and the other reformers had to address the challenges of the Anabaptists. They were most famous for their “credobaptism” position, but their core critique was that Zwingli and friends placed too much weight on the visible church.

    In the Anabaptist view, the visible church was a mere human institution, and “church government” was, mostly, a man-made fraud in which human leaders displaced Christ as the head of the one, true, invisible church.

    The early reformers to a man rejected this understanding of the church. For the Reformed, the Visible Church is the Church of God as seen by the eyes of men. The authority of the Church is real; the sacraments are God-ordained (which is why Calvin rejected five of the seven Catholic sacraments, as having insufficient warrant from Scripture); membership in the visible Church is non-optional for Christians.

    In short, the Reformed position has rejected a “thin” view of the Visible Church as being contrary to the Scriptures.

    When I first read post #171 in isolation, not knowing much about you, I read it as a “thin” view — Salvation is only a matter of the individual AND NOT a matter of the corporate.

    But your continued discussion in #211 encourages me that this is not the case.

    In light of that, let me throw out what I consider to be the importance of the sacraments and see whether it is agreeable.

    To my mind (and per the Confession, which systematizes Scripture on this point), the sacraments are means of grace. They function as God-ordained means by which the Spirit works in people, exactly parallel to the way that the preached word is a means by which the Spirit works in people.

    So — are the sacraments to be compared to repentance and faith? By no means. Clearly, we are justified by faith and enter into eternal life by that means only.

    Instead — the sacraments are to be compared to the Gospel itself. The preacher preaches, “Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved!” Baptism says, “Jesus will wash your sins away. Believe the promise of God!” The two messages are one and the same.

    This is why, I think, the gospel of Matthew ends with Jesus’ command: Make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

    And likewise, when folk came to faith in Acts, they (and their families at points) were immediately baptized.

    So I’m not contradicting anything you’ve said so much as appealing for more: In our joint agreement that salvation is appropriated by grace through faith, can we also agree to take a “robust” view of the corporate Church and sacraments?

    Jeff Cagle

  239. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 31, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Lauren (#232):

    Another PCA-er here.

    I believe that each of the views proscribed by the 2007 GA report are contrary not merely to the Confession but to Scripture. So as far as it goes, I agree with Lane’s reading: the Confession is being used as a proxy for the Scripture in the report.

    However, those prohibited views don’t match point-for-point the views contained in the Joint Federal Vision Statement. So, I take each of the statements on the Joint Federal Vision Statement individually. Some are unobjectionable. Some I would disagree with, but do not consider fatal flaws (for example, the postmillennial view and the paedocommunion view).

    The two that I consider to be contrary to Scripture, even on a charitable reading, are these:

    “We further affirm that the visible Church is the true Church of Christ, and not an “approximate” Church.”

    and

    “All who are baptized into the triune Name are united with Christ in His covenantal life, and so those who fall from that position of grace are indeed falling from grace. The branches that are cut away from Christ are genuinely cut away from someone, cut out of a living covenant body.”

    In addition, I find this sentence disagreeable: “We deny that faithfulness to the gospel message requires any particular doctrinal formulation of the “imputation of the active obedience of Christ.” The sentence is not literally false, but it is a non-useful denial. Certain doctrinal formulations of imputation are incompatible with faithfulness to the gospel message, while others may not be.

    Does that answer your question?

    Jeff Cagle

  240. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 31, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Jared (#235):

    LK: Are we to conclude, then, that the official PCA position, is as follows: The PCA regards these errors as out of accord with the WCF, but NOT NECESSARILY OUT OF ACCORD WITH SCRIPTURE?

    J: I’d say that’s fair and reasonable.

    Did you mean to answer her question wrt the official PCA position or wrt your own view?

    That is, do you think that the collective voice of the 2007 GA was that the “nine errors” were un-Confessional only, or un-Scriptural as well?

  241. Pete Myers said,

    January 1, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Lauren,

    I’m really glad that Jeff has affirmed some of the right things you’re saying. To reiterate, we may not be that far apart theologically anyway – my issue was mainly that you’d cast your views slightly too strongly, and so they were coming over as a little unbalanced (not ungodly, just unbalanced).

    Just a quick word on Reed and Lane – they are both in the same place on the vast majority of issues, they’re also very patient men who are here dealing with views they disagree in an irenic and patient manner.

    Because they’re not immediately denouncing things, and rather giving their time over to talking them through, doesn’t imply any sense of equivocation on their part. It implies a pastoral care for people like me.

    It’s guys like me, here, who are trying to work through to a consistent theological position – hence you’ll notice that I’ve shifted my position at least twice on this thread alone, whereas Lane and Reed haven’t at all (because they’re already at a consistent theological position).

    I really, really appreciate Lane and Reed being around, and so would ask you to not mistake their willingness to discuss issues with a lack of zeal for orthodoxy.

  242. jared said,

    January 1, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Jeff Cagle (#240),

    I don’t know why the Study Report would be using the WCF as a “proxy” for Scripture, so while the Study Report says its declarations (more than half of which aren’t even necessarily applicable to the FV anyway) are against views which are contrary to the Confession, I do not think that necessarily implies they are contrary to Scripture. The two are not the same even if you believe the former contains the system of doctrine taught in the latter.

  243. jared said,

    January 1, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Pete (#215),

    You say,

    I’m sorry, I hadn’t clocked that you were saying this. That’s excellent, really excellent, compared to what I was hearing you saying. What exactly do you mean by “side effect” of the atonement? Could you be really specific as to how the covenantal non-elect are blessed by the atonement?

    No worries, mate. David called me out on this and finally got through to me (perhaps in spite of himself) so I think I’ve cleared up what I was trying to say via interacting with him (and you). By “side effect” I mean “result of”. To use David’s example, the atonement paid for the sins of the decretally elect and, as a result of that payment, the non-elect (covenant members especially) receive some temporary benefit(s) because of that reconciliation. One of these benefits, as you note above, is a short-lived restitution from judgment while the Shepherd gathers the full number of His sheep. This wasn’t bought by the atonement, rather it is a result of what the atonement did buy; not bought but brought as it were (since I like alliteration so much). I’m not sure how specific I’ll be able to get but let’s see.

    The big picture and most general category is covenant membership. At this level there is no distinction between those who are decretally elect members and those who are not. Both types get to experience the administration of the CoG. As Reed has said (and as I’ve been saying all along, though apparently not very clearly), the “nub” of it is figuring out what all that entails. It should be noted, here, that I am in agreement with the “traditional” position in which the non-(decretally)elect members do not participate in the “substance” of the CoG. They get no eternal benefits/blessings whatsoever, no kind of membership (temporary or otherwise) in the invisible church. Having said that, here are five specific items I would consider as elements of the administration of the CoG:

    1. Real (though not necessarily vital) union with Jesus – if the covenant member isn’t united to Jesus in some way then I don’t know how they could be covenant members at all.

    2. Repentance (and I see no reason why WCF 15 could not apply as long as we qualify what kind of life, e.g. Matt. 13) – this, and to a lesser extent baptism, seems to me like a prerequisite condition for covenant membership; children of covenant members being excepted, of course.

    3. Spiritual life – as a result of repentance if nothing else, again I would point to the parable of the sower.

    4. Presence of the Holy Spirit – seems implicit given (2) and (3)

    5. Sanctification – I should think not definitive sanctification but I’m not entirely sure here. It seems there is some kind of sanctification that doesn’t require being decretally elect (e.g. the unbelieving husband/wife of 1 Cor. 7), so at the very least there’s that. It also seems to me that this would require (4), since He is the one who does that sort of thing.

    Obviously this isn’t close to exhaustive but I think these are a good place to start. The last one, I realize, is the most “problematic” but I don’t think it belongs exclusively to the substance of the covenant. Like the term “election”, I think we can expand “sanctification” to the corporate level without damaging anything. I understand the potential of a “slippery slope” that could lead to things like temporary justification, temporary regeneration, etc. but if that’s where Scripture (along with good and necessary consequence) leads us then what choice do we have? Well, we have the choice to blindly hold on to our traditions; but look where that got the RCC!

    (That last sentence is written in jest, by the way)

  244. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 1, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Jared (#242):

    As Lane pointed out, ordination vows include an affirmation that the Confession contains the system of doctrine taught in Scripture.

    (In more precise language: “the propositions taught in the Confession are a subset of the propositions that are taught directly in or may be inferred by good and necessary inference from Scripture.”)

    So if P is taught in the Confession, then (goes the view) P is taught in Scripture also.

    Therefore, if proposition Q conflicts with propositions in the Confession, then it conflicts with (the same) propositions taught in the Scripture.

    “Strong” Confessionalists will leave the matter there. Those with a more “Biblicist” tendency — I would include myself in this category — would have preferred that the 2007 GA report be entirely focused on Scripture.

    Jeff Cagle

  245. jared said,

    January 1, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Jeff Cagle,

    Your parenthetical premise isn’t necessary, though. The two documents are not synonymous even though the former appears to mirror the latter after a limited fashion. In other words, saying that the Confession contains the system of doctrine taught in Scripture is not the same thing as saying that the propositions taught in the Confession are a subset of those taught in Scripture. I am aware that Lane (and others) has made the argument that where the Confession and the Scriptures agree they are, at that juncture, on equal ground; i.e., the Confession, at that juncture, is the word of God (my understanding of “on equal ground”). I doubt the Divines would be pleased with such an assertion, nevertheless, that is one way of looking at it. Since I don’t merely pay lip service to the reality that the Confession is not Scripture (at any point or in any way), I see no reason to think that views out of accord with it are also, as a result, out of accord with Scripture. Moreover, I offered the caveat that most of the declarations aren’t even necessarily descriptive of FV as a whole anyway (assuming the Joint Statement as their “system).

    (In case you’re curious, and/or to save you the trouble of asking, here are the declarations that I think aren’t necessarily descriptive of FV: dec. 1 – the FV is not singularly mono-covenantal; dec. 2 – the report is constructing a caricature of the FV’s use of the term “elect”; dec. 3 – the FV is not singularly against the imputation of Christ’s “perfect obedience and satisfaction”; dec. 4 – again not singularly descriptive of FV, some are okay with “merit” language and some are not; dec. 5 – same story; dec. 6 – largely the same story; dec. 8 – same story; dec. 9 – same story)

    I don’t offer any of this in a disrespectful manner, at least not intentionally. It seems to me that if some of the FV really does have Scripture in support of it then that might require some changes to the Confession one way or another. Since any major, or even a lot of minor, changes to the Confession are tantamount to changing Scripture (on account that the Confession is a “subset of the propositions that are taught directly in or may be inferred by good and necessary inference from Scripture”), well, we all know how often that’s going to happen. In my opinion the PCA fell flat on its face with this study report, but since most of the other Reformed denominations did the same thing no one has really noticed and, thus, no one seems to really care. There are exceptions of course, I’m not trying to broadside everyone (as fun as that can be) and I certainly think the PCA has been the most gracious about the whole thing.

  246. Reed Here said,

    January 1, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Jared:

    Jeff’s take is accurate. In that I affirm the Westminster Standards accurately present the doctrine of Scripture, when I conclude that a given position is out of accord with the Standards, I am necessarily saying that the position is also out of accord with the Scriptures. Otherwise, my affirmation that the Standards do accurately present the doctrine of Scripture is nonsensical.

    It sounds as if you may be reflecting on the FV claim that that it says more than the Standards, and consistently with the Scriptures. That claim aside, when one says the FV conflicts with the Standards, one is also saying that the FV also conflicts with the Scriptures in those areas.

  247. Reed Here said,

    January 1, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Jared:

    This statement of your’s is the kind that makes me want to pull out my non-existent hair (said with smiles):

    “I am in agreement with the “traditional” position in which the non-(decretally)elect members do not participate in the “substance” of the CoG. They get no eternal benefits/blessings whatsoever, no kind of membership (temporary or otherwise) in the invisible church.”

    What I wish you would recognize is that the FV contradicts this at a fundamental level. Time and again, in area after area, from proponent after proponent, the FV makes it clear it holds that the NEVCM participates in a temporary manner. Not simply “real” as in substantive somehow, but “vital” as in the exact same as that experienced by the EVCM, this is the FV position.

    This what I mean by your “generous” reading of what the FV is saying. But your reading is not consistent with their own positions.

    > Covenantal election is defined as a form of decretal election.
    > Temporary faith is defined as a form of vital faith.
    > Initial justification is defined as a form of forensic justification.

    And the list goes on.

    It will do no good to offer an unqualified FV comment here or there. Context will continue to demonstrate that when qualified, this is where the FV ends up – the NEVCM receive a temporary vital experience of the same salvific benefits as the EVCM. This is a form of arminianism.

    I also would be willing to read the FV generously, provided a given proponent offers two things:

    1. Clear statements differenting between covenantal (real, etc.) and decretal (vital, etc.), with all prior equivocation eliminated, and

    2. A repudiation of all other FV statements that do not satisfy no. 1 here, including any such statements they prsonally have previously made.

    This does not seem likely to come. DW seems to be one of the FV proponents most likely to move in this direction. Yet even he offers minimal differentiation (in this direction), and at the same time affirms his lock-step agreement with other FV proponents, ones who’ve made egregious unrepudiated statements. (This was at the heart of Gary Johnson’s challenge to DW).

    Please don’t hear grumpiness here Jared. No, your comment I quoted provided me an opportunity to offer some focus on this point we’ve discussed previously.

    To summarize, if the FV meant what you think it meant, we could begin to move toward reconciliation over these things. Sadly, it does not.

  248. jared said,

    January 2, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Reed,

    Again with the Arminianism. The Joint Statement doesn’t contradict my statement at all. Neither do any of the articles in “The Federal Vision”, so far as I can tell (maybe I need to re-read it, with a pencil this time). It would be a glaring contradiction for the FV to maintain that the non-elect receive the exact same thing the elect receives; they wouldn’t be non-elect if they did! So what I see is some of the FV making (over and over again) the clarification/qualification that what the non-elect receives is a temporary version of what the elect receives. In my reading I see “temporary” as “not exactly the same thing”. I’m not entirely sure how that’s as generous as you’re making it out to be. I can see how you might make the case that this effectively creates “a parallel soteriological system to the decretal system of the Westminster Standards” but they aren’t parallel if only because one continues on and the other does not. That alone makes the charge patently false. And this isn’t the only qualification/clarification that has been offered.

    You say time and time again in area after area the FV shows its “true” colors by saying the NEVCM has “vital” and not just “real” experience, the same as the EVCM. Show me that this is largely the case with FV and not just a variant within it (e.g. Roger/Curate and the “FV-dark”). I will agree with you that if FV theology necessitates that the NEVCM somehow participates temporarily in the invisible church, then that is problematic. But I see a lot of them making that distinction; especially with DW and especially in the Joint Statement. The concept of “decretally elect” is utterly foreign and completely contradictory to any formulation of Arminianism. The FV does not necessarily eliminate the distinction between the visible church and the invisible church (or the historical church and the eschatological church). Arminianism does necessarily eliminate that distinction. On the FV account, the decretally elect don’t fluctuate between being saved and not being saved; they are saved period. There is no such thing as “saved period” on the Arminian account, at least not on this side of heaven. The Arminian says “No man can pluck you out of God’s hand, but you sure can jump out on your own!” This isn’t necessarily the case with FV. I will admit that some FV’ers are saying this (or seem to be), but not all of them are.

    Reed, your problem is the same as the problem with the PCA Study Report. You (and most FV critics along with you, at least given my experience with them) want to lump FV into one group but you can’t do that. Well, I mean you can but then you just look like you aren’t doing your job properly. We seem to be talking past one another largely because I see the FV as a label which includes a variety of views on these issues (some orthodox and others not) and you see the FV as a label which includes only the most heretical versions? And also because I am focusing on those views which are more orthodox and you’re trying to point me at the ones that aren’t? Or maybe I’m just the most stupid “smart guy” you’ve had the unfortunate frustration of conversing with?

  249. Pete Myers said,

    January 2, 2009 at 5:16 am

    Reed & Jared,

    Can we step back for a moment here, and for a brief moment drop the FV context (don’t worry, we’ll pick it up again).

    I’m reading Jared’s answers to me in #243, … I am keen to push Jared’s logic as far as it can go on the actual issues, and then to evaluate the FV once we’ve done that. Part of the problem here is that I also may have misread the FV, it appears.

    On Jared’s 5 points (a suitably historically apt number):

    1) I agree that the non-elect covenantal union with Christ is “real”, but not “vital”. So the illustrations in John 15, and Romans 11… actually Calvin comments on John 15v6 that “there are many hypocrites who, in outward appearance, flourish and are green for a time, but who afterwards, when they ought to yield fruit, show the very opposite of that which the Lord expects and demands from his people.”

    In other words, there is something that the hypocritical branches really do receive from Christ, which allows them to look like they’re flourishing outwardly for a time. If I’ve been listening to Lane and Doug correctly – then I disagree with both of them. Contrary to Lane, I think the branches become dead, once they’re removed from the vine – so they’re receiving something while they’re on it. Contrary to Doug, I think the branches aren’t receiving anything from the invisible substance of the Covenant of Grace – i.e. this isn’t “eternal life” in the sense John means it. I just don’t think the illustration can be that neatly “mapped” onto our systematic categories – because that’s not Jesus’ point.

    2) I agree with you that non-elect Covenant members have repented, but don’t have faith. They’re trying to live under the law, but by their own righteousness, not Christ’s (by implication, then, in some senses it’s not real repentance – but in some senses it is).

    3), 4), and 5) are more tricky, as you suggest.

    Hebrews 6 suggests to me, that, the non-elect covenant member is: thinking about the world more correctly, which has benefits on the way they live, this is partly due to some experience of the Spirit they have shared in… obviously, thinking about the world more correctly means some sort of intellectual assent to the gospel, but not coupled with trust (I think that’s the “temporary faith” of Luke 8v13)

    This “experience of the Spirit” may simply be “hanging around with spiritually alive Christians”… which has a positive effect.

    The two questions that need to be answered are:

    1) Is this Reformed doctrine?
    2) Is this “Federal Vision” doctrine?

    On 1) – I don’t feel that Jared and I are that far off.
    On 2) – I agree with Jared, that, reading the FV Joint Statement “blind to the context”, as it were – as a statement in isolation, it doesn’t seem to me to be very far off what I’ve outlined above. As a system, it’s conclusions don’t seem to disagree wildly.

    The problem we seem to have, is that lots of people feel that the FV proponents go much, much further than a charitable reading of the joint statement would allow for. That’s why I’m encouraging us to put down the FV context for a moment, as this wider context seems to be unduly colouring the way we’re coming at the issues.

    With that said – where does Jared stand to my qualifications above? And in that case, where does Reed think that Jared and I stand in relation to Reformed doctrine?

  250. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 2, 2009 at 7:47 am

    Jared (#248):

    Neither do any of the articles in “The Federal Vision”, so far as I can tell (maybe I need to re-read it, with a pencil this time). It would be a glaring contradiction for the FV to maintain that the non-elect receive the exact same thing the elect receives; they wouldn’t be non-elect if they did!

    I suggest pp. 58 – 60. This is Wilkins’ exegesis of Eph. 1 and 1 Cor 1.

  251. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 2, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Jared (#245):

    Moreover, I offered the caveat that most of the declarations aren’t even necessarily descriptive of FV as a whole anyway (assuming the Joint Statement as their “system).

    No argument here. That’s why it is important for everyone, I think, to deal with “FV” doctrines and “FV” individuals one at a time, rather than react to a label, viz. #239.

    As far as I’m concerned, the effect of the 2007 report is only to proscribe certain teachings. It certainly does not have the effect of passing sentence on any individuals, regardless of whether some may have interpreted it thus.

    (1) The two documents are not synonymous even though the former appears to mirror the latter after a limited fashion. In other words, saying that (2) the Confession contains the system of doctrine taught in Scripture is not the same thing as saying that (3) the propositions taught in the Confession are a subset of those taught in Scripture.

    Your gloss (1) is not a correct construal of (2) or (3). The word “subset” was chosen carefully to indicate that the Scriptural doctrine is larger than the Confession’s. Nevertheless, what the Confession teaches is (supposed to be) what the Scripture teaches.

    It’s hard for me to argue in this way because it makes me sound like a hard-line Confessionalist. I’m not. I’d prefer that we generally appeal to the Scriptures instead, for reasons both philosophical and spiritual (and confessional, even!).

    The only reason I’m going down this road is to try to explain what I think the PCA meant by appealing to the Confession in the 2007 report. And it is my belief that the PCA meant to use the Confession as a proxy for Scripture. Even if you think it is not, do you agree that most PCA elders see it as such?

    Jeff Cagle

  252. Reed Here said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Jared:

    Please understand I am not trying to be antagonistic with the arminian charge. Rather, as I have in previous posts, I am contending that in the end this is to what the FV amounts. I fully recognize that all FV proponents, dark, lite or otherwise, will vociferously (I love the sound of that word flowing off the tongue ;-)) deny my contention, and argue pretty much as you do here: that (like the PCA report) I am not getting because I am insisting on reading what the FV is saying from a perspective that is not consistent with what it is saying.

    I here, I understand, and I disagree. The problem, as always, is in the details.

    Consider this: if I give you an orange, let you suck on it for a while, did you have a real orange temporarily, or did you have something that looked like an orange but really was not?

    My contention is that the Bible teaches that what the NEVCM receives and gets to suck on for a while looks like, but is not an orange. Contrary, the FV argues that the NEVCM were given and honest to goodness orange for a while, which is at some point taken away.

    If I’m right, then this is why the arminian label applies. Again, the FV is not explicit Arminianism (upper verse lower case); rather it is arminian-like. Both positions advocate that some in the visible church receive the real thing only to lose it later on.

    As to proving the point, try Jeff’s example from Wilkins for a starting point. I do recognize that Wilkins will say, “no, the NEVCM do not experience decretal election,” and he will then go on to say, “nevertheless the NEVCM do experience the same exact thing as the EVCM, albeit only temporarily.” What he says on the one hand, affirming the position we see in Scripture, he denies on the other hand.

    Give him credit for saying the NEVCM are never decretally elect – I get it Jared. Yet he then argues for a real, a vital experience, of the same redemptive benefits, the same ordo salutis, as that experienced by the EVCM. They receive the call, they respond in faith/repentance to the call, they receive (initial) justification, and they experience sanctification as long as they maintain their relationship with Christ via the Church. The FV stops the list short when it says that the benefit of perseverance is missing from the NEVCM’s experience of the ordo salutis.

    Do we agree Jared, that the FV vociferously maintains that the NEVCM are not among the decretally elect?

    Well then what do we do with the Bible’s teaching that the ordo salutis exclusively belongs to the decretally elect?

    I am not being unfair to the FV, insisting that they are saying something they are not. Just because they affirm one truth does not mean they are consistent in their affirmation. They are not. The NEVCM do not share in the ordo salutis. They participate in something that looks like the ordo salutis, but in the end is not an orange after all.

  253. Reed Here said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Jared:

    As to your appeal to the FV Joint Statement, this merely makes my point concerning what affirmations will be necessary to remove the onus from any who maintain an FV position.

    E.g., when I first read (digital copy within the first month made available) Reformed Is Not Enough by Doug Wilson I found that his explanation of covenant election in John 15 was very consistent with what I see in that chapter. Frankly, my first response was, “I think I agree with Doug. Why then does he agree with these other FV men, such as Wilkins, who I do disagree with? Am I being unfair to these men?” And so I read Doug and the other FV proponents more carefully.

    I’ve concluded, as you know, that they are not saying the same thing as the Bible. They equivocate: that is they will use terms inconsistently. E.g., they maintain decretal election is only for the EVCM. ; fair and good. Then they will take about covenantal election as if it were a variation of decretal. Yes, they say, it is a different species, yet it is of the same genus (to use biological taxonomy here). The problem is that the Bible says that the relation between decretal and covenantal is more divergent than that. They may be of the same kingdom (ordained of the Father, works of the Spirit), yet they are not even in the same phylum.

    Now, if Doug can say things that make it appear that he agrees that decretal and covenantal election are not the same phylum, and then defends and supports someone like Wilkins who will say that they are of the same genus, then Doug must necessarily equivocate in his usage of terms.

    If he affirms different in such a key concept, then his signing of the Joint FV statement (and maintaining the defense of all its signers) is akin to those who signed Evangelicals and Catholics Together, “see we agree on justification,” all the while the Catholic signers are using the same language and meaning something completely different.

    Jared, what is needed is a clear distinguishing between decretal and covenantal, between real and vital, between internal and external. I would that I had the time to engage in that study and explanation. I suspect that some of the differences with FV men would indeed go away. There would be some “o.k., I see what you’re getting at, sounds good, “on the part of us persuaded that the FV is wrong. There would be even more, “yes, I see how my formulation was both confused and equivocating,” on the part of the FV proponents.

    As it is, we need to leave this “proving” to the sovereign grace and mercy of God in Christ. He has managed to sustain us with our unending equivocating tendencies for quite some time now. I expect he will continue.

    Aside, I’d still like to hear sometime what you think is the cash value of the FV. Truly and honestly, even if the FV was an o.k. formulation, I don’t see how it is even slightly better than the traditional formulation.

  254. greenbaggins said,

    January 2, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Brilliantly worded, Reed. Wilkins will say that there is a qualitative difference between the EVCM and the NECVM, but he will not elaborate on what that difference is. He says “qualitative difference” and “different of duration.” But he will not say that the actual benefits received are different. He will not say that the non-elect are not justified at all, not forgiven at all. In fact, he says the exact opposite.

  255. Vern Crisler said,

    January 2, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    The basic mistake some FVists are making is making justification dependent on sanctification and perseverance, when it’s really the other way around, sanctification and perseverance are dependent on justification.

  256. Pete Myers said,

    January 2, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    #254,

    Thanks for all that Reed. So, Lane, I think that:

    1) I disagree with Wilkins.
    2) I’m not an FVer
    3) Quite possibly, Jared may not be an FVer either, when push comes to shove.

    But Jared hasn’t been here in a while, and lots of us have said things to him… so look forward to hearing from him soon :)

  257. greenbaggins said,

    January 2, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    Well, I’m encouraged to see you battle through these issues, Pete. I’m glad that the Lord has used my pitiful comments to help you along in your quest for the truth.

  258. Pete Myers said,

    January 2, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    #257,

    You and Reed have been very patient and helpful, thank you. I’ve got to say that I had been reading Calvin and the Westminster Standards – but I must have been cock-eyed or something, because now I pick Calvin up and see all sorts of ways I was wrong about him only a few weeks ago.

    I just blogged about changing my mind on Paedocommunion, thanks to reading Witsius and Calvin, and described it as Mark 8v22-26 in action. Though I can only speak for myself on these sorts of issues – I’m not in a situation where I want to, need to, or can pronounce any kind of judgment on the FV position. As I’ve said before, though, what I’ve experienced of the FV over here is nothing like what you guys seem to have experienced over there.

  259. Reed Here said,

    January 2, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Pete:

    Common experience, one that I too am grateful for the Lord’s patiently working in me. When I consider those whom I disagree with, I try to keep in mind the humility which marks a right apprising of Scripture. I don’t always succeed, but progressive sanctification is a promise I daily look for fulfillment in.

    I read a sentence today from an article by Dr. Richard Gaffin, in which he expresses the humility towards our oponents to which I ascribe. Speaking of those who deny that the work of the apostles was once for all, he says “With them we must regretfully part company at this point.” (Perspectives on Pentecost, P&R, p. 90).

    May God be merciful to open up more eyes, and may He be graceful to continue to grant His Son’s humility that bears all things while hoping all things.

  260. Pete Myers said,

    January 2, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    That is a great little book by Gaffin, and helped to cement my cessationism, I was pointed to it after doing lots of study on Ephesians, which made me question the “open but cautious” consensus that is quite popular in my circles.

  261. Reed Here said,

    January 2, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Yeah: Gaffin’s approach is rooted in recognizing the Biblical role for tongues/prophecy and then answering the cessation question. I like using this approach with just about any other topic. Focusing first on purpose, telos, provides a correcting lens that offers some of the best help possible is relating and distinguishing.

  262. jared said,

    January 2, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    Ah, a sledgehammer of questions! This is exactly why I enjoy being malleable.

    Pete (#249),

    That I chose to stop at five is only subconsciously significant. Really it was that I figured the list I had put forth would present enough of a starting point to get things rolling. You say,

    In other words, there is something that the hypocritical branches really do receive from Christ, which allows them to look like they’re flourishing outwardly for a time.

    Yes, this is what I think. You say,

    I agree with you that non-elect Covenant members have repented, but don’t have faith. They’re trying to live under the law, but by their own righteousness, not Christ’s (by implication, then, in some senses it’s not real repentance – but in some senses it is).

    I would say they have temporary faith (rather than no faith) since I don’t see how you can separate faith and repentance. But it looks like a bit later in this comment you would not find this disagreeable. I would say that (3), (4) and (5) follow, in some sense, from (1) and (2). The NEVCM is not completely spiritually dead like the non-believer is (compare the seeds on the roadside with the other seeds in Matt. 13). If he isn’t spiritually dead, well then to some extent (3), (4), and (5) must be the case.

    Jeff (#251),

    I’ll get to #250 and Wilkins, but I need some more time to think it through more carefully so I’m not creating more confusion. You say,

    As far as I’m concerned, the effect of the 2007 report is only to proscribe certain teachings. It certainly does not have the effect of passing sentence on any individuals, regardless of whether some may have interpreted it thus.

    This is how I understand the function of the Study Report as well. You say,

    Your gloss (1) is not a correct construal of (2) or (3). The word “subset” was chosen carefully to indicate that the Scriptural doctrine is larger than the Confession’s. Nevertheless, what the Confession teaches is (supposed to be) what the Scripture teaches.

    The problem is your parenthetical qualification. The Confession is supposed to be what the Scriptures teach. What if it isn’t? How could you ever know if you simply equate the two? I understand that “subset” was meant to demonstrate that the Confession is not exhaustive (it wasn’t intended to be) but it also gives the impression of a 1-to-1 ratio on those specific elements. For example, let’s say that Scripture is the set {1,2,3,4,5} and the Confession is the subset {1, 3, 5}. What this implies is that the elements 1, 3, and 5 are identical. This amounts to saying that given those elements the Confession and Scripture are the same, to wit, they are both properly the word of God. The Confession, on this account, has become the equivalent of the Pope speaking ex cathedra in RC theology. It is this high seat I am seeking to criticize; not the Confession itself per se but the place of authority it has been given in the Reformed community. You say,

    The only reason I’m going down this road is to try to explain what I think the PCA meant by appealing to the Confession in the 2007 report. And it is my belief that the PCA meant to use the Confession as a proxy for Scripture. Even if you think it is not, do you agree that most PCA elders see it as such?

    Yes, I think that most PCA elders (and all FV critics) see this as the case even though I do not.

    Reed (#252),

    You say,

    Consider this: if I give you an orange, let you suck on it for a while, did you have a real orange temporarily, or did you have something that looked like an orange but really was not?

    Obviously I had a real orange temporarily. You say,

    My contention is that the Bible teaches that what the NEVCM receives and gets to suck on for a while looks like, but is not an orange. Contrary, the FV argues that the NEVCM were given and honest to goodness orange for a while, which is at some point taken away.

    I see the FV as arguing that the NEVCM get’s a bite of the orange but doesn’t get the whole orange, they don’t get to eat the whole thing. It seems to me that the confusion has arisen because you think the orange is the ordo salutis in toto specifically and the FV is saying the orange is the CoG generally. I also think Scripture is saying that the orange is the CoG generally, which is why the FV is pushing for their particular “covenantal” approach (i.e. viewing Scripture as primarily a pastoral book and not a systematic theology textbook). You say,

    If I’m right, then this is why the arminian label applies. Again, the FV is not explicit Arminianism (upper verse lower case); rather it is arminian-like. Both positions advocate that some in the visible church receive the real thing only to lose it later on.

    This is like saying Reformed theology is Roman Catholic-like since both positions affirm that justification is the work of God alone. You continue,

    As to proving the point, try Jeff’s example from Wilkins for a starting point. I do recognize that Wilkins will say, “no, the NEVCM do not experience decretal election,” and he will then go on to say, “nevertheless the NEVCM do experience the same exact thing as the EVCM, albeit only temporarily.” What he says on the one hand, affirming the position we see in Scripture, he denies on the other hand.

    I’m looking over Wilkins again, but even if he is saying what you and Jeff are saying he says, he isn’t the FV. Like I said to Jeff, you simply can’t put a box around FV even given the Joint Statement (the Joint Statement itself says as much!). You ask, “Do we agree Jared, that the FV vociferously maintains that the NEVCM are not among the decretally elect?” Yes, we do. Moreover, I myself vociferously maintain that the NEVCM are not among the decretally elect. You follow up, “Well then what do we do with the Bible’s teaching that the ordo salutis exclusively belongs to the decretally elect?” What do we do, indeed. I think a better, and more poignant, question is “Does the Bible teach that the ordo salutis is a singular indivisible package?” I understand that the traditional Reformed doctrine of the ordo presents it as singular and indivisible, but is that what Scripture teaches? The FV doesn’t unanimously swing one way or the other and I myself am no longer completely sure. I don’t think I want to say that Scripture teaches two different ordos, but perhaps two different experiences of it (one that is temporary and one that is not). I’m still working out this particular bit.

    Okay, I think that’s everything for now except my re-reading of Wilkins.

  263. Pete Myers said,

    January 3, 2009 at 4:41 am

    Jared,

    On the temporary faith thing – yeah but I define temporary faith in a way that makes it ontologically different to persevering faith, in more ways than simply not persevering.

    Hebrews 6, I think, clearly points us towards this. The contrast is drawn between those who will apostatise, and the writer’s hearers for whom he feels sure of better things – things that belong to salvation.

    One of the distinctions he draws is that those who persevere in the outward marks of work and love that can give him that kind of assurance is faith and patience (v12)… but implication, faith and patience are something the apostate didn’t possess.

    As to repentance without faith, again, I have offered some definition as to what I’m talking about here. You can “repent” – i.e. try and live a godly life, recognising Christ as your king – without true “faith” – i.e. with knowledge of the gospel (this is the bare minimum that is meant by the “enlightening” in Heb 6v4 in my view), and assent to that knowledge… but without trust.

    Of course that isn’t a true repentance (God is not my only God, i.e I’m still living in utter violation of the 1st commandment, because I’m acting as my own saviour) but it is a sort of a repentance, in the Heb 6v4 sense.

    Otherwise, Jared, how do you distinguish true repentance from apostatising repentance, and true faith from apostatising faith?

    In reality, our conversation has come round, again, to our 3 categories:
    1) Elect Covenant Members
    2) Non-Elect Covenant Members
    3) Non-Elect Non-Covenant Members

    …and again, we’re in the same place of you wanting me to affirm the disinction between category 2 and 3, and me wanting you to affirm the dinstinction between 1 and 2.

    I’ve tried to offer some kind of distinction between 2 and 3 for faith and repentance… can you offer your view of the dinstinction between 1 and 2 for faith and repentance?

  264. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 3, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Jared (#262):

    The Confession is supposed to be what the Scriptures teach. What if it isn’t? How could you ever know if you simply equate the two?

    First, this is certainly a logically reasonable question to ask. It’s just that PCA elders have already answered that question in the affirmative (see below), so that’s the framework from which they’re operating.

    Second, it occurs to me that those who are “system subscriptionist” rather than “strict” might disagree with my characterization. I’m not really sure how a “system” guy would describe the relationship between propositions in the Confession and propositions in the Scripture.

    That’s neither here nor there though; an examination of Wilkins’ examination reveals a very “strict” approach to his confessionalism: he declares his exceptions even down to minute “quibbles.” The same appears to be true for Leithart and Meyers. One thing I appreciate about the FV generally is that they have engaged in the details of the Confession rather than waving a vague hand over the “system.”

    Let’s come back to Confessionalism for a moment. Let Confessionalism be defined by

    C: “what the Confession teaches, the Scripture teaches.”

    There are two ways that one could come to C. The first is analytically, as a matter of definition. In this case, the Confession would function as a primary authority, logically equivalent to Scripture as far as it goes.

    The second is synthetically, by examining the teaching of Scripture, then examining the teachings of the Confession, and then concluding C. In this case, the Confession would be a secondary authority, a summary of Scriptural doctrine much as a preached sermon explicates the teaching of a passage.

    IMHO, the Confession precludes us from arriving at C analytically. WCoF 1.9-10 does not permit the Confession to be used as a primary authority:

    9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

    10. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

    That’s why, among other reasons, I would have preferred the 2007 GA report to focus on Scripture. I am very uncomfortable with arguments from the Confession only. Even if valid, the “medium” suggests the message that the Confession is a primary authority. If the Scripture teaches what the Confession teaches, then we ought to know our Bibles well enough to argue from them.

    Nevertheless, I do affirm C. And so while I view the “Nine Declarations” as “Could have been better supported” (i.e., from Scripture), I nevertheless concur with them as a reflection of Scriptural teaching.

    Does that make sense?

    Jeff Cagle

    Oh — what happens if a Confessional teaching is not a Scriptural teaching? Then one takes an exception, and allows the Presbytery to decide whether or that one’s exception is sufficient to disqualify one from being an elder. That’s the case with me; I take exception to the “whole time” clause of 21.8 on the Sabbath.

  265. Reed Here said,

    January 3, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Jared:

    On Temporary Faith, I forget, did you review the posts here at GreenBaggins? The issue of taxonomy is central to the question. I ask because I’ve yet to see you adequately defend you key presupposition (see second posted comment).

    I’m a little disappointed that you appear to have substantially misread my comments. Rather than post a marathon comment, I’m breaking it up into smaller bite sizes pieces. I know you’re busy Jared, but I would be grateful if you would interact with each in some detail. I’ll understand if you can’t.

    His Peace.

  266. Reed Here said,

    January 3, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Jared:

    1. You do not seem to address the taxonomy issue at all. This is the central critic of the FV. Until you deal with that, you will end up assuming I’m saying things I am not saying.

    2. I have never maintained that the ordo salutis, from the FV position, is a complete package (in toto). I have recognized that the FV deals with the benefits of redemption particularly (e.g., no perseverance). I assumed you would read my labels more accurately given our past comments with one another. In that you misread me here, you make a criticism that has nothing to do with what I am saying.

    You argue that the FV maintains that the NEVCM gets a bite out of the orange. Clarifying the analogy, I agree. Could we say that if the orange represents the complete ordo salutis, then a single slice represents a particular benefit? My argument against FV is NOT (sorry, but it looks like I need to shout this one) that it wants to give the whole orange to the NEVCM. I am arguing against the FV on the basis of their own construction, that they want to give even a few slices of the orange to the NEVCM.

    Again Jared, I am arguing that the Bible never gives the NEVCM even a slice of the orange. Covenantal election is not a part of the decretal election orange slice. Nor is covenantal election, as viewed from the inward-vital perspective, even a slice next to the decretal election slice. The fruit slices enjoyed by the NEVCM are a different fruit altogether. (Again, the distinction between what is covenantal vs. decretal; outward vs. inward must be delineated properly).

    This applies, particularly to any redemptive benefit which the FV wants to apply to the NEVCM. Temporary faith is not a bite of vital faith. Initial-final justification is at best a cumbersome construction that easily lends itself to a heresy that our works add “something” to our justification.

    (Don’t over-react; I am aware of the careful qualifications offered, to wit that our works merely prove the prior presence of justification. Yet the common FV formulation that in some manner our initial justification is somehow “in question” until final justification, with the concommital urgency to pursue our faithful obedience in the meantime, is a the Shepherdism that inevitably slides into heresy, no matter the equivocating road blocks that are thrown up along the way).

  267. Reed Here said,

    January 3, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Jared:

    3. As to your Roman Catholic twist, this is a subtle reversing of the terms of my point. RCC justification and Reformed justification, even where they use the same words, mean different things. (C’mon dude, you know this. :) ).

    My point is that the FV, even though it is using different formulations, will end up in the same place as the Arminian position. Both offer an explanation (albeit differently constructed) to explain the reality of those who “fall away from faith.” Both posit a real possession (although differently) of the ordo salutis (generally, not comprehensively) by these fallers-away. Both posit the loss of whatever ordo salutis possessed (however possessed).

    I’m not sure why you did not get this. I honestly thought I was pretty clear.

  268. Reed Here said,

    January 3, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Jared:

    4. I do understand that the FV is arguing for a covenantal approach verses a systematic approach in Biblical interpretation. (I get it that this is not to the exclusion of systematic, but as a matter of preeminence, priority. Practically this amounts to a comprehensive hermeneutic which relegates systematics to minor subservient “rubber-stamp” role).

    This is one of the key red herrings that lead to the FV’s incipient hermeneutical errors. These two approaches are not juxtaposed as the FV argues. Both are present in Scripture (the FV would agree), and both in fact co-inhere (the FV would not agree). Thus, to even say that one is “more” pastoral (covenantal) than the other (systematic) is to offer an offense to the unity of both, and therefore to criticize the Author Who so co-inherently embedded these two approaches in His Scriptures.

    You might gather from my response here that I am somewhat offended by the FV here. I find this kind of argument a great example of the incipient arrogance of the FV approach (although not necessarily all it’s proponents particularly).

    I find it further offensive when it is used (most often subtly) against FV opponents, “We FV proponents are interpreting the Bible covenantally; you FV critics are not. We are applying the Bible more pastorally, you less.”

    It is pastoral concerns that keep me talking with FV proponents.

  269. Reed Here said,

    January 3, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Jared:

    5. To go back to the beginning,

    a) You argue (the FV argues) that the NEVCM enjoy bites (slices) of the orange (ordo salutis), rather than the whole thing.

    b) You agree (the FV agrees) that only the EVCM gets the whole orange (ordo salutis comprehensively).

    c) You challenge (the FV challenges) that the critics misunderstand the FV, hearing it say b) with reference to a).

    And it is here that I hope you will see who is really misreading whom. I’m pretty confident to say that broadly (few exceptions notwithstanding) that the FV critics I’ve read (here and elsewhere) are not making the mistake you (the FV) levels at them.

    The problem is, that in erroneously assuming this error on the part of FV critics, you keep missing the essence of their critique.

    This is it Jared, at least with reference to what I see going on in your conversations here. To the extent that you assume we are arguing against the FV on the basis of a) equal to b) (in terms of the possession of the orange, ordo salutis), you fatally misunderstand the criticisms.

    Seriously Jared, you’ve agreed with my main criticism, the point on which I critic all that the FV is maintaining, and then you turn to critique my position on a completely different basis. Instead you should have proven (from Scripture of course) that I am wrong, that indeed the NEVCM get a bite of the orange in the first place.

  270. jared said,

    January 3, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Pete (#263),

    You ask, “Otherwise, Jared, how do you distinguish true repentance from apostatising repentance, and true faith from apostatising faith?” I don’t. It isn’t my business to determine who is “in” and who is “out”, only the Judge has that kind of insight and authority. Excepting myself, of course, since I believe I can know whether I am truly saved or not (and if not then I am only deceiving myself as an apostate). This is why Scripture, in every place, admonishes us to continue in faith, to persevere, to run the race. It isn’t given to the NEVCM to finish in heaven, and none of them will. It is given to the EVCM to finish in heaven, and all of them will. You continue,

    …and again, we’re in the same place of you wanting me to affirm the disinction between category 2 and 3, and me wanting you to affirm the dinstinction between 1 and 2.

    I’ve tried to offer some kind of distinction between 2 and 3 for faith and repentance… can you offer your view of the dinstinction between 1 and 2 for faith and repentance?

    I think 1 and 2 are distinguished by the kind of faith and repentance they have; 1 has saving faith and repentance and 2 has temporary faith and repentance (and 3 has neither). This is the most basic level of distinction and it qualifies their respective experiences in the CoG. You can also look at it backwards (like the FV does) and say that perseverance is the most basic level of distinction which qualifies their respective covenantal experiences; 1 has perseverance and 2 does not. Is that the only difference? Some in the FV want to say yes (like Wilkins?), but not all and certainly not I; but it seems to be the most basic difference. Knowing whether you belong to 1 or 2 is between you and God, no one else can know with any kind of certainty. Again, this is why Scripture (and the FV) places so much emphasis on obedience.

    Jeff (#264),

    Yes, this all makes sense to me. I was raised in the PCA after all ;-)

    I am simply saying that a view can be out of accord with the Confession but still be in accord with Scripture (e.g. all those various and sundry exceptions that get taken here and there).

    Reed (#’s 265-269),

    You say,

    On Temporary Faith, I forget, did you review the posts here at GreenBaggins? The issue of taxonomy is central to the question. I ask because I’ve yet to see you adequately defend you key presupposition (see second posted comment).

    If you are referring to your posts on Turretin’s views then yes I have reviewed them. It should be obvious that I disagree with him. As for adequately defending, what counts as adequate defense? I’m going to respond to your numbered points, and we’ll see if something in there will qualify in your estimation.

    1. I have addressed it. I’ve said on multiple occasions that temporary faith and justifying faith are not the same thing but (contra you and Turretin) they are the same kind of thing, i.e. they are both types of faith. FV critics underestimate the extent to which JF and TF are alike and it may be fair to say that FV pushes them too close together. So I’ll take the happy medium.

    2. I’ve not said you maintain the FV ordo is a complete package. You say,

    You argue that the FV maintains that the NEVCM gets a bite out of the orange. Clarifying the analogy, I agree. Could we say that if the orange represents the complete ordo salutis, then a single slice represents a particular benefit? My argument against FV is NOT (sorry, but it looks like I need to shout this one) that it wants to give the whole orange to the NEVCM. I am arguing against the FV on the basis of their own construction, that they want to give even a few slices of the orange to the NEVCM.

    No, this is precisely where we aren’t agreeing. You (and most of the other critics) are maintaining that the orange represents the complete ordo salutis and that, therefore, a single slice represents a particular benefit. The FV, on the other hand, wants to maintain that the orange represents the CoG as a whole along with the ordo salutis. Here’s the confusion: the FV says the NEVCM gets a bite of the orange and you hear them saying they get a bite of the ordo salutis. Obviously in either case, no matter what the orange represents, no one is arguing that the NEVCM gets the whole orange. I’ve not misunderstood you, Reed; but do you see how the confusion is created? If not, your next paragraph illustrates it well; you say,

    Again Jared, I am arguing that the Bible never gives the NEVCM even a slice of the orange. Covenantal election is not a part of the decretal election orange slice. Nor is covenantal election, as viewed from the inward-vital perspective, even a slice next to the decretal election slice. The fruit slices enjoyed by the NEVCM are a different fruit altogether. (Again, the distinction between what is covenantal vs. decretal; outward vs. inward must be delineated properly).

    Yes, I get it. What the FV is saying is that covenantal election and decretal election are slices of the orange. So the NEVCM does get to enjoy the same fruit that the EVCM enjoys, he just doesn’t get to enjoy all of it, or some of the same slices of it the EVCM enjoys. If I were to agree that the orange is the ordo salutis in toto then I would agree with you that the NEVCM is eating some other fruit altogether. So when you hear an FV advocate say the NEVCM gets to eat from the same fruit the EVCM eats, you are hearing them say they partially participate in something that, by prior definition, cannot be partly participated in. You are saying one gets the whole orange or they don’t get any orange at all, but the orange you are talking about and the orange the FV is talking about are not the same orange. You say,

    This applies, particularly to any redemptive benefit which the FV wants to apply to the NEVCM. Temporary faith is not a bite of vital faith. Initial-final justification is at best a cumbersome construction that easily lends itself to a heresy that our works add “something” to our justification.

    I agree that temporary faith is not a bite of vital faith (that doesn’t even make sense to me), but it is a bite of the orange (as the FV as defined it). I agree that the initial-final justification formula is cumbersome, to say the least. I make it easier to understand by equating it with the familiar concept of “already-but-not-yet”. However, I would say the NEVCM does not receive this kind of justification. Here, I should think, some (maybe all?) FV advocates and I part ways. You note parenthetically,

    (Don’t over-react; I am aware of the careful qualifications offered, to wit that our works merely prove the prior presence of justification. Yet the common FV formulation that in some manner our initial justification is somehow “in question” until final justification, with the concommital urgency to pursue our faithful obedience in the meantime, is a the Shepherdism that inevitably slides into heresy, no matter the equivocating road blocks that are thrown up along the way).

    What common FV formulation? The one in the Joint statement which says “those who have been justified by God’s grace through the death and
    resurrection of Jesus Christ are saved to the uttermost and will spend eternity with Christ and his saints in glory forever.”? Or the one which says, “Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real and full satisfaction to His Father’s justice in their behalf.”? This isn’t the kind of justification the NEVCM has or only partly participates in; it isn’t the kind of justification you can have in part. To wit, this is eternal justification, not temporary justification. And, just to be clear again, the FV says both kinds of justification are part of the orange while you (and the critics) are saying either (a) there’s no such thing as “temporary justification” or (b) a thing such as temporary justification can’t be a part of the orange.

    3. Yes, I was being a bit facetious but why shouldn’t I think that FV and Arminianism are as related to each other as Roman Catholicism and Reformed Theology? The FV uses different formulations because it’s different. The charge of “arminian-like” is about as substantial as the charge of “Roman Catholic-like” given the dissimilarities, hence my twisting and subtle reversing. You were clear, and I’ve been clear; so we’re both being clear.

    4. I don’t think the FV is arguing for a covenantal approach versus a systematic approach; as in, I don’t think they are pitting the two against each other. You say that “this amounts to a comprehensive hermeneutic which relegates systematics to minor subservient ‘rubber-stamp’ role” but I don’t think this is the case. To give a pastoral hermeneutic precedence over a systematic hermeneutic does not necessarily relegate systematics to a minor role; a lesser role is not equivalent to a minor role. But I kind of like thinking of systematics as a “rubber-stamp”, I’ll have to remember that one. You say,

    This is one of the key red herrings that lead to the FV’s incipient hermeneutical errors. These two approaches are not juxtaposed as the FV argues. Both are present in Scripture (the FV would agree), and both in fact co-inhere (the FV would not agree). Thus, to even say that one is “more” pastoral (covenantal) than the other (systematic) is to offer an offense to the unity of both, and therefore to criticize the Author Who so co-inherently embedded these two approaches in His Scriptures.

    Except the FV doesn’t juxtapose the two hermeneutics, rather it (rightly I think) sets them up in a hierarchy. I don’t know why the FV should disagree that they co-inhere, and I don’t know why this hierarchy should be construed in a way so as to be hostile to such a concept as co-inherence. You say,

    I find it further offensive when it is used (most often subtly) against FV opponents, “We FV proponents are interpreting the Bible covenantally; you FV critics are not. We are applying the Bible more pastorally, you less.”

    I can see how this would be offensive. Does that relieve the responsibility to determine its truthfulness? What if the FV is interpreting the Bible more pastorally? What are you going to do about it? It’s clear that the Confession is all but untouchable on many of these matters, so what can be done? Have you ever preached one of those sermons that really “sticks it” to the congregation? One of those ones that closes with “What kind of heart to do you have? Is it a heart of flesh given life by the Holy Spirit? Or is it one of stone in need of breaking? Let’s Pray.” You know the kind I’m talking about. Have you ever tried giving one of those sermons by primarily using systematic terminology? I see the FV presenting a picture of the systematic hermeneutic as the frame of a house and the covenantal hermeneutic as the rest it. The two aren’t juxtaposed, but one clearly and quite obviously takes precedence; it’s what you primarily encounter. This doesn’t make the frame less important, though.

    5. Yes, let’s get the beginning cleared up.

    a) No, the orange isn’t the ordo, it’s the covenant.

    b) Yes, the NEVCM doesn’t get the whole orange.

    c) Kind of, yes; but not exactly. The critics misunderstand the FV because they are trying to reduce the FV’s orange to the ordo salutis when it doesn’t seem to be reducible to such. Does that make sense? You say,

    This is it Jared, at least with reference to what I see going on in your conversations here. To the extent that you assume we are arguing against the FV on the basis of a) equal to b) (in terms of the possession of the orange, ordo salutis), you fatally misunderstand the criticisms.

    Have I cleared any of this up for you? Am I still misunderstanding the criticisms? You say,

    Instead you should have proven (from Scripture of course) that I am wrong, that indeed the NEVCM get a bite of the orange in the first place.

    This won’t be difficult in the least as long as we are clear on what the orange actually is (i.e. not the ordo salutis but the covenant as a whole).

  271. Pete Myers said,

    January 4, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Jared,

    You quote me as saying:

    “Otherwise, Jared, how do you distinguish true repentance from apostatising repentance, and true faith from apostatising faith?”

    And then respond:

    I don’t. It isn’t my business to determine who is “in” and who is “out”, only the Judge has that kind of insight and authority

    I’m sorry – we’re talking past each other here – I’m not asking you to judge any one individual in particular, I’m asking you to state what the ontological difference between true and false faith is?

    You actually demonstrate a working knowledge of the categories I’m trying to use. You say that:

    Excepting myself, of course, since I believe I can know whether I am truly saved or not (and if not then I am only deceiving myself as an apostate)

    …which means that we can distinguish between what’s going on inside me if I have true faith, and what’s going on inside me if I have false faith.

    Either

    1) Answer my question theologically, and state that ontological difference between true and false faith, other than one continues and the other doesn’t?

    But if there is no difference ontologically, then this is practical arminianism, even if it isn’t strictly theological arminianism… so… I’ll offer an alternative:

    2) Answer my question pastorally, and state what it is that you would council your congregation to analyse inside themselves that would indicate to them whether they have true or false faith?

  272. jared said,

    January 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Pete,

    1) I should think that one of the ontological differences between true faith and false faith is the kind of soil in which it’s planted. That is, the difference is the person, whether he is decretally elect or not. Another difference is what the respective faiths accomplish (e.g. salvation or greater condemnation). It seems odd to me we can’t consider “that one continues and the other doesn’t” enough of an ontological difference, but I would put it on the list of differences anyway. However, the danger isn’t in how they are different, but in how they are the same (or at least seem the same).

    2) If I had a congregation I woudn’t council them to analyze their insides to help figure out whether they have true or false faith. Rather, I would council them to depend on Jesus for their everything and to the extent that this dependence permeates their lives, their very being, one can wrestle with whether or not their faith is true. I would ask them if they truly believe in the Lord Jesus. I would ask them if they love Him in sincerity. I would ask them if they are endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before Him. I would encourage them by letting them know that assurance isn’t a necessary component of true faith; so even if they aren’t sure, God is sure and they can take comfort in that and have peace.

    So, I wonder, which of those two answers is better? Which of those two answers is more biblical?

  273. Pete Myers said,

    January 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    #272, Jared,

    You make a good point in (2) pastorally – yes it’s true, that, getting my congregation to constantly introspect about their salvation, and the nature of their faith can be unhealthy. Particularly, you’re absolutely right in encouraging God’s people to constantly drive their view to Christ, and Christ alone.

    However… pastorally, that is not the whole story. What drives me to Christ and how? I’ll come back to this question – it’s important, and I think the way you’re putting things will forces us to an unsatisfactory answer.

    Let me try and convince you of that.

    Firstly, let me come at your point (1) – and think about the ontological difference between true and false faith. You’ve said:

    It seems odd to me we can’t consider “that one continues and the other doesn’t” enough of an ontological difference, but I would put it on the list of differences anyway.

    To answer this – I think your comment here highlights exactly the point that Reed and I keep making to you on this. Please think about this – this is not a “dig”, this is not intended to wind you up, please, please consider this slowly: If the only difference between true and false faith is it’s end result, then practically and experientially this is exactly the same as the Arminian view of faith.

    Now, you’ve actually given three differences between true and false faith:

    1) A secret invisible difference in the decree to either election or reprobation.
    2) A visible difference in seeing the reprobate abandon the faith, but the elect persevere to the end.
    3) A secret invisible difference in the final result of either final eternal salvation, or final eternal damnation.

    You’ve got a difference in election (1), perseverance (2), and standing in final judgement (3). Here’s the big thing for me, the big problem I have with that – that is almost(!) exactly the same as an Arminian.

    Let me point out the similarities to an Arminian, and then the differences. Firstly the similarities:

    A – The Arminian agrees that these are the only things that make true and false faith distinct.
    B – The Arminian agrees with the chronological order in which they happen.

    The only difference I can see is this:

    – The Arminian thinks that Election (1) is a logical consequence of Perseverance (2), whereas you rightly affirm that Perseverance (2) is a logical consequence of Election (1).

    I acknowledge that difference between you and an Arminian – but – practically and experientially it’s neither here nor there. Why? Because, here’s the big million dollar difference between the Calvinist and the Arminian… the “cash value” in the pew: When the Reformed believer looks to Christ, they can be 100% assured of their election, when the Arminian believer looks to Christ, they can’t be 100% sure of their election until they have finally persevered.

    If right now, at this moment in my existence, the only ontological difference between me and a hypocritical member of the church is the secret fact of my election and his reprobation, … then you have given me no possible way of knowing if I am decretally elect or not. In this situation, even when I look to Christ, I can’t be assured that I will persevere.

    With a Reformed Calvinist position, however, I can say that there is an ontological difference between true and false faith now… and so if I have faith that matches the criteria of true faith, then I can be assured of my salvation. In this situation, as I look to Christ, I can be assured that my perseverance is guaranteed.

    Which brings us back to that crucial question at the beginning:

    What drives me to Christ & how?
    Evidences within myself of a lack of faith are what drive me to faith in Christ. This is where there is an appropriate place for healthy introspection – in fact a healthy introspection that should happen every time I take the Lord’s Supper, and every time I read Hebrews. I know a bloke who doesn’t grow as a Christian, he doesn’t grow, because he’s not on the practice of repenting of particular sins particularly, and he doesn’t repent of particular sins particularly, … because … every time he’s challenged inwardly and personally, he’s told me that he “just looks to Christ”.

    His “just looking to Christ” is simply skipping the Law to find cheap grace. I’m saying it’s possible to do the same thing with faith – and it’s how hypocrites sit in great gospel churches for decades, but turn out not to be saved.

    But, if there’s no difference between false and true faith that I can discern within myself at the time of holding the faith… then this sort of introspection is useless.

  274. Reed Here said,

    January 4, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Jared:

    Thanks for the intentional responses. Some follow-ups if I might:

    You say,”Have I cleared any of this up for you?” Yes, somewhat.

    You say, “Am I still misunderstanding the criticisms?” Yes, somewhat. To elaborate:

    On Turretin’s interpretation of temporary vs. vital faith, fair enough. If you are to not no do what the FV does far too often/easily, you need to explicate the nature of their relationship: in what ways are they the same, in what ways are they different? This request flows out of a key criticism of the FV, as I will hope to demonstrate in what follows.

    You say, “You (and most of the other critics) are maintaining that the orange represents the complete ordo salutis and that, therefore, a single slice represents a particular benefit. The FV, on the other hand, wants to maintain that the orange represents the CoG as a whole along with the ordo salutis.”

    While this may be true of some FV critics who respond without digging deeper (or some who refuse to hear the FV’s efforts to make distinctions), this is expressly not true of my criticism. (I believe this is also not true of the PCA’s report, as well as the OPC’s, and possibly some others, although I’m not as brushed up on them).

    The problem is this Jared: you (the FV-lite) want to maintain, just to use one example as representative of the whole, that there is a difference between benefits in covenantal union verses vital union, between the CoG merely externally (outwardly, fleshly, having the appearance but not the reality of vital) apprised and internally (inwardly, spiritually, having the reality of vital).

    This is not controversial and easily agreed upon by us critics. It is an unfair reading to hear us as if we were ignoring the FV’s claim here, to want to be discussing things externally vs. internally. We get it and our better critics rest their critiques on this presupposition. Those merely externally in the CoG (the NEVCM) do really receive something from the Spirit in response to their external, flesh-rooted profession of faith.

    To extend the analogy, the FV appears to be says they are saying that the NEVCM only enjoy an orange called the CoG, whereas the EVCM enjoy both the CoG orange and another orange called the Ordo Salutis (OS).

    The problem is what happens next. The FV speaks of the benefits enjoyed by the NEVCM using the same terms, language and constructs (more or less) as those used to describe the benefits only experienced by the EVCM.

    The critics respond, not wanting to misunderstand, please distinguish, and differentiate. The response is very similar to what you say here: “What the FV is saying is that covenantal election and decretal election are slices of the orange. So the NEVCM does get to enjoy the same fruit that the EVCM enjoys, he just doesn’t get to enjoy all of it, or some of the same slices of it the EVCM enjoys.” (bold emphasis added)

    To use the analogy as you’ve redefined it, the orange slice of covenant election cannot be from the same orange as the one from which the decretal election slice comes. Yet you’ve written as if they are two slices from the same orange. This is a typical confusion (equivocation) found in the FV.

    To be clear, via the analogy, yes both the NEVCM and the EVCM enjoy the covenantal election slice from the CoG orange. Yet only the EVCM enjoy the decretal election slice from the OF orange. I know what you’ll say next Jared, “Yes, that’s what I (the FV) am saying.” But that is expressly not what you’ve said. You’ve affirmed the distinction, and then talked in such a way as to ignore your own differentiation.

    This is the problem of equivocation which we keep challenging the FV with. In what ways are the experiences of the EVCM and the NEVCM different? How is covenantal vs. decretal different? The best we get is this same kind of equivocation – covenant election is the same as decretal election, excepting that the one proves to last and the other doesn’t. Since we can’t observe now the differences (we only see covenantally), therefore we urge the Christian to faithful obedience.

    Hogwash Jared.

    It may be that the FV is trying to make itself sound acceptable to the common reformed expression and this won’t work. I.e., it maybe that you’re trying to work with us on the basis of the orange analogy, when the idea of two separate oranges (CoG vs. OS) is insufficient. If I might suggest a direction of challenge to me, I might (if I were inclined toward the FV at all), say, “no, it is not two oranges, but rather an orange within an orange. The CoG is the outer orange, and the OS is the inner orange.”

    O.k. then from what do the NEVCM get a bite? Only the outer part of the orange? If so, then again the challenge comes back, so distinguish for us; quit using language that result in no distinction between the outer Cog orange and the inner OS orange.

    So, yes Jared you’ve offered some clarification. But, no, I do not believe you have fully tracked with the criticism.

    I recognize the FV wants to maintain the difference between what the NEVCM experience and what the EVCM experience. I recognize that they want to maintain the NEVCM and the EVCM both experience the benefits of the CoG, whereas only the EVCM experience the benefits of the OS.

    O.K. fine – so distinguish, and quit using language that blurs any distinctions. Such blurring is not pastoral.

  275. Reed Here said,

    January 4, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Jared,

    As to the covenantal vs. the systematic approach, your response itself proves my point. You say, “I don’t think the FV is arguing for a covenantal approach versus a systematic approach; as in, I don’t think they are pitting the two against each other.”

    But then you go on to say, “To give a pastoral hermeneutic precedence over a systematic hermeneutic does not necessarily relegate systematics to a minor role; a lesser role is not equivalent to a minor role.”

    You are making my point. You’ve said that the covenantal approach is more pastoral, and that the systematic approach is lesser role. You may be working off a different definition of the role of the Bible than I, but in terms of the sheep, the only role is the pastoral role! You’ve assigned systematics a supporting, a servant role to the more important (in terms of the pastoral telos of the Bible) covenantal approach.

    You further make this point when you say, “Except the FV doesn’t juxtapose the two hermeneutics, rather it (rightly I think) sets them up in a hierarchy.” IOW, the covenantal is more important, hierarchically speaking, than the systematic. It is a quibble to say that “lesser” does not mean “minor.” You’ve agreed that one (covenantal) is more pastoral than the other (systematic). That is exactly what I am criticizing.

    When you say this, I think you are contradicting yourself, “I don’t know why the FV should disagree that they co-inhere, and I don’t know why this hierarchy should be construed in a way so as to be hostile to such a concept as co-inherence.”

    It may be that the term “co-inhere” is being used differently by us. By definition co-inherence (at least how I am using it to relate to covenantal vs. systematic), does not allow for a hierarchical view. Or better yet, it does not allow for an overall hierarchical view. At times the covenantal approach will take precedence, and the systematic will serve it. At other times the systematic will take precedence, and the covenantal will serve it. However, to maintain some basic, structural (systematic) hierarchy of covenantal over systematics is to contradict what it means to say that these two approaches co-inhere.

    In Scripture both approaches co-inhere: they are co-extensive, co-terminus, co-laborative, and co-telos with reference to the sheep. They are both co-pastoral. In point of fact, to say they co-inhere is to say that they are both fatally flawed (telologically speaking) without the immediate presence of the other.

    I recognize you are doing so without animus, but you are maintaining the offense. More importantly (leave aside the offense angle, please), is the maintaining of a misunderstanding of how the Bible works. Doing so results in a faulty hermeneutic. Others with sharper minds that I have written on this. To sum, both approaches are present and both equally necessary for pastoralness to result.

    Suffice to say here, with reference to the FV, this is a red herring. In saying it is relying more on the covenantal approach than the systematic approach, it says:

     That it’s opponents are in error in relying too heavily on the systematic approach (a criticism that has been offered),
     This unbalanced reliance on systematics has led the FV’s opponents to miss the fuller expression of Scripture, the expression that the FV is highlighting through its proper balancing of covenantal vs. systematics.

    This is all hogwash. The FV sounds like a post-modern arguing that there absolutely cannot be anything as an absolute. The FV assumes the same usage of systematics, the same degree of usage, and the same balance of usage as its critics. The differences in interpretation do not flow from this red herring, they flow from the faulty interpretive presuppositions either side brings to the table.

    It is simply unhelpful to make this argument. Any FV proponent would be wise to abandon it if he wants to seriously engage with the critics.

  276. Reed Here said,

    January 4, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Jared:

    I offer the same type of criticism to yet another red herring you’ve left flopping on the floor. You say “It’s clear that the Confession is all but untouchable on many of these matters, so what can be done?”

    Again, hogwash, or malarkey if you like. If you insist on saying that the FV critics have enshrined the Westminster Standards (WS) as a “pope”, then why keep talking with us? By your own definition we are using an inviolable source of authority.

    No one here is doing that. Nor does the PCA report do that. The WS serve as a fallible summary of the system of doctrine taught in Scripture. To appeal to it is nothing more than to appeal to a commonly agreed upon set of terms, language, formulations. Might as well claim the Apostles Creed, and the Ecumenical creeds are likewise popish authorities, in that we all use them the same way.

    To argue a point from the basis of the WS is simply a means of providing for effective debate. Both sides have agreed that these standards are accurate to the system taught in the Bible. To appeal to them then is to argue from the agreed upon common ground.

    Now, if the FV were truly Arminian (or any other system not recognizing the WS), and all we critics did is say, “you contradict the WS, therefore you’re not biblical,” then the popish charge might stick. Yet you well know that this does not happen here, nor does it happen in the PCA report.

    Again Jared, throwing this kind of accusation out is akin to saying your opponent is not going to listen to you, to debate fairly, no matter what you say. Not only is it unjust (in light of how debates have occurred here, and in light of how the PCA report is written), it is tantamount to saying you want to take your ball and go home.

  277. Reed Here said,

    January 4, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Jared:

    You say, “Yes, I was being a bit facetious but why shouldn’t I think that FV and Arminianism are as related to each other as Roman Catholicism and Reformed Theology? The FV uses different formulations because it’s different. The charge of “arminian-like” is about as substantial as the charge of “Roman Catholic-like” given the dissimilarities, hence my twisting and subtle reversing. You were clear, and I’ve been clear; so we’re both being clear.”

    No, not to be argumentative, but we’re not clear. I was clear in that I offered an explanation in support of my criticism. You were unclear in that you first offered a facetious retort: “facetious (def.): lacking serious intent; concerned with something nonessential, amusing, or frivolous.” Your follow up comment here does not address itself to my points. You merely assert.

    You need not respond to my argument. You may simply say, “I find it baseless.” I maintain that offering facetious retorts and mere assertions is the kind of unhelpful responses that adds to the differences between us. If we were discussing whether cigars or pipes were godlier, I’d appreciated facetiousness and assertion. With you however, I think these things are too serious for that.

    To review, the FV ends up being Arminian-like because:
     Both offer an explanation (albeit differently constructed) to explain the reality of those who “fall away from faith.”
     Both posit a real possession (although differently) of the ordo salutis (generally, not comprehensively) by these fallers-away.
     Both posit the loss of whatever ordo salutis possessed (however possessed

    I recognize you are free to not respond. I will not assume anything untoward in a lack of response. I regularly have to choose what to respond to, and what to lay aside.

  278. Reed Here said,

    January 4, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Jared:

    You quoted me as saying, “I find it further offensive when it is used (most often subtly) against FV opponents, ‘We FV proponents are interpreting the Bible covenantally; you FV critics are not. We are applying the Bible more pastorally, you less.’”

    You responded, “I can see how this would be offensive. Does that relieve the responsibility to determine its truthfulness? What if the FV is interpreting the Bible more pastorally? What are you going to do about it?”

    Is it not clear from what I’ve said, in substance, that I believe the FV is wrong?! The FV IS NOT a more pastoral approach!! As to what I’m going to about, well, consider my time here as an example.

    I do appreciate your next question, “Have you ever preached one of those sermons that really “sticks it” to the congregation? One of those ones that closes with “What kind of heart to do you have? Is it a heart of flesh given life by the Holy Spirit? Or is it one of stone in need of breaking? Let’s Pray.” You know the kind I’m talking about.”

    As a matter of fact, just about every sermon I preach is like this. Is this not how all sermons are supposed be preached? Does not the law condemn that the gospel might free? I frankly don’t see how one can preach consistently with the Bible’s teaching and not do this.

    You then say, “Have you ever tried giving one of those sermons by primarily using systematic terminology? I see the FV presenting a picture of the systematic hermeneutic as the frame of a house and the covenantal hermeneutic as the rest it. The two aren’t juxtaposed, but one clearly and quite obviously takes precedence; it’s what you primarily encounter. This doesn’t make the frame less important, though.”

    Again, as I said previously, this is a red herring. You present it consistently with the FV’s either/or format: either you preach “pastorally” (i.e., FV like) or you preach less than pastorally (i.e., like a mere reformed automaton, regurgitating the system.)

    In point of fact I do aim to preach pastorally every Sunday, and I stay as far away from FV formulations as I can in order to do so. At its clearest and most consistent, the FV ends up telling people, “Now none of us can know whether or not the other is really saved. All we can see is your obedience. So we’re going be looking to your obedience – and so should you.”

    Most often the FV offers confusion, a confusion which leaves the poor struggling Christian, the one not even sure of his own salvation, looking in the wrong direction. He hears that obedience is the key measurement – and so he gives himself to the pursuit of obedience.

    Frankly, that is not pastoral. While the intention may not be there, and it is not a fault that is exclusive to the FV, it is the same wickedness that Paul challenged in Galatians.

    The Bible does not say, “now we can’t be sure, so we’re going to look to your obedience, and so should you.” The Bible says, and only says, look to Christ.

    I recognize that the response is, “the FV does not say anything different.” My response is quite simple, equivocating language sounds the same and means something completely different!

  279. Reed Here said,

    January 4, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Jared: to quote Pete here, “If the only difference between true and false faith is it’s end result, then practically and experientially this is exactly the same as the Arminian view of faith.”

    I want to emphasize the use of the words practical and experientially. These are key to understanding the primary critique of the FV, that of equivocation.

    It is all well and good for you (the FV) to say, “covenantal election IS NOT decretal election,” (or faith, justification, et.al..) But when you fail to fully (effectively, consistently, clearly) differentiate, and instead offer that viewed outwardly they look the same, – then for all practical purposes there is no difference between them.

    (I.e., the FV can say, no, not the ordo salutis, but the CoG. But in the end they are describing the ordo salutis nevertheless.)

    This is why the FV is so dangerous in application. If the differences are all theoretical, and they are not spelled out all that clearly anyway, then in terms of pastoral application – everything defaults to the covenantal perspective.

    This is precisely not what Scripture does. You are right that it does confront and challenge the mere outward formal allegiance to the CoG, calling for the inward, vital allegiance. But what is the consistent biblical pattern for addressing oneself to this problem? It is not more reflection (application) from a covenantally viewed perspective. Rather it is only by reviewing the decretal-vital perspective that the proper application flows.

    This is so clearly exemplified by Ephesians: in chapters 1-3 the decretal-vital aspects are constantly in view to address the problems, and in chapters 4-6 the decretally-vitally grounded applications are given to solve the problems.

    Now, yes, the FV hermeneutic will argue that chapter 1 (for example) is to be understood covenantally (e.g., all those in Ephesians are addressed as “Christians” of whom these “decretal” things are posited). The FV discounts the “charitable address” explanation and seems to just ignore the better “general not comprehensive address” explanation.

    But if the FV hermeneutic is to be followed consistently, then there is no such thing as a pure decretal-vital text in Scripture. All are equal subject to the covenant interpretation. Thus all application must be covenantally viewed, application that is merely external, fleshly, and not necessarily vital.

    This is not to say that no such decretal-vital application is possible. It is to say, that according to the FV hermeneutic, since the decretal-vital can’t be known, then for all practical purposes, such application does not exist. All we have left is the external, that which can be seen by the eye. Such is too weak a foundation for real faith.

  280. jared said,

    January 5, 2009 at 3:18 am

    Pete (#273),

    Your entire argument here is simply amazing. You say,

    To answer this – I think your comment here highlights exactly the point that Reed and I keep making to you on this. Please think about this – this is not a “dig”, this is not intended to wind you up, please, please consider this slowly: If the only difference between true and false faith is it’s end result, then practically and experientially this is exactly the same as the Arminian view of faith.

    And I’ve already said that this isn’t the only difference. But if my other two differences aren’t really differences (because they are secret or invisible to everyone else), well then I don’t know what you’re looking for. John says in that great first epistle of his that they went out from us because they weren’t of us, because if they were of us they would have remained. So what visible non-secret difference are you looking for? What visible non-secret difference prevented the rest from leaving? John seems to think its because they have “an anointing from the Holy One”, but what does that look like? Well, again John seems to think that if you deny Jesus is the Christ then you probably don’t have an anointing from Him. Okay, but how do we know about those people until after they’ve done so? It still boils down to that invisible secret difference, that decretal election difference. Strangely enough you acknowledge this,

    The only difference I can see is this:

    – The Arminian thinks that Election (1) is a logical consequence of Perseverance (2), whereas you rightly affirm that Perseverance (2) is a logical consequence of Election (1).

    Do you understand how important this difference is? It’s the difference between being right and being wrong. It’s the difference between being able to know that you are saved and not being able to know. It’s the difference between being Reformed, or FV, and being Arminian so it’s the only difference that matters on this particular point, at least. You go on,

    If right now, at this moment in my existence, the only ontological difference between me and a hypocritical member of the church is the secret fact of my election and his reprobation, … then you have given me no possible way of knowing if I am decretally elect or not. In this situation, even when I look to Christ, I can’t be assured that I will persevere.

    In fact this is completely wrong. That you are elect and he is reprobate is precisely why you can be assured when looking to Christ and why he cannot be. You say,

    With a Reformed Calvinist position, however, I can say that there is an ontological difference between true and false faith now… and so if I have faith that matches the criteria of true faith, then I can be assured of my salvation. In this situation, as I look to Christ, I can be assured that my perseverance is guaranteed.

    So you have to have a certain kind of faith before you can be assured of your salvation? Fancy that. Could it be that you need to have real faith, the kind of faith only a secret decretal election can provide? It isn’t some random coincidence that only the decretally elect can be 100% sure. You continue,

    Evidences within myself of a lack of faith are what drive me to faith in Christ. This is where there is an appropriate place for healthy introspection – in fact a healthy introspection that should happen every time I take the Lord’s Supper, and every time I read Hebrews. I know a bloke who doesn’t grow as a Christian, he doesn’t grow, because he’s not on the practice of repenting of particular sins particularly, and he doesn’t repent of particular sins particularly, … because … every time he’s challenged inwardly and personally, he’s told me that he “just looks to Christ”.

    Are you trying to smuggle works into your salvation!? Heretic! Heretic! Seriously, there’s nothing here that is incompatible with FV theology (or my own theology, for that matter). And there’s no Arminianism here even though it’s “arminian-like”. What I find highly ironic about this is that you and Reed seem to be of the mind that “If it looks like arminianism, and it smells like arminianism, well then it must be arminian-like.” Yet, when it comes to temporary faith you both want to say “Well, it looks like real faith and it smells like real faith, but really it’s something completely different.” and there’s no issue to be followed up! What if I were to say “If it looks like real faith, and it smells like real faith, well then it must be real faith-like”? Maybe it would be helpful if you listed some ways in which real faith and false faith are visibly and not secretly ontologically different? Because if my three only amount to “arminian-like” then I’ve been missing something for the last 15 years or so. Just throwing in works isn’t going to cut it either because temporary faith can produce works that look just like real faith’s works to us.

    Let me close by noting that you’ve shifted the conversation from the ontological differences between real faith and false faith to the issue of assurance. Moreover, I am quite well within the confines of the Confession (and, thus, Reformed theology) when I say that assurance is not an indicator of true faith, though only those with true faith can have it infallibly.

    Reed,

    I’m going to try to be short in my responses to you so we can move along from this impasse we seem to be at. You say,

    The problem is what happens next. The FV speaks of the benefits enjoyed by the NEVCM using the same terms, language and constructs (more or less) as those used to describe the benefits only experienced by the EVCM.

    What other language is the FV supposed to use? And why doesn’t the qualifier “temporary” mean anything? What if I were to say that the benefits experienced by the NEVCM are temporary versions of those benefits experienced only by the EVCM? How am I supposed to describe those benefits without using the same language (except for the qualification of duration)? What does the NEVCM’s faith look like? Well, it looks remarkably like the EVCM’s faith. What about his works? Same story. His election? Same story. His spiritual life? Same story. How do we know whether someone else is non-elect or elect? Jesus says we’ll know by their deeds and in the very next set of verses He says even some who have deeds will be turned away! So what’s the difference? Well, the wise man builds his house on the rock and the foolish one builds his on the sand.Well guess what, they are both building. Can you see what others are building their houses on? Most people have a hard time with seeing their own foundation, much less the foundations of others. When can you really tell the difference? There are only two times, that I am aware of, when one’s foundation becomes clearly and obviously visible to all and only one of those times is for certain. You say,

    To use the analogy as you’ve redefined it, the orange slice of covenant election cannot be from the same orange as the one from which the decretal election slice comes. Yet you’ve written as if they are two slices from the same orange. This is a typical confusion (equivocation) found in the FV.

    No, this is an assertion of yours, not an equivocation of mine. I’ve said the orange is the CoG in toto and the two kinds of election are slices of that one orange. So both the NEVCM and the EVCM are eating of the same orange. This isn’t confusing or difficult. The OS is a part of the CoG orange from which both are eating. Because of this, the NEVCM gets a taste of the OS, but tasting something and consuming them are two different things.

    Maybe using some of Turretin’s contrasting of temporary faith and justifying faith as an example can be helpful for my cause. The NEVCM’s tasting of the OS begins with his illumination by the Spirit; this is his tasting of the elect’s regeneration. This illumination results in a shallow repentance and faith which is the NEVCM’s tasting of the elect’s deep rooted repentance and faith. The NEVCM’s good works are his tasting of the elect’s good works which were created beforehand for the elect to do. At this point, if these two individuals were in your congregation you would not be able to tell who was elect and who was not (this is a good thing, it isn’t your job to tell them apart; you have the much easier job of discovering the wolves). The NEVCM gets a bite of the covenantal orange and tastes all these other glorious things; but he doesn’t get to eat them (much to his surprise, in some cases I imagine). You say,

    Since we can’t observe now the differences (we only see covenantally), therefore we urge the Christian to faithful obedience.

    If this is hogwash then all of those sermons you are preaching are hogwash as well. We do only see covenantally, that’s why we push to put Jesus first in everything. Real faith works. Temporary faith looks like it works, but it doesn’t. I’m not saying you can’t always observe the differences now, but most of the time you can’t. That man who’s been running the prison ministry for the last ten years might apostatize tomorrow. You don’t know, but you can admonish him with those sermons anyway because he shouldn’t apostatize. You say,

    O.K. fine – so distinguish, and quit using language that blurs any distinctions.

    Life blurs our fine systematic distinctions. This is the point. You preach to your congregation like they are all saved, just as Scripture speaks to us as if we are all saved. But they are not and we are not. That’s the only distinction which matters.

    Re: #275,

    I think we actually agree, more or less, on this point. The FV says “we see the Bible is primarily pastoral and secondarily systematic” and you say “the Bible is primarily pastoral which includes the systematic”. You say,

    At times the covenantal approach will take precedence, and the systematic will serve it. At other times the systematic will take precedence, and the covenantal will serve it.

    I agree with this and I don’t think the FV would disagree. What the FV criticizes its opponents for is in viewing some (many?) passages as being systematic when they should be viewed as covenantal. In other words, where the opponents are saying “In this passage the systematic is taking precedence.” the FV is saying “No, not in that passage.” I can see how this is me reading the FV generously. What the FV really wants to say is that in all passages the covenantal takes precedence and the systematic serves (which is what I was parroting and which you are, here, trying to correct). I think this is a valid line of argument though, if Scripture was written such that the covenantal is to take precedence and the systematic is to serve then it should affect our theology. The notion that these two hermeneutics co-inhere (as you have defined it) may be wrong. I don’t currently think it is, but that is (to me) an appealing aspect of the FV. As an example, I especially liked Jordan’s chapter in “The Federal Vision” in his contrasting of merit and maturity.

    Re: #276,

    I think this is a fair criticism.

    Re: #277,

    You say,

    To review, the FV ends up being Arminian-like because:
     Both offer an explanation (albeit differently constructed) to explain the reality of those who “fall away from faith.”
     Both posit a real possession (although differently) of the ordo salutis (generally, not comprehensively) by these fallers-away.
     Both posit the loss of whatever ordo salutis possessed (however possessed

    I’m not entirely sure how to respond to a charge of “arminian-like”; give your three points it’s as meaningless as saying Reformed theology is Roman-Catholic like. Allow me to offer a similar review:

    1. Both Reformed Theology and Roman Catholic theology offer an explanation (albeit differently constructed) to explain how justification by faith operates.
    2. Both posit the notion of original sin which results in man’s current fallen nature (though different in extent).
    3. Both posit Jesus as the solution to sin (however possessed).

    I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. I hope you can see why I think this particular line is silly and why I offered the “retort” that I did.

    Re: #278,

    You say,

    I recognize that the response is, “the FV does not say anything different.” My response is quite simple, equivocating language sounds the same and means something completely different!

    How is the FV’s “look to Christ” different from yours? What does “looking to Christ” look like if not evangelical (or faithful) obedience? What does Jesus mean when he says “you will know them by their fruits”? What does Paul mean when he says “work out your salvation”? What does James mean when he says “faith without works is dead”? What does John mean when he says “whoever loves God must also love his brother”? What does Peter mean when he says “be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure”? What does Jude mean when he says “build yourselves up in your most holy faith”? Christianity is a world and life view, not just a set of axioms; not just a relationship with God but a way of looking at and experiencing what God has provided us. The FV doesn’t say look at your obedience, it says obey and look to Jesus.

    Re: #279,

    I’m going to leave this one alone, largely, because it’s basically a summary of all the above posts and I’ve responded to what I feel like I needed to respond. I think this is a gross mischaracterization of the FV and the FV hermeneutic applied pastorally is no more dangerous than your sermon which questions what kind of heart your congregation has. Such sermons work both ways. They either confirm real/temporary faith or they push those with temporary faith right out the door. Sometimes they might push those with real faith out the door, but they will always come back; eventually. Jesus doesn’t let His sheep go and the FV doesn’t say He does. Arminianism says they can come and go as they please. FV says they come and go as He plans; that’s a huge difference, though apparently not large enough to keep them from looking alike.

  281. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 3:50 am

    #280 Jared,

    Firstly, a “point of order” I’d like to raise, on your flippant comment:

    Are you trying to smuggle works into your salvation!? Heretic! Heretic!

    When I first arrived here I was very, very sympathetic to the FV. I was denounced as a heretic too. I have shifted my position in the last few weeks. But in doing so, I have not started crying “Heretic! Heretic!” It was rather irritating being painted into an FV corner, please don’t now paint me into an anti-FV corner.

    In answer to your post… I think I can boil this down to two things:

    1) Assurance – this is an application of Calvinism/Arminianism. So, the big point I’ve made is that what you’re saying is practically and experientially Arminianism, and the reason for that, is, it doesn’t provide the assurance that Calvinism brings over against Arminianism. That is The Big Deal… the pastoral cash value. And the pastoral cash value is The Big Deal precisely because I am sympathetic to the FV… I was drawn to the FV stuff because it is an attempt to move away from dead orthodoxy.

    2) The reason why this assurance isn’t found in what you’re saying… I don’t think you’ve understood me here. Please, please, please, – I’m not saying that to be annoying, I work hard to be irenic. The big theological problem with what you’ve outlined is illustrated in this sentence of yours (I’ve added some emphasis):

    It’s the difference between being able to know that you are saved and not being able to know.

    EXACTLY – perfect – I want to agree with you wholheartedly. My point is this: The differences between true and false faith that you’ve outlined do not allow me to know that I am saved. That is where what you’re saying is similar to Arminianism. The differences you’ve given between true and false faith are:

    1) God’s secret decree of election.
    (……..point A, I’ll come to this)
    2) Whether the individual perseveres.
    3) Final salvation or damnation.

    You have said that because of (1) you can know that you are saved. How? My whole point is that God’s secret decree of election is secret even to me, and that’s because I live at point A.

    For me to have Calvinistic assurance, rather than Arminian insecurity, there needs to be a distinction between true and false faith that I can know when living in point A.

    The classical doctrine of the distinction between true and false faith is answering this exact question – how do I know if I’m elect? You’ve simply asserted the fact of election, but then denied any knowable difference between the faith of the elect and the non-elect at point A.

  282. jared said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Pete,

    Except I’ve been saying this whole time that God’s secret decree of election is not secret to those individuals elected. Your answer to “How?” is not any different than the Arminian’s “Look to Jesus”. The difference is in your systematic understanding, not in your pastoring. So I’ve not denied any knowable difference between the faith of the elect and the faith of the non-elect at “point A”, as you say. The differences I have outlined do, in fact, allow you to know that you are saved. The differences I have outlined are the only reason Calvinism gives assurance and Arminianism does not. Calvinism (and the FV) says you can know that your elect whereas Arminianism does not (and, theologically, cannot). Pastorally they are identical. The Arminian pastor and the Calvinist pastor are going to council their insecure members in exactly the same way (e.g asking them “Are you doing these things?” “Look at ‘x, y, z’ and see that your faith meets the ‘criteria’ of true faith.” etc, etc). The Arminian is being inconsistent with his theology because it says you can’t really know; the Calvinist (and the FV’er) is not being inconsistent with his theology because his it says you can really know.

  283. Lauren Kuo said,

    January 5, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Did any of you view the Fox News special, “Escape from Hamas”? What a powerful testimony of God’s grace toward a young man who is the son of one the founders of Hamas – a man who left Islam and came to Christ, a man who was born again by the Spirit. What makes this testimony so powerful is that it demonstrates the importance of holding fast to the three foundational principles of the Reformation:

    Supremacy and authority of Scripture
    Through a divine appointment with a tourist, this Muslim had the truths of Scripture opened to him for the very first time. Romans 1:16!! The Holy Spirit enlightened him through the reading of the Gospels. Federal Vision theology erodes the supremacy of Scripture by placing the authority of the visible church over the authority of the Bible. The communion table has replaced the pulpit as the center of worship. The observance of sacraments, ordinances, ceremonies, forms, and symbols take precedence over the Word of God.

    The Right and Duty of Private Judgment
    For the first time, this young man was able to hold the Koran up to the light of Scripture and discern for himself which teaching was true and which was full of inconsistencies and lies. Federal Vision theology discourages private discernment. Anyone who questions the inconsistencies in its teaching and preaching and practices in the church has broken their membership vows, is unsubmissive to the church authorities, and is labeled a slanderer and is subject to discipline.

    Justification By Faith Alone, Without the Deeds of the Law
    This young man was justified by faith alone without the outward sacrament of baptism – without the deeds of the law or any visible church ordinance or ceremony. He was born again by the Spirit. For a while, he had to worship secretly and only confide with a few Christians until he was able to go to the U.S. – to California. It was there that he was baptized out in the Pacific Ocean. His baptism did not in any way justify him. It served as a sign and seal of the work that God his heavenly Father had already done in his heart.

    One other factor that led to this man’s salvation was what he witnessed in the Israeli jail. He witnessed his own Hamas people torturing and killing each other. Their behavior forced him to question his faith in the Hamas movement and in Islam. What kind of faith would cause a person to turn against his own people? In the last few years, our family was forced to ask the same question as we witnessed the attacks by Federal Vision advocates against those in the church who would disagree with them. We have shaken our heads in disbelief at the vicious behavior and corrupt politics demonstrated by those who claim to be our brothers in Christ. And, we were forced to ask the same question, what kind of belief system does the Federal Vision leadership ascribe to that would make them act this way?

    Does this former Hamas member have assurance of salvation? Absolutely! He has given up his home and his family to follow Christ. Why? He loves Christ because by faith he knows that Christ died for him. He knows by experience what it means to be lost – to be without Christ – to be an enemy of Christ. He has a sense of debt to Christ. He has an abiding recollection of what Christ has done for him. His eyes of understanding have been opened. He knows what he is by nature – he knows the guilt and emptiness he once had without Christ. Federal Vision theology does not offer that assurance – just read Jared’s comments. That, folks, is not the God I know in the Scriptures.

    The question before the PCA leadership is will they hold fast to the vital principles of the Reformed faith? Or, will they continue to accommodate a theology that erodes and destroys those very principles?

  284. Todd said,

    January 5, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Lauren,

    I appreciate what you write and your zeal for the truth, but you seem to want to come down hard on a whole denomination, the PCA, over the FV. I’m not in the PCA, but to their defense, the FV has caused a great uproar in the PCA, which is a good sign.

    Remember, a denomination is ultimately a collection of individuals. As individual Christians, we are always struggling with justification at some level, we all tend toward legalism one way or another. That’s is why we need to hear the gospel each week. Now those individual struggles will in some ways manifest themselves in the larger collection of believers, whether churches or and denominations, also remembering that, beyond these struggles, there are always wolves threating the sheep within every church and denomination until Christ returns.

    The point is, if you want to look for evidence of a church or denomination going completely liberal or legalistic, look at those groups where a denial of justification doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. In other words, it is not the presence of a struggle over the correct gospel that evidences apostasy, but the absence of a struggle.

    Todd

  285. Reed Here said,

    January 5, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Lauren:

    From what you write, it appears you personal experience with the FV, as applied in the life of a congregation. I read your blog piece on another blog, where you offer some background. Let me express my sorrow to you and your family.

    There are yet many PCA pastors who believe that the FV’s explanation of “Christ alone” ends up functionally yielding yet another bankrupt “Christ plus” variation of Christianity. Such variations are always deficient.

    That God protects any under its ministry is a sign of mercy, not affirmation.

  286. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    #282,

    Jared… please help me here…

    I hear you saying “You CAN know you are decretally elect”. Please tell me, within your system and within how you’ve defined faith – HOW I know that I am decretally elect?

    Surely you can see that is my issue, and we keep skirting around it…

  287. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Jared,

    Can we do this over email? It’s obvious that you feel that I’m just not hearing you, and I’d love to try really hard to do so…

    peterdanielmyers (at) googlemail [dot} com

  288. Lauren Kuo said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    I appreciate your concerns for our personal situation; God has been very gracious to our family. God takes care of those who hold fast to His truth and we are a testimony of His love and care. But the issue with the Federal Vision is not about our personal struggle with them. It’s about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You need to realize that the errors of the Federal Vision are the errors of the PCA. As long as these teaching and ruling elders are allowed to stay in a PCA pulpit and spread their poison, they carry the name and reputation of the PCA, and the entire PCA leadership bears responsibility for their teaching and practices.

    We cannot recommend the PCA to anyone as long as there are minefields of FV error scattered like the measles throughout the denomination directing people away from the Gospel. Look at the Pacific Northwest Presbytery – a majority of those elders are shaking their little FV dust fists right in the face of the PCA. Tell me, what does the PCA as a denomination stand for? Can a true believer have any confidence that this denomination will defend the faith once given to us? These errors have even spread to the mission field overseas where my husband teaches. He has had to try to undo some of the damage that the PCA has done across the seas. It is inexcusable.

    I have full confidence and faith that God’s truth will prevail. And, I know that many of you PCA ‘ers are defending and upholding the truth. But, it should break our hearts everyday to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being mangled and adulterated every Sunday in the denomination you have vowed to support and uphold.

  289. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Lauren,

    God takes care of those who hold fast to His truth

    I totally agree with you – all of them.

    But the issue with the Federal Vision is not about our personal struggle with them. It’s about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You need to realize that the errors of the Federal Vision are the errors of the PCA. As long as these teaching and ruling elders are allowed to stay in a PCA pulpit and spread their poison, they carry the name and reputation of the PCA, and the entire PCA leadership bears responsibility for their teaching and practices.

    Over in the UK, I cannot think of one denomination where I can wholeheartedly recommend a church to someone. The Evangelical Presbyterians of England and Wales are all thoroughly sound – but there’s only 10 of them in the whole country.

    Sadly – there is no denomination where the wheat aren’t mixed with the tares.

    In fact, that will always be the case.

  290. Reed Here said,

    January 5, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Lauren:

    I do understand. I’ll not offer explanations of vows and BCo and the like. I’m sure you’ve heard those, and seen that nevertheless sheep get abused.

    I will encourage you to consider and pray for men like Jason Stellman in PNW Presbytery. With Christlike gentlemanliness he continues to pursue his conviction that the FV, as held to by Dr. Leithart, is out of accord with our standards. He does so consistent with his vows to his brethren, not out of any lack of conviction but because he is persuaded that Christ only honors that which flows from faith.

  291. jared said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Lauren Kuo (#283),

    You say,

    Federal Vision theology does not offer that assurance – just read Jared’s comments. That, folks, is not the God I know in the Scriptures.

    Thanks for letting me know I’m not worshiping the true and living God. Thanks for taking the place of the Judge. Oh, and let me take this opportunity to thank the moderators for letting Lauren get away with being the Judge. Thanks.

    I’m not an FV advocate, by the way.

    Pete (#286),

    You say,

    I hear you saying “You CAN know you are decretally elect”. Please tell me, within your system and within how you’ve defined faith – HOW I know that I am decretally elect?

    Since I seem utterly incapable of doing anything right at the moment, allow me to bow out and point you in the “wrong” direction: WCF 18,

    1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

    2.This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption
    witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

    3.This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in
    love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.

    4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which wounds the conscience and grieves the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light: yet are they never so utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.

    I take no exceptions to anything in these 4 sections of the Confession, nor does my theology necessitate that I do. If this does not answer your question, Pete, then I cannot help you anymore.

  292. Reed Here said,

    January 6, 2009 at 12:46 am

    Jared:

    No need to take offense at Lauren’s observation. She has expressed an opinion that your comments, standing for her as a summary of the FV, does not offer real assurance.

    Such a claim is no different than any of the other serious topics we’ve batted back and forth here.

    I do not think you need to read anymore into it than that. You especially do not need to take it personally.

  293. jared said,

    January 6, 2009 at 1:25 am

    Reed,

    Lauren didn’t merely claim that the FV (or my comments thusly summarized) don’t offer real assurance. She said “that, folks, is not the God I know in Scripture.” All in good jest and jovial fun I suppose? She’s not really suggesting that the FV (and, by extension myself) doesn’t know the God of Scripture, is she? If you say so…

  294. Pete Myers said,

    January 6, 2009 at 4:24 am

    #291, Jared,

    Since I seem utterly incapable of doing anything right at the moment,

    Please don’t be like that Jared, we just disagree, that’s all, and the disagreement lies – very simply – in that I think you’re being inconsistent, but you don’t think you are.

    Implied in that, however, is that I obviously think you are getting something right, otherwise I wouldn’t be repeatedly saying “you’re inconsistent”, but I’d be saying “you’re totally wrong”. I feel we might be on the verge of reaching each other, here, brother, so I would ask you to please persist with me. I am sorry for anything in my tone which has been hurtful, or uneedfully disdainful. I realise my recent comments have become more pointed – but that’s just to try my very best at clarity, which I seem to be bad at.

    Let me try and point out the inconsistency, it is this: WCF 18 presupposes all the way through that there is a difference between temporal and persevering faith other than simply the differences you have given.

    Take the first paragraph:

    1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.

    The contrast between false faith and true faith is implied here by unregenerate men “vainly deceiving themselves”, but that is in contrast to the regenerate “yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus”.

    That is why the assurance comes through the faith itself, and not through some extraordinary revelation: “being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto”

    If – as in the system you’ve postulated – the only differences between true and false faith are:
    1) Election
    2) Perseverance
    3) Final Salvation

    Then when the reprobate are walking in faith, their faith is at that time exactly the same as the faith of the elect… therefore what stops the reprobate drawing the same assurance from the faith they have (rather than a vain overconfidence), and – if I know that reprobates can be in exactly the same state of faith as me, then, how can I possibly draw an assurance from my faith apart from special revelation that I’m saved?

    For WCF 18 to “work”, this fourth distinction between true and false faith must be added:
    1) Election
    2) The faith of the elect is truly dependent & submissive faith, the faith of the non-elect is not this.
    3) Perseverance
    4) Final salvation

    In other words, Jared, for WCF 18 to stand, the very point we’ve been debating for days now must be conceded – that the faith of the elect and non-elect is not the same in every way except for the 3 distinctions you’ve given. It is a “false” faith, an “unbelieving” belief.

    Jared, I am not trying to bully you – but your words imply that you feel that way – and so I’m sorry for where there are failures on my side of this discussion. I am trying to convince and persuade you that one of your opinions is inconsistent with the rest of the faith we both share. I am not, and have not said anything about your, or your character, or drawn any conclusions or inferences about you personally – I’ve simply maintained that on the very issue that we are debating you are incorrect.

    The issue is NOT will you publically assent to WCF 18… the issue IS will you address the questions about what you’ve said about faith, which doesn’t seem compatible with your public assent to WCF 18?

  295. jared said,

    January 6, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Pete,

    I can agree with your addition of (2) above, it doesn’t change a single thing I’ve said. The reason (2) can be placed there is because of the kind of election (decretal) the covenant member has and, as a result of that election, he also has perseverance and final salvation because he has real faith. I’ve not said there can be only those three differences; I’ve been saying that any differences which exist are a result of the only ontological difference which matters. That difference is that one is the result of decretal election and, therefore, it lays hold of Jesus and one is not the result of decretal election and, therefore, it does not lay hold of Jesus. All other differences flow from that reality, including the two others I’ve been listing and the one you’ve just added.

    To review, then, I am not saying that the only ontological differences are the ones I noted. You were asking for differences and I was giving them to you and you were saying there must be more differences (or some other difference that I wasn’t putting on the list). No, there only needs to be one difference and from that one difference all others are clearly (and consistently) delineated. I listed that one difference along with two others (just in case one wasn’t enough) and still you’re saying that I, somehow, don’t differentiate between the two. True faith perseveres, temporary faith does not: that is a real ontological difference. It’s a difference born from the fact that real faith lays hold of Jesus and temporary faith does not. True faith results in final salvation, temporary faith does not: that is a real ontological difference. It’s a difference born from the fact that real faith lays hold of Jesus and temporary faith does not. True faith is the result of decretal election and temporary faith is not: that is a real ontological difference and is the basis for all other differences between the two (those we have listed and those we have not). Some FV’ers might disagree with me here, and some wouldn’t. My overarching point has been you can’t call the FV “arminian-like” if it isn’t an accurate description of all of them. It, very obviously, isn’t.

  296. Pete Myers said,

    January 6, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Jared,

    I’ve not said there can be only those three differences; I’ve been saying that any differences which exist are a result of the only ontological difference which matters. That difference is that one is the result of decretal election and, therefore, it lays hold of Jesus and one is not the result of decretal election and, therefore, it does not lay hold of Jesus.

    Yep – I’ve already said I’m sorry, I thought that was the very point we were debating, and I obviously didn’t hear you saying it properly.

    I have been trying to listen, and I apologise for where I haven’t done so properly. We’re actually in the same place then. But from the words in your second paragraph, let me explain where the confusion came from:

    No, there only needs to be one difference and from that one difference all others are clearly (and consistently) delineated.

    The very problem that people have had with Wilkins, is that the difference that seem “clearly (and consistently) delineated” from decretal election are not clearly and consistently delineated by Wilkins. Or – to leave Wilkins out of it – to say that “temporary and persevering faith are the same”, which is what I thought you’d said, appears to deny what we both agree is “clearly (and consistently) delineated” from decretal election.

    So, beause I’d heard you say “temporary and persevering faith are the same” you can see where my concern came in. Clearly, your statement needed qualification. But then, the qualifications you added:

    1 – the distinction that temporary faith is temporary, but persevering faith perseveres, and,
    2 – the distinction that temporary faith doesn’t save, but persevering faith does save

    …neither of these qualifications actually deal with my original concern. Neither of them help me see that the faith held to by the elect and the reprobate is different at the time that they hold to their respective faith. So while they are indeed true ontological differences, they’re not ontological differences that help in any way alleviate the original concern.

    The addition of the qualification that “true faith lays hold of Christ, false faith doesn’t” does indeed answer my original concern. This confirms that the faith of the elect and the faith of the reprobate is in fact not the same.

    I heard you as saying that the faith of the elect and the faith of the reprobate is the same. I obviously heard you wrong. For that I am sorry, Jared.

    Oh, and, as to your concern about how people use the FV label… I do not have a “big ugly” view of the FV in my head. In fact I was very sympathetic until a week and half ago, and am now cheerfully skeptical.

  297. David Gadbois said,

    January 6, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Jared said My overarching point has been you can’t call the FV “arminian-like” if it isn’t an accurate description of all of them

    What rule book did this come out of? FVers do not all unanimously hold to the same errors, it is true. But whoever said FV is defined solely by the Joint Statement? It is not. It is defined by the predominant set of errors held by its major proponents. That is absolutely fair game.

  298. jared said,

    January 6, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    David Gadbois,

    Let’s see if you can see the problem. You say that FVers don’t unanimously hold to the same errors. Then you say there is a predominant set of errors held by its major proponents. And this is reason enough to label them all as “arminian-like”? Why not go the extra mile and just suggest a list of FVers who are arminian-like rather than tagging them all?

    And just in case you can’t see the problem, here it is:

    1. The charge is that the FV (presumably all of it) is arminian-like.
    2. Not all of the FV is arminian-like.
    3. Therefore, the charge that the FV is arminian-like (sans any qualifications) is false.

    If (1) doesn’t include everyone then it needs to be qualified; it isn’t and until it is the charge, as is, is false.

  299. Lauren Kuo said,

    January 6, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Matthew 23 contains all of the “Woes” that Jesus addressed to the scribes and Pharisees. He called these religious leaders hypocrites, blind guides, fools, full of lawlessness, whitewashed tombs, serpents, and brood of vipers.

    I wonder if Jesus would be welcomed in the PCA with this kind of “ungentlemanly” and “uncharitable” approach to false teachers. After all, the approved committee report states that false teachers are to be respected as “brothers in Christ”. I am not convinced from Matthew 23 that Jesus regarded false teachers as His brothers.

    If we would hold fast that which is good, we must never tolerate or countenance any doctrine which is not the pure doctrine of Christ’s gospel. There is a hatred which is downright charity – that is the hatred of erroneous doctrine. There is an intolerance which is downright praiseworthy – that is the intolerance of false teaching in the pulpit. Who would ever think of tolerating a little poison given to him day by day? Yet, that is what the PCA report calls on its members to do.

    If men come among you who do not preach all the counsel of God, who do not preach of Christ, and sin, and holiness, of ruin, and redemption, and regeneration; and do not preach of these things in a Scriptural way, then you ought to cease to hear them.

    But out of “respect and charity” towards these false teachers, PCA members are instructed to show forbearance in hearing Christ’s truth mangled or adulterated – to accommodate themselves to listening to that which is another gospel – to sit patiently in the pew while sham Christianity is poured into their ears – and to go home comfortably afterwards, and not burn with holy indignation.

    If the members are told to be content to hear Jesus Christ not put in His rightful place, then the PCA as a denomination will likely not do Christ much service, or fight a good fight on His side. He that is not zealous against error, is not likely to be zealous for truth.

  300. Reed Here said,

    January 6, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Lauren:

    I assume this is a fair summary of your experience. I appreciate your criticism of the PCA’s polity. I would ask you to remember to pray for us.

  301. Lauren Kuo said,

    January 6, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    You have been in our prayers, Reed, for the last several years and will continue to be. We look forward to the day when that little PCA church on the hill where we invested our hearts and lives for nearly ten years, will once again shine the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  302. Reed Here said,

    January 6, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you.

  303. Zrim said,

    January 6, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    Lauren,

    I am curious. Not at all to either diminish either your evident zeal or lend any aid to the FV errors, but I wonder if you might consider your words and tone to be something of an overstatement. You’ll recall that Paul was not very pleased, to say the least, with Peter’s seating arrangements. Even so, there is little to no evidence that the former questioned the latter’s brotherhood. And, just as you are “not convinced from Matthew 23 that Jesus regarded false teachers as His brothers,” it is not altogether obvious to me that the virulent language of Jesus has a one-to-one correspondence to how he finally regarded his own hypocrites and vipers. Sibling rivalry is a bit more complicated and nuanced than you seem to suggest.

    Is it not enough to render FV clearly and unquestionably un-Reformed without confusing what is visibly manifest with what is eternally true? Or do you imagine that weeping and wailing of credo-baptists, who read our contentions that theirs are clear violations against the second mark of the true church to be an absolute comment on their eternal status, actually have merit?

    It is true that false doctrine should be utterly repudiated and pure doctrine nurtured by the visible and militant church in the inter-advental age. But is also true that we are saved sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, not by our doctrine. I’d caution what Sean Lucas has insightfully called “Fundamentalists learning to be Presbyterian” and suggest that being Reformed the really old-fashioned way might be better than being Reformed the new old-fashioned way.


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 338 other followers

%d bloggers like this: