Does God practice temporary forgiveness?

Posted by Bob Mattes

I read Dr. Rob Rayburn’s letter to the PCA Standing Judicial Committee with some interest. I was curious to see how a church officer defends someone who holds virtually identical views to a man who was a hair’s breath from indictment a short time ago before fleeing the denomination. I found the read, though, greatly disappointing and even disturbing. I found the theological arguments to be more like blind assertions, and support was entirely lacking when Rayburn seemed to be making assertions about particular Scriptural texts.

I found the assertion that God forgives temporarily particularly disturbing, and that will be the subject of this post. Rayburn:

Justification – whatever else it is – is the forgiveness of sins. It is perfectly obvious that there is such a thing as temporary forgiveness because the Bible says there is (cf. Num. 14:20 with 1 Cor. 10:5; Ezekiel 16:1-14; Matthew 18:32-34; etc.). Whether we are entirely satisfied with Dr. Leithart’s effort to incorporate this biblical material into the larger picture of the way of divine grace, the fact is, temporary forgiveness is a biblical datum.

I’ll deal with his view of justification in another post. The assertion above, made without support, is that temporary forgiveness is perfectly obvious in the Bible – a given. Really? I’ve never seen it, and neither did Calvin, the Westminster Divines, or any other orthodox Reformed scholar I can find.

Let’s look at the Scriptures cited, starting with the most challenging. Matthew 18:32-34 (ESV) says:

32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’
34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

This comes at the end of Chapter 18. Let’s place it in context. Starting in verse 15, Jesus teaches what to do if a brother sins against us. He closes verse 15 by clearly implying that one must forgive the brother if he repents. In verse 21, Peter, like us, wondered how far this forgiveness thing was supposed to go. Jesus’ response is that the Father’s forgiveness of our infinite debt of sin provides the model of how we should forgive our brothers. We have been forgiven so much, how can we in turn fail to forgive our brothers for so much less. That’s the point of the discussion. Jesus teaches this point in the form of a parable in verses 23 to 35.

But wait,  didn’t the master forgive the one servant’s debt in verse 27? How does that fit in the picture? Rayburn would have us believe that by implication, God temporarily forgives sins and then can revoke that forgiveness. Is that really what the parable teaches? What have our Reformed forefathers said?

Matthew Henry wrote on this passage:

We are not to suppose that God actually forgives men, and afterwards reckons their guilt to them to condemn them; but this latter part of the parable shows the false conclusions many draw as to their sins being pardoned, though their after-conduct shows that they never entered into the spirit, or experienced the sanctifying grace of the gospel. [my emphasis]

Doesn’t sound like he believed in temporary forgiveness. Quite the contrary. But then how do we explain the parable? Some of the Westminster Divines wrote in the Westminster Annotations (ca. 1657) the Reformed interpretation of verse 34 (long but but a must-reading):

Compare this here with that which is said, v. 27. and it may be demanded, whether God ever recalls his pardon granted, or finally condemns that sinner, whom he had once forgiven: I answer,

1. As before, and elsewhere, parables are not over curiously to be strained so as to make every particle to agree in the moral explication thereof: similitudes they say, run not on four feet, they will go current if they agree in one, or a few points according to the scope thereof, and intent of the speaker. So here this parable is shewn; 1. The uncharitable temerity of men, who would find mercy at God’s hand, but shew none to men for God’s sake, and at his command. 2. The vain hopes of malicious persons: without mercy shall they be judged, who shew not mercy before they are judged.

2. God seemeth to remit the sin, where he deferreth execution of the punishment, or where he diverteth a plague or punishment denounced, in things concerning this life; as we may see in the several plagues in execution on Pharaoh and his people, or threatened as in the example of Ahab, 1 King. 21.19. and others, whose sins God forgave not; however the punishment temporal was either so diverted, or deferred to the next life, that it became not exemplary in this.

3. The gifts and graces of God are “without repentance”, Rom 11.29. such as he never repenteth of, nor wholly recalleth; as in election, sanctification, remission of sins. Where the Scripture speaks of God’s repentance as for giving the Kingdom to Saul, or the like, they descend to man’s capacity therein: for properly God cannot repent, because he cannot erre who is omniscient, or mistake in his election so as to repent, or recall his own grant, who foresaw the event of his giving so that, as where God remitteth the guilt of one sin, he remitteth all; so to whomsoever he forgiveth sins, he forgiveth them forever; yet here, where the punishment is not presently (or possibly all the sinners lifetime) remitted and taken off; as in David may appear, 2 Sam 12.13,18. 2 Sam 15. 2 Sam 23. but God never finally condemnes that sinner, whom he had once forgiven. [my emphasis]

Wow, great stuff from our Reformed forefathers. They obviously had no place for Federal Vision fantasies about temporary saving graces, including temporary forgiveness.

Their first point about parables is one that I made some time ago from Calvin relative to John 15:2 and the vine. Lane also wrote on John 15 and Federal Vision. Federal Visionists turn that passage into a botany lesson at the microscopic level. But in fact, our Lord was making a simple point, as he tends to do with His parables. We do well to heed the Divines’ and Calvin’s words.

What about Num 14:20?

20 Then the LORD said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. 21 But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD, 22 none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.

This goes directly to point 2 that the Divines made above. The 1599 Geneva Bible notes concur on verse 20:

In that he destroyed not them utterly, but left their posterity and certain to enter.

Amazing how consistent the Reformers were across the years. The Annotations make an almost identical comment, adding that God also didn’t destroy the older generation immediately but deferred their punishment for a while (again see Annotations Point 2 above). We see that God judged those who failed to partake of His goodness in faith. God did forgive and preserve those that partook in faith – Joshua and Caleb (Num 14:24,30).

1 Cor 10:5 is simply a restatement of this same incident. Calvin defers his comment on 1 Cor 10:5 to his discussion on 1 Cor 11:29. There he writes:

He had previously pointed out in express terms the heinousness of the crime, when he said that those who should eat unworthily would be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord Now he alarms them, by denouncing punishment; for there are many that are not affected with the sin itself; unless they are struck down by the judgment of God. This, then, he does, when he declares that this food, otherwise health-giving, will turn out to their destruction, and will be converted into poison to those that eat unworthily.

He adds the reasons because they distinguish not the Lord’s body, that is, as a sacred thing from a profane. “They handle the sacred body of Christ with unwashed hands, (Mark 7:2,) nay more, as if it were a thing of nought, they consider not how great is the value of it. They will therefore pay the penalty of so dreadful a profanation.” Let my readers keep in mind what I stated a little ago, that the body is presented to them, though their unworthiness deprives them of a participation in it. [my emphasis]

The Ezekiel passage provides more of the same. None of this should surprise anyone remotely familiar with WLC Q. 62 & 63:

Q. 62. What is the visible church?
A. The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children.

Q. 63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?
A. The visible church hath the privilege of being under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

There are indeed benefits to being baptized into the visible church, but the saving graces (forgiveness of sins, justification, sanctification, etc.) are reserved only for the elect through faith, and they are permanent. WLC Q. 64-66

Q. 64. What is the invisible church?
A. The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.
Q. 65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
A. The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.
Q. 66. What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
A. The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.

Rayburn went on to write in his letter:

The panel has the audacity to say that “What Scripture says about a particular topic is set forth in our Standards.” [C vi] Really? Where do the Standards deal with temporary forgiveness? If, indeed, Holy Scripture is really our only infallible rule of faith we cannot possibly object to a man working hard to understand how such teaching is to be incorporated into the system, all the more if, as in Dr. Leithart’s case, he confesses loyalty to that system and proves it in his writings. What is more, our loyalty to Holy Scripture absolutely requires us in such a case as this to acknowledge in our discussion of his views of justification and the other benefits of Christ’s redemption that there is obviously a sense in which forgiveness may be temporary, holiness temporary, a family relationship with God temporary, “life” itself temporary, even the love of God temporary (Deut. 7:7-11; Hos. 11:1).

Audacity? Well regardless of what Leithart confesses, we’ve already seen that Scripture does not teach temporary forgiveness. The argument against the erroneous idea of God loving temporarily in a saving way (Rayburn’s last sentence) parallels that against temporary forgiveness. The Westminster Standards don’t mention temporary forgiveness, temporary justification, or any temporary saving benefit because such things don’t exist either in Scripture or by extension Reformed theology. Perhaps Dr. Rayburn and the Federal Visionists have discovered something missed by orthodox Reformed scholars for almost 400 years, but I don’t think so.

After typing the above analysis, it occurred to me that Rayburn’s and Leithart’s arguments on this subject seem much closer to Open Theism than Reformed theology. Carefully reread the Divine’s Point 3 above. The Bible states clearly that God does not repent or change His mind (e.g., Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29). Where verses imply otherwise, they are using anthropomorphisms to condescend to the human level, just as noted in the Annotations excerpt above. That’s the traditional Reformed view.

If, as Federal Visionists seem to be saying, God truly repents in the human sense of the term – changes his mind about forgiving someone as the master does in the parable – then as open theism posits, He must not be omniscient and therefore learns the future along with us. That’s pure heresy, but that’s where temporary forgiveness as described by Federal Vision leads when taken to its logical conclusion. I’m guessing that they haven’t thought that far ahead.

They should have, because if we take Jesus’ parable at the end of Mat 18 at the level of detail which Federal Visionists read it, then the master had no idea that the first  servant would not forgive his fellow servant. That’s implicit in the revocation of debt relief in the story. So, does the parable teach that God doesn’t know the future and therefore revokes His forgiveness when you sin or show ingratitude? That’s the logical extension of Federal Vision’s reading of this passage, and by extension the others that Rayburn cites.

The alternative to an open theism basis of temporary forgiveness would be works-righteousness like the Roman Catholic system, where forgiveness and justification can be lost through subsequent sin. That might be more consistent with Federal Visions “final justification”, but open theism could fit that bogus concept as well.

So in this post, I presented the Scriptural, orthodox Reformed view that God’s forgiveness is always permanent. I’m very interested in seeing a cohesive, Scriptural response from Federal Visionists on how their temporary forgiveness doesn’t imply or require an open theism view that God doesn’t know the future, or alternately that doesn’t imply a works-righteousness scheme where forgiveness is lost through subsequent sin. How does Federal Vision theologically mechanize temporary forgiveness? There’s certainly no support within Calvinism, which is based upon God’s absolute sovereignty and unchangeable decree of all that comes to pass (Dan 4:35, WCF 3.1).

Posted by Bob Mattes

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890 Comments

  1. January 28, 2010 at 11:58 am

    [...] found the assertion that God forgives temporarily particularly disturbing. So, I wrote a post over on Greenbaggins critiquing that concept. I also realized a new connection to open theism that hasn’t occurred [...]

  2. Wes White said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    We not only do not teach that view, but we repudiate it. However, Rob Rayburn’s son-in-law, TE Josh Moon, pastor of Good Shepherd PCA in Minnetonka, MN, agrees with his father-in-law. He wrote in defending the idea of not finding a strong presumption of guilt of TE Lawrence, pastor of Christ Church PCA Mankato, who taught this:

    “We are told by the complainants that you cannot attribute forgiveness of sins to the potential reprobate. But that is clearly wrong. The unmerciful servant, Jesus says, was ‘forgiven his debt.’ He moved from a state of condemnation to true and real forgiveness. This was no pretended forgiveness. Yet the servant was finally apostate. He failed to live up to the grace shown to him, and so the privilege of that forgiveness was revoked. And that, Jesus says, is how my father will treat each of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. This, remember, is addressed to Peter and Christ’s own disciples. It is a parable about forgiveness and apostasy, and gives the complainants no ground at all for their complaint.”

    You can read the whole speech here: http://johannesweslianus.blogspot.com/2010/01/in-defense-of-motion-to-find-no-strong.html

  3. January 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Wes,

    Thanks for your comment and the citation. The paragraph you quote could have been written with a clear conscience by a RCC priest. How can these people call themselves Reformed? (Rhetorical question.)

    BTW, thanks to you and your select fellows for your continued perseverance against the counter-Reformation movement in your presbytery. May God bless your struggles for the gospel.

  4. Wes White said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    You can also read TE Lane Keister’s response to Josh Moon’s speech here:

    http://johannesweslianus.blogspot.com/2010/01/te-lane-keisters-protest-in-response-to.html

  5. Chris Hutchinson said,

    January 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    This is old hat FV stuff. I remember back in the day, as part of the original Ft. Lauderdale colloquium, this parable being brought into the discussion by the FV side to argue that one could (in one sense) lose one’s justification. To which I replied, as I do today: It’s a PARABLE. This Master, and this Servant did not exist in real life. Jesus is making a clear point — we must forgive to show we have been truly forgiven. They do the same type of thing with John 15 — it’s a poor ability to do ST, in my opinion, and letting clearer passages (e.g. Romans 8:29-30) interpret the less clear.

    FWIW, Chris Hutchinson
    Blacksburg, VA

  6. tim prussic said,

    January 28, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    What say to this:

    With the external (but real and “formal”) connection to the covenant, blessings of the covenant are sometimes (if not ordinarily) predicated to the persons covenanted across the board. These predicated blessings may include ordo-salutis type blessings. The actual substance of those blessings, while predicated to the whole covenant body, is personally and internally apprehended through faith alone in the Mediator of the covenant. Contrariwise, the curses of the covenant, also published to the whole covenant body (but not predicated to them, as the covenant is primarily one of grace and blessing), are not personally applied to those of faith in the Mediator, but truly apply to and are it time personally apprehended by those covenant members who are not connected to the Mediator via faith. These cursed covenant member will, in time or in the final judgment, be formally expelled from the covenant and shoulder its curses.

    If that short paragraph is agreeable, then we don’t need to get quite so wrapped around the axle if folks mention temporary blessings… like forgiveness. Naturally, we’d want them to qualify their statements and express what they’re not saying (this is necessary and too often lacking), but we wouldn’t have to suffer needless division of the body over such terminology.

  7. reedhere said,

    January 28, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Tim, #6:

    The actual substance of those blessings, while predicated to the whole covenant body, is personally and internally apprehended through faith alone in the Mediator of the covenant.

    Nope, not without fuller detail on what you mean by actual substance.

    but truly apply to and are it time personally apprehended by those covenant members who are not connected to the Mediator via faith.

    Nope, not with further details on what you mean by truly apply and personally apprehended.

    It is this kind of language, undifferentiated in its usage within the FV, that is problematic.

    What is so hard with this question: please distinguish the what/why/when/where/how in theses things with reference to the elect versus the reprobate. In what ways are they the same? In what ways are they different?

    My experience, it is when these questions get answered that the problem fully demonstrates itself.

    I’ll add that it is rather disappointing to have to be asking men who by calling and tryhing know better than to offer confusing language.

  8. David Gadbois said,

    January 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    This also demonstrates FV’s failure in the area of theology proper. God’s justice is unitary – there is one law, one standard, and one divine courtroom whereby we are judged or acquitted. So we can’t talk as if there is a “forgiveness A” (unloseable, given to the elect) and a “forgiveness B” (loseable, given to non-elect in the visible church). What could it even coherently mean to say that one has “forgiveness B” but not “forgiveness A”? Federal Visionists are careful not to define their terms since they have painted themselves into this corner.

    I also note that their heavy reliance upon a parable to prop up their parallel ordo salutis (that applies to non-elect members of the visible church) speaks volumes about the strength of their case from both an exegetical and ST standpoint.

  9. jared said,

    January 29, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Let’s try an experiment:

    Do all members of the visible church have God’s forgiveness?

  10. Paige Britton said,

    January 29, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Here’s a clarifying question I’ve thought of:

    Granted that there is a clear difference between the “true and real forgiveness” (to borrow TE Moon’s phrase) given to the elect and whatever else is granted to the non-elect, how shall we speak about the “whatever else” in the latter case? I am with Bob in identifying this as NOT ordo-salutis-type forgiveness; but it certainly indicates God’s temporary, temporal PATIENCE with the “weeds” in the church (and the unjust outside it). This would at least give us language to explain God remitting the plagues in Pharaoh’s case, and permitting those church members who are not part of the invisible church to at some level (not the deepest!) enjoy the blessings of rubbing shoulders with those who have truly been forgiven. Have I expressed this rightly?

  11. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Jared, #9: you beginning (I assume unwittingly) playing right off the FV card of presuppositions.

    Ask it this way (distinguish biblically): do all professing members of the Visible Church recieve the forgiveness that is a grace of Christ’s personn and work?

    Answer: No. Only those that are savingly united to Him by the Spirit’s regenerating abiding presence.

  12. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Paige: see Lane’s blog here for the discussion sometime back on Temporary Faith(three different posts, 1, 2, 3. In these we did a pretty thorough job of scoping out the differences.

    As well, see my comment here, where in annwer to Paul D. I sought so summarize the key difference.

  13. January 29, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Paige,

    I think “patience” or “forebearance” is the right concept. Jesus in the parable of the wheat and the tares clearly differentiates between the forgiveness granted the elect and the patience with the reprobate until the perfect time for God’s judgment. There is no Biblical warrant for anything other than “real and true forgiveness.”

  14. January 29, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Jared, RE #9,

    I would combine Reed’s response in #11 and my response to Paige in #13 in answer. Only the elect are forgiven, but God is patient with the reprobate until the day of judgment. The reprobate in the visible church benefit from God’s general protection of the elect in the church as the WLC says, but the reprobate are not forgiven. That’s the crux of the Annotation’s Point 2. Remember that God has promised to finish the good work He started in us. Phil 1:6 doesn’t make any exceptions.

  15. Paige Britton said,

    January 29, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Thanks, guys! Reed, I’ll check out those posts.
    pb

  16. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I like Matthew Henry on Ahab

    “Favour was shown to this wicked man that God might magnify his goodness (says bishop Sanderson) even to the hazard of his other divine perfections; as if (says he) God would be thought unholy, or untrue, or unjust (though he be none of these), or any thing, rather than unmerciful.”

    the reprieve (which is what is meant by temporary forgiveness) in response to Ahab’s (external?) repentance ‘makes a hazard” of his unitary justice, but it is instructive to us to make us realize what a merciful God we are dealing with.

  17. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Paul: nothing here contradicts the scenario I’m discussing with you on the other post. I sense the potential for equivocation (may very well be unintentinal, but nevertheless real). Reprieve is what who means by temporary forgiveness?

    Reprieve is consistent with Bob’s emphasis to Paige (no. 13, Bob, I agree with your response to Jared) on patience or forebearance (I’m reminded of “longsuffering”). Nothing in such construction requires a real but temporary participatory experience in the permanent forgiveness experienced by the elect. Further, to posit such contradicts Scripture.

    A reprieve is merely a temporal distinction. The forgiveness in Christ is exclusively eternal. God does not reprieve the elect’s sins because they are covered (propitiated) and removed (expiated). There is nothing to reprieve, be patient with, grant forebearnce to, or longsuffer under.

    I sense you are proving the case against those like Leithart. If you think that this (what I’ve just said) is all that he means, then you should be able to demonstrate that rather easily.

  18. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I’m not sure all Leithart is saying is what you mean, because (I think) he’d be suspicious of even talking about having participatory experiences of ‘forgiveness” (either temporary or not) in the abstract. What is experienced by everyone in the visible church is a merciful God. We thank him for his grace to all and his tokens of love to us.

    Even those with temporary faith aren’t reacting to an offer of a reprieve from God. They’re reacting (temporarily, and ultimately badly) to real forgiveness. What they’re going to profess is that they are thankful their sins have been forgiven by God.

  19. January 29, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Paul:

    Matthew Henry is good, isn’t he? Here’s the full quote, in context:

    III. Ahab’s humiliation under the sentence passed upon him, and the favourable message sent him thereupon.

    1. Ahab was a kind of penitent. The message Elijah delivered to him in God’s name put him into a fright for the present, so that he rent his clothes and put on sackcloth, v. 27. He was still a proud hardened sinner, and yet thus reduced. Note, God can make the stoutest heart to tremble and the proudest to humble itself. His word is quick and powerful, and is, when the pleases to make it so, like a fire and a hammer, Jer. xxiii. 29. It made Felix tremble. Ahab put on the garb and guise of a penitent, and yet his heart was unhumbled and unchanged. After this, we find, he hated a faithful prophet, ch. xxii. 8.

    Note, It is no new thing to find the show and profession of repentance where yet the truth and substance of it are wanting. Ahab’s repentance was only what might be seen of men: Seest thou (says God to Elijah) how Ahab humbles himself; it was external only, the garments rent, but not the heart. A hypocrite may go very far in the outward performance of holy duties and yet come short.

    2. He obtained hereby a reprieve, which I may call a kind of pardon. Though it was but an outside repentance (lamenting the judgment only, and not the sin), though he did not leave his idols, nor restore the vineyard to Naboth’s heirs, yet, because he did hereby give some glory to God, God took notice of it, and bade Elijah take notice of it: Seest thou how Ahab humbles himself? v. 29. In consideration of this the threatened ruin of his house, which had not been fixed to any time, should be adjourned to his son’s days. The sentence should not be revoked, but the execution suspended. Now,

    (1.) This discovers the great goodness of God, and his readiness to show mercy, which here rejoices against judgment. Favour was shown to this wicked man that God might magnify his goodness (says bishop Sanderson) even to the hazard of his other divine perfections; as if (says he) God would be thought unholy, or untrue, or unjust (though he be none of these), or any thing, rather than unmerciful.

    (2.) This teaches us to take notice of that which is good even in those who are not so good as they should be: let it be commended as far as it goes.

    (3.) This gives a reason why wicked people sometimes prosper long; God is rewarding their external services with external mercies.

    (4.) This encourages all those that truly repent and unfeignedly believe the holy gospel. If a pretending partial penitent shall go to his house reprieved, doubtless a sincere penitent shall go to his house justified.

  20. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Paul: why would Leithart be uncomfortable making biblical distinctions?

    Of course all, both elect and reprobate are responding to the real forgiveness offered really and truly in Christ. That is not the question.

    The question is what do the reprobate receive; a temporary participatory experience of the same as that which is experienced by the elect?

    The Bible says no. What is so hard about this? Why is there any uncomfort in stating things this way.

    You and I both know that the (supposed) problem is the FV’s rejection of the visible/invisible distinction. Rejecting this biblical paradigm necessarily means the introduction of inconsistencies in interpretation. I do not think the FV is necessarily wrong in its observation that the Church can also be looked at from the historical/eternal perspective. The FV is wrong because this is not an also emphasis, but an exclusive emphasis (in functionality at least).

    Seriously Paul, in a number of responses I’ve made to you over the last 24 hours I believe have mapped out a reasonably (if not exhaustive), biblically consistent argument that both affirms the FV’s concerns and correct its errors.

    I.O.W. what is there to argue over? In what way is this argument biblically insufficient? I frankly do not get the reticence of someone like yourself. You seem to cherry pick my responses. I admit I’ve written quite a bit, but still, I’ve yet to see a wholesale response to any of the resposnes to your “what about”s. You just keep offering new “what about”s.

    Can you tell me why these are insufficient, and not simply throw a new wrinkle at me? We’re not playing a game are we?

  21. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Pduggie (#18): They’re reacting (temporarily, and ultimately badly) to real forgiveness. What they’re going to profess is that they are thankful their sins have been forgiven by God.

    But that’s not quite it, is it? If sin X has been *forgiven*, it is no longer held to account.

    On what basis? Not on the basis of WCOF justification, since these folk are not WCoF elect and do not receive the benefits thereof. *That* forgiveness is tied to being viewed “in Christ” and united by the agency of the Spirit and being effectually called so that one possesses saving faith.

    So if this forgiveness is not on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness imputed, then on what basis? God’s general forbearance? That seems promising. But in the eschaton, His forbearance will end and there will be wrath against sin X. So it wasn’t *forgiven* — it was *forborne*. God is forbearing with the non-elect, not forgiving.

    JRC

  22. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Reed: there may be not much to argue over. I and Leithart and you and Murray and the FVJS all ‘affirm’ to one degree or another the visible/invisible distinction. I think the matter is one of emphasis. I’d like to emphasize the visible, but be sure those in the visible I talk to/about are talked to by and large with things that are “true” of the “invisible”. Because that’s what it means to not BE God.

    I’ve been bothered by this since I was a teenager and a pastor criticized the free offer by saying “don’t you think that in the secret council of God…” and I wondered why I was being asked to have an opinion about God’ SECRET council.

    What happens in the visible is the picture for us to look at to correlate with what we’re told about the invisible. As Calvin says “The general adoption of the seed of Abraham was a visible representation of a greater blessing, which God conferred on the few out of the multitude.”

    Jeff: I think you’re misunderstanding me. I think (maybe I’m wrong) that you can have people who are in the church, and intellectually assent to the doctrines of forgiveness. They understand that Christianity teaches that when they put their faith in Jesus, God will forgive all their sins for all eternity. But those same people might not actually be putting their faith in Jesus, and are have not actually had their sins forgiven in the same way the elect have.

    But they are in the church and feel happy about it because they think they have been. They are still experiencing the relation with the Spirit of God, common to the elect, that provides them with the ability to intellectually assent (or whatever) and the measure of joy, and the taste of the heavenly gift. (and somehow, Peter says even they have escaped the pollutions of this world: i guess ‘externally’?)

    Ahab’s a big faker, and God wants to make an example of His merciful response. How much more someone who is not a big faker, but actually has some kind of understanding of his dependent relation to his savior.

  23. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    PDuggie (#22): I and Leithart and you and Murray and the FVJS all ‘affirm’ to one degree or another the visible/invisible distinction.

    Yes, the words are there. But the underlying structure is different. In the FVJS, the visible church corresponds to the historical church; the invisible, to the eschatological (the latter is not said explicitly in the FVJS, but I have confirmed this in conversation: WCoF 25.1 is construed to mean that the invisible church at this moment in time includes all who ever will be eternally saved, including those not yet born or not yet regenerate.)

    By contrast, for me … and I think for Murray … and I’m pretty sure for Calvin, the invisible church consists right now of those who have been regenerate at this moment.

    So the distinction affirmed is not the same distinction, even though it uses the same words; and that difference has large implications for the soteriology.

    I agree with you that there are these people. It sounds like we agree that they are (1) not regenerate, and (2) deceived about their actual status.

    I would say that Rom 11 is written to exactly this set, and the parable of the sower and seed is describing these people also.

    So then, rather than say that they have “some kind of faith”, I would say that they “appear to have genuine faith” (even to themselves! WCoF 18.1).

    That is, the experience you describe is not a second type of faith, but an imitation of faith.

    One key question here is whether God is being gracious towards them. Is it a grace “in some sense” to allow people to remain deceived? Or rather, is it a way of passing over them and leaving them to their own devices?

  24. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Jeff, is it not still the case that the definition in 25.1 includes future people?

    Romans 11 seems to indicate that they have great advantages and gifts.

    Some of those with temp faith will move into real faith. I’d hope all would. They are not far off.

    My fleshly tendency is to view all the disobedient Christians around me as very probably lacking in true faith, since if they had it, they’d behave much better. Its better for my walk to expect that God is showing way more grace than I am

  25. tim prussic said,

    January 29, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Reed, # 7, I’ll take your response to my admittedly short and inadequate paragraph as an admission that you’d rather be wrapped around the axle. OF COURSE things in that paragraph need more definition. We have years of controversy raging here… my little paragraph ain’t a gunna nail everything down pat. What I was trying to do was to isolate the different approaches to covenantal blessings based upon the internal / external distinction, one method which I thought would be at least workable, if not happy to you. Guess I was wrong.

  26. Curate said,

    January 29, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    BOQ: I also note that their heavy reliance upon a parable to prop up their parallel ordo salutis (that applies to non-elect members of the visible church) speaks volumes about the strength of their case from both an exegetical and ST standpoint. EOQ.

    Actually the WHOLE of the letter to the Hebrews is about the real fact and possibility of falling away. The most quoted passages are the obvious ones in chapters 6 and 10, but the reality is that these are merely samples from the entire argument.

    Hebrews is a single issue book: beware that you do not fall away from Christ as the wilderness generation did.

    Every single argument in Hebrews supports this central idea. Christ is a greater High Priest than any other, he is greater king than any other, he has made a better sacrifice than any other, he himself is a better sacrifice, he has made a better covenant than any other, and so on.

    The big therefore of all these arguments is that you have no excuse of you fall away, as many have, still do, and will do. If you have received greater mercy than before, your judgement will be proportionally greater if you fall.

    The argument that the warnings are hypothetical falls upon the rock that an actual example is provided – an entire generation of people who once believed, received forgiveness, and then fell in the wilderness outside of the promised rest, through unbelief.

    No, our argument does not rest upon a single parable. I could quote passage after passage from other books of the Bible.

    It is true that many godly theologians have taken your position, perhaps even a majority. It is also true that many able and godly theologians have taken the view defended in this post.

    What you cannot say with any justice is that our argument is thin, or based upon isolated texts.

  27. tim prussic said,

    January 29, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    Mr. Gadbois, #8, your comment not only misses the mark, but it does so in such a way as to demonstrate why this kind of controversy comes up on the first place. You’re proposing to apply the “workings” of the infinite, eternal and simple Being to the covenantal and historical messiness this side of glory in a one-to-one fashion. If that were done in a perspectival manner, I’d be on board. But it’s done in opposition to a historical/covenantal perspective. This is not only unworkable, but actually generates the opposition you’re trying to put down.

    Take an example of the unworkability of your proposed course. You say God’s justice is unitary (I quite agree), but then you move from that to assert that “forgiveness” cannot have varied senses. Not only is this simple non sequitur, but it also cannot work. Take, for example, that God is simple and thus that his work ad extra is one. It’s improper to speak of the “acts” of God. The simplicity of God prevents us from asserting properly that God begins a work here and ends it, then begins a work there and ends it. Is that theology proper to bind our language concerning God and his work ad extra entirely? From a historical / human side we (and the Bible) speak of God’s starting and stopping of works here and there all the time. This is improper speech theologically considered, but quite proper historically considered. Thus, for you simply to assert that God’s justice is unitary and from that to conclude that all judicial language must be strictly uniform is illegitimate.

    Not only is the language illegitimate, but I also fear it’s misguided. It occurs to me that it’s God’s trinitarian existence that allows us to have various perspectives on issues and to use a words in varied senses. (This is not, however, an excuse to be sloppy or disordered.) Wonderfully, trinitarians can account for unity and diversity in the world. Almost comically, you accuse FVers of having a deficient theology proper, and in so doing you assert the One over against the Many, thus betraying a possible weakness in your own trinitarian thinking.

  28. January 29, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    curate, RE #26,

    No, our argument does not rest upon a single parable. I could quote passage after passage from other books of the Bible.

    It is true that many godly theologians have taken your position, perhaps even a majority. It is also true that many able and godly theologians have taken the view defended in this post.

    People can indeed take your wooden read from those difficult passages rather than harmonize them across Scripture with the absolute sovereignty, immutability, and holiness of God. Some theologians have also taken those erroneous views. Most of them are either Arminians or Roman Catholics.

    Here’s the catch, though: such people cannot be officers in the PCA or any other orthodox Reformed denomination. That’s the whole point of these judicial cases. You can believe whatever you want, you can even worship fuzzy pink bunny ears in mountain caves while wearing fuchsia loin cloths in our free country, but you cannot shepherd the flock that God has led and entrusted to the PCA and our NAPARC brethren (BCO Preliminary Principle 2).

  29. January 29, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    tim,

    From a historical / human side we (and the Bible) speak of God’s starting and stopping of works here and there all the time.

    Not salvation. Phil 1:6, amongst others, specifically excludes any kind of temporary saving benefit.

  30. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Tim, #25:

    I apologize for my testiness in my original response here. Please forgive me, as it is not appropriate.

    Tim, whenever I engage in conversations of this nature, such as the FV subject, I routinely pray for two things (among others): 1) that God would grace me to show me my error, and 2) that God would grace my opponent the same.

    I applaud your effort to find some neutral ground, some common point from which to begin with agreement, a position which will support our efforts to explore and hopefully eliminate disagreements. While I’ve not alwasy been succesful in communicating such a commitment in my comments, I’ve hoped my efforts would be useful to such an end.

    Mine disagreement with your proposal for a starting point is not because I want to be wrapped around the axle. (Interesting phrase, please don’t assume that of me). Rather I disagree because your statements use language that in the history of this debate we who oppose the FV believe are equivocated upon by those who support the FV.

    Thus, if we said “yes”, the only result would be an ECT-like statement which all parties were free to interpret fundamental elements for themselves. This would offer no basis for building real unity, just the false unity offered in the world where we agree not to disagree by agreeing to pretend we’re saying the same thing when we’re not.

    Please, as you’re familiar with this debate, take a stab at addressing my concern. Don’t write off the effort as pointless.

  31. David Gadbois said,

    January 29, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Tim, you’re trying to hand-wave away the problems by sprinkling words like “covenantal” and “perspectival”. You still haven’t answered what it means to have “forgiveness A” in distinction from “forgiveness B”.

    Perspectival approaches may have their theological utility, but that doesn’t mean every doctrine or concept can be parsed that way. How can one be “forgiven” in one perspective but unforgiven in another perspective? You have to either posit these categories abstractly (without definition) or you have to give up on indexing the concept of forgiveness with God’s justice.

  32. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Paul, #22:

    Reed: there may be not much to argue over. I and Leithart and you and Murray and the FVJS all ‘affirm’ to one degree or another the visible/invisible distinction. I think the matter is one of emphasis.

    Wish I could agree, but I think this is an inadequate description of our differences. Jeff C’s response expresses this somewhat. It is much more than emphasis. The words mean different things in the FV system than they do in the classic reformed system. To say they do not is to be guilty of equivocation (whether intentional or not).

    I’m pretty much disappointed at your inability (I won’t assume unwillingness) to either affirm or deny the kinds of distinctions I’ve offered you in numerous posts here Paul. It almost feels like you’re ignoring my arguments, finding some edge to hang onto, and then throwing something else out.

    What gives?

  33. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Hi Roger, #26:

    How are things your side of the pond?

    Can you tell me where in Hebrews or elsewhere that the Exodus Generation (the one that fell in the wilderness) are said to have received temporarily (let’s call it) decretal forgiveness, i.e., the same forgiveness that the elect receive eternally?

    I’m willing to look at some exegesis with you. I suspect at this point that this is an interpretation based on the FV system, and therefore debatable. Of course, I may be wrong. Passage(s)?

  34. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    human limitations and uncertainty, combined with time to engage on the internet I think.

    Also, some of what you view as “equivocation” I think I view as analogical thinking. Temp faith and faith (or temp forgiveness, like that given by the lord in the parable, even if we still say YWHW never gives that kind of forgiveness) are both called faith. that’s not just equivocation, bt because there is ANALOGY between how the visible and covenantal works and should be discussed and what’s going on invisibly behind the scenes.

    We can discuss the differences of the inner working of the differing computer programs more, and the operating systems, (they do work differently) but the user interface is pretty much common to both.

    I’m averse to nailing down these things too well, because when I nailed things down I was a hypercalvinist zwinglian occasionalist.

    One of my favorite quotes is one from Bruce Waltke

    “The unchanging God is always pained by sin. Moreover, because he is immutable, he will always change his plans to do good if people persist in their sin: “If it [a nation] does evil in my sight, and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good that I had intended to do for it” (Jer 18:10, …) God’s change of mind about the human race at the time of the flood, is entirely consistent with his unchanging character. God is not fickle, he does not change his mind, including his mind to reconsider. People can count on God always to reconsider his original intention to do good or evil according to the human response.”

  35. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Pual: but the Bible nails it down more fully than you seem to want to do. I’ve given you quite a few “does this nail it down?” arguments.

    I understand your analogical thinking point, and do not think that applies here. Analogical thinking is what we do in reference to our knowing God. The subject in view however, centers on different classes of men.

    Seriously Paul, have you read some one like Turretin on Temporary Faith? Why not give that a shot for a few months, prayerfully debating his rational with the biblical record? Ignore my points, but don’t settle for an unwillingness to go as far as the Bible goes. This is what you appear to have said a number of times now.

  36. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Paul: Walkte is speaking of God’s revealed will. We also have some access to His secret will (i.e., what is stated in the Bible). E.g., we know election vs. reprobation exists, and we know more or less how they work, and their significance in salvation vs. condemnation.

    The FV appears to only want to consider people via God’s revealed will. Yet everywhere God introduces considerations from His secret will concerning mankind. The FV ends with errors because of a refusal to keep both wills in play.

  37. January 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Paul, curate, tim,

    I notice that none of you have answered the challenge at the end of my post. Instead of hashing over the same tired ground, how about answering the questions in straight-forward, clear language.

    How can God change His mind to forgive anyone when Scripture says He never changes His mind as I cite in the main post? What’s the mechanization behind this temporary forgiveness? Can God just not see the future to tell if someone will prove unworthy as in open theism? Or does He change His mind when people sin so that people lose forgiveness through their bad works as in Roman Catholicism?

    Unless you can answer those kinds of questions, your FV interpretation of Scripture fails through contradiction and inconsistency.

  38. David Gadbois said,

    January 29, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    It should be noted that the FV approach (which I was critiquing) is a bit different from what Romanists, Arminians, Lutherans, and folks like Curate advocate. The latter see no reason to equivocate on the matter – forgiveness is forgiveness and it can be lost. The FV posit the existence of a parallel ordo salutis where there is forgiveness, but then there is ‘forgiveness’. They try to posit two distinct categories of benefits formally, but cannot materially distinguish between the two.

  39. January 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    David,

    Well said. So noted.

  40. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    I’ve read Downame on temporary faith.

    Frankly I’m loosing the thread of the argument (mine included) among the several conversations. I appreciate your careful tone and consideration Reed.

    Maybe I’ll be fresher discussing this again next week.

  41. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Paul:

    Understood. Check out Turretin on the same.

  42. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Pduggie (#24): Jeff, is it not still the case that the definition in 25.1 includes future people?

    Not in the present moment. For neutrality’s sake, let’s call the view that “all who ever will be in Christ are currently members of the invisible church” the Time-Free Reading of 25.1. (TFR).

    Let’s make things clearer by considering an test-case: Bob won’t be born until 2035. According to the TFR, he’s currently a member of the invisible church.

    First, there’s a logical problem. Since Bob doesn’t exist, there is no “he” to be the subject of the sentence

    “he is a member…”

    But aside from that issue, take a look at WLC 64 and 65. The language in 64 is identical to the WCoF 25.1, so that the TFR would presumably read WLC 64 in the same way. Now, following on that, WLC 65 uses the present tense *again* to describe the benefits of belonging to the invisible church: All those in the invisible church enjoy union and communion…

    If we extend the hermeneutic of the TFR to WLC 65, we would have to conclude that all of the elect, even the currently unregenerate, are also currently enjoying union and communion with God.

    So no, the TFR doesn’t work. It must be the case that 25.1 is intended for the appropriate tense of “is” to apply: future in the case of future gathering, present in the case of presently gathered (and present in the case of past also, given their current life with Christ).

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Curate (#26):

    Hope you’re doing well!

    Actually the WHOLE of the letter to the Hebrews is about the real fact and possibility of falling away. The most quoted passages are the obvious ones in chapters 6 and 10, but the reality is that these are merely samples from the entire argument.

    The argument that the warnings are hypothetical falls upon the rock that an actual example is provided – an entire generation of people who once believed, received forgiveness, and then fell in the wilderness outside of the promised rest, through unbelief.

    I wrote a seminary paper arguing for the hypothetical reading, and then changed my mind later. Apparently, not only is the author of Hebrews unknown, but the correct reading of it as well. :)

    There are really three views to consider:

    (1) Genuine salvation, genuine fall;
    (2) Apparent or externally (and corporately) administered salvation, genuine fall; or
    (3) Hypothetical warnings.

    By arguing against (3), you still leave (2) as a live possibility. This is the route I would take in explaining the passage. What are the problems that you see?

    Jeff Cagle

  44. Brad B said,

    January 30, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Hi Jeff, regarding #3, I dont consider the warnings to be hypothethical at all, since IF the elect could fall, they’d possibly ignore the force of the warnings and suffer the consequences of failing to heed them. This is not a hypothetical fear being generated from hypothetical toothless words.

    They are meant to speak to the intended audience–those who are born again. They dont speak to those with no eyes to see or ears to hear, if they were intended for the dead, I might go along.

  45. Curate said,

    January 30, 2010 at 2:06 am

    Reed and Jeff

    I do not want to prove to you that the central argument of Hebrews is the real and present danger of apostasy, because it is not possible on the internet. You need to open your Bibles and do historical and grammatical exegesis of the WHOLE letter to convince yourselves. I have written my own verse by verse, passage by passage, commentary having twice (at least) taught it to a congregation.

    If you email me I will send you a digital copy so you can do the hard work of checking my exegesis properly.

    I am arguing from that thesis as a given starting point. What I am willing to do is support that argument from the rest of scripture, and in so doing to show you the strength of the reading using classical the Reformed method of inter-biblical cross-referencing.

    Briefly, here goes:

    Moses tells us that Israel believed the gospel in Egypt, at least, until they had crossed the Sea and entered the wilderness.

    Ex. 4:31 So the people believed; and when they heard that YHWH had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.
    Ex. 14:31 Thus Israel saw the great work which YHWH had done in Egypt; so the people feared YHWH, and believed YHWH and His servant Moses.

    After they had crossed, and praised God in faith upon seeing the corpses of their enemies washed up on the shore, they were put to the test by having food and water denied them for three days, whereupon they began to grumble. IOW they stopped trusting/believing. These people who had once believed eventually showed the mature fruit of unbelief by refusing to enter the land, whereupon they were sentenced to death.

    Today, if you will hear His voice:
    8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
    As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
    9 When your fathers tested Me;
    They tried Me, though they saw My work.
    10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
    And said, “It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
    And they do not know My ways.’
    11 So I swore in My wrath,
    “They shall not enter My rest.’”

    Their hearts started off with faith, but they hardened their hearts, and fell. It is this later state of unbelief that the Hebrews writer uses as the main warning against apostasy:

    Heb. 4:2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

    Clearly, the Bible teaches us that they believed, and then they did not.

    Your position is that they never believed, but only appeared to do so. Yes?

    It seems to me, then, that the onus of proof lied with you. Nowhere does the text say that they never believed. It says the opposite. If they never believed they never fell, and the entire argument of Hebrews is pointless and stupid.

    Frankly, it seems that your fixed idea about the impossibility of falling is preventing you from seeing what is written plainly before you.

    There is, of course, a class of people who appear to believe but who do not. That is a different point from this one.

    Regards

  46. Curate said,

    January 30, 2010 at 2:18 am

    Reformed Musings said: People can indeed take your wooden read from those difficult passages rather than harmonize them across Scripture with the absolute sovereignty, immutability, and holiness of God. EoQ.

    False opposition. You are assuming what you need to demonstrate. There is no opposition between the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and the reality of falling away. Demonstrate.

    There is another theologian who takes the same wooden approach as me, one Jean Calvin, who said that God in his immutable wisdom and sovereignty pleases to call some for a while, and to grant them his grace for a while, and then to justly remove it from them. Another two simpletons like me, Luther and Augustine, shared the same view.

    The irony is that you, who call yourself Reformed Musings, would bar the truly greatest theologians of our tradition from ministering in your NAPARC.

  47. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Roger: #44:

    Thanks, I’ll email for the paper.

    I’ve no problem beginning with you that the danger of apostasy is at least a major point of Hebrews, and trusting enough that you may be right so as to begin the discussion. The problem is that we both begin with differing presuppositions as to the nature of apostasy.

    I’ll respond more fully to your response a little later (have a breakfast meeting). A side not to end, when wanting to italicize your comment, beign with the “” marking (stuff in the quotes, not the quotes), and end with “” to end it. The forward slash stops the application of the charateristic. You may know this, and just forgot to do this in your comment. I went ahead and added them for you. More later.

  48. Paige Britton said,

    January 30, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Roger #44 wrote:

    “Their hearts started off with faith, but they hardened their hearts, and fell. It is this later state of unbelief that the Hebrews writer uses as the main warning against apostasy:
    Heb. 4:2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.”

    And Reed #46 wrote:

    “The problem is that we both begin with differing presuppositions as to the nature of apostasy.”

    I am interested in hearing what Reed sees as the difference in your views here, as I am wondering whether the Exodus statements about faith (4:31 & 14:31) might be referring to discrete INCIDENCES of belief, rather than a deeper, “saving” faith (like Abraham’s).

    I wonder this because of the comment in Numbers 20:12 in which God tells Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not BELIEVE IN ME, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them” (ESV). We know that Moses had the deeper, saving faith (he appeared with Elijah on the Mt. of Transfiguration, after all!), but here he is apparently being disciplined most sternly, as God sometimes disciplines his sons, for an INCIDENT of unbelief.

    Taking the Exodus passages as the flip side of this, I wonder if the Israelites (like Pharaoh during the plagues!) could have achieved in the flesh INCIDENCES of belief that were never the same as a deeper, saving faith, and whether, therefore, they did not commit apostasy (having never been believers) any more than Moses committed apostasy (having been truly saved).

    (I am also wondering how this conversation is going to be different this time around! I read through all 265 comments from that first post two Januaries ago, Reed!)

  49. Paige Britton said,

    January 30, 2010 at 9:16 am

    p.s. — I might have said that part wrong about apostasy at the end, but you guys can correct me. Where do you have to be standing in order to be guilty of apostasy? Within the company of the covenant community, or within the circle of true believers? For Roger, I think it’s the latter; for Reed maybe the former?

  50. David deJong said,

    January 30, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Hebr 10:29
    How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

    The three words “that sanctified him” are interesting. Do you believe in temporary sanctification?

  51. January 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Curate, RE #46,

    I’ve already done the work you suggest. You will find my exposition of the parable of the sower in this post and of Hebrews 6 in this follow-on post. Those posts are about the unregenerate in the visible church, which is at the core of this discussion. I also quote Calvin freely and in context. He doesn’t support your position, however people can and do cherry pick quotes that make it sound like he does. Your assertion that Calvin couldn’t be an officer in a NAPARC denomination is without foundation. Luther couldn’t because of his – catch the irony – Lutheran views. Augustine could not because of his distinct Roman Catholic views in other areas. Interesting red herring – totally irrelevant. All this ground has been plowed before. If we were beating a dead horse, it would be soup by now.

    I don’t think that anyone here is saying that you cannot believe whatever you like. As I said on another thread, the U.S. is a free country. You can worship pink bunny ears while wearing fuchsia loin cloths in mountain caves if you like. However, you cannot be an officer in the PCA while holding views that strike at the vitals of the Reformed faith as exposited in the Westminster Standards. Nor should one expect to do so. There are plenty of options as we’ve all repeatedly pointed out.

  52. David Weiner said,

    January 30, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Genesis 15:6 Then he (Abraham) believed in the Lord; and He (the Lord) reckoned it to him (Abraham) as righteousness.

    The object of the belief is the Lord; this belief must be saving faith since the result is a declaration of righteousness by the Lord.

    Exodus 4:31 So the people (each and every last individual?) believed; and when they heard that the Lord was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped.

    The object of the belief is 1) that the Lord was concerned about them and 2) that He (the Lord) had seen their affliction. Note in verse 30 the display of signs by Aaron. No declaration of righteousness is in view in this passage.

    Exodus 14:31 And when Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.. Again, signs and then belief. However, whatever the belief was, it was the same for the Lord and for Moses! No declaration of righteousness is in view here either.

    There is belief and then there is saving faith. No, each and every Israelite did not have saving faith which they then did not have at a later time. Scripture never has righteousness, once declared by the Lord, ever taken back from an individual. Righteousness only follows saving faith and not your every day, run of the mill faith or even one’s reaction to signs.

  53. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Roger, #44:

    The point of disagreement revolves around what is meant by “believe” in Ex 4:31:
    Ex. 4:31 So the people believed; and when they heard that YHWH had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.

    The Bible teaches there are two different types of belief (faith):

    1) That which is wrought in the human heart exclusively by the function of the fallen human, and
    1) That which is wrought in the human heart exclusively by the function of the Holy Spirit, and

    Your interpretation assumes that the latter, Spirit-wrought faith is what is in view in Ex 4:31. On the contrary, there is nothing in that verse, or the surrounding context, or the whole Bible that necessitates this.

    On the contrary, the Bible teaches that the believing in view in the Exodus Generation (those that fell away) is actually the former, fallen man wrought faith. This can be seen by comparing the similar language of Ex 14:31 (your second verse) with John 2:20-21:

    Ex. 14:31 Thus Israel saw the great work which YHWH had done in Egypt; so the people feared YHWH, and believed YHWH and His servant Moses.

    John 2:23 – 25 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people. 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

    In both passages there is a response of “believing” on the part of the people. In both passages the reason given for the belief response was the evidence of the miraculous works performed. I.e., this is the kind of belief that follows after man sees material evidence to convince him to believe. This is the definition of fallen-man wrought belief; it is the rational response to empirical evidence. This is the belief of the rationalist.

    John 24a interestingly notes that Jesus did not reciprocate their belief. The word used for Jesus’ belief response is the same one used for the people’s belief response (translated differently in the English, same in the Greek).What we must conclude is that did not considered their belief to worthy of His affirmation, that it was a belief that was inconsistent, faulty in some manner. This is the chief characteristic of fallen man wrought faith.

    John 24b-25 explains why Jesus did not trust the belief response of these people. John 24b says it is because he knew all people. That is he understood what is common to all fallen people. John 25 explains what Jesus understood to be common to all fallen people. He knew what is in fallen people. The “in” denotes that Jesus is referring to the spiritual nature (i.e., inward) of fallen people.

    I.O.W. Jesus assessed their belief to be rooted in their fallen nature. It was fallen man wrought faith, fickle, and subject to defect, to falling away. Indeed Jesus himself provokes this falling away of the “believers” in John 6.

    Note the similarities between the “Jesus Generation” (John2:23-25) and the Exodus Generation. Both offered a faith which is described as a response of belief to the empirical evidences presented. The passages are parallel. Thus, the falling away attributed to Exodus Generation by Hebrews is of the same nature as the falling away of this Jesus Generation. Both were not the perseverant belief of Spirit wrought faith. Rather both were examples of the apostatizing belief of fallen man wrought faith.

    I conclude Roger where I begin. We both bring presuppositions as to the nature of apostasy to the text of Hebrews, and in that regard are more or less consistent in our interpretation. The source of the disagreement lies in the fact that one of us is using faulty presuppositions.

    With respect, I hope I have shown why I believe this fault rests with yours. Hebrews does not teach a falling away from Spirit wrought faith. It teaches a falling away from fallen man wrought faith.

  54. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    Paige, #48: see no. 52 for my differetiation in terms of apostasy from belief.

    Yes, it would be nice if we could plow differently this time.

  55. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Reed (#52): This is the definition of fallen-man wrought belief; it is the rational response to empirical evidence. This is the belief of the rationalist.

    Or the emotionalist, thinking about American church history.

    Curate, I think I have your e-mail addy already. I’d be happy to consider your work on Hebrews.

    Just to give an idea of where I’m coming from: one of the methods I often use in thinking about the meaning of the text is falsification: if the reading of the text is torn between two or more options, I look for something that can falsify one or more of those options.

    In the case of Hebrews, we are getting conflicting signals about the faith of those who fell away. On the one hand, it is said of them in Ex. that they believed; here in Hebrews, it says that they did not.

    You have interpreted those signals to mean:

    Faith (at Pharaoh’s downfall) –> Unbelief (later) in the same people.

    But as you can see, other options have been raised that explain the disparity:

    Faith (in external blessings) –> Unbelief (in God’s salvation) — David W’s option.
    False faith — Reed’s option.
    Faith viewed from man’s point of view, but not from God’s — my option.

    Any of these are potentially live options, so now we go looking to falsify one or more.

    For my part, it seems clear to me that as the author to the Hebrews evaluates the Israelites that fell, he begins with the thesis: they did not combine hearing with faith (3.7ff and ch. 4). This is a very different evaluation from, “They began with faith, but then they lost that faith.” So already, we are moved to evaluate the “faith” in Exodus as something other than the belief that the author to the Hebrews is talking about. Here, I’m appealing to the idea that the NT should shed light on the OT.

    Importantly, in 4, we find more evidence that steers us away from the faith –> unbelief reading.

    Those who have faith, he says, enter God’s rest; those who do not, never do. Importantly, no-one ever enters God’s rest, then leaves it.

    This suggests that the rest is unleaveable, either because it is eschatological (Gaffin) or because it is permanent once entered into.

    We could march through the whole book — best to do that offline — but you can see that to be persuaded of your view, I would need to see evidence that falsifies the other possibilities.

    In my view, seeing the Israelites’ faith as an outwardly expressed, man-observed faith makes a whole lot of sense of the warnings of ch. 6 and 10, along with the qualifier in 6.9.

    Regards,
    Jeff Cagle

  56. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Jeff: I think we’re more or less on the same page here.

  57. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 30, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    I mentioned the two views of faith, man’s outward view and God’s inward view. John 2 (thanks, Reed!) and 6.25ff. are both examples of this.

    But since you brought up Calvin, I thought it would be good to mention that Calvin takes this visible/invisible view also — not only of the church, but also of the individual believer.

    There is in Calvin a secret election, that leads to saving faith (Inst. 3.21.7). The elect he calls “the remnant”; but also, there are “children of Abraham according to the flesh.”

    So there are those outwardly participating and showing the signs of salvation, but there are those who actually possess it.

    Of the apostates, he then says,

    Calv Inst 3.24.7: But it daily happens that those who seemed to belong to Christ revolt from him and fall away: Nay, in the very passage where he declares that none of those whom the Father has given to him have perished, he excepts the son of perdition. This, indeed, is true; but it is equally true that such persons never adhered to Christ with that heartfelt confidence by which I say that the certainty of our election is established: “They went out from us,” says John, “but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued with us,” (1 John 2:19). I deny not that they have signs of calling similar to those given to the elect; but I do not at all admit that they have that sure confirmation of election which I desire believers to seek from the word of the gospel. Wherefore, let not examples of this kind move us away from tranquil confidence in the promise of the Lord, when he declares that all by whom he is received in true faith have been given him by the Father, and that none of them, while he is their Guardian and Shepherd, will perish (John 3:16; 6:39). Of Judas we shall shortly speak (sec. 9). Paul does not dissuade Christians from security simply, but from careless, carnal security, which is accompanied with pride, arrogance, and contempt of others, which extinguishes humility and reverence for God, and produces a forgetfulness of grace received (Rom. 11:20).

    You can see that the structure he presents is similar to what I argue above: there are those who present the outward manifestations of faith, but who never adhered to Christ.

    Jeff Cagle

  58. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 30, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Reed (#55): I think so. I know my terminology is funny: “faith from man’s point of view / from God’s point of view”.

  59. January 30, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Faith has historically had three components in Reformed theology – knowledge, assent, and trust, or in Latin notitia, assensus, and fiducia. Until you trust in Christ alone for your salvation, you have not reached the fiducia level. After all, James warns the even the demons believe and tremble in Ja 2:19. Yet, they do not trust and are therefore condemned. Simply to believe at the assent level doesn’t yield saving faith.

    I think that this historic concept parallels Reed’s definition of non-saving belief in #53 above:

    That which is wrought in the human heart exclusively by the function of the fallen human

  60. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Bob, #59: yes, and no (I think).

    I would say that there is notitia and assensus for the fallen man wrought faith, but it is not the same notitia and assensus for the Spirit wrought faith. At the very least, we’re dealing with noetic orientied distinctions here. I.e., the significance of the distinction between new man / old man.

    As to fiducia, I would more or less concur (would like to study it more). This quality of faith is only seen in those in whom the Spirit resides.

  61. Paige Britton said,

    January 30, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Jeff & Reed,

    I’m following what you are saying (and agree!), but I am wondering if you noticed what I was saying (in #48), about the particular examples of belief (Ex. 4:31; 14:31) and unbelief (Num. 20:12) apparently being about something less than ultimate (saving) faith. If either of you has a moment, can you look back & tell me if you think I am making valid observations, and also clarify the bit about apostasy (#49)?

    Thanks, profs!! (from the junior scholar)
    pb
    p.s. – oh, that’s funny, my brother-in-law is Jeff Reed. :)

  62. January 30, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Reed, RE #60,

    As to fiducia, I would more or less concur (would like to study it more). This quality of faith is only seen in those in whom the Spirit resides.

    That was my point. Only the elect receive the Spirit’s gift of saving faith – the total package of knowledge, assent, and trust.

  63. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Bob: good, I understood :)

  64. January 30, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Reed,

    Sorry about the imprecision. It must be the snow piling up around me.

  65. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Paige: I don’t think I trak wuith your point on Nb 20:12. Assuming Moses is saved :-), I think the issue is more described as a deficiency of his belief. To characterize it as a moment of unbelief leaves open a host of quiestions. Eg., are we saying Moses had a momentary apostasy?

    The distinctions I offered Roger go beyond that. It is not that there is a scale of belief, with degrees of adequacy/inadequacy between two poles: faith which perseveres and faith which fails. Rather, the Bible teaches two differing kinds, two different species of faith if you will. I’m reflectin here quite a bit on Paul’s teaching concerning the old man/new man, flesh/spirit, old age/new age, etc.

    The Christian’s experience of Spirit wrought faith is in the context of the old man/age/flesh. Thus it is not perfect in its experience. Yet it is categorically different than fallible faith in that it will persevere. The one fails beause there is no Spirit at the center of that faith. The perseveres, in spite of moments of deficiency, because the Spirit is present.

    Hope this helps. And please, no professor for me. I’ve read some of your writings – more like brother and sister talking.

  66. ray said,

    January 30, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Thank you Mr. Mattes for showing how Biblical Exegesis works … I also see the idea is lost on FV freaks …

  67. Wes White said,

    January 30, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Bob, I had some comments on your post, but they are too long to post here. I thought I would just go ahead and write a post on it.

    http://johannesweslianus.blogspot.com/2010/01/comments-on-arminian-doctrine-of.html

  68. January 30, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Wes,

    Nice post. Thanks for taking time and thought to put it together. Still no FV takers here on my request for explanation at the end of my post. Maybe you’ll have a better response.

  69. Curate said,

    January 31, 2010 at 2:29 am

    No. 53. Reed, I agree with your distinction between human wrought faith and God wrought faith. Our disagreement does not lie there. All agree that there is a faith that does not justify.

    I am arguing for a third category of faith, a faith that is real but temporary. Here is Calvin:

    Calvin’s Institutes (3.24.8): “there is a universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savour of death, and the ground of severer condemnation.

    Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts.

    Sometimes, however, he communicates it [i.e., the special call] also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness”

  70. Reed Here said,

    January 31, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Roger: yes, familiar with Calvin here. What do you think of Turretin’s explanation of such temporary faith? Following Calvin, he makes it clear that the third faith you label is a variant of man-wrought faith, not a variant of Spirit-wrought faith.

    I go back and say this is the key distinction. Affirming this third type of faith is Spirit-wrought variant leads to Arminianism necessarily.

    The Spirit does illumine these who possess this third faith. Yet it is an illumination that works only to restrain the effects of the curse on their fallen natures. It in no way temporarily transforms their nature.

    Surely Roger, such formulation protects the significance of the “tasting” which youu and I both want to preserve. At the same time, is it not more consistent with witness of Scripture that what is Spirit-wrought is eternal?

  71. January 31, 2010 at 7:43 am

    Curate,

    That entire section of the Institutes was written to refute the notion for which you argue. From 3.24.7:

    But it daily happens that those who seemed to belong to Christ revolt from him and fall away: Nay, in the very passage where he declares that none of those whom the Father has given to him have perished, he excepts the son of perdition. This, indeed, is true; but it is equally true that such persons never adhered to Christ with that heartfelt confidence by which I say that the certainty of our election is established: “They went out from us,” says John, “but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would, no doubt, have continued 2247with us,” (1 John 2:19). I deny not that they have signs of calling similar to those given to the elect; but I do not at all admit that they have that sure confirmation of election which I desire believers to seek from the word of the gospel. Wherefore, let not examples of this kind move us away from tranquil confidence in the promise of the Lord, when he declares that all by whom he is received in true faith have been given him by the Father, and that none of them, while he is their Guardian and Shepherd, will perish (John 3:16; 6:39). Of Judas we shall shortly speak (sec. 9). Paul does not dissuade Christians from security simply, but from careless, carnal security, which is accompanied with pride, arrogance, and contempt of others, which extinguishes humility and reverence for God, and produces a forgetfulness of grace received (Rom. 11:20). For he is addressing the Gentiles, and showing them that they ought not to exult proudly and cruelly over the Jews, in consequence of whose rejection they had been substituted in their stead. He also enjoins fear, not a fear under which they may waver in alarm, but a fear which, teaching us to receive the grace of God in humility, does not impair our confidence in it, as has elsewhere been said. We may add, that he is not speaking to individuals, but to sects in general (see 1 Cor. 10:12). The Church having been divided into two parties, and rivalship producing dissension, Paul reminds the Gentiles that their having been substituted in the place of a peculiar and holy people was a reason for modesty and fear. For there were many vain-glorious persons among them, whose empty boasting it was expedient to repress. But we have elsewhere seen, that our hope extends into the future, even beyond death, and that nothing is more contrary to its nature than to be in doubt as to our future destiny.

    Note that they have the outward signs, but not the gift of election. Later in 3.24.8, Calvin makes it clear that only the elect receive the call to regeneration:

    I admit that this branch of the parable is to be understood of those who, by a profession of faith, enter the Church, but are not at all invested with the sanctification of Christ. Such disgraces to his Church, such cankers God will not always tolerate, but will cast them forth as their turpitude deserves. Few, then, out of the great number of called are chosen; the calling, however, not being of that kind which enables believers to judge of their election. The former call is common to the wicked, the latter brings with it the spirit of regeneration, which is the earnest and seal of the future inheritance by which our hearts are sealed unto the day of the Lord (Eph. 1:13, 14). In one word, while hypocrites pretend to piety, just as if they were true worshipers of God, Christ declares that they will ultimately be ejected from the place which they improperly occupy, as it is said in the psalm, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart,” (Psalm 15:1, 2). Again in another passage, “This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob,” (Psalm 24:6). And thus the Spirit exhorts believers to patience, and not to murmur because Ishmaelites are mingled with them in the Church since the mask will at length be torn off, and they will be ejected with disgrace.

    Again note that there are only two categories: the reprobate and the elect. There’s no 1/2 way who are regenerated and then rejected. From 3.24.9 on Judas:

    The same account is to be given of the passage lately quoted, in which Christ says, that none is lost but the son of perdition (John 17:12). The expression is not strictly proper; but it is by no means obscure: for Judas was not numbered among the sheep of Christ, because he was one truly, but because he held a place among them. Then, in another passage, where the Lord says, that he was elected with the apostles, reference is made only to the office, “Have I not chosen you twelve,” says he, “and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). That is, he had chosen him to the office of apostle. But when he speaks of election to salvation, he altogether excludes him from the number of the elect, “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen,” (John 13:18). Should any one confound the term election in the two passages, he will miserably entangle himself; whereas if he distinguish between them, nothing can be plainer.

    Judas is used as a prime example, perhaps THE example, of someone who receives the outward call, appeared indistinguishable from the elect for a time, but was never actually saved. Calvin teaches very clearly against a temporary saving faith when taken in context.

  72. GLW Johnson said,

    January 31, 2010 at 9:08 am

    The good bishop of Moscow sees all of this kind of theological bickering in terms of ‘gnat-swallowing’ from the small-minded strict confessionalists in the PCA. My, my what will he do next?

  73. January 31, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Gary,

    Ah, but will the gnat be temporarily forgiven?

    I stopped reading that stuff a couple of years ago. When they can’t answer the implications of their own theology with solid exegesis, they just resort to ad hominem attacks that they think are clever. Not worth my time.

  74. Paige Britton said,

    January 31, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Reed – #65
    Thanks for your feedback! Just to clarify, you wrote:
    “Paige: I don’t think I track with your point on Nb 20:12. Assuming Moses is saved :-), I think the issue is more described as a deficiency of his belief. To characterize it as a moment of unbelief leaves open a host of questions. Eg., are we saying Moses had a momentary apostasy?”

    My thought was that Moses was being disciplined for a discrete INCIDENT of unbelief — i.e., though we are not told directly what this was, there was something in the story of the 2nd rock that amounted to Moses not believing God *in a certain instance, about a certain thing,* and that this was serious enough to disqualify him from entrance into the promised land. But no, we cannot say that he momentarily did not believe in God in a saving way (or “committed momentary apostasy”) because we learn elsewhere in Scripture that Moses had saving faith. (Parallel: Zechariah’s unbelief re. the angel’s announcement [Lk 1] amounted to Z not believing God *in a certain instance, about a certain thing,* and resulted in temporal discipline, but was not apostasy.)

    I am noticing that there may be a parallel in the language of the texts between Moses DISbelieving God in a discrete situation, and the Israelites BELIEVING God in discrete situations (as I think was David’s point above, about what it meant for them to “believe” in those Exodus verses). It just seems to me to strengthen the case against the Israelites ever having had true, saving faith to note that “belief” and “disbelief” could be used to talk about *particular circumstances,* not necessarily always only *saving* circumstances.

    Sorry if that’s confusing — I may be crazy, or I may be intuitively grasping something difficult to express. Thanks for letting me try!
    pb

  75. ray said,

    January 31, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Curate in post 69 you stated:

    “I am arguing for a third category of faith, a faith that is real but temporary.” Here is Calvin:

    Calvin has many such monkeys on his back … but regardless of that if it is your intent to argue a temporary faith which is real … then I can honestly state that what you are in fact arguing for is nothing but semi pelagian and arminian babble poisoning the reformed faith.

    I can say that because The Canons Of Dort – 5th Head of Doctrine – in the rejection of errors states thus:

    “The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those:

    VII. Who teach: That the faith of those, who believe for a time, does not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in duration.”

    As soon as I seen your statement … the red flags came up straight way.

    Your left with 2 options … either you recant your argument and see the danger of it … or you continue your pathetic merry way into FV Freakville where semi pelagians and arminians of stripes are welcomed and applauded.

    I’m seriously hoping the former …

  76. Paige Britton said,

    January 31, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    #69-71, Reed, Bob, & Roger,
    It’s interesting to me how the conversation is really a mix of exegetical and theological thinking. On the one hand, God does in Scripture sometimes prompt people to different temporary reactions via his Spirit, some of which reactions seem of an “ordo-salutis” variety – e.g., Pharaoh & Nebuch. repenting, Saul prophesying. When Calvin writes what Roger quoted –

    “Sometimes, however, he communicates it [i.e., the special call] also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness”

    – he is simply making an observation about what happens in **Scripture** in certain narratives. (MAYBE he is also generalizing – but certainly he is at least simply describing what he notices in the text.)

    But on the other hand, as Bob quotes further, Calvin’s big-picture understanding makes sense of those incidents and places them in the context of the NT teaching about saving faith, meaning faith that perseveres.

    And, really, the special instances described in Scripture of the Spirit “enlightening people only for a time” are likely NOT to be generalizable, since they had their specific part to play in redemptive-historical history!

  77. January 31, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Paige,

    And, really, the special instances described in Scripture of the Spirit “enlightening people only for a time” are likely NOT to be generalizable, since they had their specific part to play in redemptive-historical history!

    We may be able to generalize if we put it in the larger context of God’s sovereignty, providence, and the working out of His eternal decree. God ordains all the comes to pass, and He’s free to use direct or secondary means. Certainly Saul’s gift of prophesy, an ability, came from God, but it wasn’t a saving gift. It was given for a time, then removed according to God’s good pleasure. I believe that Calvin’s reference to “enlightenment” was along this line.

    But, forgiveness and justification are not abilities, they are states of existence (ontological, if you will). These are also gifts from God, but Scripture clearly teaches that these state changes are permanent.

    So, gifts of abilities like prophesy or understanding of a particular issue can be temporary for a purpose, but the gifts of state changes – i.e., regeneration, forgiveness, justification – are always permanent. One doesn’t have to undergo a state change to receive the gift of an ability. That’s another way to approach the issue.

  78. Curate said,

    January 31, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    no. 55, Jeff.

    The readings that you and Reed are defending are possible interpretations. I have no problem in admitting that. I would like to see more of an admission from the two of you that there is a large element of judgement in deciding what the text is saying.

    The question is this: which of the options is the most likely, the most in accord with the rest of scripture?

    I struggle with your assertion that the Israelites did not have faith, because the text says elsewhere that they did. I struggle with the assertion that God cannot and does not rescind forgiveness, on systematic grounds, when scripture clearly says that he does, and why.

    These are major problems.

    On the Calvin quote, regarding the third category he mentions, that of temporary enlightenment, he clearly says that it is God wrought, not man wrought:

    Sometimes, however, he communicates it [i.e., the special call] also to those whom he enlightens only for a time, and whom afterwards, in just punishment for their ingratitude, he abandons and smites with greater blindness”

    Does Turretin acknowledge this? I have Turretin. What is the chapter and item number you mean? RF, read Calvin again. He mentions three things there, not two, and the third option is not in view in the passages you quoted.

  79. Curate said,

    January 31, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Reed, on the charge that the third option leads necessarily to Arminianism, could you demonstrate why you think that?

    My view is that only the elect will be saved in the end, and that there will be no additions or subtractions from that number. Those who receive temporary enlightenment and faith belong on the number of the reprobate, and they cannot and will not be saved at the end.

    Given these facts, could you tell me why they lead necessarily to Arminianism?

  80. David Gray said,

    January 31, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    >you continue your pathetic merry way into FV Freakville where semi pelagians and arminians of stripes are welcomed and applauded.

    Why not reveal your last name as well so your shame may be complete?

  81. Reed Here said,

    January 31, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Ray, #75: please back off the harsh tone.

    Reed DePace
    (sub) moderator

  82. Reed Here said,

    January 31, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Roger, multiple posts:

    I must admit to being perplexed at your responses (taken as a whole). Interestingly I went and checked out those same passages in Calvin (among others) and found support for what I believe I am saying. Clearly there is misunderstanding. To the degree that it is my fault (all or part), I do apologize.

    Rather than try to track down the exact location of the misunderstanding (a process which usually leads to a chain of misunderstandings), let me simply restate the position for which I am arguing. I understand this position be in opposition to what the FV teaches. I’ll not speak to what you hold to, instead leaving it up to you to either accept one of my positions, or perfect it as you see fit according the biblical pattern.

    More in next post.

  83. Reed Here said,

    January 31, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Roger: o.k., third faith. The question still is this a faith in which the reprobate church member (RCM) has a temporary experience of a Spirit-wrought faith, or is this just another variety of man-wrought faith?

    I think that Calvin argues the latter. Begin in the prior section of Calvin, which you quote at length above. Note the following emphasis:

    Institutes, III.24.7: And I do not deny that they have signs of a call that are similar to those of the elect, but I by no means concede to them that sure establishment of election which I bid believers seek from the word of the gospel.

    Calvin notes that the signs (external evidences) of the call to which the RCM responds are “similar.” He makes it clear that in the rest of this quote that he says “similar” to denote that theses signs are not the same as the signs experienced by the elect.

    Further reading in the section of Calvin you originally quoted makes things even clearer. Calvin, with reference to Mt 22:1-14 (parable of the wedding feast of the king’s son), says the following:

    Institutes, III.24.8: Up to this point everyone sees that the parable is to be understood of the outward call.

    To be sure it is the Spirit’s call in view (Calvin’s emphasis on the Spirit’s illumination). Yet Calvin differentiates this from the inward/effectual call heard by the elect.

    He qualifies the differences even further here:

    For this call is common also to the wicked, but the other [i.e., the call heard by the elect] bears with it the Spirit of regeneration [cf. Tit 3:5], the guarantee and seal of the inheritance to come [Eph 1:13-14], with which our hearts are sealed [2Co 1:22] unto the day of the Lord.

    Note in particular that what is lacking from the call heard by the RCM is the Spirit of regeneration. In other words, Calvin would not agree with the FV that the RCM receive a temporary experience of that which is experienced by the elect.

    Call it a third faith if you will. Ultimately it is a species of Man-wrought. Yes the Spirit “illumines” (a word with more than one meaning in Scripture). Yet in the RCM this illumination serves to enable the RCM to profess a faith whose sole source is their own fallen natures. All that they experience in their life in the Church therefore is merely external. Their souls were never in any way converted.

    This Calvin maintains, as does the Scripture.

  84. Reed Here said,

    January 31, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Roger: I say Arminianism for the following reasons:

    It sounds to me that you are arguing for a second type of regenerative experience, one that is fallible and temporary. In such a structure you are formally not Arminian. This is because the Arminian position is that what is lost by the reprobate is actually the same regenerative experience as that experienced by the elect.

    I say that nevertheless your fallible second type of regenerative experience is “Arminian” in that it ends the same way, with a real experience of regeneration being lost. Whether it is:

    Spirit-wrought Faith type 1 that is lost (the faith experiencd by the elect, the Arminian argument) or

    Spirit-wrought Faith type 2 that is lost (the faith experienced by the reprobate, the same as the elect’s but only temporary, your argument),

    The end result is the same. Hence I call it Arminian (de facto if you prefer).

  85. Reed Here said,

    January 31, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    Paige, #74: I guess I’m finding “incident of unbelief” a little unclear.

    Try this on for size: Moses’ incident of unbelief flowed from the presence of the flesh in his regenerative condition. It was nothing more than the ordinary failings experience by the regenerated/non-glorified elect all the time.

    The reprobates incident of belief flowed from the exercise of his fallen human falculties. Unlike the opposite with Moses, there is no regenerative experience in the reprobate.

    I.O.W., the comparison is not one for one, not apples and apples.

  86. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 31, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Curate (#78): I would like to see more of an admission from the two of you that there is a large element of judgement in deciding what the text is saying.

    Freely admitted: Hebrews is hard. Recall that I changed my mind after writing my paper.

    I struggle with your assertion that the Israelites did not have faith, because the text says elsewhere that they did.

    I would not say that exactly. I would say that Scripture speaks to what man sees on the outside, without qualifying it as ‘to outward appearances’. So for example, in the parable of the soils, the shallow and thorny soils are described as “having received the word” — but we see later that they “did not receive it in a good heart.”

    Likewise in the case of the Israelites, I would say that in Ex., they all outwardly professed faith. The Scripture says of them, ‘they believed.’

    But what God sees is something different, and more real.

    So rather than saying that the Hebrews had no faith, I would say that they had faith in man’s view of things; but they were not received by God because they did not “combine hearing with faith” in reality.

    I struggle with the assertion that God cannot and does not rescind forgiveness, on systematic grounds, when scripture clearly says that he does, and why.

    You have in mind the parable of the two servants, and the teaching after the Lord’s prayer?

    See, I struggle with the assertion that God could seal us with the HS as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, and then have that deposit “fall through”, so to speak. The point of sealing us with the HS is to make our election sure.

    So how do you put this together with that?

    Jeff Cagle

  87. David Gadbois said,

    January 31, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Some folks think they are “Calvinist” or “Reformed” simply because they believe in predestination. Particularist baptists have this problem, as do FVers and their ilk.

    There is nothing inherently self-contradictory about saying that one can be predestined to be justified and then lose said justification. Granted. But that still doesn’t mean such a position makes a lick of sense – or that it is Reformed. One could similarly say that we are predestined to earn our salvation, but while this may embrace a robust doctrine of predestination, it too is not Reformed.

    Sorry, folks, while being Reformed is about more than just the 5 Canons or Dordt, it certainly is not less than the 5 Canons. Dordt is not negotiable. Would that the FVers take the log out of their eye before lecturing 5-sola, 5-point credobaptists.

  88. Curate said,

    February 1, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Jeff and Reed.

    I am not a regular reader of this blog. Returning here after quite an absence I have found a new willingness to engage the actual argument that I am making, and a willingness to recognize strong points without conceding the argument, which is all that I ask for.

    I am happy for you to continue in your views, as I can clearly see why you argue as you do. I consider that both off our arguments fall within the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy, even if you do not. I am secure enough in my own doctrine not to be worried by accusations of being either Arminian or plain stupid.

    I believe that you are making a mistake in condemning and excluding the view that there is a class of person whom God illuminates, only to later withdraw that grace. You are unnecessarily narrowing the bounds of orthodoxy to your own hurt, IMO.

    The same situation occurred at the Council of Dort, where the motion to condemn a view similar to mine was debated, and defeated. The English Delegation, completely Reformed at the time, argued that, although they agreed with your view, it would be unwise to proceed with a condemnation.

    They pointed out that many of the greatest and godliest teachers of our tradition had held my view, having been persuaded to their own satisfaction by scripture. They mentioned Augustine and Prosper, refered to others who were contemporaries, men who believed in absolute predestination, which doctrine it was the central business of Dort to defend against the Remonstrants.

    They did not grant that it led to Arminianism, or they would surely have condemned it.

    The Reformed Churches of the time had a strong desire to be reunited with the Lutherans, going back to the original Reformation. There was only ONE point of difference between the two Protestant churches at that time, the physical presence of Christ in the Supper, and there was a hope, forlorn perhaps, that it could be surmounted.

    And so the English Church argued that since the Lutherans, brothers in the true faith, would be unnecessarily offended and further alienated by this condemnation, it should be abandoned.

    They won the argument.

    You are being more hardline than Dort.

    Are you being wise?

  89. Curate said,

    February 1, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Back to the argument.

    Jeff and Reed, would I be correct in thinking that your position boils down to the fact that the gift of the Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing eventual salvation? And that this excludes the possibility of the gift being withdrawn?

    These are strong arguments.

    We all believe in the inerrancy of scripture, so we cannot play off the text against itself. Therefore we have to place next to those teachings other inerrant teachings that say that the deposit that guarantees, the gift of the Spirit, can be taken away. We have to place next to the texts that teach that none who have been given to the Son will be lost, the texts that say that those who fall away will be lost. We have to believe both that justification is for the whole of one’s life, and that justification can and will be rescinded under certain conditions.

    We have to do so in a way that does not nullify any text of scripture. We have to subordinate our reason and logic to scripture, and believe everything that is written.

    David Gadbois grants that “There is nothing inherently self-contradictory about saying that one can be predestined to be justified and then lose said justification”.

    Whatever else he means, and whatever else I mean, there is the recognition that I am not erring by breaking the law of non-contradiction. (One may be predestined to be justified without being predestined to eternal salvation).

    I am arguing that these apparently opposing texts can be reconciled by the existence of the third category of temporary salvation.

    You object that if the gift of the Spirit is lost, then the guarantee is worthless.

    I reply that that would indeed be the case if there were not a qualifying clause added to it. I believe that there is a qualifying clause – that it is those who persevere to the end who will be saved. The doctrine is not Once-Saved-Always-Saved.

    It is the existence of this warning, this qualification, that needs to be given its proper weight.

    Does God withdraw effectual salvation? He does if it is despised. He does if faith turns into unbelief. “Why would he not grant the gift of perseverance in every case as well?” you ask. Because it pleases him so to do in some cases.

    These question resolve into the sovereignty of God.

  90. Curate said,

    February 1, 2010 at 3:02 am

    Ray, no.75 said: I can say that because The Canons Of Dort – 5th Head of Doctrine – in the rejection of errors states thus: “The true doctrine having been explained, the Synod rejects the errors of those: VII. Who teach: That the faith of those, who believe for a time, does not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in duration.”

    Ray, I have not spoken to this point at all. I am sure that there may be many ways in which temporary faith differs from persevering faith. I am observing that scripture calls temporary faith … faith, and that it calls temporary forgiveness … forgiveness. Scripture also says that these people have received the Spirit, and warns that the Spirit may be withdrawn.

    i wonder how forgiveness can possibly be understood to be NOT forgiveness?

    I may well be a freak, but could you explain to me how forgiveness is not-forgiveness, and I am still in Kansas?

    Peace.

  91. Reed Here said,

    February 1, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Roger, multiple posts

    I appreciate your caution. I do prayerfully consider it, in fact even as I work through your responses, I ask, am I being faithful to what the Scriptures teach. I will continue to do so.

    I have no problem agreeing that the issue if judgment is serious in Hebrews. Thought I’d acknowledged that when I agreed that the danger of apostasy is the premier issue in Hebrews. Hopefully I’m a little clearer here.

    With David, I agree that your position is logically coherent. You appear to be asserting a second type of Spirit-wrought faith (SWF), one that can be lost. I here you arguing:

    SWF1: that which the elect receive,
    SWF2: that which the reprobate church member receives,

    With these both:

    > Inwardly regenerative works of the Spirit, a transformative work of the Spirit.
    > Outwardly manifesting themselves the same way,

    With one exception, namely that SWF1 perseveres, whereas SWF2 does not, because the Spirit gives this to the former but not the latter.

    This is all from the decretal perspective, I assume, correct? If I’ve understood correctly, then again, seems completely logically consistent to me.

    I just think it’s wrong because I do not see the Bible teaching this. E.g., the Exodus Generation had a faith. I’ve demonstrated why on the basis of John 2:23-25 I believe this is a Man-wrought faith (MWF). To be sure, a MWF as a response to the Spirit’s illumining. Yet this is an illumining that does not regenerate. It only mitigates the effects of the curse so that temporarily the reprobate church member can through the use of his own faculties give evidence similar (as Calvin said) to those given by the elect.

    When such a one falls away, he falls away only outwardly from what he professed. This is because there never was anything inwardly. (Note, we’ve discussed before that outwardly does not mean no soulish response, just no Spiritual presence).

    On what exegetical basis do you believe the Exodus Generation had a SWF (either 1 or 2)? I’ve looked at what you’ve provided so far, and find it insufficient because of passages like John 2:23-25.

    As to the Arminian charge, I did not mean that as a pejorative. I was using solely for classification purposes. I.O.W., I was only saying that your position seems to be to a variation, but essentially Arminian. Come up with a different classification if we need to do so. It is not reformed, nor in my estimation consistent with the Bible.

    As to the history of the Council of Dordt, for the sake of the discussion here I’ll concede that your explanation is accurate (I do not know the history to that detail). I’ll simply state that if this is so, then they were wrong to not categorize your position as I have.

    Thanks for your concern about my narrowing of orthodoxy. I do not believe that is what I was doing. I’ve never maintained, as some, that the FV is heretical. If I’ve not made that point to you in the past, please forgive me for letting you assume something I do not think this.

    And yes, I appreciate our interaction in spite of our disagreeing, brother.

  92. David Weiner said,

    February 1, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I believe that the only place in Scripture where there is the possibility of a ‘qualifying clause’ on the seal of the Holy Spirit is during the Olivet discourse. Since Jesus is talking; this clearly takes place before the members of Christ’s body had the indwelling Holy Spirit or that there even was a ‘body of Christ.’ (Up to the Cross, His own physical body worked just fine!) So context is, of course, crucial.

    Looking at the discourse in Mark, we see in 13:10 “And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations.

    Has that happened yet? I think not.

    Then verse 13 which talks about what happens AFTER verse 10. Mark 13:13 “And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.

    There is a very specific ‘you’ and a very specific ‘end’ in view here. The ‘you’ is not any of us (believers alive in 2010) or any who came before us. Furthermore, the ‘end’ talked about is not the ‘end’ of an individual believer’s life. So, this does not have to do with the individual believer remaining faithful until he/she dies or else risk God taking away their justification.

    But, if we want to take this verse out of context, then we can paint our God as one who makes a clear promise in many places and then hides the caveat in the weeds. Sorry, not my God.

  93. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 1, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Curate and Reed,

    One helpful clarifying question here would be to decide whether man-wrought faith “covers” the set of SWF2. That is, are you are arguing over different sets of people or simply mechanism?

    Jeff

  94. rfwhite said,

    February 1, 2010 at 10:46 am

    If the question I’m about to ask has been discussed, just let me know in which comments above. (I may have inadvertently skipped the relevant interaction above.)

    Is temporary forgiveness granted only unilaterally by God or is it also appropriated by the sinner through (presumably temporary) faith? That is, must a sinner appropriate temporary forgiveness to be temporarily forgiven?

  95. Curate said,

    February 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    no. 91, Reed

    We have to look at John 2.23-25. because you are finding there a distinction between God-given faith and mere human faith that determines your whole reading of the Exodus passages that attribute faith to the soon to be falling Israelites.

    John 2:23   Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

    I understand faith to be primarily trust, with intellectual comprehension of, and assent to, issues in second place. When John says that the people believed in Jesus because of the signs he did, I take that to mean simply that they began to trust that he was indeed the promised and coming King of Israel.

    Jesus’ response of not entrusting himself these people is because he knows how shaky they are. He does not trust them back. This is not Jesus’ response to some men, but to all men. That is important, because it includes the entire human race, not just some of it.

    Frankly, I cannot see what you are seeing, namely, a God-given faith on the one hand, and a merely human faith on the other. That is simply not in view. Some people believed/trusted that he was indeed the Christ, the king of Israel, but Jesus did not trust them back. None of them. Were they all hypocrites? Surely not.

    At this point he doesn’t trust even his own disciples, as all the Gospels make plain. Did they then not have true faith? They did, because Jesus commends them for it.

    In conclusion, then, you are seeing things that are not there, brother. Much less does this passage say anything to the Exodus assertion that Israel believed, bowed their heads, and worshipped Yahweh.

  96. Curate said,

    February 1, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Jeff, no. 93

    I am arguing that some of those who fall from grace had a God-given faith and some a SWF. Reed is arguing that all of these had a SWF.

  97. Curate said,

    February 1, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    rfwhite no. 94

    Can we come back to this later?

  98. Curate said,

    February 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    no. 96 correction

    Reed is arguing that none of the apostates had a SWF.

  99. Curate said,

    February 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    FYI, The English Delegation to Dort on the subject here under discussion:

    We ourselves think that this doctrine is contrary to (the) Holy Scriptures, but whether it is expedient to condemn it in these our canons needs great deliberation. On the contrary, it would appear

    1. That Augustine, Prosper and the other Fathers who propounded the doctrine of absolute predestination and who opposed the Pelagians, seem to have conceded that certain of those who are not predestinated can attain the state of regeneration and justification. Indeed, they use this very argument as an illustration of the deep mystery of predestination; which cannot be unknown to those who have even a modest acquaintance with their writings.

    2. That we ought not without grave cause to give offence to the Lutheran churches, who in this matter, it is clear, think differently.

    3. That (which is of greater significance) in the Reformed churches themselves, many learned and saintly men who are at one with us in defending absolute predestination, nevertheless think that certain of those who are truly regenerated and justified, are able to fall from that state and to perish and that this happens eventually to all those, whom God has not ordained in the decree of election infallibly to eternal life. Finally we cannot deny that there are some places in Scripture which apparently support this opinion, and which have persuaded learned and pious men, not without great probability.

  100. David Gadbois said,

    February 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    As much as FVers want to grow full beards and emphasize covenant families, being a “federal husband”, and so forth, they would have us believe that Jesus is the universe’s most prolific divorce’, with millions of folks who are baptized and/or are justified and united to Christ for a time who end up hellbound.

  101. Reed Here said,

    February 1, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Roger, #95:

    Not to be a pain, but I do not think you have adequately interacted with my exegesis of John 2:23-25, previously offered. I think your exegesis here is somewhat broad-brushing over what the text actually says.

    Just because we’ve already agreed that he is a fair arbiter, I’d recommend looking at Calvin’s exegesis of this passage of John. I’ll post here a representative snippet, showing Calvin is going in the direction I’m suggesting:

    And, therefore, when we speak generally about faith, let us know that there is a kind of faith which is perceived by the understanding only, and afterwards quickly disappears, because it is not fixed in the heart; and that is the faith which James calls dead; but true faith always depends on the Spirit of regeneration, (James 2:17, 20, 26.)

    Observe, that all do not derive equal profit from the works of God; for some are led by them to God, and others are only driven by a blind impulse, so that, while they perceive indeed the power of God, still they do not cease to wander in their own imaginations.

    FWIW

  102. Ron Jung said,

    February 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    May I ask an odd question?
    David, or any one else, how is your doctrine of election (that is the eternal decrees) used pastorally?
    How do you teach and preach this doctrine to your congregation.
    Luther didn’t find it helpful and so consentrated his preaching and teaching on the Cross, and faith in the promises of Christ via the sacraments. I have always felt comfort in this.

  103. ray kikkert said,

    February 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    90 Curate:
    You stated:”David Gadbois grants that “There is nothing inherently self-contradictory about saying that one can be predestined to be justified and then lose said justification”.

    The truth though is that the elect ARE predestined to be justified and will NEVER lose that Justification. The Lord is in charge … not man.

    The point being that maintaining what Mr. Gadbois put forth in that quote is both unreformed and shows itself to contradict Scripture both in exegesis and the reformed confessions that followed through on that exegesis.

    You also stated “Ray, I have not spoken to this point at all.”

    Yes you did … and I see you not willing to recant it either … ““I am arguing for a third category of faith, a faith that is real but temporary.” … your intent is to hedge support and argue for God practicing temporay forgiveness, playing word games and turning your jelly into jam.

    I countered with the rejection of errors from the 5th head of Doctrine … under the Perseverance of the Saints … it refutes your statement as contradicting the perseverence of the saints … our reformed forefathers countered the statement of the babbling remontrant “VII. Who teach: That the faith of those, who believe for a time, does not differ from justifying and saving faith except only in duration.”

    with …”Article 6. But God, who is rich in mercy, according to his unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw the Holy Spirit from his own people, even in their melancholy falls; nor suffers them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption, and forfeit the state of justification, or to commit sins unto death; nor does he permit them to be totally deserted, and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction.

    Article 7. For in the first place, in these falls he preserves them in the incorruptible seed of regeneration from perishing, or being totally lost; and again, by his Word and Spirit, certainly and effectually renews them to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins, that they may seek and obtain remission in the blood of the Mediator, may again experience the favor of a reconciled God, through faith adore his mercies, and henceforward more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

    Article 8. Thus, it is not in consequence of their own merits, or strength, but of God’s free mercy, that they do not totally fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish finally in their backslidings; which, with respect to themselves, is not only possible, but would undoubtedly happen; but with respect to God, it is utterly impossible, since his counsel cannot be changed, nor his promise fail, neither can the call according to his purpose be revoked, nor the merit, intercession and preservation of Christ be rendered ineffectual, nor the sealing of the Holy Spirit be frustrated or obliterated.

    Article 9. Of this preservation of the elect to salvation, and of their perseverance in the faith, true believers for themselves may and ought to obtain assurance according to the measure of their faith, whereby they arrive at the certain persuasion, that they ever will continue true and living members of the church; and that they experience forgiveness of sins, and will at last inherit eternal life. ”

    You also stated earlier to Reed/Jeff… “I believe that you are making a mistake in condemning and excluding the view that there is a class of person whom God illuminates, only to later withdraw that grace. You are unnecessarily narrowing the bounds of orthodoxy to your own hurt, IMO.

    The same situation occurred at the Council of Dort, where the motion to condemn a view similar to mine was debated, and defeated. The English Delegation, completely Reformed at the time, argued that, although they agreed with your view, it would be unwise to proceed with a condemnation.

    They pointed out that many of the greatest and godliest teachers of our tradition had held my view, having been persuaded to their own satisfaction by scripture. They mentioned Augustine and Prosper, refered to others who were contemporaries, men who believed in absolute predestination, which doctrine it was the central business of Dort to defend against the Remonstrants.”

    I do not take the editorship of events transpired as you have them as the truth of the matter.
    “THIRD AND FOURTH HEADS OF DOCTRINE
    Of the Corruption of Man, His Conversion to God, and the Manner Thereof.
    Article 4. There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, of natural things, and of the differences between good and evil, and discovers some regard for virtue, good order in society, and for maintaining an orderly external deportment. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.

    the idea you bring forth … “the view that there is a class of person whom God illuminates, only to later withdraw that grace.” is not taught within the Canons of Dort … in fact the idea of a withdrawn grace makes God out to be mutable and changing in purpose, just as your temporary forgiveness. You say it idea is taught within the Canons of Dort ….where then?

    As for the reformed English delegation … they were weak along with the Bremen delegation, but that is my opinion in comparison to yours. One british delegate became an avowed arminian. John Davenant , another delegate… is not without his critiques in his leanings towards amyraldianism.

    David Gray asked for my full name. Ray Kikkert

    Reed… to his credit… asked me to back off on the harsh tone … I hope the above is okay

  104. Ron Jung said,

    February 1, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    Strike my last post. It is not where this conversation is going.

  105. David Gadbois said,

    February 1, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Ray – it is a subtle but duplicitous move on the part of FVers and their ilk, trying to substitute Perseverance of the Elect for the orthodox doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints. They are not the same. The latter means that if you are a (justified) saint today, you always will be, and will persevere to the end. Not compatible with temporary forgiveness.

  106. Reed Here said,

    February 1, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Ron: if I may, I’ll answer briefly anyway, I preach election as it is presented in Scripture. My take is that it always is presented as an assurance from God to His children that they have been the recipients of His promise before anything else. It is no encourage to the one without the Spirit of regeneration. But to those eternally savingly united to Christ, the Spirit uses such assurance to yield growing fruits, including assurance and perseverance.

  107. David Gadbois said,

    February 1, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    The English delegation’s recommendation to Dordt was rejected nearly 400 years ago. Since then the 5 Canons, not four, have been considered non-negotiable, essential doctrines of the continental Reformed churches; Presbyterian standards have likewise upheld these doctrines in their own language. Various 4-point “Calvinisms” have been proposed and considered throughout history, and they have uniformly been rejected by Reformed churches and excluded in our confessional standards.

  108. February 1, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    David,

    Your point is right on the money. The majority position prevailed, the minority position was rejected. While we can usually glean something useful from the minority, especially in their admonitions of shortcomings in living up to our expressed beliefs, the overall position offers nothing more then or 400 years later. While councils can and do err, Dort has withstood Scriptural scrutiny for centuries. It’s time for folks to get over it and move on.

  109. February 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Ron, RE #102,

    I agree with Reed. Election and predestination are great assurances and encouragement to believers because it underlies the permanence of their salvation. They can rest in these promises rather than the inconsistency of their works.

    That’s one of the worst travesties of NPP and FV. Both would take us back to human works as the basis of our “final justification”, making a mockery of sola gratia and sola fide, and trampling on Gal 3:10, 16; 4:21-31; Rom 8:1, 28-29, Eph 2:8-9; etc., and destroying the assurance that God Himself gives us.

    If forgiveness or justification can be temporary, we have no assurance. That’s the Roman Catholic view, not the Reformed or Biblical truth.

  110. Curate said,

    February 2, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Ray

    FYI, and FWIW, I have had nothing to say about the different ways that temporary faith differs from permanent faith, apart from duration. Neither am I interested in discussing it now.

    Regards

  111. Curate said,

    February 2, 2010 at 12:51 am

    On the Synod of Dort, some here have claimed that the English Delegation’s request failed. It did not! It passed. Here is an excerpt from an essay by Steven Wedgeworth, which includes the references for those who are interested.

    BOQ: Peter White’s book Predestination, Policy and Polemic includes a chapter on the English delegation sent to the Synod of Dort. He examines many of their writings, including the Collegiat Suffrage which the English presented as their position on the heads listed at Dort. Much of this can also be found in Anthony Milton’s edition of The British Delegation and the Synod of Dort, including the full version of the Collegiat Suffrage. One of the valuable gains from consulting these sources is that the reader will discover the disposition and Calvinistic self-identity of the English Churchmen. The English are not at all afraid to disagree with portions of Dort and even argue that “The Reformed Churches” already have certain positions that ought not to be discarded. White’s book has one source that is not included in Milton, and it is to that which I will now turn.

    White examines Samuel Ward’s A Theologis Ecclesiae Anglicanaae de canonibus formandis aliisque in Synodo Dordacena proposita and points out one very important portion where the English succeeded in having one of the rejectio errorum removed from the Canons of Dort. The “error” which the English argued ought not to be listed as an error was under the head concerning the Perseverance of the Saints, and the rejected proposition would have been the statement which said that “true believers and regenerate” (vere credentes et regenitos) were able to fall from the faith of justification. The English argued that this ought not to be listed among the rejected errors, and they gave three reasons for this. White quotes from the original A Theologis Ecclesiae Anglicanaae de canonibus formandis alliisque in Synodo Dordacena proposita on pg. 198, and I will reproduce the original source here. It reads:

    We ourselves think that this doctrine is contrary to Holy Scriptures, but whether it is expedient to condemn it in these our canons needs great deliberation. On the contrary, it would appear
    1. That Augustine, Prosper and the other Fathers who propounded the doctrine of absolute predestination and who opposed the Pelagians, seem to have conceded that certain of those who are not predestinated can attain the state of regeneration and justification. Indeed, they use this very argument as an illustration of the deep mystery of predestination; which cannot be unknown to those who have even a modest acquaintance with their writings.
    2. That we ought not without grave cause to give offence to the Lutheran churches, who in this matter, it is clear, think differently.
    3. That (which is of greater significance) in the Reformed churches themselves, many learned and saintly men who are at one with us in defending absolute predestination, nevertheless think that certain of those who are truly regenerated and justified, are able to fall from that state and to perish and that this happens eventually to all those, whom God has not ordained in the decree of election infallibly to eternal life. Finally we cannot deny that there are some places in Scripture which apparently support this opinion, and which have persuaded learned and pious men, not without great probability.

    This request was successful, as the proposition was not listed among the rejected errors in the Canons of Dort.

    White also points out that the English requested that the 7th rejected error touching the Perseverance of the Saints be removed. This error was the proposition that affirmed that temporary faith differed from persevering faith only in duration. The Synod of Dort did not, however, grant this request by the English. EOQ.

  112. Curate said,

    February 2, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Reed, on the John 2 passage, how do you explain the fact that Jesus did not entrust himself to ANY of them, that he distrusted ALL of them, because he knew what was in ALL men (panta)?

    How does this square with your view that this passage is about two classes of human faith, one real and the other not? It seems to me that the opposition here is between Jesus’ own faith, men, and the faith of men, de.

    That is my central counter-argument.

  113. Paige Britton said,

    February 2, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Reed #85 –

    This is regarding my “incident of unbelief” idea from ‘way back — I hope you don’t mind me trying again!

    I am seeing the same thing that you are re. “man-wrought faith” in Scripture, and I am just noting something about the *use of language* in the Pentateuch for faith and disbelief. Sometimes it appears to match with our NT idea of “saving faith” — “Abraham believed God, etc.” — and sometimes the same words seem to be referring to a belief in a single, particular incident or situation — the Israelites “believed” because of the wondrous signs they had seen — that lacks ultimacy.

    A wooden reading of “believed” would link it every time with “believed savingly,” right? Well, then a wooden reading of “did not believe” should link it every time with “apostasy.” I just thought to point out that the idea, “did not believe,” is used of Moses in Nu. 20:12 in a way that does NOT equal “apostasy.”

    I agree with you that “Moses’ incident of unbelief flowed from the presence of the flesh in his regenerative condition.” Absolutely.

    My theory about an “incident of unbelief” here comes from the fact of the stern discipline meted out at this point in the narrative: MAYBE it was discipline for Moses’ wavering example of faith over the long haul, but MAYBE it was discipline for a particular incident in which Moses’ temper got the better of his judgment and he showed himself to be a poor example of faith IN THAT SITUATION. That’s all, it’s just a theory. I wondered if anybody else had noticed it. (And the point that flowed from it in my mind was about the Pentateuch’s *use of the vocabulary of faith* to mean sometimes the ultimate kind of belief/disbelief, sometimes the situational kind.)

    But otherwise I am on the same page as you re. the Israelites’ man-wrought faith and Moses’ ordinary failings! :)

  114. Paige Britton said,

    February 2, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Bob #77–

    I had commented (#76,re. Calvin) that God’s temporary, non-regenerating moves of the Spirit in his people were probably not “generalizable” outside the redemptive-historical context of Scripture where they are found. You wrote:

    “We may be able to generalize if we put it in the larger context of God’s sovereignty, providence, and the working out of His eternal decree. God ordains all that comes to pass, and He’s free to use direct or secondary means.”

    I should have clarified a bit better what I meant by “generalize” — of course, theologically speaking, God could act in the same way again; but from OUR point of view, it would be kind of a useless category of thought. We only know that God HAS worked in the past in this way because of the special revelation that interprets the events in the lives of the scriptural figures.

    But lacking that kind of special revelation, we could never look at lapsed church members and “generalize” from the Scriptural narratives that such a temporary, non-regenerating move of the Spirit has happened to them, right? We can only go with what our senses tell us — either a credible profession of faith, or credible signs that the “credible profession” was not true after all. Further than those statements, we can’t go.

  115. pduggie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Even though I’m doubtful that the kind of forgiveness that is temporary and the kind of forgiveness that is eternal differ only in the duration of each, when Reformed Musings says

    “If forgiveness or justification can be temporary, we have no assurance. That’s the Roman Catholic view, not the Reformed or Biblical truth.”

    there are two false things here

    1) its also the Lutheran view. The Lutherans that Boice et al thought would be worth getting together with to issue declarations on how important the gospel is together, and formed the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

    2) it is not the case that they would have “no assurance”.

    Lutherans find assurance by having faith. Faith and assurance aren’t separated, as in reformed theology.

    A Lutheran is taught that they are forgiven if she has faith. That if she ceases to have faith, her forgiveness will be withdrawn.

    Do we want to give ASSURANCE to people who have no faith? “I know you don’t feel like you have faith in Jesus right now, Mr. Reformed person, but be assured: as Fisher says, God sometimes takes away your SENSE OF PARDON as a punishment for your bad behavior. And that’s his fatherly care for you: your feelings of condemnation are actually a sign of your being under discipline! rejoice!”

    That last quote might still be true, but wow.

    Further, true faith “trembles at the warnings”. If you believe that to cease having faith will mean your damnation, then you will continue to have faith because you accept the proposition that were you to stop, you would be damned. Believing apostasy is possible prevents you from becoming apostasy. While believing that it would be impossible for you to become apostate might cause your fall, as Paul himself warns: A false faith will believe that “he stands” and won’t be careful not to fall.

    No this is not the reformed view. But I’m not convinced it doesn’t have its own ways of dealing with the things that the Reformed view tries to account for.

  116. pduggie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Question: many would say that clearly, some baptized children only come to true faith after a long while. There is an admission that some baptized children might be regenerated as infants, but that is an unlikely possibility.

    How can we really tell.

    Even if a person confesses, as a teen that they were a rebellious unbeliever until the time of their conversion, how can we know that is really the case, IF its possible for faith to lack assurance.

    Coulndn’t it just be that they spent the first 16 years of their life lacking assurance? They had no “utter despair’, clearly, but surely they also had a lack of the Spirits discernment of present graces. They weren’t endeavoring to walk in all good conscience, so of course they weren’t assured.

    Is there something we can tell the teen who is convinced he never believed that he actually had? Can we cite WLC 81 at them and let them figure it out? What about a person excommunicated who later repents and returns. Do we have to confess certainty of all such that they lacked real faith during the time prior to being excommunicated?

  117. Reed Here said,

    February 2, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Roger, #112:

    I sought to answer that question in my original post, where I referenced the crowd’s response to Jesus’ deliberate provocation, in John 6.

    To be clear (assumed this was, sorry), there is only kind of faith explicitly in view in John 2:23-25, that of Man-wrought faith. By necessary inference, due to the contrast that is required to understand why Jesus rejects their profession of faith, the second type of faith, Spirit-wrought, is inferentially in view as well.

    At this point in John’s Gospel, and at least through chapter 6, the undifferentiated crowd is used by John as a foil for Jesus’ development of Spirit-wrought faith, what it is, and how one receives it. This thread of John’s argument is brought to a conclusion in John 6. The undifferentiated crowd introduced in John 2:23 now walks away from Jesus. He then turns to the disciples and asks if they will do the same. Peter’s “words of life” response brings into full focus the necessity and source of Spirit-wrought faith. At this point the Gospel takes a turn, away from the undifferentiated crowd, and towards more explicit development of Spirit-wrought faith.

    Again, this is not to say that this is the dominant theme in John, but a dominant theme.

    Thus, in answer, the issue of real (Spirit-wrought) faith versus false/temporary (Man-wrought) faith is understood in John 2:23-25 because of the broader context, and the role of the undifferentiated crowd as a foil to to show the contrast of the two faiths.

  118. Reed Here said,

    February 2, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Paige, #113: helpful clarification and good insight.

  119. Reed Here said,

    February 2, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Paul, #116:

    I might venture a response, but I’m not sure exactly what you are asking. It sounds as if you’re asking a question you expected will be agreed to, which then you think defends the FV in some material manner.

    It might be helpful to express your presuppositions a little further, as that might help avoid unnecessary misunderstanding and unneeded interaction.

  120. pduggie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Its a question about the “cash value” of what we doctrinally confess about assurance. We allegedly claim “you can be infallibly assured of your election”, but caveat it to death.

    When the FV started, I thought it would be non-controversial that since election was “God’s business” trying to discern your state w.r.t the decrees was pointless, and we should juts look to the promises made to us covenantally and visibly. What I’m amazed to find is that our good works actually figure into providing our evidence that gives assurance.

    Some seem to doubt the FVs preference for assuming that MOST babies receive regeneration “in the appointed time” of it’s administration. I suppose most would point to all the evidence of teens who claim to be ‘converted’ from unbelief at some point.

    But I think our doctrine of how we CAN lack assurance seems to give no warrant for assuming that a person who says “Now I feel converted, where before I felt no sense of pardon” is speaking what is true of them objectively.

    What do you say to a young man or young lady who keeps falling into the same sin? “Hey, you know, that MIGHT be evidence that your purported faith is hypocrisy”? That would seem like bad counsel.

  121. David Gadbois said,

    February 2, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Curate said On the Synod of Dort, some here have claimed that the English Delegation’s request failed. It did not! It passed. Here is an excerpt from an essay by Steven Wedgeworth

    The problem is I keep hearing this claim thirdhand and now fourthand. No one has actually cited any source material to back this claim, so as far as I can tell Steve Wedgeworth (well known FVer) and/or Peter White are wrong. Rejection of Errors 3 and 4 specifically exclude the idea that “those who truly believe and have been born again not only can forfeit justifying faith as well as grace and salvation totally and to the end.” Wedgeworth’s claim is prima facie wrong. If there was omission of certain language on account of the English delegation, it was not because the view of temporary justification and regeneration was allowed.

  122. pduggie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Curate Writes

    ” and the rejected proposition would have been the statement which said that “true believers and regenerate” (vere credentes et regenitos) were able to fall from the faith of justification.”

    But Wedgeworth writes

    “Initially a proposal had been made to reject as an error the teaching that the reprobate could attain a state of temporary justification. The British protested and were, amazingly, successful in keeping this position from being considered heretical.”

  123. Reed Here said,

    February 2, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Paul, #120:

    I understand that for the FV, the assurance issue is an initial driving factor. Without re-hashing old ground here, let me just respond to your last question.

    Of course we say such things to the kind of person you are describing. We say such things, the warnings of apostasy if you will, because the Scriptures call us to do so. And we do so because the Scriptures also teach us that when used in faith, such warnings will be used of the Spirit to restore wayward children to loyalty to Christ.

    As I’ve said before, the FV is seeking to fix a problem, somewhat wrongly diagnosed, but even more importantly with a prescription that is inconsistent with the biblical warrant.

  124. pduggie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    So now I’m reading Error 3, and it seems to somewhat fit what Curate is saying.

    Read it this way: the error is those who say

    “That the true believers and regenerate not only can fall from justifying faith and likewise from grace and salvation wholly and to the end, but indeed often do fall from this and are lost forever.

    That is a compound error, some can fall AND they often do?

  125. David Gadbois said,

    February 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    pduggie, Arminians, FVers, and others aren’t just positing that justified people theoretically “can” lose salvation, but that it actually happens. Trying to parse between the “can” and “do” doesn’t help their case.

  126. pduggie said,

    February 2, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Well I think that FV guys might also say its very rare in well functioning churches. so they’d also deny that they ‘often do’ fall from this. Leithart has stated his imagined context for Baptism is a faithful PCA church, not some nominal context.

    But I’m just trying to parse between them to understand White’s claim, actually.

  127. Curate said,

    February 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Reed no. 117

    If I am getting you aright, you are reading from John 6, back to John 2, then on to Exodus, in order to be able to say that Israel did not believe God, even though Moses says they did. The words, a hop, a skip, and a jump, come to mind. :)

    Is this proper exegesis?

    You have already said that you are reading the texts in a particular way because of prior systematic considerations. May I respectfully suggest that you are doing things the wrong way round twice over?

    Is it not right and proper to begin with the text, taken in its plain grammatical and historical meaning?

    The right way to do theology is to begin with the text, then do biblical theology, and then finally move on to systematics if needed. Also, you need to start with the prior text, and move on from there to the later ones, to be sure that you have the proper context and background for the later text.

    IOW read the Bible in the light of the developing covenants, or, federally. Get the vision. Lol.

    Seriously, that is classical covenant theology done properly.

    I know that you will have a snappy reply, so I do not expect that you will grant this point.

    However, it seems to me, and to other FV men known to me, that this is a part of the difficulty that our opponents have in comprehending us. You guys have a set of beliefs that you were taught by whoever, and we believe that there the true source of your theology is to be found, not the actual text of the Bible.

    Don’t get me wrong, we all do it to a greater or lesser extent. But it is a literary vice to be repented of in favour of a better way.

  128. Curate said,

    February 2, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    My wife has just read my last post, and she says that I am being impolite and arrogant.

    I apologize if that is the way it sounds. Try to read it in the spirit that it was written, namely, frank and friendly.

    Pax.

  129. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Curate: My wife has just read my last post, and she says that I am being …

    I too am blessed with a wife who shakes her head at the blogosphere. :)

  130. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 2, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Curate: about Dort V. I don’t have access to Steve’s source or to his source’s primary sources, so I can’t comment there.

    But don’t “Rejected Errors” 3 and 7 cover this issue?

    Who teach that those who truly believe and have been born again not only can forfeit justifying faith as well as grace and salvation totally and to the end, but also in actual fact do often forfeit them and are lost forever.
    For this opinion nullifies the very grace of justification and regeneration as well as the continual preservation by Christ, contrary to the plain words of the apostle Paul

    Who teach that the faith of those who believe only temporarily does not differ from justifying and saving faith except in duration alone.
    For Christ himself in Matthew 13:20ff. and Luke 8:13ff. clearly defines these further differences between temporary and true believers: he says that the former receive the seed on rocky ground, and the latter receive it in good ground, or a good heart; the former have no root, and the latter are firmly rooted; the former have no fruit, and the latter produce fruit in varying measure, with steadfastness, or perseverance.

    The central argument I’ve made concerning Eph. 1.13 is reflected in Dort V.RE3 and the textual argument I’ve made about the parables is explicitly cited in Dort V.RE7.

    Where would you locate yourself in relation to Dort V?

  131. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 2, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Curate: re: exegesis.

    (1) I agree with you on the core principle. I occasionally take (friendly) heat from the oldlife crowd because I call myself a “biblicist” (as it appears that WCoF 1.10 requires …) instead of a “Confessionalist.”

    Still and all, there *is* wisdom in many councilors, so I find value in referring back to the Confession and to Calvin and Dort &c.

    That doesn’t mean that I’m citing them as infallible authorities (“Dort says X, so *bam*!”). I’m just citing them as a way of provoking thought … (“Hm … the folk at Dort had to wrestle with similar issues, and they concluded X, so why?”)

    (2) I think Reed is appealing to the idea that the NT sheds light on the OT. I would argue that it *is* legitimate, in light of John 2 and 6, to look back at Ex. 4 and question whether “the Israelites believed” ought to be taken entirely at face value.

    Can you see a reason not to question this?

    (3) One aspect that you haven’t touched on is whether the verb “believed” ought to be read as head-for-head, or a generalization about the group.

    Jeff Cagle

  132. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    One more thought: As I understand it, Calvin’s Institutes and Commentaries were developed in parallel. So rather than exactly following your suggested plan, it appears that he played systematics and exegesis off of one another, much more like the “hermeneutical spiral” approach.

    Do you object to that?

  133. Curate said,

    February 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    no 130 Jeff.

    Re the rejected errors: in their own context they are not making general comments, but they are attacking a particular error, namely, Arminianism, or, justification by works. Those people reject absolute predestination, and all that flows from it, namely, free grace. They are not addressing people like me who hold to absolute predestination.

    As the quote from the English Delegation makes clear, there are those like Augustine and Prosper who believe in temporary justification for entirely different reasons from the works crowd.

  134. Curate said,

    February 2, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    no. 131 Jeff

    Yes, the NT sheds light upon the OT. Yes, in practice most of us use the hermeneutical spiral. Yes, there is wisdom in many councilors.

    Having said that, we must read the Bible from from front to end before reading it back to front. Example, Jesus preached that the kingdom of God was at hand, and no NT writer tells us what that kingdom is. Why not? Because every Israelite knew, since they knew the OT. It is the kingdom of David. If one has not first read the OT and grasped it, Jesus’ words would be unintelligible. Of course, then we can go back to the OT and read it in the light of the new revelation.

    Re John’s Gospel, we must read John 2 before getting to John 6, and read both in the light of the precedents. Only then may we refer back.

    Lat, the verb “to believe” in Exodus is a generalization, not a head for head thing.

  135. Reed Here said,

    February 2, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Roger, #117: no offense taken.

    I disagree with your take on my exegesis and it’s apparent weaknesses (duh, of ocurse ;-) ). I am following the principles you advise, directed by the most important principle of interpretation: Scripture interprets Scripture.

    How do we understand what is going on with the crowd? Ultimately by express or inferential insight from the rest of Scripture. Historical-grammatical considerations are subservient to that.

    I see your exegesis as insisting that such texts must be understood exclusively on their own, without any resort to good and necessary cross referencing. I trust you know better and practice better.

    I am simply reading John 2:23-25 in context, first the most immediate context (the connected prior and following verses), and then in growing broader context (e.g., John 6 clearly has the same crowd in view, they’ve been following Jesus around since at least John 2:23-25).

    As to the Exodus passage, you are safer to assume that I’ve offered a representative passage that explains the Bible’s doctrine concerning Man-wrought faith. If I was independently wealthy or paid to write a book, and had a congregation that would allow, I would be happy to spend the time to build the case further Roger. I know you can appreciate that this just isn’t realistic for our purposes here.

    You’ve already acknowledged that Man-wrought faith is taught by Scripture. So ignore my exegesis of John 2:23-25. What in Ex 4:31 necessitates understanding the belief in view as Spirit-wrought and not Man-wrought? Feel free to augment your argument with representations and reflections on other passages outside the immediate context of that chapter. I’ll not jump on you for a failure to do classic covenant theology properly.

    Snappy enough? Dude, you’ve got me laughing ;-) Please tell your wife so. And please, since my wife’s not here looking over my shoulder, forgive any arrogance in tone, as it is not intended. :-)

  136. Reed Here said,

    February 2, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Roger, # 134:

    Of course we interpret in canonical order first. And then we end up submitting our understanding to the authorative interpretation of the OT by the NT. This should suffice to see why John 2 is relevant to Ex 4.

    I refer to back to my ‘in-context” comments as to why John 6 informs John 2 (it provides some insight into the crowd), as this is virtually exclusively historical-grammatical interpretation at work. Disagree with it because of textual considerations if you will, but not because of a weakness in method, please.

  137. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 2, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Curate (generally):

    I mentioned one exegetical method for me, which is falsification. I’d like to consider another now, which is confirmation.

    You’ve placed a lot of weight on the fact that the Israelites in Ex. 4.31 believed, and then worshiped.

    Paige B has asked, “believed what?” That is, did the Israelites believe in a salvific sense, or in some lesser sense?

    Reed has asked, “Was it real faith?”

    And I’ve asked, “Was it God’s declaration that they believed, or was it their outward profession of belief?”

    So to consider these questions, let’s look for further information in the text of Exodus to confirm that either (a) the Israelites had genuine, salvific faith, or (b) something else.

    If we move along the narrative, we find that the Israelites’ faith was in fact quite fickle (5.20, 6.9, etc.; but 12.24 – 28, etc.)

    In other words, the text of Exodus presents Israel not as having saving faith, then losing it, but rather as having fickle faith, which the Lord overlooks for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    Specifically, we do not find confirmation of the idea that “believing” in Exodus is salvific. The Israelites are saved from Pharaoh, but only because they are dragged along by main force by God’s signs and discipline.

    Thoughts?

    Jeff Cagle

  138. Curate said,

    February 3, 2010 at 1:37 am

    On method, in principle we are all on the same page, reading your posts. The one thing that I am doing differently from the two of you is taking the text at face value, or, to put it traditionally, taking the plain meaning of the text before looking for a deeper one.

    I suppose that I have the impression that you guys are using a variation of the many layers of meaning method, finding distinctions between different kinds of faith where the text gives us no reason to do so. Did Israel have a God wrought faith or a man wrought faith? Does it say? Are your inferences strong enough to stand?

    Here I go with my exegesis.

    I am thinking that Moses, making an editorial comment, says that they had faith – the kind that does what faith is supposed to do, namely, bow down and worship. Then I see that God responds to their faith by saving them. In short, they had a saving faith.

    I hear your shock. Saved? What do you mean Roger? I do not mean what evangelicalism means, but what traditional covenant theology means. Salvation is inheriting the Abrahamic Promises. See Magnificat and Benedictus in Luke for NT confirmation. In response to their faith during Passover they live instead of dying, i.e. they are blessed. In response to believing the meaning of the signs they are released from Egypt to go the land of promise, i.e. they are blessed again. God is with them to save them from their enemies, according to the promises.

    But their faith is fickle, as we all agree. When they stop trusting God, stop believing in him, he stops blessing them, he withholds the promises, and they die.

    Yes, “believing” in Exodus is salvific – until they stop believing. Salvation in the Bible is every act of saving from God. It is wholistic.

    IOW they do precisely what we are warned not to do in Hebrews, and they reap the wages of sin. The two books synchronize perfectly.

    Now, having done covenant theology, having harmonized OT with NT, we may ask whether they had a mere human faith or a temporary God wrought faith.

    What does the Bible say about that? I have not yet found a clear comment to that effect, so we are in the area of speculation. Did that particular generation only have a human faith? I don’t know. Did they have a God given faith that he later withdraws in order to increase their condemnation, according to Calvin’s comment? I do not know. Probably a mixture.

    What about John 2 and 6? In John 6 we see a replay of the wilderness generation’s fickle faith. One thing that I can say for sure is that they were not elect, or they would have stayed with their king, or, returned to him like Peter did after the resurrection.

    In the end it is irrelevant, because the application to me is that unless I persevere in trust and faith I will share their fate. What we do know is that they believed for a while, and that they later did not. The Bible tells me so.

  139. Curate said,

    February 3, 2010 at 3:10 am

    cont. Your exegesis is built upon inference. The question is whether it is necessary inference or not. Did you come to the text already believing what you do, looking for proofs?

  140. Paige Britton said,

    February 3, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Roger, #138,
    You wrote, “Yes, “believing” in Exodus is salvific – until they stop believing.”

    The reason I questioned this conclusion is that Moses himself is called on the carpet for disbelief in Num. 20:12. Does this mean that he lost his salvation at this point, but somehow regained faith in a salvific way later on? I’m truly curious to know how you would explain it.

    In Christ,
    pb

  141. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 3, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Curate (#139): Yes, “believing” in Exodus is salvific – until they stop believing. Salvation in the Bible is every act of saving from God. It is wholistic.

    IOW they do precisely what we are warned not to do in Hebrews, and they reap the wages of sin. The two books synchronize perfectly.

    Except … that Hebrews 6 makes clear that falling away is *final*. Whatever “falling away” might mean, once done, the one who falls away cannot be renewed again to repentance.

    So connecting this “fickle faith” with being saved, then falling away, then being saved again, is *not* what Hebrews is talking about.

    And *that* really is a necessary inference.

  142. Reed Here said,

    February 3, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Roger: pot calling the kettle black at this point. We’ve presented textual evidences for why we’re not relying on inference.

    Nothing in the text tells you it is savinng faith. Indeed, in that they demonstrate falling away, the very nature of the faith is in question. One must look further at the text (immediately and then context, narrow to broad) to determine what is going on.

    Of course we begin with the plain readinng of the immediate text – and then we answer the unclear in this text with the clear in other text. Standard Scripture interprets Scripture.

    Seriously no disrespect, but I think you are quite turned around with you conclusions about the weaknesses of our exegesis. You model these weaknesses explicitly in your brother.

    Again, what in the text demands, requires, saving faith?

    Again, I question that because of the following response of unbelief (falling away). This coupling necessarily brings into question the nature of the faith. Prove from the text that it must be saving faith that is then lost.

    I cannot believe that you do not recognize that the influence of other texts, outside of Exodus, on your exegesis.

  143. Paige Britton said,

    February 3, 2010 at 7:39 am

    One more p.s. from me:

    Are we working with (and conflating) two different definitions of “salvific” here?

    There is *temporal* salvation, which Roger seems to be describing by putting “belief” in Exodus in the context of the covenant.

    Then there is *eternal* salvation, which is much bigger than the immediate earthly promises of rescue, conquest, and land. This is what the author of Hebrews is describing.

    Roger, does your idea of “wholistic” or “covenantal” salvation, as it is evident in Exodus, also include ultimate, eternal salvation? Are the Israelites forfeiting the eternal, in your view, or just the temporal, when they disbelieve?

  144. David Weiner said,

    February 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Are we on firm ground discussing the ‘saving faith’ of a group? Scripture shows us groups who believe and are then made recipients of God’s wrath. E.g., the entire Gentile race in Romans 11 may be ‘broken off’ if they do not continue in ‘faith.’ But, we know there is no wrath for His own individual children. So, indeed, it seems as if eternal life of the individual is getting mixed up with the temporal dealings of God with mixed (believers and unbelievers) groups.

  145. Reed Here said,

    February 3, 2010 at 9:21 am

    David: if I understand you correctly, what is posited in general is not necessarily posited particularly. I.e., saying the undifferentiated mass “believed” does not mean that each individual in that mass “believed.”

    If I’m correct, I agree that is an appropriate angle from which to address the issue. However, I still think we end up where we are, as Roger is positing saving faith, a real but temporary participatory experience in the same faith (and its blessings, excluding perserverance) as that faith experienced by the elect.

    This brings us back to my previous (Spirit-wrought faith) SWF1 and SWF2 construction. Roger is positing a SFW2 whose only difference to SWF1 is the absence of the grace of perseverance.

    Consistent with the FV formulation (to bring in Vern’s objective criteria), as the difference between these two types of saving faith cannot be seen, ultimately until the eschaton, then the distinction between 1 and 2 is practically meaningless and is not relevant to one’s life of faith.

  146. David Weiner said,

    February 3, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Reed,

    What I can not find in Scripture is a single case where an individual who God says has ‘saving’ faith is ever shown to have not persevered. On the contrary, I find passages that promise perseverence to the one with saving faith and this unconditionally. What can assurance possibly mean if it depends on me?

    Thus, employing what is said about undifferentiated masses (e.g., Israel) as support for the idea of individual temporary saving faith would not seem a valid approach. The nation of Israel ebbed and flowed regarding its faith. What does it matter? Scripture promises that I can know that I am saved. In contrast, you can only guess about me (and I am going to give you many reasons to doubt my status!). Nevertheless, this should not be a reason for creating novel ways of explaining ‘church.’

  147. Curate said,

    February 3, 2010 at 10:09 am

    No. 141 Jeff

    The one who falls away cannot be renewed again. I believe that, but we are not discussing that aspect.

    No. 142 Reed asked: Again, what in the text demands, requires, saving faith?

    The fact that they were saved, and that they bowed down and worshipped Yahweh. the exodus is the greatest act of salvation prior to the cross and resurrection my friend. I am amazed that you ask this.

    No. 143 Paige

    Wholistic salvation, or, salvation, includes everything, both in this age and in the next. The unbelieving generation forfeited life in this age, and in the age to come.

    No. 144 David

    What Reed said in no.145.

  148. Curate said,

    February 3, 2010 at 10:13 am

    no. 145 Reed

    A correction to your post. I do not say that the ONLY difference in SWF 1 and 2 is perseverance. Whatever the differences, I am saying that faith is faith and forgiveness is forgiveness.

    There are differences between the faith of the elect and the faith of the second group, but what they have in common is that they are both faith, and both receive forgiveness.

  149. Curate said,

    February 3, 2010 at 10:27 am

    If we are clear on what each one is actually saying, I would like to discuss another aspect of the exegetical argument that I believe has not been addressed at all over the past few years.

    It is the issue of exegetical probability.

    I believe that this is something that deserves serious and sustained attention by the best exegetes of all views.

    The English Delegation to Dort made a key observation about the argument for temporary justification as propounded by Augustine, Prosper, and other contemporaries of the post-Reformation generation. They said:

    Finally we cannot deny that there are some places in Scripture which apparently support this opinion, and which have persuaded learned and pious men, not without great probability.

    This despite the fact that they themselves disagreed. To me this shows their maturity.

    It is my assertion that the doctrine of temporary justification is based upon a greater exegetical probability. There are judgement issues involved in dealing with the texts which remove the discussion from the realm of plain black and white. I believe that the textual witness is clear, while at the same time seeing that others of great ability, faith, and godliness, have come to your view.

    Over to you.

  150. Mason said,

    February 3, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Curate,

    I have enjoyed reading your posts on this thread and believe you articulate your position well. But in #147 you said:

    “No. 142 Reed asked: Again, what in the text demands, requires, saving faith?

    The fact that they were saved, and that they bowed down and worshipped Yahweh. the exodus is the greatest act of salvation prior to the cross and resurrection my friend. I am amazed that you ask this.”

    Aren’t there numerous examples and direct Scriptural repudiations of your view? Doesn’t Jesus directly refute this in Matthew 7:21-24? I can agree that there are various forms of faith, but saving faith is, by definition, persevering and steadfast. Isn’t it an oxymoron to say “temporal saving faith?” And while the Exodus was a type of salvation, it does not necessarily imply the “holistic” salvation you reference. Israel as a people were saved from Egypt, but I can’t see where that indicates every individual Israelite of that generation was spiritually saved as well.

  151. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 3, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Curate (#149):

    I agree with you. WCoF 20.2 requires that we not make Shibboleths of personal or pious opinions, but rather draw the line only at good and necessary inferences from Scripture.

    That is why I’m willing to entertain opinions that I think are wrong, because it may well be that there is, at the end of the day, no good and necessary inference that refutes the other’s view.

    In this particular case, my provisional hypothesis is that “temporary justifying faith” is rejectable on good and necessary inference, and that Dort addresses and handles that issue.

    But I’m open — just barely, but listening — to reason from the Scripture here.

    At the same time, WCoF 20.2 does not create a unilateral burden of proof. It is also the case that if you wish to *teach* “temporary justifying faith” from the pulpit, then you also need a good and necessary inference from Scripture, lest you be burdening the consciences of your hearers.

    So consider this argument from two perspectives:

    (1) It may be the case that the Scripture refutes TJF, in which case you ought not believe it, even privately, OR
    (2) It may be the case that TJF is not a good and necessary inference from Scripture, in which case you ought not teach it, even if you hold it privately.

    Jeff Cagle

  152. ray kikkert said,

    February 3, 2010 at 11:50 am

    149 , Curate … your exegetical probability is nothing more than pathetic higher critical thinking.
    If your going to base exegesis on probabilities rather than take the Gospel as a whole at it’s Word on the matter… your not only barking up the wrong tree … your urinating on it.

    Also … quit parading the English delegates and their statement “Finally we cannot deny that there are some places in Scripture which apparently support this opinion, and which have persuaded learned and pious men, not without great probability.” … around as if this is our foundation … it is nothing but an arminian rant that prostitutes justification both to the elect and reprobate alike.

  153. Curate said,

    February 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    no. 151 Jeff

    Noted.

  154. Reed Here said,

    February 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Roger: read Ray as intense, but cut him some slack in terms of not taking things personal. He is very serious in his concern and thus the significance of his warnings. I think that blog-exchanging maygive the impression he is a ranter. I don’t think so.

    Ray: hopefully you’re not offended by my words. Trying to make sure we allow for a degree of intensity without that automatically leading to knee-jerk reactions.

  155. Curate said,

    February 3, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    No. 150 Mason

    The Bible says in so many words that God saved Israel in the exodus. Just one example of many is Psalm 106.

    Ps 106.7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders;
    They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies,
    But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea.
    8 Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake,
    That He might make His mighty power known.
    9 He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up;
    So He led them through the depths,
    As through the wilderness.
    10 He saved them from the hand of him who hated them,
    And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

    Regards

  156. Reed Here said,

    February 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Roger: I’m going to conclude some things that sound potentially unkind. They’re not intended to do so.

    Your reasons for concluding saving faith in Ex 4:31 are flat and inconsistent with sound exegesis. You are either unwilling or unable (I prefer this option, as I believe you are sincere) to see that you are limiting the text on the basis of presuppositions you bring to the text. That is, you offer nothing other than “because the text says …” and either miss or ignore the necessity of the question asked.

    Again, the text presents a “belief”. It has external evidences that raise questions as to what kind of faith it is, Spirit-wrought or Man-wrought. These questions exist because the rest of Scripture differentiates between these two kinds of faith. This is not a external doctrinal imputation on the passage, but rather an internal exegetical imputation. I.e., the Bible itself demands we take up this consideration.

    I must admit to being flumoxed as to why you seem so shocked at my repeated question. You believe you are sufficiently answering it. I’ve offered substantial biblical reasons for why you’re not.

    Maybe we need to leave this alone. I’m o.k. with not pressing further. I’ll take no offense if you choose not to respond to this line of debate further. As well, if you prefer, you can offer one final comment and we’ll say thanks and peace to one another.

  157. Reed Here said,

    February 3, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Roger, #155 (can’t resist):

    Can’t you recognize that the “saving” being discussed in nothing more than a temporal savings from their physical enemies?

  158. ray kikkert said,

    February 3, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    I think that is the point Reed … this is serious … not some coffee break discussion by leisured rabbi’s … so if I do post it is because I read something that makes me shake my head … wondering how a guy like Curate comes up with such sophistry to justify his …temporary justification/forgiveness gobbledegoop.

    Curate stated from the get go “It is true that many godly theologians have taken your position, perhaps even a majority. It is also true that many able and godly theologians have taken the view defended in this post.

    What you cannot say with any justice is that our argument is thin, or based upon isolated texts.”

    …after over 150 posts … I can say in honesty that the theologians who defend temporary forgiveness/justification are not able , not godly , their arguments are both thin and based not only on isolated texts , but also on probablity exegesis.

  159. Curate said,

    February 3, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    no. 156 Reed, this is in rely to your complaint that I have a flat reading.

    The significance for our discussion of the Israelites faith, worship, and salvation, is found in the letter to the Hebrews, not in and of themselves. In Hebrews we are being warned not to “drift”, and it is precisely this generation and these events that are the example. They drifted and fell. They are an object lesson to us, the NT church.

    I am pointing out the NT use of their example. Can it get any more applicable than that? Can it get any more NT than that?

    I recall that our previous discussion floundered in the rock of your (plural) understanding of faith and salvation, just as it is here. This is going to sound harsh, they are meant to be frank and friendly. You guys have a view of these things that is narrower than, and in some cases different from, the Bible’s.

    Your definition of faith is different. You all say that faith by definition includes perseverance, therefore the exodus generation did not have faith – even though the text says they did. Surely this fact alone should cause you to re-examine your definition of faith?

    The definition of faith that I am aware of says that faith is trust, confidence, assent, and belief. In that complex perseverance is not listed. That is just a lexicographical observation, but it should count.

    Then there is your definition of salvation that is too narrow. You all mean the ordo don’t you? Actually, the “ordo” is only a subsection of salvation, not the whole story. See Galatians, where Paul says the scripture preached the gospel in advance to Abraham, saying, in you all the nations shall be blessed.

    That particular promise is just one of a list of promises that make up the whole gospel that was preached to Abraham.

    Other gospel promises are salvation from enemies (Egyptians?), many descendants, and the promise of land. Why are you not including these things in your definition of the gospel?

    Your gospel is too small, and your definitions of faith are partly mistaken. That is why you are struggling with my exegesis.

    The exodus is nothing more than a temporal salvation? What is wrong with temporal salvation? Salvation by definition is temporal.

    Pax.

  160. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 3, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    If I may take a final word myself,

    (1) I think that your understanding of my (Reed’s also?) understanding of the Gospel might be skewed a bit by the rhetoric. So for example:

    “Your definition of faith is different. You all say that faith by definition includes perseverance, therefore the exodus generation did not have faith – even though the text says they did. Surely this fact alone should cause you to re-examine your definition of faith?”

    I would *not* say that faith by definition includes perseverance. I would say that faith *entails* perseverance (as did the Westminster divines) because of the work God does in the believer at the moment of faith.

    We’ve focused on faith as a point-in-time moment when one is justified; that doesn’t preclude a larger ordo — it’s just focusing on the trunk of the elephant, so to speak: “This is not an elephant because it lacks a proper trunk”, if you catch the metaphor.

    (2) I agree with you the the significance of this discussion is the proper understanding of the warnings. My exegetical difference is that I take Heb 4.2 as a literal explanation of the problem (“They did not combine the word with faith”), and reason backwards to Ex. 4.31 as speaking of a faith-like or outward expression of faith that lacked the reality thereof. “Falling away” is therefore explained as having this outward faith-like expression at one point, but never gaining the substance, and falling away as a result (of trials, in fact).

    The difficulty for me is then defending my reading of Ex 4, since it is not entirely obvious.

    You work in reverse, if I understand: Ex. 4 is plain and normative, and shapes how we read Heb 4.2. They had faith, but by the time of Heb 4.2, they no longer had it.

    The difficulty with your reading is then explaining Heb 6, which does not allow for a faith that is “on again – off again.”

    (3) I really wonder at “Salvation by definition is temporal.” Seems to me that it is also eternal …

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff Cagle

  161. rfwhite said,

    February 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    53 Reed: in 53 you stated, “In both passages there is a response of ‘believing’ on the part of the people. In both passages the reason given for the belief response was the evidence of the miraculous works performed. I.e., this is the kind of belief that follows after man sees material evidence to convince him to believe. This is the definition of fallen-man wrought belief; it is the rational response to empirical evidence. This is the belief of the rationalist.”

    Question: How do we know that “the reason for the belief response was the evidence of the miraculous works performed” and not also the work of the Spirit? What tells you that the kind of belief that follows after man sees material evidence is not Spirit-wrought?

  162. Curate said,

    February 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    no. 160 Jeff

    I am not getting what you mean by Hebrews 6 and on again – off again faith. You have mentioned it before, so it is obviously important to you.

  163. Reed Here said,

    February 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    Dr, White: a simpler asnwer -

    The material evidence that this belief is not Spirit-wrought is that it does not persevere. Spirit-wrought faith always perseveres. Ergo, this is not Spirit-wrought.

  164. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 3, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Curate (#162):

    Oh, sorry. Here’s what I mean:

    As we move through the narrative of Exodus, the Israelites alternate between apparent acts of belief and apparent acts of unbelief. These acts occur very closely in time (“believe” 4.31 is followed by “disbelieve” in 5.20 and 6.9, but then again with “believe” in 12.24ff.). And this pattern of believe/disbelieve in the Pentateuch is repeated over and again … and ultimately summarized by Joshua: “You can’t do it.” (Josh 24.19 – 20), which ultimately leads to the sin/discipline/cry out/deliverance cycle in Judges.

    I’m suggesting that if we point to a single instance of “believe” in Exodus 4.31 and assess that as salvific faith, then why would we not point to single instances of “disbelief” in Exodus and see them as falling away?

    And if we were to take that view, then Exodus would present the Israelites as hopping in and out of salvation quite frequently.

    Abraham also.

    And this is what Hebrews 6 says is impossible.

    So rather than look to individual instances of “they believed”, let’s look at the whole scope. In terms of whole scope, did they combine the word with faith? Hebrews 4 says, “no.”

    Not, “They did, but then fell away”, but rather “they did not combine hearing with faith.”

    So the warning in Hebrews is not, “Make sure you continue to hear” but rather, “Make sure that you don’t have hardened hearts.”

    An additional word about “physical salvation.” There is an element of typology in the corporate life of Israel: the Law is given as a tutor; Israel is the disobedient son called out of Egypt over against the obedient Son called out of Egypt (Matt 2). Have you considered these elements of typology in assessing the meaning of Israel’s corporate “belief” and “disobedience”?

    That is, should we take deliverance from Pharaoh as face-value deliverance for its own sake, OR is deliverance from Pharaoh a genuine physical deliverance that symbolizes a deeper deliverance? Were all of the Israelites, head-for-head, saved? Or only those who saw the Word of God in action and combined it with faith?

    Jeff Cagle

  165. rfwhite said,

    February 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    163 Reed: wait. In 53 you were making the point that the belief response in Ex 4.31 was based on the miraculous works performed. From this observation you went on to say that this is the definition of man-wrought faith. The question I had as that comment was, why does it follow that the kind of faith that is based on miracles was man-wrought and not God-wrought? In light of your answer in 163, let me add this question: from what, biblically or theologically, does it follow that Spirit-wrought faith “always” perseveres?

  166. Reed Here said,

    February 3, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Dr, White: yep, my response in #53 did assume what I’m further spelling here.

    Are you really going to make list the biblical support for perseverance? Can’t I just plead WCF 14 and 17? :-)

  167. rfwhite said,

    February 3, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    166 Reed: “list the biblical support for perseverance” Nah, … just the support for your claim that Spirit-wrought faith “always” perseveres — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Seriously, just trying to lubricate the wheels of the conversation with Curate by trying to elicit from you the evidences that those with a God-wrought faith always persevere. The question can be rephrased too: what are the evidences that those with God-wrought faith are capable of apostatizing?

  168. Reed Here said,

    February 3, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Dr. White: I expected as such. I was just whining in hopes of not having to complete the assignment. :-) Out of respect for you and Roger, I will get to it shortly (before the end of the week) – but not now. Prayer meetin!

  169. Curate said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:24 am

    no. 164 Jeff

    I looked up the verses you mentioned, but I am missing something Exodus 12 finds Israel still in Egypt. When do they believe again after crossing the Sea?

    If you are correct, though, you have a very strong argument.

  170. Curate said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:29 am

    no. 168 Reed

    Reed, there is an error in your argument. The signs are supposed to be believed. See John 5. The signs tell us that God approves of Jesus of Nazareth, that he loves him, and that God himself testifies through them that Jesus is the Christ.

    The Jews condemn themselves because they do not believe the signs and their obvious meaning. “No man could do these things unless God were with him”.

    Believing because of the signs is the godly thing to do. Arguing that this kind of faith is the definition of fake faith doesn’t fit Jesus’ own explanation of them, or the appropriate response of faith.

    It’s all in John 5.

  171. Curate said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:33 am

    No-one has addressed my argument that both views are composite, both are making inferences, and both both have a large element of probability involved.

  172. Curate said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Looking through Exodus and Numbers looking for Jeff’s texts, I couldn’t help noticing how God keeps forgiving Israel at Moses’ intervention, until his patience runs out at the border of the land when the people refuse to enter. Then he swears an oath that he will destroy them in the wilderness.

    How do you avoid the conclusion that since Israel’s forgiveness was revoked, it was temporary?

  173. Paige Britton said,

    February 4, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Curate (#169ff) –

    You noted re. Jeff’s references: “I looked up the verses you mentioned, but I am missing something: Exodus 12 finds Israel still in Egypt. When do they believe again after crossing the Sea?”

    It’s my understanding that Jeff was referring to the back-and-forth PRIOR to the Red Sea, during which time the Israelites’ faith seemed to trade places with unbelief. Is even this back-and-forth possible, in light of Hebrews 6?

    As you also note, it is at the border to the land that God swears the oath that he will destroy them in the wilderness. You see this as the revoking of Israel’s temporary forgiveness, due to their lack of faith. I am still curious to know how you view Num. 20:12, which appears (parallelling your understanding of what happened to Israel) to be God’s revoking of Moses’ and Aaron’s temporary forgiveness, due to lack of faith. Can we really read it this way? How would you explain it differently?

    thanks!
    pb

  174. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 4, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Curate (misc.)

    No-one has addressed my argument that both views are composite, both are making inferences, and both both have a large element of probability involved.

    Sorry; I was indirectly addressing it. To be direct: yes — we must establish and qualify what is known from good and necessary inference, apart from what is possible, likely, or probable.

    I’m working on critically examining my own reading here, to find out if it is in fact good and necessary inference (since I’ve been relying on systematic thought as the framework for this particular question … it’s true), or something else.

    About the Israelites: please don’t stop at Ex 12! My argument is that the passages I cited are the beginning of larger pattern continued throughout the Torah, into Joshua and Judges, and through the time of the kings, in which Israel vascillates back and forth between actions of belief (repentance when Elijah wins the battle of the altars, e.g.) and unbelief (once again the Israel forgot the Lord their God).

    Fickle, thy name is Israel! That’s my argument.

    How do you avoid the conclusion that since Israel’s forgiveness was revoked, it was temporary?

    I think we’re getting somewhere. It *was* temporary.

    So now, what does it mean that God temporarily forgave Israel; but also that Hebrews looks over the whole scope of their wilderness wanderings and says, “they had the gospel preached to them, but they did not combine it with faith”?

    Could it be that we are talking about two different things here?

    (1) A corporate or national forgiveness, not attached to the gospel per se — that is, justification through faith as Abraham received it — but attached to the outward symbols of the gospel (that is, reception of the promised land). This forgiveness is then mediated through the type of Christ, who is Moses.

    (2) An individual forgiveness, attached to the gospel per se. This forgiveness is then mediated through the promise in which Abraham believed, which is ultimately the promise of the savior to come.

    Hebrews 4 is now combining these two in this way: the Israelites who fell lacked (2), which meant that they vascillated on (1). That is: they failed to have genuine faith *ever* (no (2)) , which meant that they were highly inconsistent with even their outward obedience to the Law (fickle (1)).

    Just thinking out loud about how to resolve the disparity between fickle Israel and “they did not believe.”

    Thoughts? Am I over-reading this?

  175. Reed Here said,

    February 4, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Roger, #70:

    Friend, that is just lame. Surely you can tell the difference the Bible is presenting:

    > One group believes the signs in an autonomous manner (e.g., Jesus and the Pharisees, seeking signs; Paul and 1Co 1, Jews seeking signs).

    > Another group believes the signs in a dependent manner (e.g., they believe the signs prove the accompanying testimony, that Jesus is the Messiah).

    C’mon brother, this is so obvious and basic: two different responses of belief in view, that which is unto salvation and that which is unto damnation. You know this is what the Bible teaches. Are you just not seeing this, or are you struggling with some obstinancy?

  176. rfwhite said,

    February 4, 2010 at 11:36 am

    175 Reed: by citing 1 Cor 1, are you suggesting that a text like John 4.43-48 is relevant to the exegesis of John 2.23-25? Also, in that light, what do you make of Nicodemus’ claim in 3.2? How does the knowledge he attributes to the “we” relate to faith (of any kind)?

  177. Reed Here said,

    February 4, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Dr. White:

    John 4:48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”

    Combined with:

    John 6:30 – So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?

    The crowds, generically identified in John 2:23 – as believing because of the signs, respond this way when Jesus offers his flesh and blood as the sign:

    John 6:66 – After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

    In contrast, consider Nicodemus:

    John 3:2 – This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

    Identified as one who was still a disciple, a believer in Jesus’ name, after the crucifixion (the sign Jesus was talkin about in John 6):

    John 19:38-39 – After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight.

    Two different faiths in view, one that falls away and one that perseveres. Jesus himself explains why the difference:

    John 6:63-65 – It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

    Notice the grammatical hints back to John 2:24-25 (i.e., “For Jesus knew …”). Why is there any debate? (Back to the sermon!)

  178. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 4, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Devil’s advocate:

    John 20.30 – 31 – Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

    How does this fit in with the thesis In both passages the reason given for the belief response was the evidence of the miraculous works performed. I.e., this is the kind of belief that follows after man sees material evidence to convince him to believe. This is the definition of fallen-man wrought belief; it is the rational response to empirical evidence. This is the belief of the rationalist.

  179. Curate said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Reed no. 175

    Now you have me laughing. I may be limping, but who is not lame?

    In John’s Gospel the Pharisees do not believe in Christ through the signs. The rulers believe that miracles have happened, but they do not believe that Jesus is the Christ.

    In John 6 we are informed that the crowd did not come because they believed, but because Jesus gave them bread. They are impressed by the Lord, but they do not believe in him. When they leave because of he hard saying, only the disciples remain, namely, those who had already believed in him.

    See Jeff no. 178: John 20.30 – 31. Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

  180. Reed Here said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Roger:

    Why are you not acknowledging what is clearly in the text? Yes, signs play a role for both types of faith.

    Yes, John 20:30-31 demonstrates that signs are used by God to yield faith in His children’s lives. That is, of course signs have a role in the Spirit-wrought faith. Never said or suggested anything different.

    This does not contradict the contrast seen in John between those who automously seek signs and those who submissively seek signs. You seem to be ignoring that, not only the Pharisees, but also the very crowds who accepted Jesus’ miraculous bread in John 6, immediately after this demanded a sign! (John 6:30.)

    Consider John 6:23:

    Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.

    Get it!? They “believed” in a sign sufficient to follow Jesus around. But when he offered them the sign they rejected him. This is autonomous, man-wrought, fickle, fallible faith!!!!! (No screaming, but lot’s of emphasis!)

    Jeff, with a little less emphasis, consider this my response to the devil’s advocate. :-) for both of you. (And you too Dr. White, always stirring the pot! ;-) .)

  181. Curate said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Paige no. 173

    Sorry for not answering you sooner on Moses and Aaron. I have been busy all day. Moses and Aaron are believers, and their sin is not one of apostasy.

    Thanks for the explanation of Israel’s vacillation prior to the exodus. I had missed that point. Here is what I think: Israel was baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea. That is their starting point with God. Moses is God’s man, and they are trusting and following him, which is the same thing as trusting God.

    Baptism is always the starting point in the life of faith, the moment that signals the transition into God’s kingdom, even if faith existed before.

    Their baptism is accompanied by faith, which is right and proper. Prior to that they were making up their minds, but the important turning point is their baptism into Moses. From that moment on they are formally counted as believers, and it is after that that they fall. God is gracious to them, forgiving them over and over, but he comes to the end of his patience at the border of the land, and curses them in his wrath.

  182. Reed Here said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Arminianistic Roger, Arminianistic ;-) (Not shouting “boo”, just offering a critique.)

  183. Curate said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Jeff no. 174

    A very thought provoking post. If I may say so, it is a good covenantal/federal reading – or is that the kiss of death on this list? Lol.

    You agree that Israel’s forgiveness was temporary, good! That is the title of this thread, and the central issue. Even if I grant that it is a corporate forgiveness, as it surely is, God has nevertheless revoked their forgiveness!

    How does that compute with y’all’s theology? God withdrew forgiveness, the thing that he is supposed not to do. You cannot argue as you do about faith, that that is was outward only, and not true forgiveness. Remitting sin is remitting sin.

  184. Curate said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Reed no. 180

    You have fallen into my hands! From your own quote, they followed Jesus NOT because they saw the signs, but because they ate their fill of bread. Where is this autonomous faith based on signs that you are talking about?

    On the road this morning I was thinking about your posts of yesterday, and it occurred to me that autonomously generated faith cannot possibly elicit a response of justification from God, because it is a work. There cannot be a response of grace to such a faith, and so grace not granted cannot be revoked.

  185. Curate said,

    February 4, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    cont. … The irony of demanding a sign immediately upon being given one magnifies their blindness. No faith based on signs there.

  186. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Curate (#183):

    You agree that Israel’s forgiveness was temporary, good! That is the title of this thread, and the central issue. Even if I grant that it is a corporate forgiveness, as it surely is, God has nevertheless revoked their forgiveness!

    How does that compute with y’all’s theology? God withdrew forgiveness, the thing that he is supposed not to do.

    Pushing the idea a bit further, what is it about national, corporate forgiveness that might be different from individual forgiveness?

    I would argue that that’s part of the difference between the Old Covenant and the New. What was lacking in the Old Covenant with its laws that caused punishment for transgression? A once-for-all sacrifice, certainly. And also — the Spirit. The deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

    So it’s not that God is “not allowed” to withdraw forgiveness. Rather, it appears in Eph. 1 that He is sovereignly arranging our salvation so that He doesn’t have to. Jesus *is* the better sacrifice that takes away sins once for all. The Spirit *is* the writing of the Law on the heart (cf. Ezek.) that makes salvation permanent and given, instead of otherwise.

    Unfortunately, I have to leave this here … I need to do some snow-blower maintenance before the storm.

    But in bullet form, here are the rest of the pieces:

    * Salvation in Israel was apparently operating at two levels.
    * Hebrews is using the corporate Israel as an example for us (individually!).
    * There is a connection between the two levels (contra Kline?) but that connection involves typology v. substance (per Kline).
    * So I think I want to conclude that the author to the Hebrews is speaking to the outward forms of faith … don’t fall away from *those* … taking on reality in the heart. This appears to be what was lacking in the Israelites.

    Gotta run,
    Jeff Cagle

  187. Paige Britton said,

    February 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Roger #181 –
    Thanks!
    I agree that Moses & Aaron are believers, so that their sin is not one of apostasy. But this isn’t something we can know from the immediate context, is it? The “belief” of the Israelites and the “unbelief” of Aaron and Moses are mentioned without deeper explanation, and we must come back with a later perspective to understand them. This is why it seemed to me that it was inadvisable to pin the word “believe” down (in Ex. 4 & 14) as the deep, salvific kind of belief, because like the “unbelief” of M & A, it needs NT commentary.

    It’s interesting: when you write, “God is gracious to them, forgiving them over and over, but he comes to the end of his patience at the border of the land, and curses them in his wrath,” it sounds very much like the way God deals with unbelievers! “The iniquity of the [fill in the blanks] is not yet complete…” (cf. Gen. 15:16). It seems possible to read this either way!

    You impress me with your persistence! Have a super day.

  188. Reed Here said,

    February 4, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Roger, #184:

    And what a feeble grip in those hands :-)

    Seriously, do you not see that the miraculously created bread that the crowd ate the day before is the sign in which they believed, prompting them to come looking for him the next day?

    They believed “with their bellies” if you will.

    Philippians 3:18-19 – For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

  189. Reed Here said,

    February 4, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Roger, #185:

    cont. … The irony of demanding a sign immediately upon being given one magnifies their blindness. No faith based on signs there.

    Exactly! This is the man-wrought faith in John 2:23. No saving faith.

    You do see how this goes against your insistence, “the text says they believed!”?

    P.S., I worry about the safety of others if you’re thinking about something I said while driving. ;-o

  190. rfwhite said,

    February 4, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Now there’s a thought … does God grant the grace of forgiveness to sinners whose faith is known by God to be only temporary?

  191. Reed Here said,

    February 4, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Dr. White:

    Is there anywhere in Scripture that it is taught that God parcels out spiritual graces, rather than a composite comphrended in Christ?

    Admitted that in Christ the elect receive ALL God’s gifts, spiritual and temporal.

    Admitted that God gives reprobates temporal gifts, i.e., the common operations of the Spirit.

    Does Scripture teach that any spiritual gift (i.e., salvific) is given temporally?

    I get that this is what the FV proposes. I believe this is only supported via the kind of contortions for which my friend Roger has demonstrated some adeptness.

    Can anyone think of a passage that unequivocally grants the grace (salvific) of forgiveness temporarly alone?

  192. rfwhite said,

    February 4, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    191 Reed: stopped working on that sermon, have we? Gonna ask questions now, are we? :-) Short answer: ” … anywhere … ” — to the best of my finite knowledge, no. Salvation in Jesus is an organic whole, an ordo salutis.

  193. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Paige no. 187

    Does God forgive unbelievers, or does he endure them?

  194. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:43 am

    Reed no. 191 “Can anyone think of a passage that unequivocally grants the grace (salvific) of forgiveness temporarly alone?”

    Israel in the wilderness? Over and over?

  195. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Reed no. 191 ” I believe this is only supported via the kind of contortions for which my friend Roger has demonstrated some adeptness.”

    LOL. Such as believing that when scripture says that Israel believed, it means they did not believe, by means of reading the Bible backwards?
    Or insisting that the Jews followed Jesus with a man wrought faith in the signs, and then quoting a scripture that says they followed him not because of the signs but because he fed their bellies?
    Or saying that God never forgives temporarily, despite the fact that God repeatedly forgave Israel in the wilderness, until they pushed him to far?
    Or Jeff’s new one that God forgave temporarily before the cross, but now never.

  196. Paige Britton said,

    February 5, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Curate #193–

    You wrote, “Does God forgive unbelievers, or does he endure them?”

    yep, that’s the question. I’ll leave it to you guys to delve the depths, there. But it’s kind of interesting to me that the kindness of God to the fickle Israelites, who, we all grant, were drawn in to relationship with him at some level, experienced the patience of God in a way that can be compared with the general patience of God towards fallen man. True, the details vary — fallen man (speaking generally) doesn’t get the manna or the 10C’s; but fallen man does get the rain and the sun, seedtime and harvest, family love, the stability of government, etc. As far as patience-with-a-time-limit goes, the stories are very similar. Here are two ways to break it down:

    1. God does NOT practice “temporary forgiveness”
    a. Common grace to unbelievers and believers alike (with a time limit)
    b. What Reed called the “common operations of the Spirit,” or temporal gifts, to the unbelieving hangers-on in Israel and the Church (with a time limit)
    c. Special grace to believers

    2. God DOES practice “temporary forgiveness”
    a. same as above
    b. Pseudo-special-grace to fickle hangers-on, with a time limit
    c. same as above

    pax,
    pb

  197. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 7:06 am

    no. 196 Paige

    The text says that God forgave Israel, not that he was kind to them in a non-salvific way. Seems straight up and down to me.

  198. Paige Britton said,

    February 5, 2010 at 7:28 am

    Does the text really say (“straight up and down”) God “forgave” them? Or is this your interpretation of events? Maybe I have missed something, but I can’t find what you are referring to (I am looking for “forgive” in my exhaustive concordance). I see Moses pleading for forgiveness on behalf of the calf-worshipers (Ex. 32:32; 34:9), but Pharaoh does the same (Ex. 10:17), and both get a temporary reprieve. Do both get temporary forgiveness? I’m still looking for that one. So far I have only found, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.” (Ex.32:33) Do you have in mind a passage I’m overlooking?
    Thanks!
    pb

  199. Paige Britton said,

    February 5, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Hey, have you guys read Psalm 78 recently? Very interesting. We don’t have to go to the NT for commentary on Exodus. I would love to hear y’all unpack what it means for God to “forgive” (as per v.38), especially in light of the VERY clear emphasis on the fact that the people in question (the generation of the Exodus) never truly believed (it says they “flattered him with their mouths” whenever they were in a pickle!).

  200. todd said,

    February 5, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Paige,

    With Israel we are dealing with typology. Just as physical salvation from Egypt typified eternal salvation in Christ, so the times the Lord forgave the OT nation, that forgiveness, which was in actuality a holding off of deserved punishment in God’s forbearance (see Rom 3:25), typified eternal forgiveness in the gospel. We must not confuse the type and anti-type.

  201. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Curate (#195): Friendly sarcasm duly noted. :) I hope, Lord willing to change your view.

    I have a small burst of time here, so let me move the bullet points forward a bit:

    Agree or disagree?

    (1) The exodus into Canaan was a type of God’s promised eternal rest. (Heb 3-4).

    (2) However, the exodus into Canaan was *not* the full substance of that rest (Heb. 4.9-10 and also Heb. 11.9-10).

    (3) Moses was a faithful servant (Heb 3) and was undoubtedly saved, but

    (4) Moses was excluded from Canaan because of unbelief and disobedience.

    If you agree so far, then

    (5) The principle by which someone entered into Canaan was typologically similar to, but different in substance from, the principle by which one enters God’s true, eternal rest. For if the two principles were the same, then Moses would have been either (a) rejected from the Land *and* from God’s eternal rest, or (b) accepted for both. But no — he was rejected from the Land (and God tells him to “shut up” about it), but accepted as a faithful servant into God’s eternal rest.

    (6) And in fact, the principle of being in Canaan is expressed in Deut. 28 is a works principle (“obey/live ; disobey/die”), while the principle of being accepted into God’s rest is one of faith, amply attested in Heb, Rom, Gen.

    [Aside: I am not a thorough-going Klinean here. In my view, the typological functioning of the Law was always demeritive for Israel. One need not walk the whole road with Kline to observe that there is typology going on with Israel and the Law: Gal. 4 and 1 Cor 10.6]

    (7) So that it might well be a mistake to assume that the national, corporate, “under the Law” dynamic that we see in the OT with regard to possession of the Land, is different from the individual, by faith, by grace dynamic that we see in the Abrahamic covenant that develops into the New Covenant.

    So it’s not that “temporary forgiveness” is only an OT thing, as you humorously summarized — it’s that “temporary forgiveness” is an “under the Law” thing, typologically related to but different from the forgiveness we receive in Christ (whether as an OT saint or NT saint).

    Now obviously, what’s left is to find that typological relationship so that we can understand the structure of thought in the warnings in Heb 3 – 4. That is: what is the relationship between faith and obedience to the Law that Hebrews is articulating? That’ll have to wait for a bit.

    But how are we so far?

    Jeff Cagle

  202. Reed Here said,

    February 5, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Roger, #191:

    I’m calling foul on you brother. You’ve conveniently ignored the arguments in my posts responding to your supposed “gotcha” examples.

    Its o.k. to say you disagree, but don’t have time to show why. It is arrogant to simply assume you’re right no matter what your opponent says. I’m assuming it is unintentional, but it is arrogance Roger.

  203. rfwhite said,

    February 5, 2010 at 9:14 am

    199 Paige Britton: I agree with Todd adding that the wilderness narrative is pedagogical; that is, it teaches that, even though Moses was made powerful to save Israel from bondage to Egypt, Moses (the old covenant) was powerless to save anyone from bondage to sin. In other words, God was teaching the people to look for another mediator and another covenant in whom/which they would find the redemption that Moses could not bring.

  204. rfwhite said,

    February 5, 2010 at 9:27 am

    199 Paige Britton: one more comment that is hopefully more relevant to the lead post and the discussion that has followed. Israel’s wilderness history as rehearsed in Ps 78 also revealed that they lacked the faith necessary to be saved from bondage to sin.

  205. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Oh, (7) was mangled. It should read,

    “It might be a mistake to assume that … was the same as …”

  206. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Reed and Paige

    Reed first. I have argued every point except the last one, that God forgave and forgave Israel in the wilderness, until his patience was ended. I will do so here. Undeserved rebuke, but no matter, I am willing to forgive, maybe only temporarily. ;)

    Num. 14:19 Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

    No more are necessary. The best counter-argument so far is that this is the kind of mercy that is a temporary withholding of judgement. That makes sense of your position. But note the verb to forgive. It is not that same as delaying judgement. It is wiping away sin so that it is no longer taken into account.

    Paige, there is your straight up and down text.

  207. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Jeff no. 201

    Yes, with you on the typology, and with you on not being Klinean.

    The question is what you understand typology to be. As I read you and the others here, it means something that looks like the reality in Christ, but is not.

    I believe that a type is the same as thing as the fulness of the thing as Christ embodies it, not just a literary illusion.

    Example: David is the kingly type of Christ, and he is a true king, not an illusory one. Jesus is the final king, who exceeds his great father David in every way – but not by stepping outside of the template, but by filling it up.

    Example: Moses is a type of Christ because he is a prophet, a priest, and the ruler of Israel. Jesus is all of these things, but better and filled up, without changing the category.

    Christ fulfills the types by being better than the originals in every way, without changing the category into something else. Type and fulfillment are not an evolutionary step into a different species/type. The difference is between good and best.

    Are you making a category error?

  208. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Jeff no. 201

    Here is the typology. Israel in the wilderness is the church. It is not like the church – it is the church. The NT church has better promises, and it is no longer under the law, but it is the same tree, with extra Gentile branches. The NT church is bigger and more blessed, but it is the same thing. It is the inheritor of the promises and covenants that God made with Abraham, Israel, and David.

    The church fell from faith into unbelief. Application to modern church: do not emulate them, or it will be worse for you than it was for them, because your blessings are so much greater.

    Type – Israel; fulfillment of type – NT church.

  209. todd said,

    February 5, 2010 at 11:44 am

    In typology, you cannot ascribe to every individual in Israel what is ascribed to them as a nation. For example, because the nation was cursed into Babylon does not mean the elect within Israel were cursed eternally. The same with forgiveness. Just because the nation Israel was temporarily forgiven does not mean the individuals within it received a pardon unto salvation. Calvin warns of Roger’s mistake in his commentary on Num 14:20, where it says God pardoned Israel.

    “But how is it consistent for Him to declare that He had spared those, upon whom He had determined to inflict the most extreme punishment, and whom He deprived of their promised inheritance? I reply that the pardon in question was not granted to the individuals, but to their race and name. For the opinion of some is unnatural, who think that they were released from the penalty of eternal death, and thence that God was propitiated towards them, because He was contented with their temporal punishment. I do not doubt, then, but that Moses was so far heard, as that the seed of Abraham should not be destroyed, and the covenant of God should not fail For He so dispensed the pardon as to preserve their posterity uninjured, whilst He inflicted on the unbelievers themselves the reward of their rebellion. Thus the conditions of the pardon were of no advantage to the impious rebels, though they opened a way for the faithful fulfillment of His promise.” (Calvin’s Commentaries)

  210. watchblack said,

    February 5, 2010 at 11:49 am

    I haven’t even come close to reading all the comments so I am not sure where the conversation is right now but let me throw this out for consideration anyway: I wonder if “temporary forgiveness” would be better labeled as “temporal forgiveness.” Ahab received a temporal reprieve, a temporal forgiveness if you will, but not a spiritual, eternal forgiveness.

    Patrick

  211. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 11:50 am

    No. 209. Todd said: In typology, you cannot ascribe to every individual in Israel what is ascribed to them as a nation.”

    This is a non-sequitur. Neither I, not anyone known to me, has ever said that what is ascribed to the nation must be applied to every individual. I have explicitly said that these texts do not apply head for head.

  212. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Curate: Just so I understand where we are, could you indicate agree/disagree with (1) – (7)? I think I know how you’ll answer, but I don’t want to presume.

  213. todd said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    # 211

    Roger,

    I understand you haven’t said it, and I appreciate that at least you are clear, but that’s where it logically must lead because you apply the temporary forgiveness principle in Israel to an individual head to head in the new covenant. So your typology is inconsistent at best. The traditional and correct approach to typology has been:

    Israel (temporary) – elect (eternal)
    Canaan (temporary) – new heavens and earth (eternal)
    Salvation from Egypt (temporary)- salvation from sin (eternal)
    OT prophets, priests, kings (temporary offices) – Jesus (eternal offices)
    OT pardons to Israel (temporary)- forgiveness in Christ (?)
    Covenant curse in Babylon (temporary) – Hell (eternal)

    On the fourth type – unlike the others, you bring the principle straight across the board – temporary to temporary. But Rom 3:25 teaches that the temporary forgiveness of Israel was a typological OT phenomenon fulfilled at the cross.

    As a result, your gospel has no indicative and imperative. We love God because he has forgiven us eternally. If our forgiveness is not eternal, there is no motivation to love God without fear, per I John 4:18&19.

  214. Reed Here said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Roger: let’s sing a round of “Here we go round the mulberry bush.” ;-)

  215. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    no. 213 Todd said: ” you apply the temporary forgiveness principle in Israel to an individual head to head in the new covenant. ”

    Wrong.

  216. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    no. 214 Reed

    Actually, there is some progress. Now people are acknowledging a temporary forgiveness in Israel, where before it was a blanket no-no. The text of scripture is a light unto our feet.

  217. todd said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Roger # 215

    I get it – you apply it to the visible church – but when one is baptized it then applies to them as individuals in the church, no?

  218. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Jeff said:

    (1) The exodus into Canaan was a type of God’s promised eternal rest. (Heb 3-4).

    Roger: Yes, absolutely.

    (2) However, the exodus into Canaan was *not* the full substance of that rest (Heb. 4.9-10 and also Heb. 11.9-10).

    Roger: Agreed. The full substance is still in the future, at the resurrection and the appearing of the age to come here on earth. It is not the intermediate state, as so many here seem to be saying.

    (3) Moses was a faithful servant (Heb 3) and was undoubtedly saved.

    Roger: Amen.

    (4) But, Moses was excluded from Canaan because of unbelief and disobedience.

    Roger: Agreed.

    If you agree so far, then

    (5) The principle by which someone entered into Canaan was typologically similar to, but different in substance from, the principle by which one enters God’s true, eternal rest. For if the two principles were the same, then Moses would have been either (a) rejected from the Land *and* from God’s eternal rest, or (b) accepted for both. But no — he was rejected from the Land (and God tells him to “shut up” about it), but accepted as a faithful servant into God’s eternal rest.

    Roger: Need more info.

    (6) And in fact, the principle of being in Canaan is expressed in Deut. 28 is a works principle (“obey/live ; disobey/die”), while the principle of being accepted into God’s rest is one of faith, amply attested in Heb, Rom, Gen.

    Roger: No. The condition of entry into both Canaan and the coming kingdom is exactly the same – faith in God’ s promises made to Abraham, and the subsequent and subordinate covenants. Faith naturally entails obedience. Even now those who disobey will be excluded, for no immoral, ungodly, greedy, idolator, will see God. No, no difference.

    (7) So that it might well be a mistake to assume that the national, corporate, “under the Law” dynamic that we see in the OT with regard to possession of the Land, is different from the individual, by faith, by grace dynamic that we see in the Abrahamic covenant that develops into the New Covenant.

    Roger: Why are you saying that what is corporate in the OT becomes individual in the New? Both are at the same time corporate and individual, with the individual subordinate to the corporate. I mean that individuals have to be members of the corporation. Many others are stumbling on this false opposition. I am seeing American individualism here, not Reformed thinking.

    So it’s not that “temporary forgiveness” is only an OT thing, as you humorously summarized — it’s that “temporary forgiveness” is an “under the Law” thing, typologically related to but different from the forgiveness we receive in Christ (whether as an OT saint or NT saint).

    Roger: No. The application of the falling generation is to the group first, in particular, to the Jewish churches to whom it was originally written. Only after we have seen that and given it its weight, may we apply it to the modern church, meaning the whole Christian Church. Only after these two steps have been acknowledged may we apply it to individual Christians.

    Now obviously, what’s left is to find that typological relationship so that we can understand the structure of thought in the warnings in Heb 3 – 4. That is: what is the relationship between faith and obedience to the Law that Hebrews is articulating? That’ll have to wait for a bit.

    Roger: OT Israel is the church. NT church is Israel expanded with incoming Gentiles. Application is not head to head, but body to body. Only then may we apply it to individuals. If you, Jeff, fall away, your judgement will be greater than Israel’s because your blessings are so much greater. You may know and feel that you are elect, and you may be, but if you fall you are doubly cursed.

  219. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    no. 217 Todd

    Yes. However, before you say gotcha, please note the subjunctive case. If you, Todd, should fall away, then your judgement will be greater.

    If you reply, but I feel that I am truly elect, and I have an infallible assurance of my salvation, so that warning does not apply to me, then I reply as follows. Wonderful, I have a similar felling that I am chosen and truly elect. However, the warning still applies to you. If you follow Israel’s example you will perish eternally. Make your calling and election more sure and certain by persevering in faith and good works.

  220. todd said,

    February 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Roger,

    So yes, you do apply the OT principle of revoked forgiveness of Israel to the possibilitiy for ind. in the new covenant. I’m not sure why you denied that at first when you just confirmed it. Again, without assurence that I am *eternally* forgiven, but possibly only temporarily forgiven, there is no motivation for perserverance in good works. You gut the gospel of its assurance.

  221. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Curate (#219):

    It’s interesting the contrast that you draw, between having a feeling of election (but being liable to fall away), and with what Todd is saying.

    It’s almost as if you think that the warnings in Hebrews are addressed to those who believe themselves to be elect, but are not in actuality. (compare WCoF 18.1).

    And if so, then I say – Yes, absolutely!

    I just wouldn’t describe their state as “temporarily forgiven”; rather, “imagining themselves as forgiven.”

    Is that where we are? Seems like you want to ascribe a reality outside of their imagination to their forgiveness?

  222. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Let me backtrack a little bit:

    “It’s almost as if you think that the warnings are to those who believe themselves to be regenerate, but are not in actuality.”

    I had election on the mind and typed one for the other *slaps head*

  223. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Coming back to Moses:

    JRC: (5) The principle by which someone entered into Canaan was typologically similar to, but different in substance from, the principle by which one enters God’s true, eternal rest.

    Roger: Need more info.

    Moses is really the linchpin in a couple of ways here, so let me press this point.

    *If* the principle for entering the land were exactly the same as the principle for entering God’s eternal rest, *then* Moses would have either failed both or passed both.

    Instead, he failed one but passed the other.

    It is a good and necessary inference, then, that the two principles must be different in some way, whether by degree or by kind.

    JRC: (6) And in fact, the principle of being in Canaan is expressed in Deut. 28 is a works principle (“obey/live ; disobey/die”), while the principle of being accepted into God’s rest is one of faith, amply attested in Heb, Rom, Gen.

    Roger: No. The condition of entry into both Canaan and the coming kingdom is exactly the same – faith in God’ s promises made to Abraham, and the subsequent and subordinate covenants. Faith naturally entails obedience. Even now those who disobey will be excluded, for no immoral, ungodly, greedy, idolator, will see God. No, no difference.

    Well, there’s a logical issue here. It is *true* that faith entails (meaning, “implies”) obedience. If I may be systematic for a moment, WCoF 14.3, 15.3, and 17.1 all teach this.

    It is not necessarily the case, however, that the obedience of faith is the same as obedience under the Law. That is to say: the reason that idolators do not enter the kingdom is *not* the same reason that Moses failed to enter the land. The first are evincing their lack of faith through their sin; but Moses, who had faith (Heb 11.24 – 28), nevertheless disobeyed the command and was excluded.

    So let’s break this down further:

    (6a) Do you agree that Deut. 28 requires of the Israelites an absolute obedience — obey all these things and be blessed; disobey and be cursed?

    (6b) Do you agree that being under this principle, as it functioned in Israel, was a means of cursing? Gal 3.10 – 14: All who are of the Law are under a curse, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not do everything written in the book of the Law.”

    (6c) Do you agree that the Israelites were in fact “of the Law”, as a tutelage? Gal 4 and Rom 3.19ff. And that the Law was given “that trespass might increase” (Rom 5.20)?

    (6d) Can you therefore agree that the Israelite’s stay in the land was not entirely of faith, but was also conditioned by a works-principle (which they failed utterly)?

  224. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    no. 220 Todd

    Read my reply again, giving special attention to the subjunctive case. Look up the meaning of the subjunctive.

    Also, look at what I said to Jeff about seeing the OT as corporate but the NT as individual. Of course we must apply things to individuals – but not with the model you are using. That is my point, not that we must not apply it to individuals.

    Portraying the OT as corporate only, and then contrasting that with alleged exclusive NT individualism is a category mistake. Both you and Jeff have made it.

  225. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Curate (#224):

    I haven’t gotten around yet to the corporate aspect of the NT. I agree with you that it’s there in Hebrews.

  226. Curate said,

    February 5, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    no. 223 Jeff

    Your argument about Moses is new to me, and I need time to absorb it.

    What I can speak to is the assertion that entering and remaining in the land was a law issue, not a faith issue.

    False opposition.

    Believers do not have their sins taken into account, so if Israel in the land had believed, their remaining sins would have been overlooked by God, and they would have remained in the land. That was in fact the case with the believing generations, such as the conquest generation under Joshua. If they had disbelieved they would have been unable to enter like their fathers.

    Yes, they were under the law, and yes, it was that sin might abound. But when we look at OT believers we do not see them participating in the abounding sin. Think of any OT hero of faith. They believed AND obeyed, just as the elect always do and always will.

    This relationship between faith and works is a very important FV concern. Almost all of us see in arguments like yours a false opposition.

    I personally believe fully in the law/gospel distinction, but with this huge caveat: the distinction applies only within the doctrine of justification by faith alone, not to other doctrines, like the life of faith. Many FV opponents are erring by applying it in other areas the way you have, with respect.

    However, we who are justified by free grace are no longer under law, but under grace, so that sin no longer reigns in our mortal bodies. This has always been the case, both in the OT and the NT era.

    I hope that I have spoken to your issue. It is late here in the UK, and I am tired, so forgive me if I have missed the boat.

  227. todd said,

    February 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Roger,

    Yes, the I Cor 10 warning applies – the warning is not to assume based on outward privileges that they were eternally saved. We say the same for those trusting in their baptism and church membership. So what?

    The point is twofold, the minor one being that you are applying an OT category of forgiveness that is typological and earthly for a nation to individuals in the church who do not persevere. This the NT does not do.

    But even more, you have gutted the gospel from its ability to bring assurance and peace. And you have separated imputation from forgiveness. The reason I want to persevere is because Christ forgave my sins eternally and declared me eternally righteous when I believed. But you say, maybe not. That forgiveness of my sins may have been temporary, but may be revoked. So with no assurance that I am eternally forgiven, why should I even try?
    You’ve got it all backwards. Instead of perseverance in faith and works being the result of assurance of salvation, you’ve got it as the ground. You have put the cart before the horse.

  228. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Curate (#226):

    Just to clear up a misunderstanding:

    What I can speak to is the assertion that entering and remaining in the land was a law issue, not a faith issue. False opposition.

    Not quite. I was saying that there was a law principle acting in addition to a faith principle at work.

    Rest well.

    The snowblower’s working, just in time for “20 to 30 inches over the next 24 hrs.” Woot!

    Jeff

  229. David Gadbois said,

    February 5, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    This all illustrates the importance of seeing that the national covenant with Israel is, in some sense, a republication of the covenant of works. We can’t just carry over features from God’s conditional economy with national Israel to the Pauline categories of individual soteriology. That is bad systematic theology. Paul tells us specifically in Galatians that we can’t do this -the Mosaic covenant is not like the Abrahamic covenant, nor does it overturn the Abrahamic covenant.

    Against the hermeneutic of dispensationalists and all other stripes of biblicists, Reformed theology has always insisted on letting the NT interpret the OT.

  230. watchblack said,

    February 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Jeff, does this mean that the Mosaic Covenant was a combination of grace and works?

    Patrick

  231. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Not in my understanding. Which may be flawed, but here goes…

    First, the moral content of the Mosaic Law was a republication of the covenant of works (WCoF 19.2), “as a perfect rule of righteousness.” As Law, it was not a justifying rule, but a dejustifying rule: the Law was given that sin might be exposed. So for example, the Law was the basis on which God expelled the Israelites from the land (cf Deut. 28 and 2 Chr. 36).

    It also functioned as an administration of the covenant of grace in that it served as a tutor to lead to Christ, both in a history-of-redemption sense (as in Isaiah) but also in an individual sense (as in David). (WCoF 7.5-6).

    Distinct from this rule of righteousness was the covenant that God made with Abraham: you will be my people, and I will be your God. Participation in this covenant required faith.

    I say “distinct from” because the principles were different (obey/live; disobey/die v. The just shall live by faith), as evidenced most clearly in Rom 3 – 4.

    However, the two were not entirely separate in that

    (1) Jesus fulfilled the Law in order that we might become the righteousness of God,
    (2) The tenure of the Israelites in the Land was governed by a works principle (Deut. 28) but softened by the covenant of grace, in that the Israelites were often granted a stay of execution “for the sake of Abraham” (or “for the sake of David”, or at the request of Moses).
    (3) Those who are in fact saved by grace derive guidance from the Law as to how to live by faith, yet not as a principle of works. (WCoF 19.5-6).

    So I would say that there are two principles in operation in Israel, rather than saying that the Mosaic covenant was a combination of grace and works (“add a little grace, add a little works, mix together.” — blech!).

    These principles are antithetical in their functioning, but consonant in their moral content, being joined in this idea: Jesus fulfills the law (works principle) for the sake of His people (grace principle).

    Thoughts?

  232. rfwhite said,

    February 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    231 Jeff: so as to bring out the application of what you say to the topic of forgiveness, I would only add these thoughts. As you suggest by speaking of the Law as a “dejustifying” rule of righteousness, the Law, as a result of Israel’s sin, proved to be a covenant of condemnation, bondage, and death (2 Cor 3:6-14; Rom 7:10-11) that shut the nation up under sin (Gal 3:22) and curse (Gal 3:10). Yet no one needed to despair of forgiveness (justification) despite the findings of the Law. They needed only to follow in the footsteps of father Abraham and look to the Lord Himself to find in Him a righteousness better than their own, which Moses and the Law could not provide. As by faith Abraham had found a righteousness better than his own, so by faith could his many seed.

  233. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Thanks, Dr. White — and please correct any flaws or errors, also!

    Curate: Good morning.

    One of the important features of the Old Covenant in its shadowy administration was the notion of temporary forgiveness or we might even call it, temporary justification.

    That is to say: an Israelite who transgressed the Law became accountable under the Law, and then had to perform a sacrifice. The sacrifice propitiated the sin and brought the individual back into the corporate holiness of Israel — until he sinned again.

    There was wrath against sin, and then forgiveness, and then wrath again and then forgiveness again, and so on. All of this was typological; the blood of goats and bulls never took away sins to begin with. Instead, the sacrifices were designed to point forward.

    Hebrews of course brings all this out and then brings out the difference between the New and Old: under Jesus, the sacrifice takes away sins once for all.

    So at the individual level, there was temporary forgiveness, operating typologically. A true OT saint was, in some way, able to see through the shadows to the one true Sacrifice ahead: and was thus justified by faith.

    By saying all of this, I’m making the case that there was temporary forgiveness, but it was under Law. It was typological. It has been superseded because the Sacrifice that takes away sins forever has been made, and those with faith in Him are justified, once for all, just as those with faith in Him were justified, once for all, in the OT.

    So circling back around to the Hebrews in the desert as our example. In what way were they our example?

    I would argue:

    (1) The Hebrews fell because of disobedience.
    (2) They were disobedient because, at least corporately, they lacked faith.
    (3) Their punishment came because of the Law principle.
    (4) So that some, like Moses, who possessed salvation, were caught up in the corporate typology of the Law, so that Moses died in the desert with the rest having disobeyed the Law principle.
    (5) We now are not under the Law principle, so that our salvation is not structured like their entry into the land, under Deut. 28; nor is our forgiveness to be compared to their temporary on again/off again justification.
    (6) So that they are not an example to us of the possibility of believing then losing belief (a thesis that Hebrews does not teach);
    (7) Rather, they are an example to us of the possibility of belonging corporately to the forms of salvation, without grasping the substance.

    We in the visible church, who bear the name of Jesus, grab ahold of the forms of salvation. We say the creeds, sing the hymns, partake of communion. But unless we have fled to Jesus by faith, says the author, we are in danger of falling away.

    (And I would add, the recipients of the letter appear to have been in danger of doing so by returning to the OT sacrificial forms, thus denying the substance while reveling in the shadow.)

    Thoughts?

  234. Paige Britton said,

    February 5, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Small thoughts –
    Just a quick “thank you” to Todd & Dr. White for explaining typology and forgiveness in Ps 78, and to Jeff for making many things clear. I am really appreciating this discussion.

    pb

  235. watchblack said,

    February 5, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Jeff: you wrote “2) The tenure of the Israelites in the Land was governed by a works principle (Deut. 28) but softened by the covenant of grace, in that the Israelites were often granted a stay of execution “for the sake of Abraham” (or “for the sake of David”, or at the request of Moses).”

    How is this not a mixture or combination of works and grace in the same covenant, i.e. the Mosaic Covenant?

    You also wrote: “(3) Those who are in fact saved by grace derive guidance from the Law as to how to live by faith, yet not as a principle of works. (WCoF 19.5-6).”

    So when God instituted the Mosaic Covenant and gave Israel the Ten Commandments, was the saved Israelite to keep the Ten Commandments according to the faith-principle or the works-principle? And did God give the Ten Commandments to Israel according to the faith-principle or according to the works principle?

    Patrick

  236. rfwhite said,

    February 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    234 Paige B: glad to help.

    233 Jeff C: perhaps it helps to call the “temporary (temporal?) forgiveness” under the Law by another name: “typological forgiveness.” Linking Todd’s reminder of Rom 3.25 with Heb 9.15; 10.1-4, it seems reasonable to say that the Law, with its sinful, mortal priests and ceaseless sacrifices made nothing and no one perfect, which is to say, they did not and could not provide final forgiveness; rather they pointed beyond themselves to the future single, unrepeatable, efficacious sacrifice by a sinless, immortal, non-Levitical priest through whom alone that final forgiveness would come.

  237. rfwhite said,

    February 5, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Patrick: while Jeff digs out from under blankets of snow, let me take a stab at your questions. You ask if Jeff hasn’t present the Mosaic covenant as a mixture of works and grace. My answer is, no, we’re speaking of two different things: reception and retention of the land. Israel received the blessings of residence in the land according to the exemplary obedience of Abraham, not an obedience of their own (see Gen 22:16-18; 26:5 with Deut 4:37-38; 7:6-8; 9:4-6; 10:14-15). On the other hand, to drive home the message that the justification of sinners was, from beginning to end, by grace alone through faith alone, Israel would keep or lose the blessings of residence in the land according to their own obedience (see Lev 18:5 with Deut 6:25; 30:15-20). In fact, God drove home the lesson of both principles by treating the nation according to their representatives’ (especially the kings’) conduct (e.g., 2 Sam 12-24; 1 Chron 21; Neh 9:34-36; Isa 43:27-28). Granted their consistent failure, the Law was Israel’s pedagogue, teaching them that, if they were ever both to receive and to retain the blessings of rest in Abraham’s promised homeland (Heb 11:10, 14-16), they must find the obedience that satisfied the Law in someone other than themselves, in someone greater than Abraham who could stand in their place, even becoming sin for them that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him (Isa 53; 2 Cor 5:21). That someone, of couse, was the one Seed from the tribe of Judah and from the order of Melchizedek.

  238. Paige Britton said,

    February 5, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Patrick #235 –
    you wrote, “How is this not a mixture or combination of works and grace in the same covenant, i.e. the Mosaic Covenant?”

    Just a small thought — from Moses -> Jesus, there are parallel covenants, meaning they overlap in time, but they are distinct. So that one could have lived UNDER the Mosaic law but still be IN the Abrahamic covenant (i.e., condemned by the law while saved by faith). It sounds like Jeff is adding that the Abrahamic covenant of grace & promise extended some of that grace, a temporal “softening” of the condemnation of the law, to the nation “for the sake of Abraham/David/Moses.”

  239. Paige Britton said,

    February 5, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Dr. White (re. #236) –
    Just to clarify, would “typological forgiveness” be the appropriate label for the forgiveness mentioned in Nu. 14:19 — “Please pardon the iniquity of this people…just as you have forgiven this people from Egypt until now” — and Ps. 78:38 — at least the NIV uses the word “forgive”; ESV says “atoned for their iniquity” — ?

    I ask because, unless I am mistaken, the forgiveness mentioned at these points in Israel’s wanderings is not mediated through the sacrificial system.

    Thanks!
    pb

  240. rfwhite said,

    February 5, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    235 Patrick: as to your second question — So when God instituted the Mosaic Covenant and gave Israel the Ten Commandments, was the saved Israelite to keep the Ten Commandments according to the faith-principle or the works-principle? — my answer is, the saved Israelite was expected to learn the lessons that he could not keep the Law and that he had to look to the work of another. The Law, as his pedagogue, taught at least the lessons of total inability and the necessity of faith. As to total inability, the Law taught the sinner that, in and of himself, he was not morally competent (i.e., he was not free) to serve the LORD God and to keep His commandments. The Law revealed the sinner’s inability, though it could not relieve it (Gal 3:21-24). So the Law had a second lesson: the necessity of faith. That is, the Law bore witness to the need for faith (Gal 3:22-24) in the redemptive work (Gal 3:13) of another, namely, the one true Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:19) from the tribe of Judah and the order of Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20; 49:10; Ps110:4; Heb 7:4-14). That’s my take.

  241. February 5, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Wow, I go off for a week and you all post like crazy. I read most of the posts and didn’t see anyone address the key challenge at the end of the post, and a few of the key points were forgotten.

    Someone earlier asked if the episodes in the OT where God was said to forgive corporate Israel were cases of temporary forgiveness or forbearance. As I showed in the original post, the latter has been the predominant explanation from the orthodox Reformed (see point 2 in the post). Again, Scripture is clear that God cannot change His mind (Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29). Eze 24:14 makes it perfectly clear that God is sovereignly in charge and will not relent. Temporary forgiveness isn’t in the picture. There’s nothing in the comments above that cannot be explained in the context of the totality of Scripture as God’s forbearance until His perfect time for judgment, either temporal or eternal.

    I also notice that no one has touched on the FV connection with open theism, or alternately the Roman church view that subsequent sin can cause one to love forgiveness and justification. Both of these can account for Rayburn’s stance on temporary forgiveness.

  242. rfwhite said,

    February 5, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    239 Paige B: fair question. Unless something else occurs to me I think we’d have to see the forgiveness of the wilderness era as reflecting the same principle of representation, showing favor to sinners because of the work (active or passive) of another.

  243. Paige Britton said,

    February 5, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    Well, then, we could call it typological because of a mediator, right? Just a different set of types. :)

  244. Paige Britton said,

    February 5, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Bob (#241) —
    oh, was there a post back there? It was so long ago. I think we need a sheep dog to keep us in line. :)
    pb

  245. todd said,

    February 5, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Bob,

    I agree that temporary forgiveness is not the best description, and it is forbearance in a certain time in Israel’s national history, but in the context of typology I think we all understand what we mean without confusing it with open theism. It is like saying salvation from Egypt was earthly and temporary. But I think your open theism concern is a proper criticism of FV when they suggest God forgives a person because they believe in Christ and then changes his mind and revokes that same forgiveness when they do not persevere.

  246. Curate said,

    February 6, 2010 at 1:23 am

    no. 233 Jeff said: “We in the visible church, who bear the name of Jesus, grab ahold of the forms of salvation. We say the creeds, sing the hymns, partake of communion. But unless we have fled to Jesus by faith, says the author, we are in danger of falling away.”

    Good morning.

    Last sentence should read, unless we continue to hold on to Christ by faith, we are in danger of falling away. The Hebrews letter assumes a present state of salvation, it is not an exhortation to take hold of it. It is an exhortation to keep hold of it.

    Vital difference. You cannot fall if you are not standing.

  247. Curate said,

    February 6, 2010 at 1:41 am

    Jeff et al, I have identified a few questionable axioms that are informing your posts here. They are:

    1. OT is corporate, but NT is individual.
    2. OT is typological, meaning not the real thing.
    3. OT has temporary forgiveness, but now in Christ we have permanent forgiveness.
    4. OT salvation is not real salvation, because it is temporal not eternal, meaning it is within time and space, unlike real salvation.

    Jeff, you are now saying that both OT and NT are both corporate and individual, but that has not worked itself out into your exegesis.

    I am arguing that:
    1. OT and NT are both corporate and individual.
    2. A type is the real thing but not the mature article.
    3. The OT has both temporary and permanent forgiveness. Abraham is the prime example of an elect man saved by grace alone through faith alone who perseveres by grace to the end. Israel in the wilderness is forgiven temporarily until they go too far in their unbelief. The NT has both as well.
    4. The temporal and eternal opposition is fictitious. Final salvation is here on earth, at the resurrection, lived out here on earth in time and space, in the never ending earthly kingdom of David, ruled in time and space by David’s heir, the Lord Jesus, under God the High King, who will himself be on earth with us, just as he was in the beginning with Adam.

    Here is a list of the temporal blessings secured for us by Christ.

    There we will see that Abraham has numberless descendants.
    They will have been saved from all their enemies.
    They will live at rest in the land of promise, the renewed earth.
    God will be their God and they will be his people.
    Abraham’s seed, the Lord Jesus, will rule as king, as promised to David.
    All who curse them will be cursed and those who bless them will be blessed.
    All the nations of the earth will be blessed in Abraham’s singular seed.

    (Have I missed any of the temporal blessings out? Such as agricultural fruitfulness and abundance?)

    These are key points where we are talking past each other.

  248. Curate said,

    February 6, 2010 at 1:51 am

    On forgiveness as forebearance: I agree that the instances of forgiveness in the wilderness are just forebearance, not a complete remission of sins.

    Calvin has it right. Thanks for that quote Todd.

    I mean that the rebellious Israelites had singular acts of rebellion forgiven, not a total remission of all their sins, which is what justification by faith is.

    Therefore, Israel believed God during the actual exodus from Egypt. They bow their heads and worship. Then they fall, and from then on it is a bloodbath, but God’s mercy is shown in saving a remnant, not wiping out the entire nation, and starting again with Moses.

    This squares with Hebrews 6 which teaches that it is impossible for those who have spurned Christ to be brought to repentance.

  249. Paige Britton said,

    February 6, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Roger #248 –
    I am a little confused. Didn’t you say before that the forgiveness that the Israelites in the wilderness received was the eternal kind of forgiveness, not just “forbearance”? Are you changing your mind on this? Does this mean you have also changed your mind re. the quality of their faith — that it now appears to you to be less-than-saving faith? If so, is there anything left of those narratives to support your continued understanding that God gives “temporary forgiveness” to some but then withdraws it because they have committed apostasy? (Forgive me if I am reading too much into your statements, fore and aft — I’m just trying to sort all this out.)
    thanks!
    pb

  250. Reed Here said,

    February 6, 2010 at 8:01 am

    “Slip slidin away-aya-ay, slip slidin away. You know the near you pin him down, the more he slips slidin away.”

    Horrible use of Paul Simon, but maybe he won’t find out :-)

  251. David Gray said,

    February 6, 2010 at 8:25 am

    >Horrible use of Paul Simon

    There is no good use of Paul Simon, except, perhaps, to torture Islamists…

  252. Curate said,

    February 6, 2010 at 8:26 am

    no. 249

    Yes, I have changed my mind that the forgiveness they received was what we call justification.

    I have not commented on the quality of their faith at the time of the exodus itself. It may well be that their faith was not real faith. I wonder if there is something in the text of the Pentateuch that speaks directly to that?

  253. Reed Here said,

    February 6, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Roger, #252:

    This is simply ridiculous. You and I make up the majority of the exchange here. The whole conversation was about the nature of the faith in view. My contention was that it was not “real” faith. You spent your whole time opposing me, taking the other sied – i.e., that it was real faith.

    You have been equivocating, routinely and regularly. I challenged you with arrogance because do not see that you are doig this – and you accuse me of the very errors you are making.

    Simply ridiculous friend! Please, see it..

  254. Curate said,

    February 6, 2010 at 10:10 am

    no. 253 Reed

    Hey dude, I have changed my mind in your direction here. I thought you would be happy. I now think that the Israelites believed during the actual exodus and through the Red Sea, and fell in the wilderness, and never believed again.

    Question for you: if Israel did not believe during the Passover, why did God save them?

  255. rfwhite said,

    February 6, 2010 at 10:25 am

    239 & 243 Paige B: as I understand it, the pardon that God granted the nation was part of the shadow and type of the Mosaic administration of the Abrahamic covenant. The pardon was the divine determination not to kill the nation as one man (i.e., without differentiating the believing remnant from the generally apostate exodus generation; 14.15) but to preserve the nation through the believing remnant despite the judgment of the generally apostate generation (14.20-35). The pardon was granted in response to the intercession of Moses (note: a Levite) on the basis of an appeal to the oath to Abraham, according to which the nation was not only to be delivered from Egypt but also to be delivered into Canaan (14.13-18). Throughout Num 14, God indicts the exodus generation as a whole for their lack of faith, as has been discussed above.

  256. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 6, 2010 at 10:40 am

    All:

    I’m fine with calling the wilderness episodes “forbearance” rather than “temporary forgiveness”; and with the sacrificial system as providing “typological forgiveness” instead of “temporary forgiveness.”

    Both of the suggested terms do a better job of expressing the functioning we’ve been describing.

  257. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 6, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Patrick (#235):

    The difficulty of your question is nailing down what “combination” means. I see your point when you suggest that the working of the law principle and the working of the grace principle simultaneously amounts to a combination.

    However, I would resist the term “combination” a bit as suggesting something that we don’t want: that the law principle and grace principle merge into a single principle, partly law and partly grace.

    So for example:

    blackwatch: [W]hen God instituted the Mosaic Covenant and gave Israel the Ten Commandments, was the saved Israelite to keep the Ten Commandments according to the faith-principle or the works-principle? And did God give the Ten Commandments to Israel according to the faith-principle or according to the works principle?

    Yes, both. The saved Israelite, as a part of the corporate nation was under the Deut. 28 principle. Put bluntly, Daniel was deported along with Jehoiakim. Also, the saved Israelite, under the Law, had to perform the sacrifices according to the Law. And he had to obey the Mosaic case Law in its civil aspect.

    So from a law perspective, all three aspects of the Law (moral, ceremonial, and civil) were in force for the Israelite, believing or no.

    Additionally, outside of the works principle, the believing Israelite obeyed the moral Law as a consequence of his faith. (We could talk about the underlying mechanism of the Spirit here, but I don’t feel confident about the Spirit’s role in the OT).

    So I see the two working in parallel. They are “combined” in that they occur in the same people, but not “combined” in the sense of merging into one principle.

    Better?

    Jeff Cagle

  258. Paige Britton said,

    February 6, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Roger (#252) –
    Okay, so then I was not crazy. :) I would suggest that Psalm 78 is the official commentary on the quality of the Exodus generation’s faith at any time.

    Dr. White (#255) –
    Thanks for the elaboration!

    pb

  259. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 6, 2010 at 10:51 am

    (sorry about the reversed handle in the quote)

  260. Paige Britton said,

    February 6, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Hi, Jeff, how much snow do YOU have?? It’s still falling in southern Lancaster County! ;)
    pb

  261. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Curate (#247):

    I think I’ve failed to be clear, since (1)-(4) don’t really accurately represent what I believe.

    (1) Both OT and NT have individual and corporate functionings. I’ve been focusing on the individual in the NT because the author to the Hebrews goes there … in terms of exhorting individual perseverance and faith. And on the corporate in the OT, since our examples in Ex 4 and Num 14 have been examples of corporate functioning.

    So I think your (1) reflects the nature of our discussion, and a real incompleteness in my treatment of the whole, rather than a false assumption that I carry.

    (2) Rather than “not real”, I would say that the types are “shadows.” That word implies

    (a) a picture of reality rather than the substance, and
    (b) not necessarily in 1-1 correspondence to the full substance.

    So I’ve been arguing that the “temporary” or “typological” forgiveness under the sacrifices does not bear a 1-1 correspondence to the “permanent” forgiveness we have in Jesus. That is: it is a mistake to try to carry over every feature from the OT into the NT.

    (3) and (4). The situation is made complicated because of the two principles operating simultaneously in the OT.

    *Under the Law*, there was not permanent forgiveness. But *under the Law* does not exhaust the OT. Additionally, there was the Abrahamic covenant, in which individuals were justified through faith, permanently.

    BTW: 23″ and 6-10 more to come.

  262. Paige Britton said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Reed (#253) –
    as ridiculous as some of this may have been (not to mention off Bob’s hoped-for topic), I think this has also been my favorite exchange that I’ve read on GB — some really pleasant, thoughtful, text-based discussion.
    :)
    pb

  263. watchblack said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:07 am

    RFW #240: Israel received the land on the basis of God’s gracious promise, not on the basis of Abraham’s obedience. But if there is, as you say, a difference between reception and retention then why didn’t the first generation enter the land? Why were they excluded on the basis of their disobedience?

    Also, was it not due to grace, as Jeff notes, that God did not automatically remove Israel from the land. So with respect to retention of the land, how is there not a mixture of grace and works?

    Patrick

  264. watchblack said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:10 am

    RFW # 240 (my other response should have said #237):

    So was there no third use of the law for the saved Israelite under Moses?

  265. watchblack said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Paige (#238): if what you say is correct then the Mosaic Covenant is not the same in substance with the covenant of grace or new covenant.

  266. Reed Here said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Roger, #254:

    O.k. dude, me chillin out.

    Yes, that is the question, why did he forgive them? Dr. White’s answer is pretty well biblically grounded, don’t you think?

    Still comes back to the nature of forgiveness, don’t you thiink? Consider all the ground we’ve traversed. Is it not much more consistent to say that Hebrews is using the Exodus generation as a typological example, a picture? Doesn’t this itself teach that we should not go beyond the boundaries of the picture frame, i.e., Hebrew’s use?

    In that regard, saying that Hebrews teaches that the Exodus Generation had real (Spirit-wrought faith of election) but temporarily, goes beyond the borders of the frame. Hebrews does not tell us details about the nature of the Exodus Generation’s faith. They’re only used as a limited picture.

    To be sure, Hebrews itself tell us an important qualifier about the belief of this generation.

    Hebrews 4:2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.

    Yes they heard a form of the gospel (good news in the text). Yet the text says there was no spiritual-union, thus not regenerated. This is because they lacked a particular spiritual capacity that is essential for their hearing, namely faith.

    Couple that with Paige’s insight from Psalm 78 (thanks Paige), and a host of similar passages, and why are we not to conclude that the “believing” that is reported in Ex 4:31 is not a temporary experience of Spirit-wrought faith, but nothing more than man-wrought faith.

    After, all, God’s own commentary on their “belief” is this:

    >Psalm 78:21-22 Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power.

    I.O.W. there was not temporary Spirit-wrought faith in the Exodus Generation (generally speaking, keep in mind Dr. White’s observation.) Hebrews is not using them as an example to prove this point.

    I admit Roger that this is only one textual example removed from your position, and that you base your convictions on others. Is it possible you’re over-reading, allowing some legitimate concerns (the force of the apostasy warning, see next comment), to result in a structure that over-loads the text with meaning not intended?

  267. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Curate (#246):

    Last sentence should read, unless we continue to hold on to Christ by faith, we are in danger of falling away. The Hebrews letter assumes a present state of salvation, it is not an exhortation to take hold of it. It is an exhortation to keep hold of it.

    Vital difference. You cannot fall if you are not standing.

    That’s a good point in the last sentence, and I want to balance it with these observations.

    Notice the language that surrounds each instance of “warning.” I’ve tried to be exhaustive; feel free to add on if I missed one. Rather than quote each, I invite you to read along these passages:

    Heb 2.1 – 3; 3.1 – 6; 3.12 – 19; ch 4; 6.1-12; 10.19 – 39; 12.14 – 29.

    What we notice in these passages is a contrast between

    * those who shrink back and those who believe and are saved.
    * land that produces a crop and land that produces thorns and thistles.
    * those who heard the word, but did not combine it with faith; and those who believe and enter God’s rest.

    We notice that one can be enlightened and taste of God’s goodness, and then fall away. It is possible to have the Gospel preached to oneself, and then fall away. It is possible to profess hope but fail to take possession of it.

    But nowhere does it teach that one can enter God’s rest, and then fall out of it.

    The one thing that is missing in the language of Hebrews is the notion that one can be saved, then fall out of that salvation.

    Instead, there are multiple references to people who approach salvation, come right to the edge of it, even profess it — and then shrink back and are lost.

    So whatever we might say about these people, I think we should not go beyond the silence of Hebrews, and assume that one can enter God’s rest then leave it, or be land producing good fruit, then *poof* become land producing thistles, or be “of those who believe and are saved” and then deconvert into those who “shrink back and are destroyed.”

    In my opinion, the author is speaking of those who are within the church, who have every outward evidence of belonging to Christ. They might be hypocrites; or they might simply be one of those who have not yet understood the Gospel. To these, and especially the latter, he encourages a sharper, clearer-eyed distinction between faith and unbelief; and that distinction is summed up in the word, “perseverance.” True faith perseveres, because it has the Great High Priest as its object.

    (Speaking more systematically here, faith perseveres because of what it receives: the promised Spirit, who seals our inheritance. However, the author does not bring this out. For him, perseverance is simply the evidence of faith — which is how he uses it in Heb 11, to demonstrate the faith of the various folk in the parade of faith.)

  268. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:35 am

    So to bring the circle back:

    You cannot fall if you are not standing.

    Yes: but if you are standing upon the basis of having heard the Gospel, on the basis of having done some good in the past (10.32-34, 6.10), on the basis of having tasted or seen the operation of the Spirit, you can fall.

    If you are standing on the Son, you cannot.

  269. Reed Here said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Roger, #254:

    Consider brother reading the apostasy warning of Hebrews slightly differently.

    > The warning is real and serious. The consequences are not make believe for the writer, but an actual and real danger. The use of the Exodus Generation is intended to offer a real example of the reality of the danger.

    > Yet the the danger warned against goes beyond the picture (an ordinary feature for typology). The warning is not that you may die in the wilderness just like them, but that you may die eternally and fail to enter the real Promised Land, even the New Heaven/Earth of Rev 21-22. This goes beyond the picture of the experience of the Ecodus Generation.

    > The writer expect of his hearers a different response than that given by the Exodus Generation. Their hearing of the gospel was not received by Spirit-wrought faith. Thus they were not united to those who did listen with such faith and so believe unto eternal life (e.g., in the context of Hebrews, paramountly Abraham, secondarily the Hall of Faith-Heroes).

    > The contrast then is not between those who believed via Spirit-wrought faith temporarily and those who believed via Spirit-wrought faith perseveringly. The contrast is between those believed with a faith that united them to those who inherit the eternal promise, and those who believe with a faith that does not unite them to those who so inherit.

    > I.O.W., the warning of the apostasy is not a warning to pursue faithfulness per se. The right response to the warning is not, “Well, if I don’t want to faill away like the Exodus Generation, I better try harder.” No, the right response is, “Well, I better seek for the right kind of faith, one that unites me to those who inherit the eternal promise.”

    > To summarize in familiar language, the warning is not to seek faithfulness, not to seek to add qualities to your faith in order to secure it. The warning is to seek the right kind of faith in the first place.

    > The danger is not you can have the right kind of faith, but eventually lose it. The danger is that you might not have the right kind of faith in the first place.

    > Say the warning another way consistent with the writer’s intent, and it might read, “Don’t supose because you are counted among the nation of Israel (by application to us, counted as members of the Visible Church), that you are necessarily spiritually united and in possession of a faith which receives eternal life.” This is nothing more than an application of Paul’s teaching in:

    Romans 2:28-29 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

    There is no need to supposed a temporary “real” forgiveness, i.e., that which is constituatively the same as that which the elect experience. The warning is not to perfect a “real” (elect-type) but flawed faith. The warning to seek and secure that which is not possessed in the first place, real Spirit-wrought faith through which one recieves the eternal inheritance.

  270. Reed Here said,

    February 6, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Paige, #262: yes, I’m rather being blessed by the interaction as well.

    I might add a note of compliment for Roger here. He is doing a bang-up job of staying with three, sometimes four or more different threads of comment, as each of us is sparing with (more or less). Kudos and thanks Roger.

  271. Curate said,

    February 6, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Gentlemen, and lady.

    I cannot answer all the points that you have all recently made because I have run out of time to do so. Tomorrow is Sunday, and I have to do a few other things. I am seeing a real improvement in the quality of your arguments, and I have had to up my own game in response.

    Israel’s forgiveness in the wilderness is by no means in response to their faith or repentance, but solely because of Moses, their covenanted representative, holding God to the promises he made to Abraham.

    A continuing error in all of your posts is a blanket application of God’s condemnation of Israel’s unbelief to all of Israel’s actions, including their response of faith in Egypt and after the crossing of the Sea.

    Here I must hold your noses to the text, which says that Israel believed, that they were saved as a result, and that they bowed down and worshipped Yahweh. Up to this point there is no suggestion of God’s displeasure of what you are saying is really hypocritical pretended faith. Rather we see God responding to it with blessing.

    You are asking me to believe that God’s just punishment must include that response of what the editor, Moses, calls faith. You refuse to call it faith, but Moses has no such scruples.

    Another area of mistaken scrupling is in refusing to call God’s mercy to Israel forgiveness. God calls it by that word, in the texts I quoted to you. So does the Psalmist.

    Do not be more biblical than the Bible. Do not be more righteous than God.

    The condemnation texts must be restricted in scope to the rebellion in the wilderness. Note that Psalm 95, just as Hebrew does, tells us not to imitate the rebellion in the wilderness. He does not say the rebellion in Egypt and the wilderness. There was no rebellion in Egypt.

    The message of Hebrews is not, as Reed suggests, check that you have the right kind of faith. It is, Do not drift and fall.

    Jeff says essentially the same thing here: Instead, there are multiple references to people who approach salvation, come right to the edge of it, even profess it — and then shrink back and are lost.

    No, that is not what Hebrews is saying at all. It says strengthen the arms that hand down, and the knees that sag. How shall we Christian Jews escape if we ignore so great a salvation. It does not say examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith, or examine your faith.

    It says persevere in the faith that you have, do not harden your hearts as your fathers did in the wilderness.

    It is all there on the face of the text.

  272. Curate said,

    February 6, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    no. 270 Reed.

    Kudos to you all in return. Each side has acknowledged good arguments from the other.

    Most importantly, thanks for the grace being displayed.

  273. Curate said,

    February 6, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Clarification: this paragraph is my improved take on the wilderness, not, as my post implies, mistakenly, an error of yours.

    Israel’s forgiveness in the wilderness is by no means in response to their faith or repentance, but solely because of Moses, their covenanted representative, holding God to the promises he made to Abraham.

  274. rfwhite said,

    February 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    263 Patrick: Setting God’s promise to Israel against Abraham’s obedience puts asunder what the texts cited put together: they state that the ground of God’s promises of exodus from Egypt and entry into Canaan for Israel was the obedience of Abraham; the ground of those promises was not the obedience of Israel. More briefly, Israel was blessed with exodus and entry because Abraham obeyed. That is grace: the nation’s exodus and entry were not based on its obedience, but on the obedience of another (father Abraham). Also, since exodus and entry were by grace through faith, the first generation didn’t enter the land because they failed to persevere in faith. That’s how I understand it. More as I have time …

  275. Paige Britton said,

    February 6, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Patrick (#265) –
    You wrote, “Paige (#238): if what you say is correct then the Mosaic Covenant is not the same in substance with the covenant of grace or new covenant.”

    Yes, I think this is correct. (I had noted that after Sinai and before Christ, one could have lived both under the Mosaic Covenant and still within the Abrahamic, thus being both condemned by the law and saved by grace thru faith.) The Mosaic Covenant (Law) was of limited duration (at least the civil & ceremonial parts), and its purpose was to expose the hardness of the human heart. It could not save. That it became obsolete in Christ precludes it from being “the same in substance with the new covenant.”

    The language of the “covenant of grace” is trickier; I know that I have learned from different sources both that the Law fits within the Covenant of Grace, and that the Law is a replication of the Covenant of Works. It kind of depends on whom you ask, or maybe what angle you are looking from. The limited duration/hardness of heart angle fits with CoW; the preamble to the 10C’s and the moral law fits with CoG (“I am the Lord your God…”). John Sailhamer has some interesting things to say at this point, but that’s a whole ‘nuther ball of wax.

    pb

  276. watchblack said,

    February 6, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    RFW (#274):

    God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s offspring BEFORE he obeyed and not on condition of obedience. Gen. 15 says that Abraham received the promise by faith. And God confirmed his promise to give the land by walking between the carcasses. The promise was made and set in stone well before Gen. 22. Therefore, it could not be conditioned upon Abraham’s obedience. Gen. 22 therefore needs to be interpreted in light of Gen. 12 and15; and not the other way around. Abraham received the promise before he was circumcised in Gen. 17 and before he obeyed in Gen. 22.

    Moreover, the promise of salvation was administered to Abraham through the promise of the land (a type of heaven). If the land was given to Abraham on the basis of his works, then how was he justified by faith? Where was the gospel preached to Abraham? In Rom. 4 Paul argues that the promise that Abraham would be heir to the world (of which the land was a token) did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

    If the first generation did not enter because they did not persevere in faith then that must be the reason the Israelites did not retain the land. Because the Psalmist in Ps. 95 exhorts the generation in the land to not imitate the first generation lest they experience the same result.

    Also see here: http://patrickspensees.wordpress.com/2009/07/18/a-brief-critique-of-michael-hortons-mosaic-covenantal-nomism/

  277. rfwhite said,

    February 6, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    276 Patrick: I am more than happy to continue to examine these points, but to do so would take the discussion on this thread away from the reason for which they were brought up, namely, to try to shed some light on Israel’s “temporary forgiveness,” which is arguably a function of the shadows and types of the Mosaic covenant. I’ll not do that unless the moderator sees relevance to continuing the interaction, other than to say that I understand your thesis and, in my view, your comments show that you are conflating the shadow and the reality, as well as conflating Abraham’s role as a type of his greater Seed and his role as the father of believers. Meanwhile, since you’ve directed me (us) to your online essay, I’ll return the favor and say, if you wish to see a fuller exposition of my understanding, please read the essay I co-authored with Cal Beisner, “Covenant, Inheritance, and Typology: Understanding the Principles at Work in God’s Covenants,” in Guy Prentiss Waters and Gary L. W. Johnson, eds., By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007).

  278. watchblack said,

    February 6, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    #277: Fair enough. But I dare say that a peculiar view of typology is not a very persuasive answer to temporary forgiveness.

    Calvin on Gen. 26:5: “Moses does not mean that Abraham’s obedience was the reason why the promise of God was confirmed and ratified to him”

    Blessings,

    Patrick

  279. rfwhite said,

    February 6, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    My, my.

  280. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 6, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Curate,

    Thanks for the interactions here. I hope you are blessed by worship tomorrow. I want to sign off with a word from some exegete I found on the ‘Net, one J. Calvin, speaking of Heb 6:

    But here arises a new question, how can it be that he who has once made such a progress should afterwards fall away? For God, it may be said, calls none effectually but the elect, and Paul testifies that they are really his sons who are led by his Spirit, and he teaches us, that it is a sure pledge of adoption when Christ makes us partakers of his Spirit. The elect are also beyond the danger of finally falling away; for the Father who gave them to be preserved by Christ his Son is greater than all, and Christ promises to watch over them all so that none may perish. To all this I answer, That God indeed favors none but the elect alone with the Spirit of regeneration, and that by this they are distinguished from the reprobate; for they are renewed after his image and receive the earnest of the Spirit in hope of the future inheritance, and by the same Spirit the Gospel is sealed in their hearts. But I cannot admit that all this is any reason why he should not grant the reprobate also some taste of his grace, why he should not irradiate their minds with some sparks of his light, why he should not give them some perception of his goodness, and in some sort engrave his word on their hearts. Otherwise, where would be the temporal faith mentioned by Mark 4:17? (emph added)

    Grace and peace,
    Jeff

    P.S. I didn’t have your e-mail. Feel free to leave a message over on my blog.

  281. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 6, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Patrick (#278):

    There are a couple of issues to split out here. One is whether Abe’s obedience was the ground of Israel’s reception of the land. Kline taught this, but it’s not universally accepted (clearly, not by Calvin).

    But even if we do not accept this, one still may separate the function of the Law as shadow and as demeritive principle, from the Law in terms of what you’ve mentioned as “third use”, or what I’ve called “the obedience of faith.”

    Would you agree that Rom 2 – 5 and Gal 3 – 4 suggests that we split these two principles out?

  282. Reed Here said,

    February 6, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Roger: no friend, I’m not making the blanket error with regard to all Israel’s actions. I’m particularly only discussion one segment of Israel, the Exodus Generation, and a particular perspective on thier experience, that which is focused on in Hebrews.

    This general view is not applied to all the particulars in every detail. You’ve nothing but assumption that this is an error I’m making, as nothing I’ve wriotten even comes close.

    In a canonical reading order stoppin right at “they believed and worshiped,” I agree, we have no warrant to read anything else into the text beyond what that text says (and prior context). However, that is not what we are doing. As you are the one who introduced the subject, you should remember that we are particularly looking at the Exodus Generation, as interpreted particularly in Hebrews, and more broadly in the NT, the context in which Hebrews is to be understood.

    It is quite wrong for you to insist on canonical limitations for us, and then ignore them for your own arguments.

    And yes, I’ll wait till Monday for further interaction. A blessed Sabbath. Come quickly Lord. Amen.

  283. Reed Here said,

    February 6, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Patrick and Dr. White: while I can see how “republication” can be relevant to the subject at hand, your side conversation has become its own tangent, going far afield from any particular application here.

    Probably best to let that lie.

    Thanks,

    Reed DePace
    (sub)Moderator

  284. watchblack said,

    February 6, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Lest I be misunderstood, let me say that I do not believe in temporary forgiveness. God does not give eternal life only later to take it back. After all, then it wouldn’t be eternal life. The point is that if we resort to a peculiar view of typology (who prior to Kline taught that Abraham merited the land????) to answer temporary forgiveness then well, we are going to lose the debate. And that is not good.

  285. Reed Here said,

    February 6, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Roger:

    Do not be more biblical than the Bible. Do not be more righteous than God.

    Niether be less biblical than the Bible.

    The latter comment is oxymoronic. Maybe better, do not affirm more or less than God declares.

  286. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Patrick (#284):

    Ah, now I understand. Yes, I would agree that we need not narrow our arguments so that they rest on Klinean analysis. And in fact, since I’m not Klinean, I’ve grounded the whole thing in a broader understanding of typology, hopefully less open to contest.

    Your questions seem to be leading to this one: Is the Mosaic covenant an administration of the Abrahamic simpliciter, or does it contain a non-Abrahamic element (of law) in addition to grace?

    If the former, then we would have to wrestle with how law and grace could function in the same covenant. If the latter, we would have to wrestle with how to understand the coexistence of a law principle and a grace principle at work in the same people at the same time.

    Am I tracking with you?

  287. Ron Henzel said,

    February 6, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Paige,

    You wrote:

    The language of the “covenant of grace” is trickier; I know that I have learned from different sources both that the Law fits within the Covenant of Grace, and that the Law is a replication of the Covenant of Works.

    In keeping with your characterization of the language on this topic as being “tricky”: the word that is typically used to describe the Mosaic Law’s relationship to the Covenant of Works is not “replication” but “republication,” and the distinction is an important one.

    Under the Law of Moses, the terms of the Covenant of Works were republished in the context of the Covenant of Grace. Thus it remained (and remains) true that anyone who keeps God’s law perfectly will be saved, even though the existence of the Covenant of Grace ever since the Fall (and thus during Moses’ time) assumes that no one can (other than Christ, that is). On the other hand, if we were to say that under the Mosaic Law the Covenant of Works was replicated (a verb which essentially means to repeat or make a replica of something), that would assume that all the conditions present in the actual Covenant of Works in the Garden of Eden were also present under Moses, which is not true, because the Covenant of Works had since come into effect.

  288. rfwhite said,

    February 6, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Jeff Cagle: lest I be misunderstood, I agree with your comment that we need not narrow our arguments so that they rest on Klineian analysis.

  289. Paige Britton said,

    February 6, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Ron (#287) –
    Thanks! I did not know that vocabulary, but you made it clear for me.
    pb

  290. February 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    todd, RE #245,

    My apologies. I’ve been shoveling some of my 21-23″ of snow. You captured my meaning pretty well. The thread had diverged from my original intent, and that’s fine. Consequently, I should have been clearer in my last comment. I certainly agree with Dr. White’s comments on typology.

  291. Curate said,

    February 7, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Reed, Jeff, Sunday morning, can’t resist this post.

    You deny making a blanket error regarding all of Israel’s actions. I think you are, because you quote Hebrews saying that they did not mix the gospel they heard with faith, as if they had NEVER mixed the gospel with faith, to prove that they never believed, and were thus never forgiven.

    You are forced to say that Israel never were believers, even though Moses said they were at one point. You are then forced to say that they were not forgiven, when the text says that they were.

    IOW your system is forcing you to deny what the Bible plainly teaches.

    I qualify these texts without denying them in recognizing that their faith was deficient, and their forgiveness was deficient. The text makes that clear too. Their faith was not the kind that takes hold of the promises and that keeps hold. They had no root in themselves, for the gospel flowered once, and immediately died.

    Their forgiveness was not in response to their faith, but in response to their covenanted representative holding God to the promises that he had made to Abraham. Here we are clearly not dealing with justification by faith, but with a different kind of forgiveness.

    Summarizing, we see here a deficient faith, and a forgiveness that falls short of a total remission of al their sins for the whole of their lives – which is what justification by faith is.

    Conclusion: God indeed practices temporary forgiveness, more, he even forgives those who are not elect. However, we are not speaking of what we call justification by faith, but a different category of forgiveness.

  292. Reed Here said,

    February 7, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Roger: you are denying our interpretation based on selective hermeneutics. You are wrong.

    But, now that we’ve both said, nyah-nah, how about a different track. Why don’t you, as clearly as possible, distinguish what exactly was the nature of the faith held by the Exodus Generation from which they fell.

    1. Specify as much as necessary in what was it is the actual faith experienced by the elect, and how it is not.

    2. Specifiy whether or not this is a variety of elect-faith or a different species altogether.

    3. By all means, demonstrate this from the text. Feel free to use Hebrews, Exodus, whereever in the pages of Scripture.

    Maybe this way we can pin down the exact location of the differences. There, two categories of questions to keep us straight. Are you game?

  293. Reed Here said,

    February 7, 2010 at 8:31 am

    Roger, most of yoyur conclusions are “amen” and you’ve not heard different from us. In your efforts to be contrary, you assume error none of us have said, and further have actually made statements challenging you to see. You’re losing focus on the one issue – what is the basis of the temporary forgiveness – a real experience of elect-faith or something else.

  294. February 7, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Roger,

    God indeed practices temporary forgiveness, more, he even forgives those who are not elect.

    As best I can tell from 291 comments, you haven’t addressed the Scriptures that teach that God cannot change His mind or repent. How do those fit into your scheme? You also haven’t addressed the mechanism of “temporary forgiveness”. Does God not know the future as open theism teaches? Or does He revoke forgiveness due to subsequent sins like the RCC teaches? Or are you positing that He is just fickle and toying with people?

    You have argued from your theory of the situation, but let’s take the arguments to their logical conclusions, shall we?

  295. David Weiner said,

    February 7, 2010 at 10:43 am

    It appears that a population can indeed be described as having ‘faith.’ Both Israel and the Gentile race are addressed as such in Scripture.

    However, until God grants saving faith to all individuals then alive in national Israel (I am fairly sure you will not agree that this is what the text is talking about in Romans 11 ;) ) there will not have been a population of which it may be said that each and every one of the individuals making up that population were in possession of saving faith in the sense of at least including reconciliation with God.

    What is being mistaken here (IMHO) is the restraint of wrath for a time by God as He accomplishes His purposes as being ‘equivalent’ to the reconciliation He grants (permanently) to each elect individual at the appointed time. The reprobate never has possession of this reconciliation; the best they can hope for is a delay of wrath.

  296. Curate said,

    February 7, 2010 at 11:44 am

    no. 292 Reed, in response to your challenge, here goes, although I have already said it. It must have been missed in the blizzard of posts.

    1. Specify as much as necessary in what was it is the actual faith experienced by the elect, and how it is not.

    Roger: As I said, it was not the faith experienced by the elect. The had no root in themselves, and as soon as trouble came in the form of thirst and hunger, the word withered and died,

    2. Specifiy whether or not this is a variety of elect-faith or a different species altogether.

    Roger: As I said, it was not the faith of the elect, such as Moses, Joshua, and Caleb.

    3. By all means, demonstrate this from the text. Feel free to use Hebrews, Exodus, wherever in the pages of Scripture.

    Roger: It was not the faith of the elect, because they fell away, and never returned to God. The texts for that are known to us all.

    4. What is the basis of the temporary forgiveness – a real experience of elect-faith or something else.

    A real experience of faith, albeit short-lived, and God’s response of salvation for them. Proof: Moses said that they believed. God saved them. Then he tells us that they stopped believing, within the space of three days of the crossing.

  297. Curate said,

    February 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    no. 294 Bob Mattes said: ? … but let’s take the arguments to their logical conclusions, shall we?

    Let’s not. Let’s submit to scripture instead. Scripture tells us what logic is.

  298. Curate said,

    February 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    no. 293 Reed

    I am still waiting for an answer to the the main question that I have posed to you, and for which I have not had an answer.

    God does not honour hypocritical, pretended faith, which is what you say Israel had in Egypt and after the crossing. Why then did he save them? In every other instance of unbelief God responds with wrath, not salvation, so why here?

    You said that rtwhite had answered me, but I could not find it. Humour me by repeating the answer in your own words please.

  299. Curate said,

    February 7, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Reed, Bob, Jeff, my post no. 291 contains an argument. Have you answered it?

  300. February 7, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Roger,

    Let’s not. Let’s submit to scripture instead. Scripture tells us what logic is.

    Indeed it does. I made a Scriptural argument in the original post and in further comments. You have answered none. If you cannot, then just say so. Ducking behind empty bumper stickers. In fact, you’re doing exactly what you try to pin on Reed and Jeff:

    IOW your system is forcing you to deny what the Bible plainly teaches.

    The Bible plainly teaches that God doesn’t change His mind, repent, or relent. That pretty wipes out temporary forgiveness or temporary justification. Unless, of course, you opt for open theism or the Roman church.

  301. Ron Henzel said,

    February 7, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Roger,

    Way, way back in comment 45 you wrote:

    Moses tells us that Israel believed the gospel in Egypt, at least, until they had crossed the Sea and entered the wilderness.

    And you cited Exodus 4:31 and 14:31 in support. Then in comment 46 you wrote:

    There is another theologian who takes the same wooden approach as me, one Jean Calvin…

    I don’t see how you can claim Calvin as support here. He wrote regarding Exodus 4:31:

    31. And the people believed. Either this is a synecdoche, a part of the people being put for the whole, or else Moses signifies that after the announcement was published, all with one consent embraced the message of their deliverance. I prefer the former meaning; because their solemn adoration is immediately subjoined, which could only have taken place in a public assembly. But we shall presently see how fickle and infirm was their belief. It is plain, from its levity and inconstancy, that it was without any living root. But it is not unusual that the word belief should be improperly applied to a mere assent and disposition to believe, which speedily passes away. Thus Christ (Mark 4:15) speaks of the faith of many as transient. “The people,” therefore, “believed,” when they heard that their afflictions were regarded by God, since that statement carried with it credibility and authority; but it was such belief as might be dissipated by the first adverse wind; and so, indeed, it happened. This passage, then, teaches, that theirs is no great attainment, and that they are deserving of no great praise, who eagerly and joyfully receive what is propounded to them in God’s name, unless faith, being deeply rooted in their hearts, sustains itself boldly against the assaults of temptation.

    And regarding Exodus 14:31, Calvin wrote:

    By the word “believed,” I think that the principal part of fear is marked, and I understand it to be added expositively, as if it were said, “that they reverenced God, and testified this by faithfully embracing His doctrine and obediently submitting themselves to Moses.” I understand it that they were all generally thus affected, because the recognition of God’s hand bowed them to obedience, that they should be more tractable and docile, and more inclined to follow God. But this ardor soon passed away from the greater number of them, as hypocrites are wont to be only influenced by what is visible and present; although I hold to what I have just said, that, in some small number, the fear of God, which they had once conceived from a sense of His grace, still abode in rigor.

    But apart from Calvin’s comments, Exodus 4:31 is clearly an example of mere mental assent. At the beginning of chapter 4 the Lord instructed Moses in performing signs for Israelites “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you” (4:5).

    Regarding Exodus 14:31, while I think Calvin’s observations are impossible to evade, I further contend that the “faith” of the nation as a whole at that point was on a par with what the Lord Jesus referred to when He said, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (John 4:48). By that remark He did not intend to imply that such “belief” would constitute saving faith. Rewinding to the end of Exodus 14: the Israelites had just seen the Mother of All Signs and Wonders up to that point in salvation history. As a nation, they “believed,” and as Calvin pointed out, for a minority this was true faith, but for the majority of them it wasn’t.

    Now, as for the bone of your contention here in comment 298, where you wrote:

    God does not honour hypocritical, pretended faith, which is what you say Israel had in Egypt and after the crossing. Why then did he save them?

    Who said God was honoring “hypocritical, pretended faith”? He was honoring his promise to Abraham.

    I think the presuppositions inherent in your own system are clouding your exegesis, which is ironic, sine in comment 291 you wrote:

    I think you are, because you quote Hebrews saying that they did not mix the gospel they heard with faith, as if they had NEVER mixed the gospel with faith, to prove that they never believed, and were thus never forgiven.

    You are forced to say that Israel never were believers, even though Moses said they were at one point. You are then forced to say that they were not forgiven, when the text says that they were.

    IOW your system is forcing you to deny what the Bible plainly teaches.

    But this is disingenuous. Where is your support for subordinating Hebrews 4:2 to Exodus 14:31 rather than vice versa? Do we interpret the New Testament in light of the Old, or the Old Testament in light of the New? It can just as easily (and I believe more cogently) be argued that the Bible “plainly teaches” that the Israelites as a whole in Exodus 14:31 had something much less than full trust in the Lord as it can be argued (as you do) that when the author of Hebrews declares that the Israelites did not greet the good news preached to them with faith that he didn’t really mean it.

  302. Curate said,

    February 7, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    no. 300 Bob Mattes

    I regret that I cannot answer every challenge made here, as there are just too many.

  303. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 7, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Roger,

    We’ve finally dug out of the ~30″ we got. I thank God immensely for the friend who was able to diagnose my carburetor problem properly on Friday morning.

    Re #291:

    I think we’ve made some progress in the following common ground. Let me know if I’ve assumed too much:

    (1) The Ex 4 narrative is talking about a kind of salvation that does not amount to justification, and
    (2) The Israelites expressed some kind of defective faith, different from genuinely salvific faith.

    Also: would you assent to Calvin’s read on Heb 6 (post #280)?

    If so, then I’d like to focus on these two questions:

    (Q1) Can the national forgiveness (or forbearance) that Israel experienced in terms of land possession, be carried over to modern members of the visible church?
    (Q2) If so, then is it proper to call this “temporary forgiveness” or “false (or imagined or fake) forgiveness”? Or should we call it “externally viewed forgiveness”? That is, are we talking about a genuine, temporary internal state; or are we talking about an external state that provides evidence, but not proof, of a genuine, eternal internal state?

    The point of (Q2) is to discover whether we’re talking about the same phenomenon, using different language, or about two different phenomena.

    If we can nail down these two questions, then I would like to return to Hebrews. I think you may have construed my argument to be a too-strong denial of the Hebrews’ “standing.”

    Jeff Cagle

  304. Curate said,

    February 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    no. 301 Ron Hentzel

    Yet again, someone quotes Moses telling us that Israel believed, and then they proceed to argue that he was wrong. How many times has this happened on this thread?

    As for Calvin’s remarks, I find myself in almost complete agreement with him. He does not deny that Israel believed. He denies that their faith had any root. He denies that it is the same as justifying faith. So do I.

    I differ from him in thinking that at that point the nation as a nation made an open profession of trust in God, without implying that every single individual did so. When the greater part does not, God’s dealings with them change completely.

  305. February 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Roger, RE #302,

    Sorry, I must have misunderstood. Since what I posed above was the challenge in the original post, I somehow thought it was more relevant to the post than some of the other rabbit trails you’ve been down in this thread. Misdirection has been a key FV technique since the beginning. It’s handy in avoiding the gaping holes in FV theology that FVers cannot or will not answer. Thanks for the confirmation.

  306. David Gray said,

    February 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    >Misdirection has been a key FV technique since the beginning. It’s handy in avoiding the gaping holes in FV theology that FVers cannot or will not answer. Thanks for the confirmation.

    As opposed to the Tammany Hall approach?

  307. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Curate (#304):

    Let me explain a bit why someone might say that the Israelites “did not believe” (as indeed the author to the Hebrews does …)

    We recall that justification is through faith as the alone instrument. In John, this is expressed as “to all who received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believed in His name.”

    That is, John presents a stark two-kingdoms approach (kingdom of darkness/kingdom of light – not to be confused with the civil/sacred debate) that indeed was much of the basis for Dort.

    So when one says that the Israelites didn’t believe, it’s mostly likely not that he is denying Ex 4 on its face, but rather saying, “yes, they *believed*, but they didn’t believe.”

    Hence also with Hebrews 4: They heard the Gospel but didn’t combine it with faith. They had faith (i.e., in the miracles), but they didn’t have faith (i.e., the faith that counts, the faith in the Gospel).

    Just by way of explanation. I don’t think anyone here is arguing that Exodus 4.31 is just plain wrong!

    So the encouraging thing here is that even though the language is still some distance apart, I think … hope? … think? … that the underlying picture is very similar.

    There was a faith in the miracles, by which the Hebrews crossed the Red Sea. But that faith was not justifying, effective faith for all of the Hebrews — it was deficient in some way — so that we might say that some (many) did not (truly?) believe. And as a result, when times of testing came, they fell away, showing that they were not of those who persevered unto salvation, but were of those who shrank back and were destroyed.

    Better?

    Jeff Cagle

  308. Curate said,

    February 7, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Jeff, glad to hear you got out of all that snow. The pictures on the news here tell the tale. We were forced to cancel Sunday Worship twice in a row because the congregation could not get to church by car.

    Could you provide an example of your Q2 please?

  309. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Yeah, Q2 is obscure. Let me try again:

    We have certain people who have “some kind of faith” — non-justifying — that corresponds to the “faith” in the parable of the sower. As you can see, I’m tracking along with Calvin here in Heb 6.

    Is it better to say of these that they

    (a) Were temporarily forgiven?
    (b) Pretended to be forgiven?, or
    (c) Had a psychological experience that imitates forgiveness?

    To quote myself on math tests,

    “Justify your answer.”

    Jeff

  310. Curate said,

    February 7, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    no. 307 Jeff

    Much better, thanks.

    Small quibble. The difference is not between true and false faith. It is between rooted and unrooted faith. While the Israelites believed, they truly believed. Their faith was deficient in all the ways we have discussed, but deficient faith is different from unfaith. Were there people among them who never believed at all? Probably, but the text does not discuss them.

    This is why the Hebrews letter exhorts the entire church to persevere. It consists of rooted and unrooted believers, just like the wilderness generation did. Who is who is known only to God, so he exhorts the whole church to persevere, lest some fall away.

    And many will, and many do.

  311. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 7, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Well, OK, but can you understand why many would simply call your “unrooted faith” by the term “false faith”? Inasmuch as “unrooted faith” leads the holder to wrongly imagine himself saved, is it not false?

  312. Ron Henzel said,

    February 7, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Roger,

    You wrote:

    The difference is not between true and false faith. It is between rooted and unrooted faith.

    What makes you think this is a valid distinction? As I understand Scripture, it is a distinction without a difference.

  313. David Gadbois said,

    February 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    For those who advocate the existence of temporary faith/forgiveness, there are only a few options available to them to explain this phenomenon:

    1. Temporary faith is not the work of the Spirit. It is a work of man. But then it must be asked how this faith can justify at all, even for a time. And how can a man believe unless he is born of the Spirit?

    2. The Spirit causes faith in the non-elect, and then retracts the spiritual gift of faith. He starts but then abandons His own work of salvation. God is an Indian-giver.

    3. The Spirit causes temporary faith, but the free will of man can overturn this effect and lose faith after a time. This option is not worthy of the name Calvinist.

    So which one will it be? If Romanists, FVers, Lutherans, and Arminians don’t have an answer, perhaps they should just abandon this error altogether.

  314. Reed Here said,

    February 7, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Roger: no disrespect, but I think you are beating around the bush, and missing the import of the questions being asked. In what ways was the faith different from elect-faith?. One minute you seem to say it is not elect-faith> The next minute you affirm a formulation that says it is temporary elect-faith. You have to do better than that.

    As to the “believe” and “forgiven” of the Exodus Generation, maybe it is too many posts with too many crossed lines of thought that makes it hard to see. Here’s my effort at summing so far:

    > They (Exodus Generation) believed with man-wrought faith. As Hebrews 4:2 tells us, under Holy Spiirt authorized interpretation, the deficiency in their faith was not a matter of degrees but a matter of essential quality. They lacked real, Spirit-wrought, the elect kind of faith. They “believed” the same way any fallen human being believes, with sincerity, desire, even conviction. Yet beause it flows from a non-regenerate heart it is not the kind of faith (Spirit-wrought, the elect kind) that receives the inheritance.

    I.O.W. they really did believe, but with nothing else than ordinary old fallen human belief.

    As to why they were temporaly (as opposed to mere temporary) “forgiven”, I refer back to the typological arguments that you’ve already amened. They were “forgiven” not with that forgiveness which the elect receive. They received a forgiveness that was temporaly rooted (i.e., only earthly). Call it “covenant” forgiveness if you will, as it followed from the Mosaic covenant. Following a republication scheme (seeking to avoid the detail arguments), the Mosaic Covenant offered blessings upon conditions of obedience, a covenantal obedience that was temporarly possible. (This is not to say they were able to fulfill the CoW, so don’t assume I’m going there. I mean nothing more than the law’s ceremonial stipulations were all external, materially based, thus not requiring internal/spiritual). That they did not demonstrates all the more fully the ultimate pedagogical purpose of the Mosaic Law (i.e., it’s ultimate internal/spiritual purpose).

    This “covenant” forgiveness was losable, seing as it reflected CoW considerations (do this and live, don’t do this a die). Yet this was not an experience of the forgiveness that the elect experience. This is because such forgiveness, growing out of the Covenant of Grace, is based on someone else’s perfect flawless obedience (Christ’s), and thus is secure in its permanance. Not so this “covenant” forgiveness, dependent upin the obedience of fallen man.

    Rather than beat you up about insufficient answers to my three questions, I’ll defer to Jeff’s train of thought, and join in asking you to differentiate rooted vs. unrooted faith. Please spell out more the nature of both, their critical differences. Particularly, are they two different experiences of the same things (if so, how, why), or are they different different kinds (if so, why, how)?

  315. Paige Britton said,

    February 7, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Reed (#314) –
    Some observations — hopefully helpful:
    I think Roger has already agreed that this is true:
    (as you wrote) “They were “forgiven” not with that forgiveness which the elect receive” (see 291 again). So he has actually answered the title of the post in a way that you can affirm.

    What he seems to be zeroing in on now is the specific instances of belief & forgiveness/salvation at Passover — see 296, 298, and this from 271:

    “The condemnation texts must be restricted in scope to the rebellion in the wilderness. Note that Psalm 95, just as Hebrew does, tells us not to imitate the rebellion in the wilderness. He does not say the rebellion in Egypt and the wilderness. There was no rebellion in Egypt.”

    It seems that this is where Roger is staking his claim for the existence of a “real but rootless faith” and God’s response of blessing. Unless I’m misreading, he isn’t making a generalized statement about the Israelites’ faith anymore (as he did much earlier). So the point to pounce on is this moment of the Passover & the Exodus itself: did God bless the Israelites by sparing them from the angel of death / parting the Sea in response to their FAITH?

    If so, does (so-called) “real but rootless faith” in general have any particular claim on God?

    If not, why DID God bless them?

    Hope those are helpful comments.
    pb

  316. February 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Paige,

    did God bless the Israelites by sparing them from the angel of death / parting the Sea in response to their FAITH?

    No. I believe that this was a key link in the redemptive chain that found ultimate fulfillment in Christ. As part of that redemptive plan, He made a covenant with Abraham which He kept with the Israelites (Abraham’s descendents) both in the Exodus and across redemptive history. He blessed them as part of His redemptive plan, not because of anything in them (Dt 7:7).

    does (so-called) “real but rootless faith” in general have any particular claim on God?

    If faith doesn’t get to the third stage of fiducia/trust, then it can make no claim. Remember that even the demons believe and tremble (Ja 2:19). The underlying Greek in Ja 2:19 for believe is πιστευουσιν, which has the same root as faith. If that’s what is meant by “real but rootless faith”, i.e., knowledge and assent but not trust, then it’s essentially worthless before God.

  317. Curate said,

    February 8, 2010 at 1:09 am

    All, see no. 315 from Paige.

    She has hit the nail on the head.

    It seems that y’all’s answer as to why God blessed Israel with the exodus is resolving into God’s faithfulness to his promises, while saying that Israel’s essential unbelief masquerading as faith at that point is simply disregarded by God.

  318. Curate said,

    February 8, 2010 at 1:19 am

    no. 314 Reed

    Thanks for that answer. It is the best one from you so far, and it makes sense.

    Summarizing you, they truly and sincerely believed, but with the kind of sincere faith that the flesh can produce, but is not of God. God’s blessing of them is a response to that, but it is a lesser blessing than acceptance of their persons such as we see in proper justification.

    Boiling it down, as long as they killed the lamb and daubed the doorposts, God accepted them. As long as they follow Moses through the Sea they are obeying, and God blesses that.

    However, as soon as they get to the wilderness their underlying lack of trust rears its head, and God cannot ignore that. Now their true colours are revealed.

    In this way you are harmonizing Hebrews’ accusation of unbelief with Moses’ attribution of faith.

    I think that that is very persuasive. It deals with all of the evidence without nullifying any texts.

    It is not the same as Ron’s and Bob’s denial that God was responding to their human faith at all, and I think it is a better argument.

  319. Curate said,

    February 8, 2010 at 1:42 am

    no. 314 Reed said: “Roger: no disrespect, but I think you are beating around the bush.”

    You have often said this. You have also accused me of being contrary, which means obstinate opposition that disregards the facts.

    Allow me to say that this disappoints me. The reason that the Federal Vision has support from men who are not fools is not arrogant stupidity, but a different way of reading the Bible from yours.

    Give me the benefit of the doubt.

  320. Curate said,

    February 8, 2010 at 2:58 am

    Jeff:

    Instead of me spelling out again the ways that Israel’s faith differs from full-orbed faith, why don’t you spell out the ways that it is like it? Fair is fair.

  321. Ron Henzel said,

    February 8, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Roger,

    Regarding #320:

    Israel’s “belief” (Ex. 4:31, 14:31) was like true, saving faith in that it included the first two essential elements of saving faith: notitia (knowledge) and assensus (mental assent). In this respect it could be said to have been very sincere.

    When Moses demonstrated the signs God had given him to the elders of Israel in Egypt (4:31), the elders assented to the fact that Moses was sent by the Lord, and that was all they “believed.” As the author of Hebrews plainly states, they did not unite their knowledge and assent with the third element of saving faith, fiducia (trust).

    Likewise, in the wake of the spectacular Exodus miracles (14:31), Israel could not deny what had just taken place. They could neither claim ignorance nor disallow the fearsome events they had personally witnessed, and were thus compelled to “believe,” and no doubt a minority within the nation did believe with saving faith, but the majority, as Hebrews 4:2 clearly teaches, did not unite their knowledge and assent with the third element of real saving faith—they did not put their full trust in the Lord.

    Trust is the root you’re looking for. Trust is what makes saving faith cohere, and it is what makes the true believer adhere perseveringly to God. Without trust, the faith falls apart, and the “believer” (who only assents and never really puts his faith in God) falls away. This is why you cannot have a faith that is in any sense both saving and “rootless” at the same time.

  322. Reed Here said,

    February 8, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Roger, #319: yes, sorry for language that infers more than I intend. I do not think there is any deliberateness in the behavior I’ve been challenging. I am sorry for using language os unqualified that one couldn’t help but think that is what I mean.

    My challenge is that you do not seem to get what I’m saying, in spite of repeated efforts, more nuancing, etc. In addition, a number of times you’ve assumed errors that have no basis. I imanige if we were face to face when one of us said, “no, that’s not it,” the other might simply stop and ask for clarification. Chalk this up to the weaknesses of this format of exchange.

    I would ask if you would try to read a little closer, and then do more asking for clarification. I will try to do more of the same.

    #318: if we’re in agreement here, Roger, then my concern, to start off of Paige’s attempt to clarify for in (#315), my concern from the beginning is that I have stated that it is a man-wrought faith, where you seemed to be stating it is a Spirit-wrought faith. You even called it a third kind of faith once, some akin, a version of Spirit-wrought faith.

    I am grateful to see the coming together of our positions. Please appreciate why I continue to ask for clarification.

  323. rfwhite said,

    February 8, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    320-321: Any thoughts on the contribution that Heb 11.29 — “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land … ” — makes?

  324. Paige Britton said,

    February 8, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    #323 Dr. White:
    Woo, good one. It’s interesting that the previous verse attributes to MOSES, not the people, the faith that kept the first Passover.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but isn’t the pattern in this litany “by faith + subject + verb,” which would seem intuitively to mean that the “subject” did the “verb” “by faith,” right? But v.30 throws us a curve ball, saying that “by faith the walls of Jericho fell down.” Obviously the walls did not have faith. Anyway, it raises the question of WHOSE faith. Given that MOSES’ faith took care of the Passover (v.28), might the author have meant here that Moses’ faith took them across the Red Sea as well? At any rate, I think we can say there is some ambiguity in v.29 about the source of the faith.

    pb

  325. Paige Britton said,

    February 8, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Also, in the crossing story (Ex 14), it’s all about Moses’ faith and the people’s doubt and fear, until the crossing is over and done, and they finally react with [some sort of] belief! (14:31 again). This wasn’t a “take a step forward and the waters will part” deal; this was Moses acting at the Lord’s command (“lift up your staff and stretch out your hand”). If anything, this was more obviously a Moses-has-faith story than the Passover story, when EVERYBODY painted their doorways — and Hebrews only credits Moses with faith about that. Curious!

  326. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 8, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Dr. White (#323) and Curate (#320):

    Yes, I’ve been chewing on that also: the Hebrews crossed over by faith (paraphrased: “received God’s salvation from Pharaoh by the instrument of faith”).

    Yet they also did not receive the Gospel by faith.

    So what’s up with that?

    Several things at once, it seems.

    (1) The crossing of the Red Sea was a corporate event — the “average faith” of the Israelites, or the faith of their leaders (thus Vos in Biblical Theology) may have been in view.

    (2) The crossing of the Red Sea was a typological event: it was, of course, a genuine event of salvation; but it forshadowed the Gospel and was not equivalent to it. So individual Hebrews may well have received this physical salvation by faith, but rejected the Gospel that it represented.

    That is, perhaps they exercised faith here but not there.

    (3) Or it may be that their faith was of a type that was enough to receive the Red Sea crossing but not enough to receive the Gospel. That is, perhaps they had a kind of sub-standard faith: “unrooted” in Roger’s terminology, lacking in fiducia in more standard terms (thanks, Ron).

    There’s not enough in the text of either Exodus or Hebrews to make a decision; but (2) is the most problematic, systematically: if the Hebrews indeed exercised, head-for-head, genuine faith of the kind that receives salvation, then how do they so quickly fall away from it? What happens now to the perseverance of the saints?

    I lean towards (1) myself, or a combination of (1) and (3). Rather than assume that the Israelites were all at the same place in terms of faith, we have to assume a normal distribution of faith: some with genuine, salvific faith; others with the bare minimum needed to follow the crowd across the Red Sea. Corporately, enough faith was exercised that they all made it across. But this fact does not demonstrate that enough faith was present in each such that each Israelite individually was certainly forgiven of sins.

    Moving to our day: In the visible church, some have genuine, salvific faith; others have the bare minimum needed to affirm the membership vows (some combination of assens and notitia, perhaps?). But not all in the visible church have genuine salvific faith — and those without can indeed fall away.

    Thoughts?

  327. rfwhite said,

    February 8, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    324-325 Paige B: to sharpen your observations even more, see below:

    Heb 3.16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? …

    Heb 3.19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

    Heb 11.29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land …

    We’re pushed to ask, by whose faith did the people cross the Red Sea?

  328. rfwhite said,

    February 8, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    326 Jeff: our posts crossed (!) in the ether. One other text:

    Heb 11.39 And all these [presumably, all these mentioned in 11.1-38], though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

    Are the people of 11.29 the people of 3.16-19? Can the faith of Heb 11 be that of the people of Heb 3? Thoughts?

  329. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 8, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Wuff, you ask hard questions. :)

    I’m struck by the perfect in 3.14: μετοχοι γαρ του χριστου γεγοναμεν… It suggests that perseverance is evidentiary of a previous reception of Christ — that is, of genuine faith.

    That is: faith makes perseverance, not the other way ’round.

    I’m also struck by the contrast in behavior between being led out of Egypt by Moses, but then falling through unbelief later on.

    Those two thoughts push me in the direction of “defective faith” per (3) above: sufficient to receive God’s saving hand from Pharaoh (as type of salvation), but not sufficient to become partakers of Christ … as evidenced by their unbelief.

    It’s really hard to sort out the layer of type from the layer of antitype here.

    Jeff

  330. Paige Britton said,

    February 8, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    #327 — Dr. White,
    Yes, these other statements do make the “faith” statement of 11:29 even more puzzling. But what of Roger-the-Curate’s contention that there was “no rebellion in Egypt,” and that there really was some form of faith among the Israelites at the time of Passover and the Red Sea? On his view, the rebellion came later, in the wilderness. This would allow us to read 11:29 as being about the people’s faith — oops, except for the 11:39 summary, in which the author of Hebrews would have to have suddenly done an about-face re. whether that generation was to be commended or not!

    I vote for no paragraph break between Heb. 11:28 and 29, so that the “faith” in question should be read as implying Moses’ faith (which then LED TO the people crossing the Sea on dry ground, as the faith of the Israelites at Jericho [implied] LED TO the walls falling down, v.30).

    pb

  331. rfwhite said,

    February 8, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    329 Jeff C: provided I’m tracking with you, I agree that the exodus generation was at fault and the new exodus people must be careful not to follow their example. Israel and the church are continuous at the point of what is required to enter Canaan/New Canaan: they must not harden their hearts in the meantime and so prove that they are spiritual Egyptians // worldlings after all.

    330 Paige B: I agree that the faith of 11.29 must be that of Moses (perhaps representing the remnant), else ch. 3 contradicts ch. 11.

  332. Curate said,

    February 9, 2010 at 12:00 am

    On the crossing by faith, the meaning is obvious. The people crossed by faith. By faith the people …

    On the Hebrews 11.39 summary, I am afraid that you have misread the meaning.

    Heb. 11:39   And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

    This simply means that none of these men have yet entered the land, the new earth, which can only be entered by resurrection. The point is that no-one gets rewarded before anyone else, we all get it together. It is a clear resurrection text.

    And it does not make any difficulties at all.

  333. Curate said,

    February 9, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Back to faith. The problem with the Israelites was not their faith, but their soil. The word sprang up, but because they had no root in themselves, it quickly died. They were incapable of sustaining the faith they had.

    I seems that they were unregenerate, which is what I take the soil to be.

    However, unregenerate people are capable of a certain grasp and response to God’s word, as Calvin says and as we have agreed.

    The word they received could not survive because of who they were. Nevertheless, they believed long enough for God to save them from Pharaoh.

  334. Curate said,

    February 9, 2010 at 12:09 am

    My original point still stands. Israel believed, and God saved them. Then they did not believe, and God killed them. Israel believed God re the angel of death, and lived. They trusted Moses enough to follow him through the parted waters.

    Up to this point God is delivering to them the promises. This is hugely important. Despite the failings of their faith, it was still faith, and so God responds with salvation, he delivers the covenanted promises.

    Then, because of who they are, the word that had sprung up in them dies, and they fall.

    No problem.

  335. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 9, 2010 at 12:41 am

    A couple of points:

    (1) I’m glad that we agree that these are unregenerate.

    This places us in a very different location than at the start of the location, when we were considering folk like Augustine who taught that regeneration could be lost.

    [Aside: Augustine's view on this appears to be a consequence of his view of the sacraments, and a view of Christ's righteousness that combined infusion and imputation into one. For Augustine, receiving baptism meant receiving Christ -- and thus regeneration. He therefore had to have a way to account for baptized infants who were subsequently lost.]

    (2) In terms of cash value, would you dispute someone who called their faith a “false faith” rather than an “unrooted faith”? If so, why?

    (3) Is the word springing up within someone (who then falls away) a phenomenological view or an internal view? Are we observing this person from the outside, seeing that he hears the word and receives it with joy, and then falls away? OR, are we (in the parable) getting a window into his heart … he actually does receive it with joy, and then falls away?

    And how do we know? And how does your answer relate to (1)?

  336. Curate said,

    February 9, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Jeff, I am arguing that the text tells us that these people believed, and that we have to take it at face value. Faith is trust and assent, yes? Then they demonstrated faith.

    In the parable the fault is not with the word or the reception, but the ability to sustain that faith. That is what we are seeing in the exodus. They need the Holy Spirit.

    You guys are obsessing about different kinds of faith, but the problem is the soil.

    Most importantly, although Israel is unregenerate, while they believe God delivers salvation to them. That is the point, and has been from the beginning.

  337. rfwhite said,

    February 9, 2010 at 8:08 am

    332: are you saying that the people of Heb 11.29 and the people of Heb 3.16-19 are the same or different?

  338. Stephen Welch said,

    February 9, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Curate, I have to disagree with you. Not all of Israel was saved, many died and were judged by the Lord. Paul clearly states in Romans 2 that not all who are of Israel by circumcision are of Israel. The Prophet Isaiah teaches of a remnant that was saved from Israel and this is the basis of Paul’s teaching on reprobation and predestination in Romans 9 and 10. So, I hear you saying that as long as we are in the covenant it does not matter what we do because God holds out his promises. The message of Hebrews is that like Israel under the old administration both the warnings and the promises are issued. The writer of Hebrews says in chapter that many did not enter the rest and were cut off from the living God, which results in eternal damnation. Chapter 10 concludes by saying we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed but of those who have faith and persevere. It is only those who are justified by faith that are saved, not all Israel.

  339. Stephen Welch said,

    February 9, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I was typing too quickly and omited something. The sentence, “the writer of Hebrews says in chapter that many did not enter the rest and were cut off..” This should have said, “Hebrews says in chapter 4.” I am sorry for the omission.

  340. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 9, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Curate (#336):

    You guys are obsessing about different kinds of faith, but the problem is the soil.

    (1) I wonder if you’re pressing us too hard on the difference. What, precisely, is the difference between “different kinds of faith” and “one faith, different kinds of soils”? And, why is this difference an important distinction to maintain? That is: What’s the Prize?

    (2) It’s a little unclear how the symbolism works, but it appears from the Matt. 13 version that the soils represent different persons. Do you agree?

    (3) My answer to (1) (“What’s the Prize?”) is the issue of drawing a timeline and considering causation.

    Let’s take the “one faith, multiple soils” model.

    Alice and Bob now both exercise faith in response to the Word. Since their faith is the same faith, they both receive the benefits of that faith, including the sealing of the HS. Then Bob falls away … how?

    So you can see why I would favor a “multiple soils => multiple types of faith” model (namely: faith that is dead and faith that is alive; does not James suggest this?).

    Thoughts?

    Jeff

  341. Curate said,

    February 9, 2010 at 11:58 am

    no. 338

    Stephen, Israel was saved from Pharaoh. Salvation from eternal damnation is not yet in view.

  342. Curate said,

    February 9, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    no.340 Jeff asked: What’s the Prize?

    Most importantly, although Israel is unregenerate, as long as they are believing God delivers salvation to them. That is the point, and has been from the beginning.

  343. Ron Henzel said,

    February 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Roger,

    Regarding comment 333: do you then conclude that unregenerate people are capable of saving faith?

  344. rfwhite said,

    February 9, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    343 Ron Henzel: from 341-342 can we infer that, as long as unregenerate Israelites are believing, they are exercising faith that saves from Pharaoh but they are not exercising faith that saves from eternal damnation?

  345. rfwhite said,

    February 9, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    343 Ron Henzel: one other question … are the component acts of the faith that saves from Pharaoh and of the faith that saves from eternal salvation the same or different?

  346. Paige Britton said,

    February 9, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    #344 -
    Isn’t it a little odd to talk about faith “saving” anybody, whether from Pharaoh or from eternal damnation? Maybe this is technically biblical language (after all, Jesus does say, “Your faith has healed you”), but aren’t we really talking about what *God* will do in response to the person’s faith? This is a question I asked earlier:

    Does temporary/rootless/deficient faith nevertheless have any claim on God?

    Roger seems to think it does, and that this is what we see at the Passover and the parting of the Sea. God is responding to the FAITH of the people (however we want to qualify it) and acting to bless them. But is this really what is happening in those scenes?

  347. pduggie said,

    February 9, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Paige: check out Ahab. He artlessly makes a show of repentence, and God points this out as awesome, responds and delays his judgement

    You could argue that Ninenveh too (since Assyria later apostatized: a plant that springs up quickly then is eaten by a worm, their shows of repentance might be pretty limited, though i could argue the personal repentance of the individuals was mostly legit and we’ll see them in heaven)

    Not that they get a “claim” on god because of their faith, but god is faithful to his own mercy that he’d rather make a hazard of his other attributes than to be revealed as unmerciful.

  348. Ron Henzel said,

    February 9, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    Dr. White:

    Regarding 344 and 354: if we assume a distinction between two kinds of salvation, one temporal and the other eternal, do we then also assume a parallel distinction between two kinds of faith, one temporarily-saving and the other eternally-saving? If so, how does a temporarily-saving faith—which is apparently willing to trust God only so far even with temporal issues, since it ultimately fails to persevere—how does this kind of faith differ in essence from hypocritical faith?

  349. rfwhite said,

    February 9, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    348 RH: It would seem that the distinction of salvations leads to a parallel distinction of the faiths that appropriate those salvations, wouldn’t it? It seems we’re talking about what Berkhof calls temporal/temporary faith, which he distinguishes from hypocritical faith by the latter’s conscious hypocrisy. Ostensbily both involve a personal insterest in the truth, promptings of conscience, and stirrings of affection. Neither is rooted in a regenerate heart.

  350. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 9, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Curate (#342):

    Most importantly, although Israel is unregenerate, as long as they are believing God delivers salvation to them. That is the point, and has been from the beginning.

    No, that hasn’t been quite the entire point.

    The big question, the reason Bob M. posted this to begin with, was to nail down this issue: can individuals on this side of the cross experience temporary forgiveness?

    So while Israel’s salvation from Pharaoh is (a) genuine, (b) temporary, and (c) interesting — unless it serves as a model for understanding salvation today, then it’s not the entire point.

    So back to Alice and Bob. What about Bob? A different faith, OR same faith, different soil?

  351. February 9, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Jeff,

    I do not believe in, nor do I believe that Scripture teaches “temporary faith” as FVers mean. I still rest on the classic three elements of faith: notitia, assensus, and fiducia. All three are necessary to saving faith, but the sole source of fiducia being the Holy Spirit. The unproductive soils in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower are limited to one or both of the first two elements. Therefore, they never reach saving faith.

    Knowledge and assent may be temporary as they are essentially human derived. One can have knowledge of calculus and believe that the proper application of calculus will solve many practical problems. One can know and assent that God is one and still be a demon. Trust in Christ only comes as a result of the internal call of the Holy Spirit.

    Going back to Israel and the Exodus, or any other similar example, Scripture says that they had faith, but Scripture also says that only a remnant truly trusted unto salvation. Therefore, those that perished in the desert had only one or two of the first two elements of faith, but never reached the level of trust as Moses, Caleb, and Joshua did.

    Thus, I do not think that the question of “temporary faith” is the correct question at all. It provides no theological enlightenment in my opinion. The correct question is the quality and origin of one’s faith. Men can know and assent on their own, but only God can grant trust. I think that this distinction, or rather the lack of it, underlies some key FV errors.

    And for the record once again, no FVer has addressed the explicit questions at the end of my post. Despite over 350 comments here, many of which strain at unrelated gnats, the silence is deafening.

  352. pduggie said,

    February 9, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    @351 RM: What do the Annotations say about Hebrews 10:29.

    I actually think Rayburn in disucssing “temporary forgiveness” is discussing forbearance. It seems that for you, ‘forgiveness” to be forgiveness has to be permanent. I don’t think Rayburn or the FV agree: there can be permanent forgiveness, and there can be temporary. If there is temporary, then it IS forbearance.

    But there are still valid analogies to be made between the two. They both flow from God’s personal mercy towards the sinner, for instance.

    While I don’t think anyone in the FV posits ‘temp forgiveness” as part of Open Theism (any more than they argue the real offer to Moses to make a great nation from him, instead of the eternal plan to use the tribe of Judah is a proof of Open Theism) or “works righteousness”, there are more than 2 alternatives there.

    Someone like Augustine, for instance, would view all past sins as forgiven, but a “new sin” of unbelief leading to apostasy would not be forgiven per se. So there is no “temporary forgiveness” of sins, though the person himself commits the sin of unbelief. I think the Lutherans believe something like that. You are free to go accuse them of ‘works-righteousness”

  353. Curate said,

    February 9, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    no.343 Rona asked: Roger, regarding comment 333: do you then conclude that unregenerate people are capable of saving faith?

    What does the account of the exodus say to that?

  354. Curate said,

    February 10, 2010 at 12:13 am

    no. 350 Jeff asked: The big question, the reason Bob M. posted this to begin with, was to nail down this issue: can individuals on this side of the cross experience temporary forgiveness?

    So you want to know if the exodus says anything to the post-cross era, right? Are there any lessons there that apply to us today?

    If I were to argue like Bob M, I would point out that God doesn’t change, with all that that entails. You would then say, fine, but was the exodus not part of the time of the law, not the gospel, so that the administration of salvation has changed?

    I would then remind you that the law was not preached and enforced apart from the gospel, because Israel could not enter the land because they did not mix the hearing of the gospel with faith. They fell because of the gospel, not the law isolated from the gospel.

    But you know that.

    The issue might then be, is the gospel today preached apart from the law? I reply, yes, if by the law you mean the Mosaic covenant, which is abolished. But the commandments of God still apply to all men, so that as James says, faith without works of the royal law are dead.

    Thus even today the gospel cannot be obeyed apart from the moral law. Therefore the experience of the Israelites in receiving temporary grace and salvation speaks to us today, which is what the Hebrews’ letter is doing. Yes?

    Does that suffice?

  355. Curate said,

    February 10, 2010 at 12:32 am

    Jeff, I am saying that the law/gospel distinction applies only to justification by faith, and it cannot be carried over into other areas of theology. I mention this because you are suggesting that the exodus must be read as law rather than gospel, and that it thus does not apply today.

  356. Reed Here said,

    February 10, 2010 at 7:01 am

    So Roger: the Exodus Generation “believed,” were “forgiven,” and were “saved.”

    1) What happened when one of them died, and why?

    Following the Hebrews use of this generation as an example,

    2) what do we do to avoid the same fate?

    3) How do we do it?

    Three questions.

    I’ve heard and keep in mind all your qualifications (call them decretally oriented), and I appreciate these. However, when it comes to applying these to the text, it appears as if they are not relevant to your interpretation. Maybe these questions will help clear this up.

  357. Ron Henzel said,

    February 10, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Roger,

    In comment 343 I wrote:

    Roger, regarding comment 333: do you then conclude that unregenerate people are capable of saving faith?

    In comment 353 you replied:

    What does the account of the exodus say to that?

    Well, I checked, but strangely enough nowhere in the entire book of Exodus does it speak to the issue of what Roger concludes about whether unregenerate people are capable of saving faith. Was it not clear from my original question that I was seeking your conclusion on this matter?

  358. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 10, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    RM (#351):

    I do not believe in, nor do I believe that Scripture teaches “temporary faith” as FVers mean.

    Yes, that’s how I was reading you. I meant “nail down” as in “put to rest.”

    PDuggie (#352):

    You are free to go accuse them of ‘works-righteousness”

    Actually, I would say that both Augustine and Luther were trying, each in his own time, to create a full-orbed response to the heresy of his day. It doesn’t trouble me in the slightest to suggest that they might have erred in this detail or that (say, Augustine on relics, or Luther on communion). On the whole, the accomplishment of each was breath-taking and generally sound. It’s just that they also contained certain internal tensions that have to go one way or the other, over time.

    In the case of Augustine, his view of the sacraments is in tension with his view of predestination. He knows it, and tries to deal with it, but leaves this strange piece on the floor: a baptized child can be regenerated, but lose the regeneration.

    It’s a hiccup, and that hiccup is resolved by Calvin by reframing the way that sacraments work: not by operation, but by reception of the promise through faith.

    The Catholics, by contrast, jettisoned (modified, really) the predestination, kept the sacramental views, and ended up with a theology that we view as works-righteousness (though they deny it…)

    So Augustine is not a promoter of works-righteousness, no. But those who come after him have the opportunity to see more clearly, I think.

  359. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Curate (#355):

    I mention this because you are suggesting that the exodus must be read as law rather than gospel, and that it thus does not apply today.

    I’m not a strict “law/gospel hermeneutic” kindofaguy, so I find this hard to parse.

    Perhaps this represents the argument better: The account in Exodus is of salvation from Pharaoh’s hand. This salvation was received by faith, of some sort.

    We know that this salvation was typological (meaning: it was real, but it was also a shadow of things to come).

    We must therefore be cautious at doing a 1-1 mapping of the shadow to the reality.

    In particular, I’m not persuaded that we can argue

    (1) The Exodus generation experienced a salvation from Pharaoh, but
    (2) They also experienced a later rejection, so that
    (3) Their salvation in Ex. 4 was temporary, and
    (4) Ours can be, too.

    The leap that gets from (3) to (4) is the problem, and my various questions have been trying to get at that.

    Of the various points on the table currently, #309 is the most pressing for me. Either the question or the answer has probably gotten lost in the flurry (should I say, “flurries”? We’re getting another 12+” of snow again today), so here it is again:

    Is it better to say of the ones who fall away (in Heb 6, or 10) that they

    (a) Were temporarily forgiven?
    (b) Pretended to be forgiven?, or
    (c) Had a psychological experience that imitates forgiveness?

    Thanks,
    Jeff Cagle

  360. pduggie said,

    February 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Jeff: I don’t fundamentally disagree.

    Much of the time it seems to me that opponents of some bad doctrine are tempted to overread or overdetermine some text of scripture to support their case. Or even just make too many logical inferences to make sure that the bad doctrine is even unthinkable.

    I don’t think that’s right and it interferes with the word of God’s activity in our life. Commonly, we’re so obsessed with making sure the object of justification is “ungodly” we don’t even allow someone to say that it is by living, not dead faith that we are justified. Or to note the Spirit regenerated the person already. Or to note that union with Christ is the source of the twin benefit of justification and sanctification.

    People are worried that “if that text doesn’t mean what the Annotations tell me it means, I have no way to avoid sliding into a bad doctrine”

    Read Gaffin’s ressurection and redemption sometime, where he goes into Hodge and Warfield insisting it was clear that Romans 1:4 was a reference to the Divine nature of Jesus, when it pretty much isn’t about that at all. They might say, the only alternative to your reading, Gaffin, is docetism or Arianism, and therefore, that’s what you’re saying.

    But, not so.

  361. pduggie said,

    February 10, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    When it rains on the unjust, and they experience the mercy of God, does their subjective experience matter?

  362. Reed Here said,

    February 10, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Paul, #360: “commonly” is an overstatement in your third paragraph.

    #361: does the Bible ever sugges the subjective experience matters?

    The FV would have us read our Bible’s as if subjective considerations are merely theoretical, and have no practical/applicable value for the Christian live.

    Is this an accurate reading of the Bible’s subjective elements?

  363. February 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Paul, RE #352,

    I actually think Rayburn in discussing “temporary forgiveness” is discussing forbearance. It seems that for you, ‘forgiveness” to be forgiveness has to be permanent. I don’t think Rayburn or the FV agree: there can be permanent forgiveness, and there can be temporary. If there is temporary, then it IS forbearance.

    I don’t read Rayburn saying anything like that. I would be willing to consider it my possible misunderstanding if so many others, including the SJC, also don’t read Rayburn that way. What Rayburn wrote is eerily similar to Wilkins on the subject, and we all know where that went.

    While I don’t think anyone in the FV posits ‘temp forgiveness” as part of Open Theism (any more than they argue the real offer to Moses to make a great nation from him, instead of the eternal plan to use the tribe of Judah is a proof of Open Theism)

    You don’t think so, but the open theism paradigm fits very well. Your Moses example is not the same thing. We’re talking about how FV defends making forgiveness temporary in the context of the unforgiving servant parable and other verses that Rayburn cites. We have enough misdirections in this thread, so let’s please try to stick to the topic. How does FV mechanize temporary forgiveness in that context?

    Someone like Augustine, for instance, would view all past sins as forgiven, but a “new sin” of unbelief leading to apostasy would not be forgiven per se.

    That’s a great description of the Roman system. According to Rome, I am forgiven and justified in baptism (just as Wilkins, et al, teach). If I make a shipwreck of my faith by committing a mortal sin, I lose my justification, but I can regain it through the second plank of justification in their false sacrament of Penance. That’s also a lot like what FV temporary forgiveness sounds like. The onus is on FV to show how it is not the RCC system or others.

    Let me lay out the 4 possibilities for temporary forgiveness as I see them:

    1) Open theism – God doesn’t know the future and therefore cannot know if someone will grievously sin after He forgives them.
    2) The Roman system – God forgives them, but later they can sin and lose their forgiveness. The onus is on the individual’s faithfulness, grace-enabled good works (covenant faithfulness?), and the sacraments of the church, not God’s faithfulness.
    3) Arminianism – Again, the onus is on humans to accept or reject God’s grace. The emphasis is on man’s free will as opposed to God’s sovereignty. God let’s men do as they will and doles out forgiveness, etc., accordingly.
    4) Islam – Allah is capricious. He gives and takes at will so that no one can ever know anything about their fate for sure. Good works help, but don’t guarantee anything.

    These are all oversimplifications because books have been written on each and space doesn’t allow me to do them justice here. But you get the idea. There’s nothing in classic Reformed theology (or Scripture) that allows for God to change His mind on forgiveness or anything else. I’ve already shown that in previous comments and the original post.

    So my question is which if the 4 does FV prefer? If there’s a 5th, I’d love to hear it.

  364. pduggie said,

    February 10, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Hey, RE Mates: I asked a question before

    “@351 RM: What do the Annotations say about Hebrews 10:29.”

  365. pduggie said,

    February 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Also, Lutherans have a doctrine of loss of justification. Which of the 4 alternatives is theirs?

  366. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 10, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    (5) Forbearance going by the name “forgiveness.”

    (an unfortunate conflation, but easily understandable)

  367. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 10, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    PDuggie (#365) — the Lutherans would be closest to (3), but only anachronistically so. Melanchthon deliberately softened Luther’s predestination doctrine in order to accommodate the role of free-will in rejecting the work of the Spirit, even after being regenerated by baptism. (Concord 2.67 – 69, 11.42, 78).

  368. February 10, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    Jeff, RE #366,

    Agreed, but that would be the Reformed approach as I cite in my original post. That’s not the approach that FV favors. If they are to have, as Wilkins and other wrote about the reprobate in the visible church:

    They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc., and yet apostatize and fall short of the grace of God.

    The classic Reformed approach to apparent forgiveness being forbearance doesn’t help FV in that statement which no FVer of which I’m aware every repudiated. If I recall correctly, Leithart used the same statement in Credenda Agenda a while back. Forbearance won’t help explain temporary adoption, temporary sanctification, temporary possession of the kingdom, etc. Justification (roughly equated to forgiveness by Rayburn), adoption, sanctification, etc., require real forgiveness.

  369. February 10, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Paul, RE #364,

    I only have what I get online at the moment. You’ll have to wait.

  370. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    RM (#368):

    Noted and agreed. As cases make their way through the courts, I hope that folk will be careful to distinguish between forbearance and something stronger. Convicting a TE because he “sounds like” Wilkins would be a blow to the church.

  371. Reed Here said,

    February 10, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    So Roger:

    If we’re agreed that the Exodus Generation “believed” and were “forgiven” in some real sense of these words, but that this was not the kind of belief/forgiveness attributal to the elect, i.e., it was not regenerative-based,

    Then why disagree with Bob’s main point in this post?

    After all, Bob iss not challenging the idea of a temporal/temporary forgiveness (even if he might not like that language). All he is challenging is a temporary experience of the kind of forgiveness the elect experience in regeneration.

    You agree, right?

  372. February 10, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Jeff, RE #370,

    Agreed. But he doesn’t just sound like Wilkins. He’s written some of the same erroneous things. I’ll see if I can hunt up the article on my disk.

  373. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 10, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    PDuggie (#360): Much of the time it seems to me that opponents of some bad doctrine are tempted to overread or overdetermine some text of scripture to support their case.

    I call that, confusing the Word of God with the word of man. Our inferences about Scripture don’t have the epistemic status as Scripture itself.

  374. reedhere said,

    February 12, 2010 at 8:17 am

    In family worship this morning I read the following in Jude 5:

    Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

    The rest of the context shows Jude is using these as examples of those who never did internally believe (along with demons and the Sodom/Gomorrah generation) and so are consign to the fires of “eternal” hell. I think this fits better with this scheme:

    > Jesus saved the Exodus Generation externally (temporaly, i.e., from Pharoah in the context), but
    > As they did not respond with internal belief (i.e., Spirit-wrought faith), they were judged in a manner that demonstrates their own consignment to hell as reprobates.

    I.O.W., call it “temporary” forgiveness if you will, as long as by this you mean it was only external, temporal, typlogical. If you mean, as the FV does, it was a real experience of real Spirit-wrought forgiveness, the kind enjoyed by the elect after regeneration, you’ll not find the Bible supports you.

    I realize that the FV, and Dr. Rayburn in support here, may argue that Leithart is claiming something else. Yet when pressed, like the FV his conflation of meanings reduces the external only forgiveness to be in practice the same as internal forgiveness.

  375. David Gray said,

    February 12, 2010 at 8:27 am

    >I realize that the FV, and Dr. Rayburn in support here, may argue that Leithart is claiming something else. Yet when pressed, like the FV his conflation of meanings reduces the external only forgiveness to be in practice the same as internal forgiveness.

    You see this is why I think a number of people have problems with this. Leithart and Rayburn may say they don’t believe something but we know better what they believe than they do (assuming we don’t believe they are adopting obfuscation as a “strategy”). If they say they don’t believe they are the same and you find their language points that way regardless then it is very fair to criticize their use of the language. It is not fair to attribute to them beliefs that they claim they do not hold.

    BTW I like and concur with the exegesis from Jude.

  376. reedhere said,

    February 12, 2010 at 9:05 am

    David: I could not agree more. In my comments I’ve tried to define a carefully threaded critique. I’ve sought to acknowledge that the real problem with FV advocates is not that they are lying when they say they are not teaching that the reprobate and the elect receive the same. Yet my critique is not limited to merely a critigue of confusing language (it is that at least).

    I understand and affirm the FV advocate’s contention that they do not believe, to use the most fudamental of terms here, their covental ordo salutis is subjectively the same as the decretal ordo salutis. Yet these brothers (intentional use of the word) do teach that the covenantal ordo salutis and the decretal ordo salutis are objectively the same.

    The real problem as I see it is in the application of this. The FV ends up with an application that teaches the Christian that the way to persevere is to pursue faithfulness/obedience.

    This is not what the Bible teaches, which says the way to persevere is to pursue the object of faith, Christ. This is a subjective-intially application (it yields perseverance in belief and act); whereas the FV’s is an objective-only application. Because it does not teach the Christian how to subjectively get a better grip on Christ, the FV ends up teaching the Christian more about walking byt sight than by faith.

    This may not be a damnable heresy. It is a “troubler in Israel,” the same as all heterodox, defective teaching.

    In the end, to use the conclusion of our brothers who opposed the FV at the Knoxville Colloquim, I do acknowledge tha the FV advocates sincerely affirm that their positions are extra-confessional. I conclude that they are wrong; their positions are contra-confessional – and contra-biblical too.

  377. David Weiner said,

    February 12, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Reed #376

    I must be misinterpreting this, so please correct me where I am going wrong. You said “This is not what the Bible teaches, which says the way to persevere is to pursue the object of faith, Christ.”

    I believe you are talking from the perspective of the believer here. My interpretation of what you say is that the elect believer has to do something to persevere, pursue Christ; otherwise, he/she will not persevere. I thought it was just up to God to ensure perseverence of the elect believer.

  378. pduggie said,

    February 12, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Reed said

    This is not what the Bible teaches, which says the way to persevere is to pursue the object of faith, Christ. This is a subjective-intially application (it yields perseverance in belief and act); whereas the FV’s is an objective-only application.”

    One “FV” guy said this

    “We look to ourselves and salvation is lost. We look to Christ and we are assured, strengthened in the One who preserves us. If there is any self-examination going on it is ethical not internal. The question is not, am I elect? Or, am I regenerate? Or, am I predestined? But am I believing the promises? Am I embracing the benefits that God has given me as His child? Am I pressing onward in the grace that God has bestowed upon me in Jesus Christ?”

  379. pduggie said,

    February 12, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Bob Godfrey said this at Tenth pres, back in OCt 2007

    “One day Luther couldn’t stand it any more and Luther said “Philip, do you want to hear the Word of God for yourself, or do you want to hear it from another?”

    That was a kind of technical question. Would you prefer just to have your Bible in your lap and read it for yourself or would you prefer to hear the word preached? I’m afraid many of us would get that question wrong, if we were asked it.

    The right answer as Philip knew was that I’d rather hear it preached. Because if I just read it for myself I may slip off the hook. I may not hear it speak with all the force that it ought to speak to my life. And so, poor Philip, dutifully said, “I’d rather hear the word from another”. And he knew he was going to hear it from another. And Luther said this is the Word of God to you “your sins are forgiven!”

    Its what we need to hear, isn’t it? Because we’re sinners. Because our sins can overwhelm us. Because our sins so often seem just to repeat themselves. And we begin to wonder, can Jesus still love me? Can Jesus still care for me? Can Jesus forgive me one more time?

    And in the preaching of the word and in the preaching of the Gospel comes this word to us, to every one who looks to Jesus Christ, the word is

    “Your sins are forgiven”

    That’s the vitality of the word.”
    ————-
    I think that was awesome. Baptism is also a ‘visible/tangible’ word that says the same thing. That’s how it factors into FV thinking. Anything Godfrey says here, the FV says about baptism

  380. Reed Here said,

    February 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Paul: appreciate the “quote” (please add the source info.).

    This serves to demonstrate the confusion inherent in the FV formulations. I have no doubt the author of this comment does not see any necessary conflict. Yet, when you say things such as “you really are forgiven, unless you fall away,” (a fair representative statement consistent FV teaching) you kind of leave the Christian scratching his head, “just how do I press onward?”

  381. pduggie said,

    February 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

    More from Bob Godfrey

    “”. . . I read Luther’s large catechism, in which he has pages on baptism, and I kept waiting for that point at which I would see that he’d gone over the edge, gone too far-and was amazed to find out I agreed with every word of what he said in his statements on baptism in his large catechism, which made me worry, so I went back and read it again, and no, I really think he’s Reformed. [laughter] But listen to what he says: ‘Thus faith clings to the water and believes that in baptism is pure salvation and life.’” ”

    “. . . when you read the New Testament, Paul, over and over again, makes appeal to baptism as a present reality in the Christian life and experience. I think that’s true in Romans 6, for example. When Paul wants Christians to mortify sin in their experience he reminds them that they’re a baptized people and that baptism speaks to them about sin being washed away. But we can get nervous about that. Even so noted a theologian as Martyn Lloyd-Jones just didn’t want to think that all that stress upon baptism in Romans 6 could be water baptism. It must be Spirit baptism, because we don’t want to become formalists. But I really think he misses the point there. You see, have you been Spirit baptized? It is a little harder to be sure that you are Spirit baptized than to be sure you’re water baptized. You see, water baptism, which certainly testifies to Spirit baptism-and we need Spirit baptism, every Christian is Spirit baptized, I believe all those things-but, you see, again, if you just begin introspectively to ask, ‘Have I really been Spirit baptized?’ you get right back in the morbid mess. And the water baptism, you see, is the way out, is the way to the objective statement of the glories of God’s grace and mercy to His people.”

    “There are people who wrestle with tender consciences with the question, ‘How can God love a sinner like me?’ . . . What do you say to someone in that kind of state? . . . Luther had a very different answer. When the fellow said, ‘How do I know I’m a Christian?’ Luther said, ‘You’ve been baptized.’”

  382. pduggie said,

    February 12, 2010 at 11:16 am

    I think the problem is the FV people are troubled by the immoderatly calvinist reformed, like those who are dubious about the “free offer”.

    Someone will ask them “well, how can you really answer ‘I know God loves me because I’m baptized’ when we know that some baptized are lost.”

    And instead of saying “don’t ask me, that’s an insoluable paradox and isn’t the point anyway, the point is: are YOU trusting Jesus” like a good Lutheran would say, they try to play the reformed language game and explain, well, I guess there’s some kind of way some can fall, blah blah, blah and get themselves in trouble.

    Gillespie was convinced John 3:16 has to mean “world of the elect”. I haven’t heard a sermon arguing that since I was a teen under a ‘no free offer’ pastor. D A Carson thinks its exegeticaly fishy.

    The quote was from that Siouxlands fellow who has caused such consternation. I think it sets the charitable context for the rest of his remarks.

  383. Curate said,

    February 17, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Reed no. 371

    Back from Germany, and had no opportunity to let you know I would be away for the weekend. You said:

    If we’re agreed that the Exodus Generation “believed” and were “forgiven” in some real sense of these words, but that this was not the kind of belief/forgiveness attributal to the elect, i.e., it was not regenerative-based,

    Then why disagree with Bob’s main point in this post?

    After all, Bob is not challenging the idea of a temporal/temporary forgiveness (even if he might not like that language). All he is challenging is a temporary experience of the kind of forgiveness the elect experience in regeneration.

    That seems like a form of words that I could easily agree with. You make the point that although Israel believed and was forgiven, their forgiveness differs in that it was not based on their regeneration.

    No problem there.

    I do believe, though, that forgiveness is not unforgiveness, which is what I hear Bob saying. I cannot imagine a soft sense of the word, can you? Either you are are acquitted or you are not.

    That means that they were truly forgiven until they fell.

  384. Reed Here said,

    February 17, 2010 at 7:10 am

    I have no problem agreeing that what the Exodus Gen. experienced was significant and substantial, as long as this is not confused with the ultimately significant and substantial experienced by the elect. But Roger, this generation’s was a provisional forgiveness, upon completion of conditions that required Jesus’ life/death/resurrection/ascension.

    It may be a quibble of words, but when you use aquittal, I hear a judge saying “innnocent, and no double jeopardy!” Words mean things. Is aquittal the correct word to use for provisional forgiveness. Can’t we choose a different word, one that is not open to confusion or even the appearance of equivocation?

  385. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 17, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Hey Roger,

    This gives you a small window into me … I was afraid that my persistent questioning (359) had chased you off. :) Glad to see you back.

    Jeff

  386. Ron Henzel said,

    February 17, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Roger and Reed:

    I’ve examined the passages in Exodus where its says that the people believed (4:31; 14:31), but I missed the ones where it says they were forgiven on the basis of that belief. Can you help me out here?

  387. todd said,

    February 17, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Ron,

    Numbers 14:19&20, though the text does not say they were forgiven based on their belief but more based on the intercession of Moses for their unbelief.

  388. Reed Here said,

    February 17, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Ron: I’m being charitable in my response to Roger here. As we have qualified things, I do not here him using “based” in a causal sense, but rather in an instrumental sense.

    Roger is sekking to maintain that a forgiveness is in view. I’m seeking to press that this may be so, but it is not the type of temporary forgiveness Bob is critiquing in this post.

  389. Paige Britton said,

    February 17, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Also the commentary in Ps. 78:38, though the context is of forebearance rather than forgiveness predicated on belief.

  390. David Weiner said,

    February 17, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Isn’t ‘forgiveness’ of a people fundamentally of a different category than foregiveness of an individual (other than the obvious difference in the number of individuals involved in the two situations)?

    And, based on Numbers 14, are we to conclude that one can ‘pray’ another into ‘foregiveness’ if they don’t believe? Of course not.

  391. Ron Henzel said,

    February 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    As I see it, this is a job for Ockham’s razor. We all know that the verb “believe” in Scripture is capable of a sense that comes well short of obtaining any of the blessings of the Covenant of Grace—hence “Even the demons” can be said to “believe” (James 2:19). The demons are not in any sense forgiven—neither temporarily nor eternally, neither collectively nor individually—for their “faith.” I suppose we could say that God is being extremely longsuffering and patient with them, but it has nothing to do with what they believe. And so far I haven’t seen any text that connects either the forgiveness or forebearance that Israel received to the faith that is attributed to them.

    To argue that “believe” must always indicate that kind of “faith” that God must act upon with at least some kind of forgiveness or forebearance simply flies in the face of Scripture. Simon the Sorcerer “believed and was baptized” (Acts 8:13), but given his later behavior and career (at least as reported by later church tradition) it seems that all Simon may have actually believed was that there was a magic that was more powerful than his own. Those who witnessed Jesus’ Passover miracles in John 2 “believed in his name,” but Jesus didn’t believe in them (he “would not entrust [πιστεύω] himself to them,” 2:24). Likewise, to argue that some sort of forgiveness or forebearance must have followed from the reported “faith” of the Israelites in Exodus is unwarranted from the text. We actually have the grounds for God’s forebearance narrated to us, not in Israel’s faith, but in Moses’ intercession.

  392. Curate said,

    February 18, 2010 at 1:19 am

    no. 386 Ron said: I’ve examined the passages in Exodus where its says that the people believed (4:31; 14:31), but I missed the ones where it says they were forgiven on the basis of that belief. Can you help me out here?

    It is the difference between narrative and Paul. The narrative authors do not spell things out as Paul does in his letters. The method is to put things alongside each other, expecting the reader to make the obvious connections. Mark is a classic example of this method. He clusters similar accounts together, without any word of explanation such as you are requesting.

    I am drawing the obvious conclusion that since God responded to their faith and obedience with salvation, he was pleased with them at that point. Blessing always follows faith and obedience, as Paul points out. Israel is in no way criticized until they rebel.

    Indeed, the onus is on you to demonstrate that God was displeased with them when he led them out of Egypt.

  393. Curate said,

    February 18, 2010 at 1:26 am

    no. 385 Jeff.

    Hello again. Germany too is covered in snow. It was very cold in the open.

    I am not sure that I have anything further to add to what has already been said.

  394. Curate said,

    February 18, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Ron cont. We all know that the verb “believe” in Scripture is capable of a sense that comes well short of obtaining any of the blessings of the Covenant of Grace—hence “Even the demons” can be said to “believe” (James 2:19).

    What is your point? That is clearly not the case in Exodus. They received the exact blessing that was promised.

  395. Curate said,

    February 18, 2010 at 1:52 am

    no. 384 Reed

    The Bible itself uses the word forgiveness, so how can there be a problem with me using it too? We may look for other words, but it is not lawful to forbid the use of that one.

    I get your no double jeopardy argument, I really do. It is a powerful way to give us the assurance that God is not fickle, and that he will not arbitrarily revoke our pardon.

    However, when we look at the way it is coupled with obedience in the epistles, we find that that assurance of no double jeopardy is in the context of having died to sin and the law, and having been raised to newness of life with Christ in baptism. Romans 6.

    Hence, Paul himself, Mister Justification by Faith alone, warns the churches that those believers who do not obey God will by no means enter the kingdom. “No double jeopardy” is linked to continuing repentance and obedience. Paul uses the very example we are debating to make this point:

    1Cor. 10:6   Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

    Note the word we. Paul is speaking specifically of Christians, not a generalized humanity.

  396. Ron Henzel said,

    February 18, 2010 at 4:46 am

    Roger,

    Regarding 394, please be specific: precisely which blessing are you referring to?

  397. Ron Henzel said,

    February 18, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Roger,

    Regarding 392: the difference which you describe as that “between narrative and Paul” appears to me as the difference between your eisegesis of narratives and your neglect of Paul (which, come to think of it, isn’t really a difference). What you call an “obvious conclusion” is not so obvious when compared with what Paul and other NT writers actually wrote.

    You wrote:

    Indeed, the onus is on you to demonstrate that God was displeased with them when he led them out of Egypt.

    In light of the rest of Scripture, I believe the onus lies on you to demonstrate that the people actually had the faith prerequisite to please God. God’s motivation for the exodus is clearly spelled out in Exodus 2:24: “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.”

  398. Curate said,

    February 18, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Ron 396. please be specific: precisely which blessing are you referring to?

    Gen. 15:12   Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

  399. Curate said,

    February 18, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Ron, no disrespect, but it is my firm view that it is the neglect of narrative as a genre that is a cause of much of this confusion. Reformed and Evangelical alike focus upon Paul almost exclusively. It is the kind of logical spelling out of issues that we in the West like.

    What we are less comfortable with is story-telling, or, narrative. The authors of scripture have a very specific method for narrative, which is quite different from the letters. To understand narrative requires a firm grasp of salvation history, or, biblical theology.

    I have no illusions that we will see eye to eye on this, but perhaps it will provide you with some food for thought.

  400. Ron Henzel said,

    February 18, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Roger,

    Regarding 398: as I stated earlier, those blessings were based on God’s covenant promises to Abraham, not the faith of Abraham’s Israelite descendants.

    Regarding 399: it seems that you are now spelling out in explicit terms what I already suspected. You appear to be overturning the hermeneutical principle that the narrative portions of Scripture are to always be interpreted in light of the didactic portions, and never the reverse. I believe this procedural reversal contains internal contradictions and the seeds of its own ultimate demise.

  401. Curate said,

    February 18, 2010 at 8:24 am

    400 Ron

    How do God’s people appropriate those blessings Ron? Is it not by faith? Come on, this is basics 101.

    LOL to your second point. Point out ONE instance where I said that didactic texts must be interpreted by narrative. You are making things up.

  402. Ron Henzel said,

    February 18, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Roger,

    In 401 you wrote:

    How do God’s people appropriate those blessings Ron? Is it not by faith? Come on, this is basics 101.

    I realize that non-Reformed people do not understand this, but there are many blessings we do not appropriate by faith, including soteriological ones. Regeneration is logically prior to faith, and faith itself is a blessing we receive from God before we actually exercise it. “The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts…” (WCF 14.1). We obviously do not appropriate the blessing of faith by faith.

    You wrote:

    LOL to your second point. Point out ONE instance where I said that didactic texts must be interpreted by narrative. You are making things up.

    When you draw “obvious conclusions” from biblical narratives that are at variance with what the didactic portions teach, and when you respond to my appeal to demonstrate that the Israelites actually had the kind faith that pleases God by referring once again back to the narrative, you are spelling out your narrative-favoring methodology in explicit terms. It is clearly a methodology that places narrative Scriptures above or on a par with didactic Scriptures, and I contend that it cannot do the latter without undermining theology just as much as the former.

  403. Jesse Pirschel said,

    February 18, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Ron,

    You wrote, ” It is clearly a methodology that places narrative Scriptures above or on a par with didactic Scriptures”

    Should we take that to mean that you view the narrative portions as “not on par” with the didactic portions of Scripture? That is not “the” reformed position is that “all” Scripture is breathed out by God. Oh, it may more or less clear but its “on parness” is the same.

  404. Jesse Pirschel said,

    February 18, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Wow “typo-man” slow down.

    Lets try that again, in English this time.

    Ron,

    You wrote, ” It is clearly a methodology that places narrative Scriptures above or on a par with didactic Scriptures”

    Should we take that to mean that you view the narrative portions as “not on par” with the didactic portions of Scripture? That is not “the” reformed position. We confess that “all” Scripture is breathed out by God. We also confess that portions may be more or less clear but all Scriptures “on parness” is the same.

  405. Ron Henzel said,

    February 18, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Jesse,

    Regarding 404: please refer back to my comment 400, especially where I referred to “the hermeneutical principle that the narrative portions of Scripture are to always be interpreted in light of the didactic portions, and never the reverse.” It is in that context only that I wrote the portion you quoted, and in his response Roger seems to be acknowledging the validity of the principle in question.

  406. February 18, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Roger,

    Welcome back from the land of great brew.

    I do believe, though, that forgiveness is not unforgiveness, which is what I hear Bob saying. I cannot imagine a soft sense of the word, can you? Either you are are acquitted or you are not.

    That means that they were truly forgiven until they fell.

    I thought that I was clear that the “temporary forgiveness” to which you seem to refer is not the forgiveness of sin, but rather God’s forbearance and delay of the judgment due either in this life or the next. The word “acquitted” is totally inappropriate in this context. No one is ever forgiven of their sins and then unforgiven. It’s that simple – God does not change His mind.

  407. Curate said,

    February 19, 2010 at 1:47 am

    Bob

    The lager was great, the malt was good, and the music was excellent.

    A key word that has been absent so far is grace. Wycliff understood that grace means God’s favour, his good-will towards man, as opposed to a mystical infusion.

    It is clear from the exodus accounts (which Ron believes are second class scripture) that God is at first gracious towards Israel in this sense, showing them favour by leading them out of slavery and across the Sea on dry land. It is only when they rebel that God’s forbearance comes into view, his long-suffering of those with whom he is displeased.

    In the wilderness there is no favour, just temporary tolerance. He does not let them live because he is favourable, but because of Moses, to whom he is favourable.

    That is a fact, and you need to deal with it instead of repeating your mantra.

    God does change his mind. You need to qualify in which sense immutability is meant. As I see it, it has to do with God’s nature, and the covenants of promise, that they are without repentance. However, God does change his mind on other things, as scripture males plain in so many words.

    He was going to give Israel the land, then he changed his mind because of their unbelief, so that the next generation received the promise. He was going to exterminate the entire nation in the wilderness, until Moses argued with him and changed his mind.

    Foreknowledge in the sense of knowing the future is irrelevant to this, since God does not deal with us on the basis of what he knows will happen in the future – ever. He responds to the things that we do in the present.

    All of God’s actions are immutable in the sense that they are consistent with his nature and the promises, not in the absolute sense that you are suggesting.

  408. Ron Henzel said,

    February 19, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Roger,

    You wrote:

    [...] the exodus accounts (which Ron believes are second class scripture) [...]

    When did you start practicing libel?

    You wrote:

    God does change his mind. You need to qualify in which sense immutability is meant. [...] God does change his mind on other things, as scripture males plain in so many words.

    [...] Moses argued with him and changed his mind. [...]

    [...] God’s actions are immutable [...] [but] not in the absolute sense that you are suggesting.

    And this is distinguishable from Open Theism how? It has suddenly become much, much more difficult to take anything you write seriously.

  409. David Weiner said,

    February 19, 2010 at 8:56 am

    How very, very sad that views such as “God does change his mind” are being taught to people.

    What are the reasons that a person (and this includes God) changes their minds?

    Answer:
    1) The old information is processed in an new manner
    2) New information is added and erroneous information is removed from the calculation
    3) An error in the original calculation is discovered and removed

    NONE of this applies to God. He can’t possibly change his mind and only by erroneously interpreting Scripture can one conclude that ‘God can change His mind.’

  410. Reed Here said,

    February 19, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Roger: do you agree with the anthropomorphic principle, i.e., that due to our finiteness the Bible uses human oriented descriptors to explain aspects of God’s interactions that are rooted in His infiniteness? E.g., do you agree that such descriptors as “God changed his mind” are not actually saying that God changed his mind the way man does, but that God’s decretal nature does not “translate” in this regard, and so the Spirit uses language sufficient to our limited finiteness?

    If so, how does this change what you are saying? If not, how do you avoid some form of Open Theism? (Sincerely asking, not concluding).

  411. Curate said,

    February 19, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Reed, while agreeing with what you say, I am making the point that God interacts with us truly, in a proper covenantal relationship. He is not hiding behind a mask, or pretending to be something that he is not.

    God decrees everything that comes to pass, and at the same time he truly interacts with us and responds to our actions. Isn’t that standard?

  412. February 19, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Roger,

    I agree with Ron, David, and Reed in #408-410. I’ll also ask one additional question.

    As I see it, it has to do with God’s nature, and the covenants of promise, that they are without repentance. However, God does change his mind on other things, as scripture males plain in so many words.

    I don’t see that caveat in Num 23:19 or Mal 3:6 or anywhere else. Do you?

    As Ron points out, what you stated is one of the core tenets of open theism, not Christianity. I’m sure that you misspoke.

  413. Curate said,

    February 19, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Bob et al

    This is not a subject that I wish to pursue. See my post 411, which I think is clear, and represents orthodoxy.

  414. February 19, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Roger,

    This makes the second time in this thread that you’ve declined to pursue this open theistic direction of discussion. Yet, you’ve spent hours playing around with the finer points of the Exodus.Your comment in #411 in no way explains or excuses your comment in #407. In #407, you took a clear open theist position, which four of us have challenged directly. If you wish to be taken seriously, you need to explain how your statements in #407 about God changing His mind are consistent with Christianity in general, much less the Reformed faith.

  415. Curate said,

    February 19, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Bob, you are not going to read anything that I say in a positive light. You view me as an enemy, and for that reason I am unwilling to make a serious argument to you.

    I am able and willing to discuss issues, but there needs to be a willingness to actually take the trouble to read my arguments, think about them, and then interact with the proof texts I use.

    Reed and Jeff do so, and that is why I engage them. We have even been able to find common ground.

    You complained bitterly that I ignored the pointed questions at the end of your post. In fact, I have argued why my view that God sometimes forgives sin and then revokes it is consistent with divine sovereignty. Look it up.

    Finally, I find your insults to be a real disincentive to debate. If you want FV men to interact with you, it may be an idea to address them in a different manner.

  416. Ron Henzel said,

    February 19, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Roger,

    To the vast majority of people, an insult is something along the lines of making maliciously disparaging remarks about another person’s intelligence, appearance, legitimacy of birth, or the moral stature of his or her mother. This is because the dictionary defines “insult” as “to treat with insolence, indignity, or contempt.”

    You, on the other hand, complain of being insulted when all you’ve actually been is pointedly challenged. Bob did not insult you. I sure didn’t! And by acting is if you were, you’re not merely being thin-skinned; you’re being haughty.

  417. Reed Here said,

    February 19, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Roger, I do appreciate why you are responding to Bob as you are, and yet I think Ron has given you some good advice. Bob is just being more pointed, not insulting.

    Would it help if I observed that I appreciate your desire to maintain the true nature of God’s covenant dealings, AND that your expression do too easily raise the Open Theism questions? You may not affirm this heresy, nor even intend to be heard this way. Yet it is not just one or two (supposedly) pre-disposed to read you unfairly who are hearing this.

    This is why I asked you to explain a little why this is not open theism. Your responses are lacking brother. You affirm one (decretal), then affirm the other (covenantal),. When asked to remove the appearance of contradiction between these, you simply restate the affirmations, as if that’s all that needs to be done.

    Sincerely, no desire to argue here, but can’t you see how this kind of response pattern would encourage the kind of sharp retorts like Bob ‘s and Ron’s?

  418. pduggie said,

    February 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Is Bruce Waltke an open theist?

    “The unchanging God is always pained by sin. Moreover, because he is immutable, he will always change his plans to do good if people persist in their sin: “If it [a nation] does evil in my sight, and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good that I had intended to do for it” (Jer 18:10, …) God’s change of mind about the human race at the time of the flood, is entirely consistent with his unchanging character. God is not fickle, he does not change his mind, including his mind to reconsider. People can count on God always to reconsider his original intention to do good or evil according to the human response.”

    RE Mates:

    Have you had a chance to check the Annotations on Hebrews 10:29 yet?

  419. pduggie said,

    February 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    “When asked to remove the appearance of contradiction between these, you simply restate the affirmations, as if that’s all that needs to be done.”

    That’s the Van Tilian way. Apparent contradictions exist which can only be resolved in the mind of God, and we are called to confess both, apophatically.

  420. pduggie said,

    February 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I don’t know, accusing a guy of just “playing around” and not “being serious” when he’s trying to tackle a revealed “apparent” contradiction that presents a great difficulty to many viewpoints strikes me as insulting.

    It isn’t charitably trying to see things from someone else’s perspective, and understanding their key concerns (like using biblical language as ‘real’, not ‘fake’)

  421. curate said,

    February 20, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Reed

    Neither Ron nor Bob are interested in debating the issues. They read everything with a jaundiced eye, and so put slants on what is being said that are not there. They do not interact with my texts or arguments, but merely repeat their own views, and then extrapolate to absurd conclusions, like FV leads to open theism.

    There is no conversation there.

    Yes, in his particular post he is being pointed and not rude, but there are many, many other posts where he is, for example, the many where he compares Fvers with those who believe in pink bunnies or the like. There is a constant tone of disrespect.

    In my judgement there is no profit in debating men who are not listening, just talking at one.

    You and Jeff, on the other hand, bring a different attitude to the table. You make an effort to see what I am saying, to take it into account, even though you often disagree.

    If Ron or Bob were to come back to me and say, I have read your argument for divine sovereignty and temporary forgiveness, but here is why it is wrong, without simply repeating their original assertions and dismissing mine as not Reformed, but pointing out flaws in the argument, interacting with the proof texts, and showing why they are about something else, without disrespect, there would be a reason for me to reassess the profit in answering them.

  422. Ron Henzel said,

    February 20, 2010 at 6:37 am

    Roger,

    You wrote:

    Neither Ron nor Bob are interested in debating the issues. [...] They do not interact with my texts or arguments, but merely repeat their own views, and then extrapolate to absurd conclusions, like FV leads to open theism.

    Here are still more misrepresentations on your part. I can’t help but think they are deliberate. The only other alternative is some kind of intellectual negligence. I have bent over backwards to debate the issues with you.

    In comment 301 I interacted with Exodus 4:31 and 14:31, providing commentary from Calvin on both texts along with my own observations and rebuttal of your view on those texts.

    In comment 321 I dealt further with your exegesis of the word “believe” in those same two texts by placing the word in its proper semantic perspective.

    In comment 391 I expanded the biblical context for my previous comments into the New Testament, reaching in to John, Acts, and James.

    Each time your curt, shallow responses utterly failed to deal with the substance of my interaction with both your views and the text of Scripture.

    If you do not deliberately distort what I write, you must read it at such a hurried pace as to avoid comprehension. Case in point: I never even remotely said anything like the “FV leads to open theism.” I simply said (or strongly implied, by way of a question) that your view on the immutability (or lack thereof) of God is indistinguishable from that of Open Theism.

  423. Reed Here said,

    February 20, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Paul, no. 419:

    Bogus brother, bogus :-)

    Van Til insisted, in keeping with Dt 29:29, we go no further than the Scriptures. Van Til agreed with the anthropomorphic princple.

    Roger’s expressions sound deficient from that principle. Hence my question. The deficiency may be in his expression, or in my mind, or even in the principle (i.e., it’s not biblical). The key to the discussion is to explore these possibilities, not simply re-assert.

  424. pduggie said,

    February 20, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Curate’s “He responds to the things that we do in the present.” sounds like the sort of thing vantil (and Waltke) would accept as something the scriptures teach. And its not particularly anthropomorphic.

  425. curate said,

    February 20, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Reed, when Moses changed God’s mind, what happened? Was God playing a game with Moses, and lying that he would exterminate the Israelites to test him? Was he reading Moses’ mind so that he knew in advance what he would say, and so made threats that he knew he would not have to carry through? What does it mean in practice that God was speaking anthropomorphically? Was a real conversation happening, or something else?

    Tell us from the text what happened.

  426. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 20, 2010 at 10:14 am

    If I may,

    Gen 6: The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

    Ex 32: So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

    Num 23: God is not a man, that He should lie,
    Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
    Has He said, and will He not do it?
    Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

    Mal 3: For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

    We all (Curate, Ron, Reed, Paul, everyone?) agree that these passages present an apparent difficulty, and that the traditional way of resolving this difficulty is anthropomorphism — that God is sometimes described as if He were a man who repents and is grieved in His heart.

    If I understand, Curate, you are calling this a part of the “covenantal perspective”, yes? That is, the Covenantal Perspective is God-as-we-interact-with-Him, not as He is in Himself.

    So God in Himself purposed all along to flood the world; God as we interact with Him (CP) allowed the wickedness of man to grow and spread, and was offended by it, and said, “it’s time to judge.”

    Am I understanding correctly?

    Now the controversial statement is, (411) “[God] is not hiding behind a mask.”

    That is, you want the CP to be thought of as really real, and not just pretend. Good so far?

    Here’s the problem. Underlying this discussion of the CP is the great question of “What is reality?” Is reality to be defined in terms of what we see, feel, and experience; or is reality to be defined in terms of God-in-Himself?

    Vern Crisler has incisively said that the philosophical weakness of the FV is that it pushes empirical positivism: that what we see, feel, and experience is entirely real.

    That is, that the Covenantal Perspective should be granted real ontological status. He believes this to be an error, and I think he’s mostly right.

    Bear with me for a minute. There are actually two errors here that need avoiding. The first is a Gnostic-like error, that would say that the Covenantal Perspective is nothing at all. This error is “Gnostic-like” in that it says of our empirical experience, “Not real! Of no account!”

    If I may be so bold, I think Thornwell moved too far in this direction, in that he treated covenant children as presumptive unbelievers. Of the visible church, he said it was of next-to-no account, merely an environment in which children could be evangelized in.

    The second error, and the one that I perhaps perceive in your “God does not wear a mask” formulation, is a reaction against Thornwell. It has been popularized by the “all or nothing” slogan of Schilder, but even Schilder may not have meant it in the way it has been taken. That second error is to say that the Covenant is “real in some sense”, with the sense left undefined but clearly thought of as ontological.

    The problem with this error is that by leaving the “sense” undefined, it creates a hole that the Arminian truck drives through.

    You’re still bearing with me, I hope, because I realize I just touched a nerve.

    In the God-in-Himself perspective, if we could see with God’s eyes, we would see the elect, know the elect, and observe them receiving regeneration, coming to faith, persevering, being glorified. It’s all “predestinarian.”

    In the “what we see” perspective, we see some people coming to faith, professing faith, exhibiting some behaviors that are describable as “fruits of faith”, and then falling away. Perhaps, even dying in their fallen-away state.

    IF we ascribe too much reality to the “what we see” perspective, then we would have to say that the Arminians are correct. On this account, salvation can be gained and then lost again.

    OK, so why not say that? Because when we work out what that would mean, we run headlong against the teaching of Paul in Eph / Rom and the gospel of John (which, AFAICT, was much of the source material for Dort).

    In other words: Scripture trumps experience; and this means that the God-in-Himself perspective must also trump the Covenantal.

    For that reason, I’ve qualified my statements about “presumptive regeneration” and the importance of the visible church in this way: The Visible Church is a perspective on the true church, but it is not the full reality.

    The Covenantal Perspective is valid and useful — it’s the reality that we have to deal with — but it’s not the full, real picture. God *does*, as it turns out, wear a kind of mask. We cannot see the decrees of God in full; but we can approximate them in observing the visible church.

    My issue with FV is that they deny this “approximate” nature of the visible church explicitly. I’ve suggested to a couple advocates that they treat the Covenantal Perspective as a partial solution to the Problem of Knowing the Church — but have been rebuffed. (no hard feelings; I just wish it were otherwise).

    What I’ve been angling for, Roger, if I may be so bold, is NOT to persuade you to move into the Thornwell camp, but to loosen your grip a bit on the Covenantal Perspective, to not ascribe absolute reality to the church that we see. The Visible Church *is* the Church — but seen through a glass, darkly. Baptized individuals *are* believers — but not absolutely necessarily so.

    Here’s Berkhof. If you haven’t read him already, enjoy — it goes on for some pages, but concisely covers much of the debate over the past 15 years.

    Jeff Cagle

  427. curate said,

    February 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Great post Jeff, much truth there, but here is where it goes off the rails: In other words: Scripture trumps experience; and this means that the God-in-Himself perspective must also trump the Covenantal.

    Yes, scripture trumps experience. But this is followed by a non sequitur, that God in himself trumps the covenantal. Does that mean that God trumps scripture? That is what I am hearing. When you speak of the covenants you are speaking of scripture.

    Second problem: we have no way of knowing anything about God in himself apart from what is revealed, and then using that knowledge to trump the covenantal perspective.

    Third problem: God never trumps the covenants. That is part of his IMMUTABILITY – (you know, the attribute that I allegedly disbelieve). The whole point of the NT is that God is fulfilling the promises and covenants he swore to our forefather Abraham!

    Turns out that Paul teaches that the promises are only to the children of promise, meaning the elect within the elect nation, but that is covenantal in itself. Yes?

    And finally, the church is indeed the church but not absolutely and necessarily so. I agree fully. That does not mitigate the covenantal perspective at all.

    Why? Because Peter and Jude and Hebrews and Paul teach that many will fall away, and lose the salvation that Bob says they never had.

  428. Reed Here said,

    February 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Jeff: well done!

    Roger: the issue is not the triumph of one perspective over the other (covenantal and decretal, if you will). The issue is the distinguishing and coordination of the one with the other.

    Further, the issue is not the trumping of one or the other over the Scriptures, but the submission of both to the Scriptures.

    My contention is that one numerous occassions your expressions fail both of these. I understand you are seeking to correct what you perceive is an imbalance of the decretal over the covenantal. Yet I believe you can do better.

    E.g., the Bible treaches God does not change his mind (decretal) and God changes his mind (covenantal). It does not leave it at that, but tells us more. This is what I’m asking you to consider.

    I’m o.k. saying, for example, three persons in one God, and not more nor less, because this is what the Bible teaches. I’m not o.k. saying that forgiveness can’t be lost and forgiveness can be lost, and not trying to work this out. The Bible does not leave us with this apparent contradiction. It tells us more.

  429. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 20, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Curate (#427): Does that mean that God trumps scripture?

    Ah, no. Sorry to have communicated that.

    What I mean is that God’s perspective is “true truth”, and our empirical perspective, what we see and feel and touch, is “approximate truth.” God’s view trumps our view.

    What we see is not “no truth at all”, which would be Gnostic; nor yet “the only truth we’re going to get”, which would be empirically positivist. Rather: “approximate.” Conditioned by and interpreted by what God reveals to us in the Word.

    Second problem: we have no way of knowing anything about God in himself apart from what is revealed

    Correct (mostly … don’t forget Rom 1 – 2 and the conscience). One of the things He has revealed is that “not all who are Israel are Israel.” That is: our visible church is not head-for-head the set of those who are saved (as Paul develops this point in Rom 9 – 11).

    Instead, God has revealed that the visible church is well and truly approximate.

    This leaves us doing two things at once, which is part of the now/not-yet tension: On the one hand, we treat the visible church as The Church. We don’t say to its members, “Unless you have an additional experience, you are not saved.” Rather, we treat their membership as a genuine marker of faith and expect to see fruit consistent with that marker.

    On the other hand, we don’t take it as absolutely The Church. We don’t say to its members, head-for-head, “You are assuredly saved.”

    Instead (as Calvin did) we hold up Christ and say “look to Him!” *There* is the assurance of salvation. (See A. Lane’s paper on this). For those who are in the visible church who are already regenerate, looking to Christ provides assurance. And for those in the visible church who are not yet regenerate, being exhorted to look to Christ provides the opportunity to repent and believe the gospel.

    So the problem of assurance is *not* solved by taking a covenantal perspective on things. Instead, it is solved by taking a Christocentric perspective on things. Don’t look at the fact of your membership; look at the one whom you are allegedly joined to. Don’t look at the fact of your baptism; look at the promise that is given in baptism. Always, always, look to Jesus.

    Third problem: God never trumps the covenants.

    Certainly. But the CP as we’ve defined it here, what we see and experience, is not the same thing as the covenant itself. And that’s the point, actually. When someone falls away, he doesn’t rupture God’s covenant. Instead, he demonstrates himself to have been an Esau instead of a Jacob; a tare instead of wheat; a soil of rocks instead of Miracle-Gro (sorry, couldn’t resist).

    Whatever we might say about Israel as a nation under Moses, the NT picture is that the outworking of election or non-election happens from the very beginning. God’s election doesn’t occur by a process of regenerating many, then allowing a subset to fall away. Rather (Rom 9), He regenerates all and only those whom He elects. From the beginning, the non-elect are tares.

    So, importantly, we would not say of the non-elect that God clothes them with the righteousness of Christ for a time, and then unclothes them. And, I would argue, that clothing is the only kind of forgiveness that truly bears the weight of that name. Anything else is probably better called “forbearance.”

    What do you say?

  430. February 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Roger, RE #425,

    Behind Jeff and Reed’s responses is another principle: finitum non capax infinitum. We the finite will never contain or comprehend the infinity of God and His workings. You are very correct to say that we only know what He reveals in Scripture and nature (special and general revelation), and what we can necessarily deduce from those in harmony with them. The analogy of faith uses Scripture to comment upon Scripture, and therein we attempt to resolve our difficulties.

    The problem with the Covenantal Perspective of FV IMO is that it dissects individual texts in isolation from the overall context of God’s redemptive history. All Scripture is consistent and must be interpreted through the analogy of faith in concert with Scripture’s totality. So if we’re tempted to say that God forgives sins or gives saving graces temporarily, we must square that assumption with the larger picture which says that He doesn’t.

    That’s why I keep bringing up the texts that say God doesn’t change His mind. Any system of understanding must account for the texts that seem to say that He repents and those that absolutely say He doesn’t. The anthropomorphic approach does exactly that, interpreting all in such a way that’s consistent across redemptive history and with the nature of God as He has revealed to us, while also recognizing that we see as through a glass darkly.

    God gave us the ability to reason and graciously gave the elect us the ability to reason on spiritual things from Scripture through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. We should be able to take our beliefs to their logical conclusions in the context of Scripture. That’s what I did with “temporary forgiveness” of sins in my main post. FV rarely fares well in this approach.

    Lastly, I in no way intended to offend you. I merely stated what I see as the logical extension of what you said in your comment.

  431. curate said,

    February 21, 2010 at 2:48 am

    Reed, Jeff, Bob

    Great posts btw, and much there to agree with. What we have to do now is stop speaking in the abstract and deal with the individual texts themselves. Here they are:

    Gen 6: The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

    Ex 32: So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

    Num 23: God is not a man, that He should lie,
    Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
    Has He said, and will He not do it?
    Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

    Mal 3: For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

    Here is my challenge to you: try to read these texts covenantally, especially the last two.

    Numbers: God’s immutability is about what he has spoken. What has he spoken? The covenants.

    Malachi: God’s unchangingness is connected to the fact that Israel is not consumed utterly. Why not? Because his promises (covenants) with Abraham are without repentance.

    Point: neither of these texts is about who God is in himself, but who he is in relation to the covenants and the people of the covenants. The texts themselves spell out the context of immutability. That context is the covenants.

    Yes?

  432. Ron Henzel said,

    February 21, 2010 at 4:28 am

    Roger,

    Debating with you is like debating with a Mormon. They seize on such verses as “The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name” (Exodus 15:3) to prove that God has a human body—the ultimate rejection of the anthropomorphic principle. They proclaim that Ex. 15:3 and other texts in the same class are about who God is in Himself, and then subordinate all other texts to those. When I show them texts that clearly teach that God is Spirit, their overwhelming commitment to their misbegotten presupposition that prevents them from acknowledging the plain import of the texts I cite to them.

    In the same way, even though your final text obviously frustrates the pattern you are trying to establish, you do not seem to even notice. In Mal. 3:6 we have an obvious deduction from a statement about God’s being as He is in Himself. Malachi’s prophecy clearly teaches that the reason God is faithful to His covenant is not merely because He is immutably unwavering to His commitment to that covenant, as you assert. Rather the reason God is faithful to His covenant is that He does not change. It could not be clearer, except perhaps to someone who refuses to see it. But Mal. 3:6 is remarkably like another, more expanded statement that we find in the New Testament—a statement that cannot possibly be forced into the covenantal straitjacket that you are imposing on those other texts:

    Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

    [James 1:17, NLT]

    He never changes—about anything. If he appears to do so, it is a reflection on our finite perspective, limited as it is in space and time, not His eternal immutable nature. It’s very telling that you did not cite this text.

  433. curate said,

    February 21, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Ron look at the Malachi passage again. Mal 3: For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.

    Do you think that the reference to Jacob is insignificant? The covenants were made with Abraham, Isaac, and JACOB. No, this is not a who God is in himself text.

    I chose these texts because they were being quoted by Bob, Jeff, and Reed. I want to deal with them before looking at other texts.

  434. Ron Henzel said,

    February 21, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Roger,

    The question is not whether the reference to Jacob in Mal. 3:6 is significant; the question is: what does it signify? Does it signify that the statement God makes about Himself “I, the LORD, do not change” is expressly limited by its addressees (“O sons of Jacob”) to the point that God’s nature is unchanging only for the people he is talking to? That would be an obvious distortion of the plain grammar of the text.

    Mal. 3:6 presents a premise (“I…do not change”), an entailment-marker (“therefore”), and a conclusion (“you…are not consumed”). True, the premise is accompanied by an appositive (“the LORD”) as is the conclusion (“O sons of Jacob”), but these appositives are mere identifiers that in no way alter the basic logic of Malachi’s statement. To say that the second appositive in the sentence modifies the premise (to which it is not even grammatically attached!) by limiting its reference to that second appositive is such an obvious example of the fallacy of slanting that it hardly bears mentioning (cf. Peter Angeles, Dictionary of Philosophy (NY: Harper & Row/Barnes & Noble, 1981), 99).

    If you’re looking for a pertinent text that is set in an explicitly convenantal context, look no further than here:

    God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
    Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
    Listen, I received a command to bless;
    God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!
    No misfortune is in his plan for Jacob;
    no trouble is in store for Israel.
    For the Lord their God is with them;
    he has been proclaimed their king.

    [Numbers 23:19-21, NLT]

  435. curate said,

    February 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Ron

    Put away your philosophy book, and look at the context of Malachi again. If I have committed the fallacy of slanting by reading it covenantally, I wonder what you will say about the very first verse of this chapter:

    Mal. 3:1 “Behold, I send My messenger,
    And he will prepare the way before Me.
    And the Lord, whom you seek,
    Will suddenly come to His temple,
    Even the Messenger of the covenant,
    In whom you delight.
    Behold, He is coming,”
    Says the LORD of hosts.

  436. Ron Henzel said,

    February 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Roger,

    Do you intend to totally ignore the grammatical exegesis I presented in comment 434 simply because I also employed terminology describing the syllogistic reasoning that Malachi actually uses, and accurately identified the fallacy in your logic? That’s pretty evasive.

    As I have pointed out, as is obvious even from the English translation (and is, I believe, even clearer in the original Hebrew), you are trying to force an appositive phrase (“O sons of Jacob”) to modify a clause (“I…do not change,” which also happens to serve as the premise of a syllogism), even though that appositive phrase is not connected to the clause grammatically. I taught middle school English (in which I am also a certified teacher) for two years and my 7th graders would have caught your error by simply diagramming the sentence. The mere fact that the word “covenant” appears five verses earlier does not change the fact that your exegesis of Mal. 3:6 is forced, slanted, tendentious, and grammatically impossible.

  437. February 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Roger,

    There’s an excellent essay on Ex 32:14 and God’s repentance on New Horizons. It presents many of the arguments we’ve made here, but centered on this one verse. It applies, though, more widely and should cover Mal 3:6 within its context. It is well worth the short read.

  438. Ron Henzel said,

    February 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I think it’s worth point out at this point that, as Calvin observed, it is impossible to posit repentance of God without compromising either His omniscience, His omnipotence, or His wisdom.

    For if no one wittingly and willingly puts himself under the necessity of repentance, we shall not attribute repentance to God without saying either that he is ignorant of what is going to happen, or cannot escape it, or hastily and rashly rushes into a decision of which he immediately has to repent.

    [Institutes 1.17.12; Battles' translation 1:226.]

    See 1.17.13 for Calvin’s explanation of the accomodational usage of the word “repentance” with respect to God.

  439. pduggie said,

    February 21, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    The thing I don’t get, is if we can’t comprehend the infinite God, and God accommodates his speech to us by using anthropomorphisms, so that we can understand who he is, that we then say, well, what God just said to us in so many words isn’t really true in so many words.

    Accommodation always seems to be to people who are stupider than those who confess Reformed confession, who can freely dispense with the accommodation to our ‘limited’ minds.

    Maybe its just good for the rubes/laymen to think that God might stop forgiving them (that helps accommodate to their limited minds who have trouble understanding that he can’t not forgive them) while the priestly class talks amongst themselves about how what god said in so many words ins’t true when you try to deal with things philosophically.

    The layman will be ok, though, because even though he can’t understand all the stuff the priests believe, he has implicit faith that whatever they’re confessing must be true.

    RE Mates:

    You challenged everyone earlier to try to show how the FV wasn’t open theism, and complained that nobody took you up on your offer.

    I challenge you to tell us what the Westminster Annotations say about Hebrews 10:29

  440. pduggie said,

    February 21, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Sorry, I keep misspelling your name. I mean RE Mattes. As someone with a double consonant, I should try harder.

  441. David deJong said,

    February 21, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I’ve been intermittently following this conversation. One of the points that has been repeatedly advanced is that there are certain texts that speak of “God in himself”, e.g. Mal 3:6. I would say this is a misunderstanding of Scripture. It can’t be divided into texts that speak about God as he really is and those that accommodate – all of Scripture is itself accommodation. God revealing himself in language at all is always different than “God in himself.”

    Mal 3:6 does not teach the immutability of God in the sense of Aristotle’s unmoved mover – in the sense of a God who is impassible. To advocate such an exegesis pays no respect to the historical context. The Israelites had just come back from exile. They had experienced the wrath of God but were not destroyed. Mal 3.6 teaches that “God-in-relationship” (ie. not God in himself) is faithful to his covenant commitments. He does not change – ie. he is faithful. His character remains the same. His character, however, is that he is grieved by sin and rejoices over righteousness. His character involves, in some ways, the possibility of change, insofar as the covenantal God has decided to claim a people for himself, a people who can rebel and be refractory. To argue that the Israelites were supposed to learn about “God in himself” as impassible from this prophetic word strains belief. That’s not the message, in context.

    Jonah 3:10 is another verse that can only be violated by those that insist on a monolithic decretal perspective. When the Ninevites repented, God relented. To submit to Scripture, you need to affirm both halves of that condition. The view advanced by Bob/Ron etc. would mean that Jonah 3.10 is “anthropomorphic” to the degree that it is simply untrue. God did not really change his mind, even though Scripture says he did. I hope we can see the profound difficulties with this last statement.

    One final comment: finite men who try to reconcile the eternal and the historical/temporal will find themselves enmeshed in irresoluble difficulties. It is not a solution to simply insist on a decretal perspective and flatten out the real tension in the texts in which God is represented as acting in history, as changing his mind, as having passions such as joy and anger (think of the violence that would be done to any exegesis of Exod 32-34 from a decretal perspective – I think God changes his mind several times in one narrative). Of course, completely privileging a covenantal perspective is not the solution either – but you can’t say that one perspective is not “really true”. That mistakes an apparent contradiction for what is actually the difference between the historical and eternal – a difference that can’t be reduced.

    In the end, there’s a reason why Rayburn could say temporary forgiveness is a biblical datum – it’s all over Scripture. With Jonah, God forgave Nineveh, but later, he destroyed the city.

    David DeJong

  442. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Paul,

    Regarding 439, where you wrote:

    The thing I don’t get, is if we can’t comprehend the infinite God, and God accommodates his speech to us by using anthropomorphisms, so that we can understand who he is, that we then say, well, what God just said to us in so many words isn’t really true in so many words.

    What we’ve got here is—failure to delineate. Some analyses you just can’t preach, so you get what we’ve had here last week.

    Anthropomorphisms are true “in so many words”—from our perspective. They are accurate descriptions of the way finite human beings experience God. But since they are inherently accommodations to our finiteness, they can never be accurate as comprehensive descriptions of God’s nature. Those require other kinds of statements, of the more abstract variety.

    But as accommodating language, neither do anthropomorphisms imply stupidity on the part of the those being accommodated. The doctrine of God’s immutability was no secret during the Mosaic era, even among pagans (cf. Num. 23:19-21). And even in the 21st century, we use accommodating language every time we speak of the sun setting and the moon rising, even though we know that “up” and “down” are concepts that do not apply to celestial bodies.

    Of course, I’m holding back here: the overall tone of your comment resonates like the whine of a sophomore hermeneutics student in a liberal seminary who can’t understand the meaning of any word containing more than three syllables because of all the cheap chianti he guzzled the night before. (That’s called a “simile.” As a figure of speech, it’s also true “in so many words” when properly understood as a description of what it’s like to read insipid prose.)

    Say, just how many FV fellow travelers are currently lurking in the shadows of 10th Pres.? Why don’t you talk this subject over with your outgoing pastor while you still have the chance?

  443. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 12:18 am

    David,

    In comment 441, you wrote:

    God revealing himself in language at all is always different than “God in himself.”

    I don’t think it’s wise to address anything else you wrote before dealing with this one statement, which I believe forms the presuppositional basis for everything else in your comment. You seem to be saying here that God never reveals anything about His actual nature in Scripture. Is this what you meant to say?

  444. curate said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Ron

    You taught Middle School, I taught undergraduates. You know grammar, and so do I. What you have not demonstrated is an ability to grasp your opponent’s argument. There is no impossibility in my exegesis at all. You have air-lifted a phrase straight out of its historical and covenantal context, and made it into a stand alone axiom of the mathematical type to support your preconceived idea.

    Grammar is only one step in exegesis,and it is in no way conclusive in establishing meaning. It also need historical awareness, which is why the proper method is called grammatical-historical exegesis.

    It is the second part of the method that you have left out, and no wonder, because you do have not demonstrated a grasp of biblical history.

    For the sake of argument, let us assume that you are correct, that I the LORD do not change is a stand alone statement. What does it mean then that this is the reason for Israel not being consumed? “God never changes in anything, therefore Israel is not consumed.”

    Perhaps I am as stupid and contentious as you say, but humour my ignorance. All I can see here is a meaningless non sequitur. God never changes, therefore Egypt is not consumed. God never changes, therefore Russia is not consumed. God never changes, therefore England is not consumed. What about all those peoples who have been consumed? Is that also because God never changes?

    If, however, as Paul Duggie and David De Jong have pointed out with me, what does not change here is God’s covenant, then suddenly we have an intelligible statement.

    No, the reference to the sons of Jacob is not an arbitrary irrelevance. It is the pointer to the covenants of promise that make the entire chapter meaningful.

    In conclusion then, your proof texts are my proof texts. Find some more.

  445. curate said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:25 am

    Bob

    Thanks for that link. According to it, the anthropomorphism of God repenting (changing his mind) teaches us that God answers prayer. Ok, No problem with that.

    So, when God said that he was going to exterminate Israel, was he bluffing? Or was extermination also an anthropomorphism? (Irony alert). Seriously, was he bluffing? I cannot believe that. I think that God meant every word that he said, because God does not bluff, or I have completely misunderstood God’s character.

  446. curate said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:36 am

    The False Assumption Here

    Men, you have argued that when Moses changed God’s mind, God was looking ahead into time, and working back on that basis to the present, knowing that Moses would argue convincingly. Therefore,God was not making a serious threat. He was bluffing, putting Moses to the test, and lying in the process.

    The True Fact being Ignored

    Moses argues from the past into the present, not from the future into the present, or from God’s alleged inability to change in himself. Read the actual argument that Moses makes. It is from the covenants made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the slanders that Egypt will make against God.

    Nowhere in scripture do we find the assertion that God judges men on the basis of what he knows will happen in the future. Nowhere! That is an Arminian trick. He judges on the basis of the covenants, and on the basis of acts actually performed.

    Forget about Doctor Who and Back to the Future exegesis. Think about Call back the Past, and covenantal theology.

  447. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 5:03 am

    Roger,

    You wrote:

    All I can see here is a meaningless non sequitur. God never changes, therefore Egypt is not consumed. God never changes, therefore Russia is not consumed. God never changes, therefore England is not consumed. What about all those peoples who have been consumed? Is that also because God never changes?

    After all your arguing, now is the time you choose to ignore the covenantal context of Mal. 3:6? Now you want to treat the sentence as an isolated artifact cut off from everything that gives it meaning—as you accuse me of doing? How convenient for you!

    The covenantal context of the entire Old Testament supplies the missing premise(s) that make the conclusion valid. Malachi was not Greek, and therefore did not present the kind of formal syllogism you would find in Aristotle. The major premises (or prior syllogisms—however one may choose to construct it), of course, are that God had made an unconditional covenant with Abraham to multiply his posterity and preserve it as the channel for blessing the nations. The only reason God Himself did not break that covenant in the wake of centuries of disobedience was because His nature does not change—otherwise it would be possible for Him to go back on His word.

  448. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 5:13 am

    Roger,

    Again, you wrote:

    If, however, as Paul Duggie and David De Jong have pointed out with me, what does not change here is God’s covenant, then suddenly we have an intelligible statement.

    [Boldness added.]

    Do you see where this has taken you? Do you see how absurd your argument has become? Do you see how willing you are to overtly re-write the text in order to get the conclusion you want?

    The text plainly states that God does not change. But you want it to say that God’s covenant does not change. No problem! If Paul and Dave say it should read that way, then by golly let’s just make it say that!

    I mean—come on!—everybody’s doing it these days. Bishop Spong. Brian McLaren. My Aunt Tilly. That guy who slipped money out of the collection plate at my old church…

  449. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Roger,

    Regarding the gust of hot air recorded in comment 446: you should really specify those whom you are addressing. I never argued anything remotely resembling the straw man you have erected.

  450. pduggie said,

    February 22, 2010 at 6:42 am

    “But since they are inherently accommodations to our finiteness, they can never be accurate as comprehensive descriptions of God’s nature. Those require other kinds of statements, of the more abstract variety.”

    That strikes me as nonsense.

    We need Anthropomorphisms because we are finite, and have limitations in our comprehension. But we apparently need other statements, that are more ‘accurate’ because we are ??? What exactly? non finite? These are for when we see things from God’s perspective? When do we do that, as finite creatures, exactly?

    I’m pretty happy with Waltke’s explanation myself. Nobody here told me if they thought it was actual Open Theism. Is it?

  451. Reed Here said,

    February 22, 2010 at 7:34 am

    Roger, no. 446:

    I have to agree with Ron on his assessment. Your understanding of what we’re saying at this point is one of the worst I’ve seen from you. No disrespect intended here, just some pointedness.

    You assume that all we’re doing is using an arminian-like argument (“God looks down the halls of time”). That’s expressly not what the argument is. The argument is that God says differently – in the very passage you are using!

    Ron may be guilty of not saying in respoone to youur arguments, “o.k. Roger, I see the covenantal context of Mal 3:6, and agree it is essential.” I agree with your insights on this aspect of the text up to one point. When God goes to support why he keeps His covenant, it is not a covenantally rooted argument, but a decretal one.\

    I.O.W. God’s covenant is supported by God’s decree. God’s promise to keep covenant with those who keep covenant with Him and His threat to destroy those who do not – is precisely because He is a God who does not change. This is an aspect of His being (God as He is), that is the essential support of His doing (God as He reveals Himself).

    Consider this as a possible friendly criticism that might eliminate some of your objection to what Ron has been saying. The Scripture presents God as revealed AND God as He is. It is not either/or, but both/and. In all your arguments I see this thread running through them, a lack of recognition of the both/and nature of Scripture.

  452. Reed Here said,

    February 22, 2010 at 7:42 am

    David, no 441: with reference to Mal 3:6 you’ve said,

    >To argue that the Israelites were supposed to learn about “God in himself” as impassible from this prophetic word strains belief. That’s not the message, in context.

    This is decidely wrong! The context in which Malachi was writing is the fullest of all the OT prophets. He was expressly writing in the context of the whole OT.

    To say that it would be a strain to conclude tGod’s impassability from the immediate text is true. But that is an observation rooted in ignorance concerning the intentional argumentation process employed by the OT writers. They never wrote in isolation, with neither an awareness nor a refusal to consider what the OT writers prior to them said. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Malachi, sitting at the end of the OT canon (whether one thinks his is the historical last book or not, he is close) was expressly writing with all that had been written before.

    This does not even bring in the Spirit’s intent, which is authorative. Even if one could argue that a particular OT writer was not aware of another particular OT writer’s book, this does not inn any way alter the Scripture interprets Scripture essentiality that the Spirit has built into the whole and all its parts!

    Respectfully, do you want to consider who is holding the strainer here?

  453. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Paul,

    In comment 450, you wrote:

    We need Anthropomorphisms because we are finite, and have limitations in our comprehension.

    Actually, I never said that we need them. In fact, as I pointed out in comment 442, we ourselves use accommodating language all the time, even though we know it is not accurate in the most absolute, technical sense:

    And even in the 21st century, we use accommodating language every time we speak of the sun setting and the moon rising, even though we know that “up” and “down” are concepts that do not apply to celestial bodies.

    We even continue to use anthropomorphic language of God, such as when we speak of Jesus as sitting “at the right hand of God,” or sing, “He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands.” But it’s not necessarily because we need to, but because of the usefulness of such language in expressing truths about God.

    You wrote:

    But we apparently need other statements, that are more ‘accurate’ because we are ??? What exactly? non finite? These are for when we see things from God’s perspective? When do we do that, as finite creatures, exactly?

    And, of course, I never wrote any of this nonsense, either, although I trust your attempt at reductio ad absurdum was amusing enough for you.

    Of course, we can’t really see things from God’s perspective. But are you, like David, going to imply that God never reveals anything about His actual nature in Scripture?

  454. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Reed,

    In comment 451, you wrote:

    Ron may be guilty of not saying in respoone to youur arguments, “o.k. Roger, I see the covenantal context of Mal 3:6, and agree it is essential.”

    Perhaps. But the reason for that reticense was that I believed it was more essential to to respond to Roger’s efforts to use the verse’s covenantal context as a straitjacket to keep it from saying what it actually means. In the meantime, I believe I have since addressed the covenantal context in comment 447.

  455. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Paul,

    In comment 450, you also wrote:

    I’m pretty happy with Waltke’s explanation myself. Nobody here told me if they thought it was actual Open Theism. Is it?

    You’re referring to an unreferenced citation that you posted in comments 34 and 418. One of my pet peeves is the practice of citing texts without context or references that enable one to track down the context. I think it’s just a common courtesy to enable your readers to track down your sources in order to confirm that you’re not misusing them.

    I have since traced your citation to Waltke’s Genesis commentary, and I must say that I’m not happy with the way he worded it. However, in fairness to Waltke—who I do not take to be anything close to an Open Theist—he appears to be condensing (perhaps overly so?) the conclusions from an essay by Richard Pratt titled “Historical Contingencies and Biblical Predictions” in The Way of Wisdom, J. I. Packer and Sven K. Soderlund, eds., (Zondervan, 2000), 180-203, which he references in the course of his commentary. It would be best to read that essay before jumping to conclusions.

  456. curate said,

    February 22, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Typo alert. When I said, “All I can see here is a meaningless non sequitur”, i was referring to Ron’s analysis, not my own.

  457. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 22, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I want to stick up for David (#441) and Paul in a limited sense here. I mentioned a couple of Scriptures that speak of God “repenting” or “changing his mind” — and Ron and Bob have, I think rightly, explained these as “accommodations.”

    What accommodation means, literally, is that we don’t have and cannot create a full, cogent, true explanation of the fact that “God changed his mind.” The term accommodation does not mean is that God didn’t actually change his mind; it means that there was a phenomenon in which God said X and then later said ~X. And somehow — we don’t know how — this is also compatible with God asking indignantly, “Am I a man, that I should change my mind?”

    So we must conclude, I think, that

    (1) God takes umbrage at the suggestion that He would change His mind; but
    (2) There are nevertheless some circumstances in which God’s behavior can be described, at least by analogy to humans, as “mind-changing.”

    But the implication of (2) is that the doctrine “God does not change” is also not a full and cogent explanation. That is — it is true, but it can’t explain all of the facts. It is an accommodation.

    That is: there is nothing in the statement “God does not change” that would allow me to predict episodes like Exodus 32.

    I believe that Pratt’s essay (which I read a while back, but I think I recall the argument) is trying to wrestle with these issues.

    That said, Roger, I think you’re pushing the idea of change too hard here. Keep in mind that God is offended at the suggestion that He is a man who would change His mind.

    God’s immutability is, in any event, irrelevant to the issue of “temporary forgiveness” in the sense that we are speaking of it.

    For a believer’s forgiveness is grounded on being “in Christ”, on Christ’s death being a substitution for his own, as Hebrews and Romans and Galatians and Colossians teaches.

    This kind of forgiveness, whose ground is in eternal decree, is not in the same category as “forgiving Ninevah” (Christ didn’t die for cities!) or being patient with Israel.

    I’ve argued earlier and continue to maintain that this latter kind of forgiveness is a picture of, a type of, a shadow of, the forgiveness of sins in Christ. And because it is a shadow, it is not grounded in the reality of substitutionary atonement. And because it is not grounded in substitutionary atonement, there is no obstacle to its being temporary.

    And most importantly, those episodes, as in Ex 32, are not evidence for the operation of the New Covenant.

    This is not pitting NT against OT. The genuinely saved OT saints also experienced the benefits of substitutionary atonement.

    Rather, it is pitting, on the basis of Scripture, of the New Covenant against the Old; which was a shadow of the New.

    Jeff Cagle

  458. curate said,

    February 22, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Ron, or should I say, Doctor House, I am delighted that you have finally recognized the covenantal context of that verse, even though it took a typo to make it happen.

  459. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 22, 2010 at 9:37 am

    I overthrew the mind in #457!

    The term accommodation does not mean is that God didn’t actually change his mind

    Should read “The term accommodation does not mean that God didn’t actually change His mind” (i.e., in any sense of the word).

  460. curate said,

    February 22, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Doctor House, what you are describing as immutability sounds a lot like petrification, not the activity of a personal being with perfect freedom.

  461. pduggie said,

    February 22, 2010 at 9:53 am

    @453 Ron. I’m not sure how you can argue the reason that accommodation exists is our finiteness (as you said “they are inherently accommodations to our finiteness”) but that we don’t then ‘need’ the accommodation.

    The reason ladders exist is because we are short, and can’t touch things 15 feet up. Therefore, we need ladders for some purposes.

    Why don’t we ‘need’ accommodation then?

  462. pduggie said,

    February 22, 2010 at 10:06 am

    When you get down to it, “God planned everything out long ago” is an anthropomorphic accommodation too.

    When we plan, we think over time, consider alternatives, etc. Long ago is for us yesterday, writ large.

    But God actually never ‘decides’ anything in the sense we do (doing things at point “t”) and doesn’t think “faster” than we do at all. There are only analogies between how us creatures do things, and how He does things. God has no potentialities that are not actual.

    So I’d think accommodation is “necessary” because everything said to us is, and its necessary for communication.

    What we can be happy about is that God created us to be receptive to him, so that he gave us analogous capacities (arms, brains, eyes) to the creatorly ones that he possesses. When God repents, he does not repent like a man, surely. That’s why I like Waltke’s way of expressing it. It flows along with Van Til’s (IIRC) description of the paradox of free will and determination: That it is BECAUSE God has determined every thing, that our decisions are therefore truly free.

  463. curate said,

    February 22, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Ron, you crack me up. You said: I believed it was more essential to to respond to Roger’s efforts to use the verse’s covenantal context as a straitjacket to keep it from saying what it actually means.

    So I was letting the context prevent me from seeing what the verse really means? Keep it up.

  464. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Paul,

    Regarding comment 461: if there is a “need” for language of accomodation it lies primarily in the area of facilitating efficient communication. It is easier to say “sunrise” than “the time the Sun as adjascent to the horizon at the onset of daylight.” Even when Ptolemy’s model was the reigning paradigm, people understood that the term “sunrise” did not precisely describe the phenomenon in view here, except from the standpoint of the observer. We have the mental capacity to understand the heliocentric model of the solar system and the Earth’s rotational periods, but the term “sunrise” still has the advantage of being both concise and descriptive of what is seen from the human perspective. The same holds true for accomodating language about God.

  465. David deJong said,

    February 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Ron has asked me whether Scripture ever reveals God-in-himself. In some ways, what is happening here is a categorical error. I am using the phrase God-in-himself in the precise sense of the God that is ultimately unknowable: this is apophatic theology. This is the God of whom only negatives can be predicated (cf. Aquinas, or Calvin’s deus absconditus).

    Of course, Scripture does teach us about God’s nature. But how can we predicate attributes of one who is ultimately unknowable? This is kataphatic theology – God teaches us about him by condescending to us, by revealing his nature in terms we can understand. So we can predicate attributes of God: he is good, loving, just – just so long as we recognize that we understand these things of God anagogically. There is a condescension on God’s part that extends to every bit of Scripture; there are no bits that we can pull out that give us access to Calvin’s deus absconditus. But in the Scriptures we meet Christ, who reveals God to us.

    So my point remains: by pulling little bits of Scripture out and saying they provide a window into God-in-himself, you are missing the very point, which is that God-in-himself is an utter (and terrifying) mystery and that every revelation of himself to us is self-limiting on the part of God.

    Here are two texts, in which Ron must see a certain tension, because of his view that Scripture reveals both God-in-himself and God-in-covenant:

    Mal 3:6: “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”
    Jon 3:10: “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”
    The Hebrew of “have compassion” means “relent, change one’s mind” (nhm).

    For Ron, one verse is God-in-himself, the other is anthropomorphic. I prefer to see no contradiction between these verses at all. Both present God as fundamentally acting in accordance with his nature. Malachi teaches that he does not change – that is, he remains faithful to his covenant, so that Judah was still around post-exile, despite having been judged for their sins. But Jonah also teaches God’s faithfulness: it is his character to change his mind and forgive when people repent. It is an expression of God’s unchanging willingness to forgive that he does change his mind and relent.

    This is the heart of the LORD’s own exposition of his Name in Exod 34:6-7: “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”

    Here the unchanging I AM reveals himself as the one who is ready to forgive. Jon 3:10 and Mal 3:6 can both be seen as commentaries on or expositions of the divine name YHWH. He is the faithful God, his faithfulness to his own character expresses itself in a willingness to change his mind and relent from bringing destruction on wayward sinners.

    Finally, Jeff Cagle: I appreciate much of what you write but bid you to consider that the entire book of Hebrews was written because there remains the possibility of apostasy in the New Covenant. Yes, we have greater promises, but with those promises come greater warnings (Hebr 2:1-4). Imposing a decretal rather than covenantal perspective on Hebrews will destroy the letter’s coherence. So: there is no simple Old Covenant/New Covenant dichotomy that can be pushed here.

    It is worthwhile to reflect on the combined canonical witness of Jonah and Nahum. Two of the twelve minor prophets are pretty much exclusively concerned with Nineveh. Why did the Spirit make 1/6 of the book of the twelve about a Gentile city? Obviously there is prefiguration of the New Covenant and God’s worldwide purposes here. There is also tension: with Jonah, God forgives Nineveh, and reproaches Jonah for resenting his earnest forgiveness. God meant it; he was really concerned about Nineveh. Later, with Nahum, the judgment was irrevocable, and over a century later than Jonah, Nineveh fell to Babylon (612 BC). God knew even when he forgave Nineveh in the 750s or so that he would destroy Nineveh in 612. But God-in-relationship with the world will relent, will stay his wrath, will forgive – even if its temporary.

    The Church in the NC must always take a real warning from Nineveh. We cannot presumptively say: that was the OC, this is now, we cannot fall away. This would be to rely on God’s decrees in a prideful manner, rather than striving to “make our calling and election sure” (how’s that for a phrase, that, had it been coined by Leithart, would undoubtedly be condemned as theologically vague and misleading! How can one make one’s election sure???).

    Blessings,

    Dave deJong

  466. David deJong said,

    February 22, 2010 at 11:30 am

    pduggie:

    Westminster Annotations on Hebr 10:29, glossing the phrase “the blood that sanctified them”:
    “By which their sins were pardoned, in regard of that meritorious sufficient satisfaction purchased by it [i.e. Christ's blood], see v.10 and v.14.”

    David DeJong

  467. curate said,

    February 22, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Ron

    Allow me to rephrase my question to you, which has now been lost due to my typo. “I the LORD do not change, therefore you are not consumed, O sons o Jacob.” How does the phrase following the word, therefore, follow from the alleged God in himself statement? Your exegesis is a non sequitur. Explain please.

  468. Reed Here said,

    February 22, 2010 at 11:55 am

    David: I understand and agree with your apophratic reference. That is not, however, the issue at hand here. Instead, the issue at hand is a pitting of Scripture’s decretal declarations with it’s covenantal declarations.

    Of course we can only know God as He reveals himself. We can never truly know Him as He really is. Yet God reveals himself both covenantally and decretally. Further, He does not use these revelational modes in a manner that contradict each other, but mutually inhere and support one another.

    E.g., your Hebrews caution exemplifies the error of at least allowing one mode to over-shadow the other. (You’ve not said much here, so I’ll not assume more in your words). To be sure, covenantal considerations are most definitely in view in this book. It may even be fair to say that the covenantal mode is the primary context.

    This, however, does not mean that the decretal mode makes no appearance in the arguments of Hebrews. In fact, as I sought to show in a prior comment, it is decretal considerations that are essential in the “solution”, the means by which one avoids the “real” threat of the covenantal warning.

    This is not even to bring into view the rest of Scripture, which is required for a consistent, biblically humble hermeneutic. Hebrews is to be interpreted in view of the rest of Scripture, and to not do so is to err egregiously, and offer offense (a covenantal one perhaps?) that the Author does not take lightly.

    No disrespect David, but your comments, whether you intend them to do this or not, support the weakness of the FV in this regard. There is a distinct imbalance in the FV’s hermeneutic, in which the covenantal mode virtually denies the (practical) validity of the decretal.

    It is this imbalance that are at the heart of Roger’s, Paul’s, and now your comments.

  469. Reed Here said,

    February 22, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Paul: now that David has provided the Westminster annotations to Heb 10:29, might you be ready to answer Bob’s original question?

  470. David deJong said,

    February 22, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    “There is a distinct imbalance in the FV’s hermeneutic, in which the covenantal mode virtually denies the (practical) validity of the decretal.”

    Regardless of FV (I haven’t read enough of them to speak for them), I would say the tension in Scripture between the covenantal and decretal cannot be collapsed or reduced in any way because we are dealing with time on the one hand and eternity on the other (which is not just “before” time but beyond time altogether – even the term “predestination” is an accommodation).

    This argument is not going to be solved. I will say this: 1) Scripture MOSTLY speaks in a covenantal mode. 2) Sometimes Scripture applies language of the decretal mode in a covenantal manner – e.g. someone can be “blotted out” of the “book of life”. 3) The decretal mode is essentially a strong affirmation of God’s sovereignty, with which I agree. It’s practical validity seems to be that: it points us to God who alone is the author of our salvation, driving us to grace. I don’t think it’s practical validity is realized in questioning strong statements made in the covenantal mode (thus, one can be ‘justified’ in a covenantal sense and still fall away; we should not use the decretal mode to question this).

    If one decides that certain scriptural language – justification, forgiveness, sanctification, etc. – can ONLY be properly applied to the decretal mode (as this post seems to argue), then there is the real imbalance, in my opinion. I find this to be a privileging of the decretal over the covenantal that attempts to do away with the real tension between them, a tension that cannot be erased because of the difference between history and eternity.

  471. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I am now going through the busiest portion of my day, so I’ll have to limite my interaction here to the following:

    David,

    Regarding your comment 465: what Reed said (in comment 468).

  472. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 22, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    David (#465):

    I … bid you to consider that the entire book of Hebrews was written because there remains the possibility of apostasy in the New Covenant. Yes, we have greater promises, but with those promises come greater warnings (Hebr 2:1-4).

    Yes, absolutely. I totally agree that there is the possibility of apostasy in the New Covenant.

    The question is then, How do we explain that apostasy?

    Do we explain it in terms of a forgiveness given, then rescinded? OR, do we explain it terms of a forgiveness that is according-to-sight, but not according-to-God’s-decrees?

    I’m arguing that the text of Hebrews itself forbids the first interpretation. In other words, I’m appealing to an Old/New distinction as developed in Hebrews to argue that forgiveness, once given, is once for all time. (Heb. 9.11-28, with emphasis on eternal redemption in v. 12).

    This leaves us then reasoning that the apostates are those who “never entered God’s rest” because of unbelief. And the warning to potential apostates is then, enter God’s rest by taking hold of Christ.

  473. pduggie said,

    February 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Jeff

    to answer that question about Hebrews, you need to get Bob Mattes to look up Hebrews 10:29 in the Westminster Annotations.

  474. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Same explanation, Paul. There is an empirical, or external, or outward, or to-the-eye-of-man perspective by which we say that “so-and-so believed and was baptized.” (It would be ludicrous to qualify every description of belief with ‘as far as I can tell.’).

    We see clear instances of this in Rom 16, where Paul describes folk as “converts to Christ” and “in Christ”; we also see it, interestingly, in Titus 1.6:

    “An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”

    This is clearly from a ‘according-to-mans-vision’ perspective; there is no way that Paul is drawing supernatural revelation here.

    At the same time (contra FV), we don’t assign absolute reality to man’s view. Instead, we recognize that some whom we describe as “sanctified by the blood of the covenant” are also those who have not “entered God’s rest.” Some who “receive the Word with joy” are also those who “have no root.”

    So when speaking to the visible church, we take the exact same approach as Hebrews 6 — we are confident about you of things accompanying salvation, but do not become lazy; persevere by laying hold of Christ by faith.

  475. Reed Here said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    David, no. 470: I appreciate the interaction and your irenic spirit expressed in your words. Please know that my criticism is offered the same.

    To begin with agreement: I agree that it is wrong to allow the decretal mode to even over-shadow the covenantal mode, let alone trump it.

    To disagree: I disgree with how you have expressed the relationship of the decretal to the covenantal. In your scheme the decretal at most serves as a hand-maiden to the covenantal, a mere servant. Rather, the Bible presents these as sisters if you will, sisters which mutually support and defend one another.

    To agree: as long as we’re careful to note that in any given text, in isolation from any other text, a particular phrase such as “justified” is expressly to be understood covenantally (or decretally), I agree.

    To disagree: but this is an argument in the abstract only. It has a role in understanding the express issue of the isolated text. Yet to limit the exegsis of such a text to the limits of the isolated context is unbiblical. The Bible itself never does this. In fact one rarely has to go more than a verse or two to see at least a necessary inference to the other mode.

    Further, to then use the results of such exegesis as the main course in the feast placed before God’s people is feed them an unbalanced, even harmfully prepared portion of God’s word.

    E.g., you’ve said:

    > I don’t think it’s practical validity is realized in questioning strong statements made in the covenantal mode (thus, one can be ‘justified’ in a covenantal sense and still fall away; we should not use the decretal mode to question this).

    I agree that we should not use the decretal mode to question the covenantal use of “justified” in a particular text beyond the Scripture’s own use of the decretal mode to question that particular text. We go as far as the Bible goes, and no further. This, however, is not what you are saying here.

    You may not have read much of the FV, but your expressions here are an exact fit for the faulty hermeneutic that leads to its erroneous conclusions. In this discussion, one side is arguing for decretal AND covenantal modes (in their biblically structured usage), and one side is arguing for a “practical validity” that finds place for ONLY the covenantal mode.

    I sincerely go back to my first criticism, and ask you to consider if it is not valid? You in effect are arguing for an either/or hermeneutic. The Scripture uses a both/and hermeutic. By the very nature of Scripture itself, both the covenantal and the decretal are in view, at boht the macro and micro levels. We may for the sake of highlighting particular insights favor one over the other (in submission to the text in isolation). Yet if we stop there, we have failed to read the Bible consistently.

  476. pduggie said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Oops didn’t see that at @469.

    Ok, so there my point is, someone’s sins are *pardoned* (in some regard). But then they apostatize. Sounds like temporary forgiveness ‘In some sense”, though not that shared by the elect, and not in a sense of open theism.

  477. Reed Here said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    And not in the sense of the FV. C’mon dude, we’re almot in 100% agreement !!:-)

    Note my willingness to allow for “temporary forgiveness” phrase in spite of Bob’s disagreement as to its usage. C’mon man, I’m going out on the limb here. ;-)

  478. pduggie said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I don’t think its just a forgiveness given “by sight”

    Moses being offered a new nation from his loins was not an offer “by the decrees” OR just “by sight”

    It is a tertium quid.

    To the physical Jews by descent, they have “the adoption”. That is not just by sight (Since none of them WERE believing). And it it not by the decrees, because many individuals go to hell.

    John Murray (rightly, I think) says that this kind of adoption should be distinguished from ‘that spoken of as the apex of New Testament privilege’ and distinguished it by noting it was (Galatians 4) under tutelary governance.

    But still, its a clear example of one term used equivocally, but analogically to the other meaning, which is just the thing that faces such sharp opposition.

    What I find particularly illuminating is how allowing such analogical thinking, and noting that ‘fleshly Israel’, far from being worthlessness, is regarded in Romans 11 as possessing great gifts and even a ‘calling’.

    Hom much more the visible church.

  479. pduggie said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    @477 “And not in the sense of the FV.”

    I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about. It is in those senses that I understand the FV to be speaking.

  480. todd said,

    February 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Is there one verse in the New Testament that teaches temporary forgiveness? When Calvin deals with the apostacy passages in Hebrews he warns of temporary (no true root) faith, as in the parable of the sowers. The NT offers many examples of such temporary faith, but is there one which states that forgiveness can be temporary? Nothing comes to mind so far.

  481. Reed Here said,

    February 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Forget it Paul. I’m rather disappointed by your flat response. So much for sincere engagement.

  482. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Paul (#479):

    I’m open to another explanation of apostasy other than the “by sight” explanation. Obviously, that explanation comes about from trying to make “good and necessary” inferences, and it has in its favor that it accords with Calvin and a good part of the Reformed tradition.

    BUT

    Even though I think it’s right, I also recognize that I’m engaging in reasoning here, filling in details that Scripture does not explicitly spell out.

    So I could be wrong.

    SO

    I’m open to other explanations

    BUT

    The “covenantal perspective” is not an explanation — it’s just a name. So if we want a different explanation, then it needs to be spelled out in detail so that it, too, can be checked for Scriptural consistency. The “in some sense” umbrella should not be so large as to cover theological mis-steps.

    So what account would you give for temporary forgiveness and apostasy? How does it function? And why is it different from “according to sight”?

    For example, is a temporarily forgiven individual written into the Lamb’s book of life? Is he “justified” — God’s wrath propitiated towards him? Is he dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus?

    Did Christ die for him?

    There are all of these details that actually haven’t been addressed except with the phrase “in some sense.” What sense?

  483. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Roger,

    In comment 456, you wrote:

    Typo alert. When I said, “All I can see here is a meaningless non sequitur”, i was referring to Ron’s analysis, not my own.

    And I understood you accordingly.

    In comment 458, you wrote:

    Ron, or should I say, Doctor House, I am delighted that you have finally recognized the covenantal context of that verse, even though it took a typo to make it happen.

    “Doctor House”! LOL! So now we having a Brit comparing an American to a fictional American played on TV by a Brit. Since House is one of my favorite programs (or as you would write: “programmes”) I suppose I should be almost flattered.

    But actually, I understood that you intended to indicate that you considered my analysis of Mal. 3:6 to be flawed rather than the logic inherent in the text itself. Perhaps you are now expecting me to slide effortlessly into my House persona and harp on the fact that you obviously find it easier to call something a “non sequitir” than to demonstrate why it qualifies as such, but I’ll resist.

    But I will take the trouble to point out that even though I have explained how the covenantal context does not function as you say it does in restricting (or completely altering) the meaning of “change” in Mal. 3:6, you have not bothered to interact with that explanation. You simply persist in labeling it a non sequitir. More on that later.

    And as long as I’m thinking about it: when are you going to respond to my commment 448?

    In comment 460, you wrote:

    Doctor House, what you are describing as immutability sounds a lot like petrification, not the activity of a personal being with perfect freedom.

    You might have a valid point here if you can show me any place where I described immutability—beyond, that is, my tautological references to it as the property of God’s essence that prevents Him from changing. By definition, to be immutable means to be “not capable of or susceptible to change” (Merriam-Webster). I do not recall going beyond that in my cataphatic theological statements here.

    And by the way: would you mind responding to my commment 448?

    In comment 463, you wrote:

    Ron, you crack me up. You said: I believed it was more essential to to respond to Roger’s efforts to use the verse’s covenantal context as a straitjacket to keep it from saying what it actually means.

    So I was letting the context prevent me from seeing what the verse really means? Keep it up.

    I don’t have my copy of D.A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies handy, but I’m thinking that he might classify your mishandling of Mal. 3:6 as a variation on the “Unwarranted restriction of the semantic field.” But—who knows?—your approach may be so convoluted as to actually defy categorization.

    And did I mention that you haven’t responded to my commment 448?

    In comment 467, you wrote:

    Allow me to rephrase my question to you, which has now been lost due to my typo. “I the LORD do not change, therefore you are not consumed, O sons o Jacob.” How does the phrase following the word, therefore, follow from the alleged God in himself statement? Your exegesis is a non sequitur. Explain please.

    What we have in Malachi 3:6 can be described as a syllogism with an ellipsis—it omits the major premise (since that can be easily gleaned from the literary context) and begins with the minor premise. Keep in mind that Malachi was not a Greek and lived a couple of centuries before Aristotle. I’m not sure whether the following would be considered valid form, but to save time I’ve boiled it down as follows:

    MAJOR PREMISE: A God Who does not change will keep his covenant promise to preserve the posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    MINOR PREMISE: I am a God who does not change.

    CONCLUSION: You sons (i.e., posterity) of Jacob will be preserved (i.e., not consumed).

    I believe this is pretty much what I said in comment 447, only worded differently. Now I’ll just kick back and wait for to you to respond to my commment 448.

  484. Ron Henzel said,

    February 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Jeff wrote:

    The “covenantal perspective” is not an explanation — it’s just a name.

    I think that pretty much sums it up—except when “covenantal perspective” is used as a sledgehammer to pound meanings into words that the original authors never intended.

  485. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 22, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    I should probably expand on my comment that “The ‘covenantal perspective’ is not an explanation.”

    When we first started this thread, Roger put forward the ‘covenantal perspective’ as a way of understanding temporary forgiveness. At the time, I thought we were moving in the direction of an outward administration of the covenant: expressions of faith, visible membership, etc.

    However, it seems that I misread things a bit and that the “covenantal perspective” means something else.

    So my comment was saying that until the “covenantal perspective” is defined, I don’t know what we’re talking about.

    It was a plea for definition.

  486. Reed Here said,

    February 22, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    A good plea.

  487. pduggie said,

    February 22, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    I’ll try to do better Reed: You scared me by saying we seemed to be on the same page :)

    I think I’ve been consistently open to seeing “temporary forgiveness” as being forbearance, but a forbearnace that always is analogous to the forgiveness that is, to the temporizer always on offer in a well-meant, freely given and won by Christ’s work.

    What is the “FV view”?

    Mattes writes “If, as Federal Visionists seem to be saying, God truly repents in the human sense of the term – changes his mind about forgiving someone as the master does in the parable – then as open theism posits”

    Ok, can we all admit that nobody believes that God repents “in the human sense of the term” any more that any of us believe that God has an arm “in the human sense of the term”

    If that’s the FV view, then let me out.

    2. Trying to respond to Jeff

    “by sight” implies to me more about what we may be very well deceived by. As Mattes has tried to assert, the reprobate who read the Bible are just getting misdirected mail. I don’t think that fits the picture of the love God has for even his enemies, or the free offer of the gospel (I commend reading the OPC minority report on the free offer and see how much of the arguments brought out there hit the arguments brought out against the FV. They’re surprisingly similar, IIRC)

    I’m not denying that which is certainly true, that we can ‘by sight’ believe that some are elect or who have received the Spirit who have not. But I think too that we have to take into account the objective graciousness of the visible order of the kingdom, and that objective graciousness is due to the objective presence and personal work of the triune God within that visible order.

    When Israel leaves Egypt. God is there, in a pillar of cloud. The objective presence of God is a terror to Egypt and a pleasure and protection to Israel. All were under that cloud, for their salvation and good. For all the details of how that OT situation differs from the NT decretal reality (which I think I affirm, frankly I got lost in all the discussion above) it is a good portrayal of the nature of the covenantal reality. Its the analogy that Calvin uses for the presence of Christ in the supper (and the presence of God’s word, objectively, to all who hear it preached by the lips of mere men)

    to some questions

    “For example, is a temporarily forgiven individual written into the Lamb’s book of life?”

    That would probably be unsound to say. It seems to be asking if someone temporarily forgiven is also considered eternally secure. Well no.

    [It also raises the question of the metaphorical nature of the 'book of life" which is a metaphor for what is in the decree of God, right? The "book" God has is anthropomorphic language for his thoughts and decisions.]

    “Is he “justified” — God’s wrath propitiated towards him?”

    I can’t say much more about that other than my strange warmth toward Lutheran objective justification.

    “Is he dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus?”

    he has a kind of life, the temporary life that will get choked out in time.

    “Did Christ die for him?”

    We should tell him so. That’s the only thing that will encourage his temporary faith to become true saving faith.

    I was rereading Boice on common grace, and was struck by how much he uses the common grace and love God extends to the unbeliever to motivate him to understand the analogous saving love he has.

    He cites Barhnouse’s warnings about the way unbelievers despise the common grace of God to them, and they should instead be motivated to repent. (Romans 2:4)

    Do those who then profess to have that repentance and faith, and experience the heavenly gift that the common lot of humanity don’t, don’t they, in apostasy despize some greater grace to them, not just to all appearances, but something greater?

    I can’t think (at 11:45) of more than this, “if this is so great, how much greater we have to say the even the less-than-decretal is”. I’m sure I’d love to be able to define for someone the degrees of reward and punishment for the elect and the reprobate. But I can’t. I can just confess that there are degrees, and say that it will go worse for Jerusalem than Sodom, and its because Jerusalem rejected the Son and the Spirit (as Stephen says in Acts)

  488. curate said,

    February 23, 2010 at 1:07 am

    no. 448 Dr. House said, I mean—come on!—everybody’s doing it these days. Bishop Spong. Brian McLaren. My Aunt Tilly. That guy who slipped money out of the collection plate at my old church…

    Lol …

    The text plainly states that God does not change. But you want it to say that God’s covenant does not change. No problem! If Paul and Dave say it should read that way, then by golly let’s just make it say that!

    I hardly know how to begin! You have such a rigid approach to language that you are unaware of basic techniques. There are a thousand literary ways to say the same thing, some more abbreviated than others.

    E.g. when I warn my children to do a chore, and there is a delay, I do not have to spell it out in so many words again, I just say, I am waiting. I do not have to spell out word for word what is meant. It is understood.

    God does not have to say to a people who been in covenant for hundreds and hundreds of years already, that his covenant does not change, in those exact words. He just says, I do not change … message: I am just and faithful to my word, as you well know, and that is the reason I have not utterly exterminated you from the face of the earth. You do not still exist as a nation because you are wonderful, but because there has to be a remnant of Abraham to fulfill my promises. Otherwise you would be toast.

    Spend more time in narrative Ron. Seriously. Put away your logic and philosophy books, and spend time learning to handle this genre.

  489. curate said,

    February 23, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Jeff no. 487 So my comment was saying that until the “covenantal perspective” is defined, I don’t know what we’re talking about.

    I could be a jerk and say, I thought so.

    Seriously, this confirms my suspicion all along that you guys really and truly do not know where we are coming from, and why we read texts the way we do. It also implies that you should cease fire until you know what you are shooting at.

    The covenantal perspective is simply a historical reading of the Bible, starting in Genesis with its 6 day creation, and moving on with the elect line through Noah to Abraham, where the covenants of promise are made that will in time include the other nations of the earth. More covenants are made with Judah, then David, and finally with the Lord Jesus, the son of David, who fulfills all the OT promises.

    It concludes with the earth renewed, with God and Christ living here on earth with its resurrected, bodily immortal, inhabitants, in the never ending time and space the Bible calls the kingdom of God.

    No eternity outside of time for the redeemed at all.

    It focuses upon reading the texts as they present themselves to us, taking them in their plain meaning, not ignoring the symbolical and typological, and becoming aware of the overwhelmingly historical nature of the Bible.

    The reason you men struggle with it is that your default mode of thinking theologically is unhistorical and otherworldly. You are looking for Romans 9 in every verse.

    You think ahistorically.

  490. Ron Henzel said,

    February 23, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Roger,

    Regarding your comment 488: would the Emperor like a nice new invisible hat to go with his birthday suit?

  491. Ron Henzel said,

    February 23, 2010 at 5:02 am

    Roger,

    Regarding comment 490: I think I get it now. Whereas in Malachi we can avoid orthodoxy theology by appealing to the narrative genre—which Malachi, by the way, does not employ (but why should that stop us?)—so also, when we want to avoid the clear meaning of Scripture in the rest of the Bible, we can simply blather on about the Bible’s historical nature.

    By the way, have you met my friend, Winston Smith? He recently vacationed in Room 101 where he finally became fluent in this language called Newspeak. I only bring him up because you sound so much like him.

  492. Ron Henzel said,

    February 23, 2010 at 5:04 am

    Oops!

    Regarding my comment 490: the first sentence should read “Regarding comment 489.”

  493. Ron Henzel said,

    February 23, 2010 at 5:17 am

    Roger,

    I think we’ve dealt with Mal. 3:6 as much as we possibly can and that we are obviously at logger heads. I’d like it if we could move on to texts such as:

    Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

    [James 1:17, NLT]

  494. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2010 at 6:16 am

    PDuggie (#487): “by sight” implies to me more about what we may be very well deceived by.

    “By sight” as I’ve been using it refers to the empirical perspective. Here I’m taking a “robust but not absolute” view of what we see, much as happens in science: genuine as far as it goes, but provisional.

    So the emphasis is not on being deceived: the Church that we see *is* the Church (as we see it). Rather, the emphasis is on the fact that the thoughts of man and the view of man must not absolutize itself as if it were the decrees of God.

    So if someone comes to us and professes faith, we take that at face value. There’s no “but you may be deceived!” kind of introspection that leads us to seek a Great-Awakening-type conversion narrative.

    At the same time, we deliver warnings to persevere, knowing that our acceptance of him is provisional.

    More later…

  495. Reed Here said,

    February 23, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Roger, no. 489: don’t include me in that “you guys don’t understand how we’re reading historically.” I’ve understood that for quite sometime.

    I think you’re not quite accurate with that though. Its more like you’re readinng historically and frankly have little or no use for the dectretal reading. Quite contrary to Scripture.

    No new ground here. but I do wish you might at least acknowledge an understanding of this point, rather than jsut simply retreat to the “suspicions confirmed, therefore nothin more needed,” approach.

  496. Paige Britton said,

    February 23, 2010 at 6:59 am

    #494 — I like the way Jeff said it earlier, too (#426, I think) that we “see through a glass darkly.” It sums up all of the thinking we do from our earthly perspective, from elders judging credible professions of faith, to theologians seeing patterns in Scripture and making up names for them, to pastors interpreting passages in blogs and sermons, to us wondering about the spiritual state of friends who used to seem to believe fervently. We have to have a healthy sense of our own fallibility, but also a confidence that language communicates, that we’re to “judge them by their fruit,” and that — as in the case of science — the Lord has set things up so that we can investigate and find things out, sufficiently if not exhaustively.

  497. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Curate (#489):

    The covenantal perspective is simply a historical reading of the Bible, starting in Genesis with its 6 day creation, and moving on with the elect line through Noah to Abraham …

    OK. This definition makes sense, but it raises a whole host of questions!

    (1) How is the covenantal perspective different from the empirical perspective that I’ve suggested here?

    (1A) Because it sounds as if the covenantal perspective is simply experiencing the acts of God as they occur in time…which is quintessentially empirical. So what’s the difference?

    (2) Why are God’s decrees excluded from this covenantal perspective? That is, Rom 9 and Eph 1 and John 6 are also a part of the story; so why are they being excluded here?

    (3) Is the covenantal perspective absolutely true?

    (4) If yes, then since God’s decrees are excluded from the covenantal perspective, what do we make of apparent conflicts between the two perspectives?

    There are more, but this opens the door (I hope) to a line of conversation.

    Jeff Cagle

  498. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 11:47 am

    The difficulty is historical is reading the public acts of God in saving people, and the decretal is reading more subtle and secret acts.

    Ham is saved from the flood by God.

    The ark saves 8 out of 8. Baptism saves likewise!

    But the Spirit does not ultimately save 8 out of 8 people. Jesus doesn’t loose anybody EXCEPT the son of perdition.

    Those subtle and secret acts of God end up with some very public effects, though, that are also the intention of God.

    We say justification is a ‘declaration of righteousness’ from God. But nobody hears the decretal version of that. Oh, the Spirit might confirm it to you after long struggle, but maybe God will take your sense of being eternally forgiven away from you, just to punish you for some sin in your life (Fisher!)

    But when Cornelius speaks in tongues, everyone sees that act of God and *knows* ABSOLUTELY the Spirit’s presence in his life. He’s somewhere between a “saint by profession” that we just make the judgment of charity about, and a Saint that we have communion with in all saving graces. because of the public act.

    When the church has tongues of the Spirit’s fire distributed to them, this is not the de jure secret justification of the elect. It is, though, the de facto, public justification of the visible church standing there [gaffin]. Those guys are in the burning presence of God, and are not consumed! Because of what Jesus did for them.

    That group of folks, de facto justified in time and space, and heard by everyone, is the group that guilty sinners join up with. To that group were added 5000 souls, plus kids!

    Jeff asks “What do we make of apparent conflicts between the two perspectives?”

    We should say the following

    “That guy had faith, but made shipwreck of it”

    “That guy was bought by Jesus, but denied his Lord who bought him”

    “Those folks began in the Spirit, but are in danger of falling from grace!”

    “He was purged from past sins, but seems to have forgotten and is heading for doom”

    (we can also say : “that guy was always a wolf. That guy was a child of the devil. That guy was a tare, i suppose. etc”)

  499. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I think this is pretty good

    http://www.hornes.org/mark/2010/02/23/repost-election-to-eternal-life-corporate-personal/

    Discuss?

    I’m guessing some won’t like

    “People end up looking for marks that they can claim only accompany those who are elected to eternal life. Invariably, these marks are incredibly subjective. Some raised in this doctrine will be unsure where they would end up if they were to die in the next hour, even though they have been raised to believe the Gospel message. They are not sure that they are elect.”

  500. curate said,

    February 23, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Reed no. 495 Its more like you’re readinng historically and frankly have little or no use for the dectretal reading.

    Not true at all. That is just your strange angle on the FV. As far as I know, every single FV man is a Reformed Calvinist, and that from conviction. We are not against the decrees, just your one-eyed reading of the Bible that effectively ignores the covenantal perspective.

  501. curate said,

    February 23, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Jeff no. 497 (2) Why are God’s decrees excluded from this covenantal perspective? That is, Rom 9 and Eph 1 and John 6 are also a part of the story; so why are they being excluded here?

    They are not excluded. They are included. The thing is that when we read these passages historically and covenantally, in addition to the things we all agree they are saying about election and predestination, they also begin to tell us things about the church (covenantally) that we could not see before.

  502. February 23, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Paul,

    “That guy had faith, but made shipwreck of it”

    If you mean he does not end up in heaven, then he never had saving faith – knowledge, assent, AND trust (Mt 7:22-23). However, the RCC would agree with the quoted statement and then apply penance to him as the second plank of justification.

    “That guy was bought by Jesus, but denied his Lord who bought him”

    Had they been of us, they never would have left us (1 jn 2:19). Christ only died for the elect so His blood is only efficacious for the elect (Jn 10:14-16; Jn 17:6-19).

    “Those folks began in the Spirit, but are in danger of falling from grace!”

    If they were truly in the Spirit, they persevere by God’s grace to the end (Rom 8:28-30; Phil 1:6).

    “He was purged from past sins, but seems to have forgotten and is heading for doom”

    Covered this in the main post.

    Bottom line is that tares were never wheat. The reprobate never receive regeneration, justification, forgiveness of sins, etc. We’ve covered this ground over and over again.

  503. February 23, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Paul, RE #499,

    That’s just the standard FV mix of some truth with FV spin which gives false hope to the reprobate and in doing so tarnishes God’s glory. WLC questions #59, 62-69 provides the Reformed, Biblical answer. How about we not waste our time on it?

  504. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Pduggie (#498):

    I would mostly concur. *This* is what I’ve been going on about with the “empirical perspective”: There is what we see on the outside, and there is what is known only to God. What we see is “through a glass, darkly.”

    As a result, there is a problem of knowledge. We solve that problem, in part, by reasoning from what we see, BUT we hold that knowledge loosely.

    In the end, as you say, “that apostate was always a tare.” There was an outside; there was an inside — the two did not match; the inside was the truth. It was the root from which fruit flowed.

    In my reading, Calvin takes this approach with the church. There is the church as we see it; it is defined in terms of those who profess faith. But there is the “Church as God sees it.” (Inst. 4.1)

    *Both* are to be called “the Church”; *Both* are to be the objects of our communion. It is an error to absolutize either the invisible Church or the visible Church as the only body that can bear that name — for the simple reason that the Church is one, but the views are two (God, man).

    Let’s contrast this now with two specific FV teachings.

    (1) On the FV account, the “visible Church” is the Church, period. There is no approximation involved. This is straight from the Joint Statement.

    (2) The effect of this teaching is to ascribe even more absolute reality than you and I have ascribed to the apostate’s faith. NOT “That guy was always a wolf”; but rather, “That guy was a saint (in some sense) and sealed with the Holy Spirit (in some sense). And then he fell away and became a wolf.”

    In the FV, the only sense of “always a wolf” is in the eternal, timeless, ahistorical decrees of God. In time, in history, this apostate fellow changed natures.

    Take a look, for example, at Mark Horne’s work on covenant and election.

    In many ways, he sounds exactly like what we’ve been discussing here. But when it comes to the apostate, he says

    Horne, Covenant and Election FAQ: But if the blessings catalogued are less than regeneration, and these people might persevere after all, we are put in the awkward position of saying that non-regenerate persons persevered to the end (cf. 2 Cor. 6:1)! Second, the illustration immediately following the warning, in 6:7-8, indicates these people have received some kind of new life. Otherwise the plant metaphor makes no sense. The question raised does not concern the nature of grace received in the past (real regeneration vs. merely common operations of the Spirit), but whether or not the one who has received grace will persevere into the future. Thus, the solution to Heb. 6 is not developing two different psychologies of conversion, one for the truly regenerate and one for the future apostate, and then introspecting to see which kind of grace one has received. Rather, the solution is to turn away from ourselves, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:1ff). This is the ‘secret’ to persevering (and to assurance).

    Even though I endorse his prescription (keep our eyes fixed on Jesus — there’s the objective assurance for ya), I think he goes a bridge too far in insisting on regeneration for the apostate. In doing so, he’s conflating the empirical perspective with reality; and that, the Scripture never endorses.

    Jeff Cagle

  505. Reed Here said,

    February 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Roger, no. 500: well, there’s no point in engaging in a “that’s what you are, but what am I?” exchange.

    Let me just observe that it is axiomatic in the FV that the covenantail perspective effectively trumps the decretal, that all we can do is speak to God’s people covenantally as we can’t objectively know there decretal status.

    This is not a skewed take on my part, but the FV’s own position. To not acknowledge is at best ignorance on your part.

    I get you think we’re not giving enough attention to the covenantal. That is just a shift you’ve made in your own mind. A review here of our comments will reveal time and time again where you’ve imputed meaning and inference that we then explicitly deny.

  506. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Paul (#499):

    Starting at 3, Mark replaces a subjective assurance (“I feel elect”) with a non-sequitur (“God has some kind of love for me, even if he has passed me by”).

    This is not Calvinistic assurance, which as you know, is “look to Christ and his promises!”

    Mark arrives there, somewhat, in 5, but the insertion of step 4 is irrelevant. We tell those both inside and outside the church, “Look to Christ and his promises!”

    The notion of corporate or covenantal election as a solution to the problem of assurance, does not solve that problem. My membership in the church is specifically not to be relied on for assurance, any more than a “feeling of election.”

    Instead, the assurance is the certain conviction that “Jesus died for me!” And if I believe that, then there’s no question as to whether I’m saved. That assurance is not subjective, but objective.

  507. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    I’m arguing that there is a church as we see it, and that God sees it along with us as we see it too, in addition to seeing it in a secret way, that really isn’t the key thing.

    That pillar of cloud is out there leading all of us, and God knows it. The incarnation means that God went to far as to make his anthropomorphisms real.Yes, God is a Spirit and has no body as we do, but God also does have a body as we do, in the incarnation. And God sees that body.

    I’ll try to deal with some of the objections you raise later. Thanks

  508. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    RE Mattes

    “Christ only died for the elect so His blood is only efficacious for the elect (Jn 10:14-16; Jn 17:6-19).”

    I know it wasn’t you that answered the challenge of the Annotation on Hebrews 10:29, but they say

    ‘“By which their sins were pardoned, in regard of that meritorious sufficient satisfaction purchased by it [i.e. Christ's blood], see v.10 and v.14.”

    Your thoughts?

  509. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I wonder sometimes about how the incarnation factors in. Jesus in his human nature wanted Jerusalem to repent, and Jesus didn’t know ALL the future infallaibly in his human nature.

    Perhaps those forgiven temporarily in the church are those forgiven by Jesus in his human nature, but not in his divine nature. As he asks that the father forgive his crucifiers, we need not assume all his crucifiers were elect. But does Jesus not ‘forgive them”? When they are roasting in hell, will it be for every sin, but one?

    Jesus in his human nature can wonder if there is a bear behind a tree. God can’t, properly.

    I suppose its too speculative. But I wonder.

  510. Reed Here said,

    February 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Paul: why speculate? Why not just stick with what the Bible says, both covenantally and decretally?

  511. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    #509 — be careful here. Jesus as *man* died for our sins.

  512. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    #507: I suppose we would have to debate what the “key thing” means. But doesn’t Scripture point us in the direction of thinking of “reality” as “what God sees”?

  513. February 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Paul, RE #508,

    I can use the Bible to prove that there is no God. The Bible actually says exactly that in two places (Ps 14 & 53). All I have to do is cherry-pick the verses and ignore the context.

    A couple of years ago when debating a prominent FVer, I challenged his cherry-picked, carefully tailored excerpt from Calvin. When I provided the entire context which brought forth a different meaning, his answer was that I had my Calvin and he had his. That’s the epitome of FV.

    Context, brother, context. I don’t have my Annotations handy, but I’ve used them extensively for many years. You excerpted one sentence from a 6-volume work. There were also cross-references to other verses which cross-reference still others. Many of the annotators helped write the Westminster Standards and the rest agreed heartily with them, so I know that the annotators don’t mean what you’d like them to mean. Like Calvin and anyone else, it takes a broader reading to get an accurate sense of the material. After all, there is a God.

    In this case, I believe that they are referring to the benefits that the reprobate in the visible church could have had but rejected by leaving the church (Heb 10:25). They tasted the fruit in that they “professed” (NOT possessed) true faith, sat under preaching and teaching, witnessed and probably even partook of the sacraments. Yet, they were never regenerate (or forgiven) and hence eventually trod the blood of Christ under foot having seen His benefits to His church. The writer of Hebrews (and Calvin and the annotators) contrasts what they could have had vice the judgment that is now theirs upon forsaking Christ and the church. This is the sense that Calvin interprets Chapter 10 of Hebrews, and also Chapter 6. I actually have at least one post on this on my blog from a few years ago.

    As further context for Hebrews 10, the writer contrasts apostasy against the law of Moses with apostasy against Christ Himself. Hence the contrast motif picked up by Calvin and probably the annotators. I highly recommend reading Calvin on Hebrews 10:19-31 and on in order to grasp the totality of his interpretation.

    Cherry-picking excerpts rarely goes well. That’s why I use longer quotes, cross-references, and multiple sources – even when quoting FVers. The more context provided for FV quotes, the worse they sound.

  514. Ron Henzel said,

    February 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Reed,

    In 505, you wrote:

    Let me just observe that it is axiomatic in the FV that the covenantail perspective effectively trumps the decretal [...]

    I have yet to see a coherent explanation of how this alleged “covenantal perspective” is actually brought to bear on exegesis. It appears to be more of a magic wand than an exegetical tool. Federal Visionists use it when they want to make problems disappear.

  515. rfwhite said,

    February 23, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    514 Ron Henzel: See Shepherd, Norman. 1976. “The Covenant Context of Evangelism.” In The New Testament Student and Theology, pp. 51-75. Edited by John Skilton. Nutley, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co.

  516. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    Re: #501:

    JRC: (2) Why are God’s decrees excluded from this covenantal perspective? That is, Rom 9 and Eph 1 and John 6 are also a part of the story; so why are they being excluded here?

    Curate: They are not excluded. They are included. The thing is that when we read these passages historically and covenantally, in addition to the things we all agree they are saying about election and predestination, they also begin to tell us things about the church (covenantally) that we could not see before.

    Well, the reason I asked the question that way is that in #489, you suggested that I was looking for Romans 9 in every verse. Assuming you were being hyperbolic, still and all: Why should Romans 9 *not* act as a piece of datum that informs our understanding of what’s going on?

    *Especially when* Romans 9 was written in order to resolve the issue of the apparent discrepancy between outward participation in the covenant v. unbelief.

    I could … erm … be a jerk and say that you’re “Reading Hebrews 10″ into every passage; but of course, what we’re both trying to do, I hope, is to get a sense of the whole picture.

    And the sense of the whole picture, including an attempt at historical reading, is that God desires for us to give some credibility, but not ultimate credibility, to what we see. When Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the wheat and tares, he’s giving them a lens through which to view “the kingdom of God.” When Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the soils, he’s telling them how to interpret what they see.

    Do you disagree with that?

  517. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    @513 Mattes

    I think you’re engaging in a lot of question begging, irrelevancies (what Calvin says) and circular reasoning there.

  518. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    @510: Ok, were the people that Jesus asked God to forgive on the cross

    1) forgiven by Jesus
    2) forgiven by God
    3) the exact same set of people in each case?

  519. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    @515 Thanks for that. And If I recall Shepherd’s article, its when we address unbeleivers in evangelism that we can say that “Jesus died for your sins” without worrying if that’s decretally true. And we can say to the people in the church (and should!) “you are justified, sanctified, etc”

  520. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    #513 and I should add, I’m willing to be corrected about that from the Annotations. Maybe I’m misreading them. But frankly, I can’t trust your assumed reading.

  521. Ron Henzel said,

    February 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Dr. White,

    Regarding comment 515: got it. Thanks.

  522. February 23, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Paul, RE #520,

    Suit yourself. I don’t have time to type in the entire chain of reasoning. I am content with having the Scriptures, the Standards, and the fruits of 400 years of Reformed study by men much smarter than I on the matter with me.

  523. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 23, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    Re: #518 — I have to believe that the Son was asking the Father to forgive them eternally. What’s the point in granting them forbearance if they were later to be “destroyed, body and soul, in Hell” (Matt 10.28)?

    Whether that request was granted is another question. Early church legend tells a remarkable tale of one of the centurions involved.

  524. pduggie said,

    February 23, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    504
    1. There are some things we see that we do not hold loosely. The fire of the spirit on Pentecost should not be held loosely. The way the functioning church limps forward in history with God’s special care is something we see, and don’t hold loosely.

    2. How we see or God sees the church is perhaps not the primary concern. Its how God relates to the church. Is he present in the church? Is he the God who is there? Is he taking all the babies in his arms, blessing them, and saying “mine”

    3. On the FV account, the Visible Church is also where God can be found, and where the real life the Spirit gives is lived out.

    4. I thought Horne was just saying “don’t ask if this is regeneration, just note this is grace from God to all sorts” (which means God’s personal involvement in the man’s life for good. The water is poured on both grounds. Both partake of the Holy Ghost. So we could call this “common operations” but the text isn’t trying to say that the water poured on the grounds is different in each case. It isn’t giving us subtle cues to determine what kind of water we’re getting. What we’re getting is God.

    5. The point of my confession that we can say “that guy was always a wolf” is to say that we can happily say that of some. I don’t think we should say that of, say Saul (as in Horne’s example)

    506
    1. I see what you’re saying about the non-sequitur, but I think Horne is trying to apply Romans 2:4. Paul wants people who haven’t experienced forgiveness to reason to it from God’s forbearance. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong to say to someone caught up in all the mysteries of divine election that they can start with the mere common grace of God to them and get back to fixing their eyes on Jesus, the source of all graces.

    2. You say “My membership in the church is specifically not to be relied on for assurance, “ Where, specifically? In the sense that we have a binary in/out “looking to membership” like a badge or something, yes, don’t rely on it. But membership in the church should not be looked at like looking at a binary flag variable . It’s a whole function call involving several ‘methods”. Methods include visible baptism and its right use. (and baptism IS for assurance) it involves the visible Supper. The danger of focusing on the visible church as only approximate, as something we can see ONLY is that we can doubt the assurances that God has given that he is encountered there in corporate relationship.

    3. To continue, I was wondering (sorry, again) the other day if a Jew couldn’t read Paul in Romans 11 and say, well, since My gifts and calling as a circumcized jew are “irrevocable”, if “God is for me, who can be against me”. If we can’t be assured by membership in the visible church, why do the Annotations assure us by talking (Romans 11:29) about the visible Jews that God will never forsake corporately. Interesting question? (certainly to some)

    4. “Instead, the assurance is the certain conviction that “Jesus died for me!” can’t/shouldn’t it be/also be “Jesus died for us folks?” Yes, that is the assurance, but what generates that kind of assurance?

  525. curate said,

    February 24, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Jeff no. 516 And the sense of the whole picture, including an attempt at historical reading, is that God desires for us to give some credibility, but not ultimate credibility, to what we see.

    I would wholeheartedly agree with that, with qualifications. For example, I have no hesitation in saying to my congregation that they are elect and predestined in Christ, but if they walk away from Christ they will be lost. I cannot have total knowledge about their election, but I work with what I can see, and make a reasonable conclusion. That is what I see Paul doing when he addresses entire congregations as predestined and elect, and at the same time warns them against falling.

    I do not need to have absolute knowledge and assurance to say those things. That is the qualification. It is unnatural and unreasonable to want to have that level of knowledge. We have been given the word of God, and that is sufficient for us humans.

  526. curate said,

    February 24, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Jeff cont. Assuming you were being hyperbolic, still and all: Why should Romans 9 *not* act as a piece of datum that informs our understanding of what’s going on?

    Yes, hyperbole, but there is truth in it. Let me answer with a question. Why would Romans 9 be the lens through which to read every text in the Bible? It is written to answer a specific conundrum, which is, why is Israel not being saved, when they are the heirs of the promises? Because not all who are of Israel (Jacob) are Israel, but only the elect, the children of promise, like Isaac. The others are like Ishmael and Esau, reprobate, although being children of Abraham according to the flesh.

    Election is not the answer to every question. It is not the assumption behind every text. It is related by the analogy of faith, of course, but it is not a one size fits all thing.

  527. curate said,

    February 24, 2010 at 1:43 am

    Regarding the covenantal perspective, I was reading Calvin again this last weekend on the knowledge of God. He says that we cannot know God as he is in himself, but only as he manifests himself to us. I take that to mean as he reveals himself and his work in scripture.

    God’s relationships with man are governed by the covenants, with the Abrahamic ones being the master covenants that all others fulfill, including the New Covenant.

    That is standard Reformed theology, unless I am greatly mistaken.

    How do the decrees of God relate to the covenants? Allow me to point out that they are revealed to us within the context of the covenants of Abraham. Therefore the eternal decrees must be understood in relation to the historical covenants. The covenantal perspective provides the means of understanding election and predestination.

    Explanation: Israel qua Israel is not being saved. On the contrary they are accursed, and about to have their country and their city raised to the ground for murdering their God-given king.

    Is God breaking his word to Israel? No. Why not? Because the covenants are not with unbelieving Israel, but believing Israel, the elect line that runs through Isaac and Jacob, and continues down to Jesus at the present time. All who are in Christ, that is, united to him by faith and baptism, are believing Israel, and it is with these that the covenants were made, and to whom the promises of God are indeed being fulfilled.

    Romans 9 is written to exonerate God from the charge of unfaithfulness to his covenants.

    The covenants of promise are the window through which we look at the eternal decree of election.

    Voila!

  528. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 24, 2010 at 1:44 am

    I don’t know if this is a helpful contribution or not, but it’s something I’ve been thinking over. The Greek word regarding forgiveness is aphiemi, which admits a variety of senses, the most basic of which is some form of separation. Once gloss for the verb is “remit.” Could we use this term as some sort of a mediating term?

    1. Forbearance is God’s response to sinners in general and at large.

    2. Remission is God’s response to those who participate in the covenantal body of Christ. This can be revoked if the blessings of the covenant, distinct from general common grace, are thrown away later.

    3. Forgiveness is God’s response to true saving faith. It is never revoked.

    Why a category # 2? Here’s my reasoning:

    1. those who fall away did receive some blessing from God related to the New Covenant. There’s just no way around this in Heb. 6: they “became sharers/participants of the Holy Spirit” and “tasted the powers of the coming age.” That same Holy Spirit who is the down payment of the final resurrection, and will be the animating and directing principle of the resurrected body is working in them, in some similar ways to how He is working in those who will receive eternal life (cf. the “common operations of the Spirit”).

    2. this is a far cry from the ordinary massa damnata of, say Rom. 1:18ff, who only know God’s general revelation and have no participation in the New Covenant (although they are still under Christ’s general universal reign). Just as there was a real blessing for the Jews, even though most had rejected the Messiah, those who participate in the Spirit are categorically different from and set apart from the world.

    3. Nevertheless, when it comes down to the final question, both those covenantal participants in the Spirit and the massa are on the wrong side of the issue. At this point, the goats have all the privileges of participation in the covenant removed–and those were real covenantal privileges, real favors of God.

    4. Part of this is corporate: as in the parable of the wheat and the tares, perhaps, God is gracious now and forever to His whole people, His church. Because of the grace to the whole, those who are finally false are allowed to flourish for the time being. Thus, that remission granted to the tares is because of God’s grace to the wheat. The whole field is cared for and tended, with the goal that the wheat will flourish–but it just so happens that the tares receive those benefits as well.

    Anyhow, there is a variety of ramifications from this, but I don’t want to keep rambling. So, I’ll just hope that what I’ve said is clear enough for discussion. I’ll also ask that it be taken just as it is, not on any real or perceived similarity to FV or non-FV ideas. I began these reflections based on exegesis, esp. of Heb. 6, when I was in seminary at WSC, starting in the fall of 2000.

  529. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 24, 2010 at 2:05 am

    And on the Open Theism charge, it would be entirely possible for God to put aside punishment for the time being and bestow favor on the reprobate that properly belong only to the eschatological elect, knowing full well (because He has decreed it) that He will, at the final judgment or before, revoke that remission and blessing and visit all of the penalties upon the reprobate’s head.

    It’s the converse of His wrath against Israel. When He said to Moses that He was going to destroy the people, was He really not, since He had decreed that Moses would intercede and He would ‘relent’ due to that intercession? If He really was not, at the moment He said it, intending (ad extra) to destroy the people, then He was lying. There can be, and are, two wills in God: revealed and decretal. But the revealed will is no less an actual will than the decretal. It’s not a pretend will.

    And notice in that first paragraph, I didn’t use the term “forgiveness.” See comment 528.

  530. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Dr. White,

    As I read the article by Shepherd to which you referred me, I am amazed by how much Roger is echoing it in his comments here.

  531. Paige Britton said,

    February 24, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Joshua (#528) –
    I guess the test for your thesis of three levels of God’s favorable action – forbearance, remission, and forgiveness – would be whether or not we could divide “forbearance” into two categories based on where unregenerate people are standing, either a) completely apart from God & his church, or b) mingling as tares among wheat.

    It’s true that unbelievers who are closely associated with believers receive something more than the common forbearance of common grace in their lives, and maybe we need another word for that. The danger would be if we conflated in our minds or speech the outward acts of favor with inward acts of God’s Spirit, of an ordo salutis variety.

    My thought would be that “remission” is probably not the best word for this intermediate level of favorable action, because it’s closely tied in our theological language with ordo-salutis-type “forgiveness.”

  532. curate said,

    February 24, 2010 at 7:27 am

    530, Ron. It is even more amazing considering that this is the first time that I have read it. There is good stuff in there.

  533. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Roger,

    Regarding 532: I am not having the same reaction to it that you are having.

  534. curate said,

    February 24, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Shepherd says the same thing that I have been saying here, on page 60:

    …the prophets and the apostles viewed election from the perspective of the covenant of grace, whereas Reformed theologians of a later day have tended to view the covenant of grace from the perspective of election.

  535. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Roger,

    Regarding 534: correction—Shepherd said the same thing you have been saying here—and I think the distinction is important. This demonstrates how faithfully current FV teaching replicates the errors of Norman Shepherd.

  536. rfwhite said,

    February 24, 2010 at 8:50 am

    535 Ron Henzel: In light of an essay such as Shepherd’s, it becomes clearer, at least to me, how questions such as the one in the lead post arise. Another way to frame Bob’s question is, how should we, on God’s behalf, address people? To apply Shepherd’s language, should we address people from the standpoint of observable covenant reality and conclude from the past presence but current absence of visible faith and sanctity that they were forgiven for a time?

  537. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2010 at 9:36 am

    Dr. White,

    Regarding 536: I don’t think Shepherd provides very satisfying answers to these questions. First he argues that, because we cannot presume to know people’s hearts or God’s elective decrees, we should follow the example of the original evangelists and “govern the church in terms of what is open and obvious to all” (72). But then he begins his concluding section with the presupposition that, “All who have been baptized by and are seeking to do the will of God are to be regarded as Christian brothers” (74, italics mine). Perhaps he should have worded it as “appear to be seeking to do the will of God,” to be more consistent, but it seems to me that he ultimately fails to provide a procedure that avoids making a judgment about another’s heart at some level.

    What sayest thou?

  538. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2010 at 9:44 am

    PDuggie (#524):

    1. There are some things we see that we do not hold loosely. The fire of the spirit on Pentecost should not be held loosely. The way the functioning church limps forward in history with God’s special care is something we see, and don’t hold loosely.

    We’re talking about degrees of loose / tight holding here, which is in contrast to an absolute holding here. When we look at the functioning Church, we say that God will definitely, certainly cause the Church to prevail; but no one individual Church (say, the RCC or the PCA) can lay claim to absolute participation therein. There is a tight hold on the promise of God, a looser hold on identifying this body or that as a proper recipient of the promise.

    By contrast, the FV statement absolutizes the Visible Church.

    I’m pressing this point because I’ve approached a couple of FVers with the possibility of loosening the grip on the absolutism, and been rebuffed.

    And it is an important difference — in my view, the difference — that puts them at odds with Calvin and the Confession, and indeed Scripture.

    2. How we see or God sees the church is perhaps not the primary concern.

    It is in fact the primary concern here. The whole debate over the nature of “temporary forgiveness” is the question, “Does *God* forgive people temporarily, OR do *we* mistake some people’s faith for genuine salvific faith?”

    It is a question of knowledge, and the FV answer to that question is to grab our heads with both hands and force us to see only and always through the lens of covenant, never election.

    Paul (the apostle) by contrast uses both views. And Calvin, following him, taught that the “church is more or less visible.”

    4. I thought Horne was just saying “don’t ask if this is regeneration

    His words are saying, “this is regeneration.” He asks and answers the question.

    2. You say “My membership in the church is specifically not to be relied on for assurance, “ Where, specifically? In the sense that we have a binary in/out “looking to membership” like a badge or something, yes, don’t rely on it. But membership in the church should not be looked at like looking at a binary flag variable . It’s a whole function call involving several ‘methods”. Methods include visible baptism and its right use. (and baptism IS for assurance) it involves the visible Supper. The danger of focusing on the visible church as only approximate, as something we can see ONLY is that we can doubt the assurances that God has given that he is encountered there in corporate relationship.

    This is a mistake involving undue doubt on the word “approximate.”

    EVERY MEASUREMENT in real life, every scientific datum, is an approximation. But good measurements are approximations so tight that the error doesn’t matter.

    When you see “approximate”, you should not automatically assume that it means “full of doubt.” Instead, you should read it as “subject to some error, whether more or less.”

    And this is what the Confession teaches about the church. It is more or less visible.

    Meanwhile, (still pressing the point), notice that the FV notion of the visible church really does make membership into a “badge” — and specifically baptism becomes the badge. We note that Shepherd in the linked article does the same thing.

    Perhaps, underlying all this, they are thinking of it in a looser sense. But if so, then why do they use the absolute language? And refuse offers that use exactly what you suggest — multiple lines of evidence to define the church?

    4. “Instead, the assurance is the certain conviction that “Jesus died for me!” can’t/shouldn’t it be/also be “Jesus died for us folks?” Yes, that is the assurance, but what generates that kind of assurance?

    The Spirit. For Calvin assurance and faith are practically the same. The ANS Lane article on this is quite good.

    The fact of my baptism is not assuring — the promise given in the baptism is.
    The fact of my church membership is not assuring — the fact that Christ is willing to join himself to me is.
    The fact of my feeling of election or of salvation is not assuring — the fact that Jesus died for me is.

    If you’ve read Lewis, it’s the difference between “looking at the beam of light.” v. “looking along the beam of light.”

  539. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I notice that we’ve accidentally broken the layout for this thread. I wonder, Lane K, if we could start a continuing thread? This discussion seems profitable.

    Curate (#532): Yes, the family resemblance is very strong. Just observing.

    Why would Romans 9 be the lens through which to read every text in the Bible? It is written to answer a specific conundrum, which is, why is Israel not being saved, when they are the heirs of the promises?

    It’s not the answer to every question, but it is very much on point for this question. So I’m highly resistant to saying that “election is invisible, so we shouldn’t factor it in to our reasoning.” Paul used the unbelief of the Jews as evidence for their non-election. The invisible election has visible effects.

    JRC: And the sense of the whole picture, including an attempt at historical reading, is that God desires for us to give some credibility, but not ultimate credibility, to what we see.

    Curate: I would wholeheartedly agree with that, with qualifications.

    GOOD! Let’s hold on to this point of contact, because it is crucially important.

    continuing, For example, I have no hesitation in saying to my congregation that they are elect and predestined in Christ, but if they walk away from Christ they will be lost. I cannot have total knowledge about their election, but I work with what I can see, and make a reasonable conclusion.

    OK. This is, more or less, where I am. Now let me explain why, being here, I nevertheless reject both the Shepherd article and also the specific FVJS statement about the church.

    The view that you are describing holds the visible church and the invisible in tension with one another. I do the same.

    By contrast, Shepherd pushes the covenantal perspective to be the only lens. So much so, that he says that baptism, not regeneration, is the beginning of spiritual life.

    In doing so, he is “turning up the volume” on the covenantal perspective so loudly that the decretal is lost. Yes, he gives lip service to regeneration (“The covenantal focus on baptism does not mean that regeneration is discounted”) — but his development gives no account of it!

    This leaves us wondering HOW it is that baptism can have an effect NOT at the same time of its application, as the confession teaches.

    More later… gotta teach.

    Jeff

  540. rfwhite said,

    February 24, 2010 at 11:49 am

    537 Ron H: I agree with you that Prof. Shepherd’s answers to the questions he raises are not satisfying. I would say that, though he is correct to raise the issue of finite human knowledge and the distinction between covenant and election (decree), he is not persuasive (correct) in his claim that “the prophets and the apostles viewed election from the perspective of the covenant of grace.” That particular claim appears to be the seed, or among the seed, that bore the fruit of the FV proposal in general and the answer of many (not all) FVers to the specific question that Bob poses in the headline to his post. One way to see this is to substitute the term “forgiveness” (or virtually any term from the ordo salutis) for “election” in his statement and extrapolate from there.

  541. curate said,

    February 24, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Jeff 539 said: By contrast, Shepherd pushes the covenantal perspective to be the only lens. So much so, that he says that baptism, not regeneration, is the beginning of spiritual life.

    False opposition. Regeneration is conferred in baptism. And btw the Confessions do not say that this conferring does not happen in baptism, but that it is not necessarily tied to that point in time. Big difference.

    In the ordinary course of events, baptism is the normal and usual time for the conferring of the benefits of Christ. Any other reading of the scriptures and the confessions is strained and artificial.

  542. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    OK, let’s come back to this (#525):

    For example, I have no hesitation in saying to my congregation that they are elect and predestined in Christ, but if they walk away from Christ they will be lost. I cannot have total knowledge about their election, but I work with what I can see, and make a reasonable conclusion.

    If, as I think, you are speaking provisionally in both cases, then I understand and agree.

    I’ll be personal here. I know of approximately 10 – 20 people in my life who, at one point, exhibited enough evidence of faith that I would say, “They are Christians”; and at another point, walked away from that faith so that I would say, “they are apostates.” Some are church members; one is a former TE.

    Let’s take Bob the Apostate. At time t0, he expresses faith which is apparently genuine. He talks and even walks, to the extent that we can tell, as a Christian.

    At t0, we say that Bob is a Christian. We speak to him and say that “Jesus has cleansed you from your sins.” At the same time, our language is provisional. It’s not just that we don’t know God’s decrees … we also don’t know what kind of ontological change has taken place in Bob.

    But we don’t use provisional language because (a) it would be cumbersome (“Jesus has cleansed you from your sins — assuming of course that you are actually regenerate.”) and MOREOVER (b) because provisional language would take Bob’s eyes off of Christ and on to his own heart.

    At t1, Bob continues to show growth in the faith. We call it “spiritual growth.” But our language is still provisional.

    At t2, Bob commits an obvious and flagrant sin, and refuses “contumaciously” to repent. We walk through discipline, ultimately excommunicating him. Excommunication is also provisional. We aren’t saying that Bob is actually apostate — we’re saying that as far as we can see, he does not appear to be a Christian.

    At t3 Bob repents! Praise the Lord! He hadn’t apostasized after all!

    OR

    At t3, alternate-universe-Bob is struck by a meteor and goes to his final reward. Which will be … what? Do we know? Can we say?

    With me so far?

    Now: using the FV language, I would have to say that Bob was definitely saved at t0, definitely lost at t2, and definitely re-saved at t3, all “in some sense.”

    The definiteness in the FV language comes about because of the desire to assure the visible church member that he really is saved. But the cost of using that language is that it over-sells the meaning of visible church membership, such that the locus of salvation is transferred from inward faith to outward baptism.

    I’m speaking of the language that is used, NOT the intent of the FV proponents.

    This is the wrong language to describe Bob’s situation.

    Instead, we need to use language that holds the visible and invisible in tension with each other. And I think that provisional language does the job.

    Thoughts?

    Jeff

  543. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    (#542) Regeneration is conferred in baptism. And btw the Confessions do not say that this conferring does not happen in baptism, but that it is not necessarily tied to that point in time.

    I understand and agree, but Shepherd makes the point in time to be the point of conferring. As you say, big difference.

    In the ordinary course of events, baptism is the normal and usual time for the conferring of the benefits of Christ.

    No, actually not so. In Acts, when most baptisms (statistically speaking) were adult baptisms, the normal and usual time for the effectiveness of the baptism was prior to the application of baptism. Acts 10 provides a dramatic example.

    In children, who can say? It doesn’t matter much. I disciple my kids and teach them to love Jesus and don’t worry about an exact moment.

  544. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Roger,

    You wrote:

    False opposition. Regeneration is conferred in baptism. And btw the Confessions do not say that this conferring does not happen in baptism, but that it is not necessarily tied to that point in time. Big difference.

    False reference. The Confession does not refer to regeneration as not being tied to the moment of its being administered, but rather baptism’s efficacy, which is its role as a sign and a seal (WCF 28.1)—not an instrument—of regeneration, any more than it is an instrument of the remission of sins. Bigger difference.

    Who says the FV is not heretical?

  545. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Curate, here’s one place where the Confession is helpful, and it mimics Calvin in its language:

    “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.

    The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers”

    “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.”

    The grace is regeneration, conferred at God’s appointed time. The effects are attributed to baptism, but sacramentally. Why? Says Calvin, because the sacrament proclaims the gospel in liquid form. It is the message received, NOT the action of pouring the water, that is effectual.

  546. curate said,

    February 24, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    So Ron is a Baptist, and not Reformed. No surprises there.

    Jeff, look up the meaning of sacramental union. It means that the things that are signified are truly present. Not only are the names attributed to each other, but the thing signified are also present on condition of right reception.

    For example, the bread signifies he body and the blood, and the same are truly present, albeit in a spiritual, not a corporeal form. Water signifies cleansing from sin, which cleansing is administered when rightly administered and received.

    Who says the majority of baptisms in Acts are adult? I would imagine that since households were getting baptised, that there were more minors than majors, in the way that families go.

  547. curate said,

    February 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Jeff, the grace is indeed given at the appointed time. Look again at Peter’s admonition to the Pentecost crowd: be baptised every one of you, for the remission of your sins, also, you will receive the Holy Spirit.

    He does not say, get baptised, and at some later date you will receive the promised forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. It cannot but mean that they will receive the things promised immediately, or, with very little delay.

    Look at justification through the lens of the covenant. How does God’s grace reach us? How is it administered? Covenantally, through the means of baptism and the Supper. Usually it comes straight away.

    Remember that I do not crank up the covenants till they drown out election, so don’t go there.

  548. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Roger,

    In comment 546, you wrote:

    So Ron is a Baptist, and not Reformed. No surprises there.

    Your ability to multiply cynical distortions is exceeded only by your inability to comprehend the Confession. The next paragraph of your comment badly misrepresents what the Confession is saying about sacramental union.

  549. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Curate (#546): [Sacramental Union] means that the things that are signified are truly present. Not only are the names attributed to each other, but the thing signified are also present on condition of right reception.

    Agreed.

    Curate (#547): Remember that I do not crank up the covenants till they drown out election, so don’t go there.

    OK, if we are in agreement in principle to hold covenant and election in tension, then perhaps we can discuss the “relative volume” of each.

    And I think baptism is probably a good test case.

    We agree that the grace exhibited is really given at the appointed time.

    What is that appointed time? You argue, usually at the time of baptism. You argue this on the basis of Peter’s admonition.

    But now, context! We are reading historically, right? And in Peter’s case, he’s speaking to adults who are going to respond to his sermon. How? By faith.

    So *why* are they going to receive the grace exhibited? Because they received water? Or because they believed the promise. Surely we have to agree that the latter is the cause.

    So the lack of delay here, which I agree to, cannot be generalized to cover all cases of baptism; and especially not cases of infant baptism; nor cases when adults are baptized without having genuine faith.

    Likewise, it does not cover cases in which individuals are never baptized (thief on the cross) or are baptized long after faith (as sometimes happens in these days when “each man does what is right in his own eyes.”)

    How does God’s grace reach us? Through the sacraments? Absolutely. But prior to the sacraments and undergirding them, God’s grace reaches us through the Word. As a matter of covenantal salvation, you have entirely omitted the preaching of the Gospel and faith response to it. Is this simply an oversight, or do the sacraments overshadow the role of the Word in your thinking?

    Consider for example Inst. 4.14 and the way that Calvin ties the efficacy of the sacrament to (a) the preached word, and (b) faith.

    And it is this faith that occurs in history (should be covenantal?) but is invisible (should be decretal?)

    So what we have here is that salvation is *not* merely a matter of what is seen (outward administration of the sacrament); nor is it entirely a matter of what is unseen (inward grace without any visible outward response). Instead, it is *both*.

    And because it is both, we cannot, should not, absolutize covenant in our thinking nor in our language (which reflects our thought). Shepherd does this when he ties the moment of baptism to the moment of transition from death to life. In so doing, he stands well outside Reformed thought (that I’ve been able to read), starting with Calvin. Gone is the idea of “God’s appointed time”; now comes the idea that at the moment of baptism, the dead are made alive.

    As a boundary stone, I would say that Shepherd’s formula makes the covenant “too loud.”

    Thoughts?

  550. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Ron (#548) — Re: #546 — Except for the Roger’s snarky first sentence, which I’ve taken to be a part of the background noise between you and him, I can’t find a lot that’s objectionable. The key is “right reception.” (#547 is different …)

  551. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    Jeff,

    Regarding your comment 550, Roger wrote in comment 546:

    Jeff, look up the meaning of sacramental union. It means that the things that are signified are truly present.

    Roger has misidentified the Lutheran definition of “sacramental union” (except for its consubstantiation view of the Lord’s Supper) with the Reformed definition. The Lutheran view equates the sacramental union with the Real Presence. In the Reformed view, the sacramental union is defined as a “wholly schetical (schetikē) [habitual] and relative, or moral” union, and,

    Thus also a sacrament (which moreover is said to be a certain visible word, bearing into the eyes that which words bring into the ears) demands no local presence or nonexistence (inexistentiam) of the sign with the thing signified, but implies the mere relation and habitude of the one to the other.

    [Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 19.4.3, Giger, trans., Dennison, ed., (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1997), 3:348-349.]

    It is this moral relation, as Turretin calls it, inherent in the sacramental union, that results in the phenomenon we observe in Scripture whereby “the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other” (WCF 27.2), but in Reformed theology the sacramental union is not defined as the fact “that the things that are signified are truly present,” as true as that is. Rather, as Turretin is at pains to teach us, the spiritual presence of the things signified flows from the sacramental union (Turretin, IET, 19.4.5; ibid.)—a spiritual presence which is mediated not by the sacraments themselves, but by faith (Turretin, IET, 19.4.6; ibid.).

    It should not be surprising that Roger has come up with this conflation of Lutheran and Reformed definitions of “sacramental union.” He has already gone on record as stating that, “Historically there is no difference between the Reformed and Lutheran views on Baptism. In substance and essence they are identical, although terminology may differ a little.”

  552. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Is anyone else having display issues with this blog? For the past few days I’ve noticed the text flowing past the right margin, and some of the letters on the far right being cut off, making it difficult to read at times. I see the same thing on two different computers and three different browsers.

  553. February 24, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Ron,

    Yes, I’ve been trying to find a cure in the scripts, but not having any luck. I’m not having the same problem on my blog. It may be a problem with a minor WordPress update and this theme.

  554. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Oddly enough also, mouse selection is now limited to a single paragraph.

    I’m leaning your direction, Bob – a bug in some update code.

  555. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 24, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Ron (#551), I probably shouldn’t have intruded. I think you’re placing a lot of weight on the word “present” in Roger’s post, which I took to be a synonym for “conferred.” I’ll let you work that out with him.

    I don’t have Turretin (pricey!), but Calvin speaks of communion in a somewhat stronger manner:

    But if we are carried to heaven with our eyes and minds, that we may there behold Christ in the glory of his kingdom, as the symbols invite us to him in his integrity, so, under the symbol of bread, we must feed on his body, and, under the symbol of wine, drink separately of his blood, and thereby have the full enjoyment of him. For though he withdrew his flesh from us, and with his body ascended to heaven, he, however, sits at the right hand of the Father; that is, he reigns in power and majesty, and the glory of the Father. This kingdom is not limited by any intervals of space, nor circumscribed by any dimensions. Christ can exert his energy wherever he pleases, in earth and heaven, can manifest his presence by the exercise of his power, can always be present with his people, breathing into them his own life, can live in them, sustain, confirm, and invigorate them, and preserve them safe, just as if he were with them in the body; in fine, can feed them with his own body, communion with which he transfuses into them. After this manner, the body and blood of Christ are exhibited to us in the sacrament.

    … But when these absurdities [i.e., trans- and consubstatiation] are discarded, I willingly admit any thing which helps to express the true and substantial communication of the body and blood of the Lord, as exhibited to believers under the sacred symbols of the Supper, understanding that they are received not by the imagination or intellect merely, but are enjoyed in reality as the food of eternal life. — Inst 4.17.18,19

    As to the role of faith, I completely agree: the efficacy of sacraments is faith. And that, because of the nature of the sacrament as a physical sermon, sign that strengthens our faith in the promise of the Word, needed for our humanity (Inst 4.14.3,4).

  556. Ron Henzel said,

    February 24, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Jeff,

    In comment 555, you wrote:

    I think you’re placing a lot of weight on the word “present” in Roger’s post, which I took to be a synonym for “conferred.”

    I think the examples he provides in paragraph 3 of comment 546 are pretty specific, and rule out the “conferred” interpretation.

  557. curate said,

    February 25, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Jeff no. 549 As a matter of covenantal salvation, you have entirely omitted the preaching of the Gospel and faith response to it. Is this simply an oversight?

    Those things are givens, and we were not discussing them. You cannot hold some-one to a topic they are not discussing.

    … we cannot, should not, absolutize covenant in our thinking nor in our language (which reflects our thought). Shepherd does this when he ties the moment of baptism to the moment of transition from death to life. In so doing, he stands well outside Reformed thought..

    Baptism has indeed historically been taken to be the moment of transition. It is the marker. That is pure Reformation thinking and practice. This concept of personal decision is Arminian to the core and utterly heretical, because it overthrows grace in favour of works. Look up Calvin’s Salzburg Catechism.

    Q: How do I know that I am a Christian?
    A: Because I have been baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    And from the BCP 1662:

    QUESTION. What is your Name?
    Answer. N. or M.
    Question. Who gave you this Name?
    Answer. My Godfathers and Godmothers in my Baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

    Both English and Continental Reformation churches took this view.

  558. curate said,

    February 25, 2010 at 12:58 am

    Ron, within the context of our discussion of the covenantal perspective you said that the FV is a heresy. Apart from the issues of your personal competence to make such a judgement, that remark makes it impossible for me to speak to your posts. Your other personal comments I have taken lightly, considering their source.

    I have huge issues with your group, and with the way that Steve Wilkins was treated, but it was Reed and Jeff who originally persuaded me to post real arguments here by their gracious manner.

    If you wish me to answer you at all, then it will be necessary for you to exercise a little internal censorship.

  559. Ron Henzel said,

    February 25, 2010 at 5:41 am

    Roger,

    I am guessing that you are aware of the fact that more than three years ago on this blog Lane labeled the FV a heresy in his post titled, “Why is the Federal Vision Heresy?” In fact, if you scroll up and glance over at his post categories, you will see the category “Federal Vision” listed as a subset of “Heresy.” Thus every time you come to this blog, it is telling you that the Federal Vision is a heresy. And I believe that is also the consensus of probably most of the people who comment here.

    In its least objectionable sense (in fact,its original sense in Greek), the word “heresy” can simply be taken to mean “division.” The FV is certainly causing a division within the Reformed world, so in that sense alone they are a heresy. And, in my opinion, FVists themselves have been the divisive ones causing this, which, if true, means they’ve been acting with a heretical spirit. But I personally think it goes beyond that: the FV is teaching things that contradict the system of doctrine contained in our Reformed confessions. That’s what I believe. In some places that may not be considered heretical, but in conservative Reformed churches it is. It may not mark out the heretics in this particular case for eternal judgment, but it still harms the peace and purity of the Reformed churches.

    Lane, of course, has also made it clear that everyone who runs with the FV crowd is not necessarily a heretic himself. I believe he has withheld from applying the term to Doug Wilson, which is is private judgment and I respect it. Likewise, I freely concede that (although you’ve made a few statements that give me considerable pause), you yourself may not be a heretic even though you swim in the FV lake. (In fact, I am not sure you would classify yourself as FVist, since all I’ve actually read is that you sympathize with the FV.)

    But—and please take this as respectfully as you can—I will not back down from my assertion, because it is my conviction, and the only censorship to which I will bow here is that of the blog moderators. I firmly believe that an excess of self-censorship is part of what got my denomination (the PCA) and others into this mess, and I have no use for it. You decide for yourself whether you will answer me, and I will decide for myself what I will write. If I offend the blog moderators, I will either work it out with them, or leave. In the meantime, feel free to call me out anytime you believe I am writing with ungodly words or a sinful attitude, and I hope that I will yield to the conviction of the Holy Spirit when I am guilty of such. You may find it hard to believe, given my comments here, but I personally favor irenic debate over contentious quarrels.

  560. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 25, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Curate (#557): I’m glad that you are thinking of the Word and faith as givens. Since that is the case, and I believe it to be relevant here, could you talk about how the preaching of the Word and faith play into the “covenantal perspective”? For faith itself is unseen; yet its effects are seen, yes? And faith is historical, and thus properly “covenantal” on your definition, yes?

    Baptism has indeed historically been taken to be the moment of transition. It is the marker. That is pure Reformation thinking and practice. This concept of personal decision is Arminian to the core and utterly heretical, because it overthrows grace in favour of works.

    Personal decision? Yikes! When did we start talking about personal decision? I don’t remember that in the ordo salutis.

    No, we were talking about regeneration. That latter concept is in no way Arminian.

    As to baptism being the moment of transition from death to life, the two quotes you provide have two separate issues attached to them.

    The easy one first: The BCP does of course reflect the Anglican tradition; but it is not a fully reliable guide to Reformed thought (pace Cranmer). In the classic Reformed tradition, children are baptized because they belong to the covenant. In the quote you provide, children are made part of the covenant because they are baptized.

    That’s a huge reversal, with the result that BCP 1662 stands in uncomfortable relationship to, say, Calv Inst 4.16.5:

    But if the covenant remains firm and fixed, it is no less applicable to the children of Christians in the present day, than to the children of the Jews under the Old Testament. Now, if they are partakers of the thing signified, how can they be denied the sign? If they obtain the reality, how can they be refused the figure? The external sign is so united in the sacrament with the word, that it cannot be separated from it; but if they can be separated, to which of the two shall we attach the greater value? Surely, when we see that the sign is subservient to the word, we shall say that it is subordinate, and assign it the inferior place. Since, then, the word of baptism is destined for infants why should we deny them the signs which is an appendage of the word?

    Outward or “covenantal” attachment to the covenant precedes baptism.

    The Salzburg catechism is a different story. For Calvin indeed told his congregation to “look to their baptism” for assurance.

    But in so doing, he was not telling them to “look at the fact of their baptism as proof of being a Christian.” Calvin’s notion of assurance (I refer folk once again to the ANS Lane article) was always Christocentric. No, he was telling them to look at the promise that baptism declares. Look to your baptism, for Calvin, means the same thing as Listen to the Gospel.

    It is the message, not the fact, of baptism that is assuring. The sacrament is the “appendage of the word”, given to engender faith in the word.

    As proof of this, I offer up Inst. 4.14 – 15.

    As again, in the Catechism:

    318. Why do you say that we must seek Jesus Christ in them? [the sacraments]

    I mean that we are not to be taken up with the earthly sign so as to seek our salvation in it, nor are we to imagine that it has a peculiar power enclosed within it. On the contrary, we are to employ the sign as a help, to lead us directly to the Lord Jesus, that we may find in Him our salvation and all our well-being.

    And as further proof, consider what a hash Calvin would have made if he had meant “Look to the fact of your baptism to know that you are saved.”

    For he also says this (Calv Cat. 317, 328, 329):

    317. How, then, and when do the Sacraments produce this effect?

    When we receive them in faith, seeking Jesus Christ alone and His grace in them.

    328. Do you think that the water is only a figure to us?

    It is such a figure that the reality is conjoined with it, for God does not promise us anything in vain. Accordingly it is certain that in Baptism the forgiveness of sins is offered to us and we receive it.

    329. Is this grace fulfilled indiscriminately in all?

    No, for some make it of no effect by their perversity. Nevertheless, the Sacrament loses nothing of its nature, although none but believers feel its efficacy.

    I think 329 rules out the kind of interpretation you are desiring to place on it.

    To borrow a helpful image from CS Lewis: the sacrament is like a beam of light, illuminating the promise of Christ. You are reading Calvin to say, “Look at the beam!” But when a man looks at the beam of light, all he sees is dust motes lit up and sparkly. In fact, Calvin is saying, “Look along the beam!” And when a man looks along the beam, he sees Christ himself, offering His blood to any who would believe.

  561. curate said,

    February 25, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Jeff

    This is a matter of historical theology, and I am right and you are wrong. Facts are facts. There was no difference between England and the Continent on Baptism. There was no difference between Lutheran and Reformed on Baptism.

    On the twist that you are seeing in words, it is not there. I fully agree with Calv. Cat. 329.

  562. curate said,

    February 25, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Bottom line is that the Reformers had a very strong covenantal perspective, which comes out in their doctrine of baptism as an objective marker of one’s Christianity. Qualifications notwithstanding.

    The loss of this perspective in later generations, which you guys have inherited, is a deviation from the Tradition.

  563. Ron Henzel said,

    February 25, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    This comment thread seems to have become more a test of endurance than a discussion of views. On the bright side, however, the blog formatting problem seems to have gotten fixed somehow.

  564. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 25, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Curate (#561):

    I respectfully and fully disagree.

  565. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 25, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    I should probably elucidate why I disagree, since flat statements like mine are really discussion enders.

    The thesis under consideration is Shepherd’s, that “Baptism rather than regeneration is the point of transition from lostness in death to salvation in life.”

    The words of the thesis state:

    (1) That a transition occurs from death to life, and
    (2) That this transition occurs at the point of baptism.

    Calv. Cat. 317 flatly falsifies this thesis. Calv. Inst. 4.14,15 falsifies this thesis. The Confession on baptism flatly falsifies this thesis. And most importantly of all, Acts 10.47 falsifies this thesis.

    As we say, facts are facts, and I’m running up against the facts in trying to give Shepherd’s thesis any sense of correctness.

    So help me out here: tell me exactly how you resolve what seems to me to be an apparent and obvious conflict between Shepherd’s thesis and these facts.

  566. pduggie said,

    February 25, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    The Acts 10:37 issue has good rhetorical effect, but I think a study of acts shows one “anomaly” after another, and that’s kinda the point.

    Shepherd uses the great commission for the normal “ordinary means” expectation of evangelism. But Acts of necessity shows a bunch of extraordinary situations. Ordinarily, gentiles will respond, become disciples of Jesus with baptism as their initiation.

    But Cornelius is a god-fearer already. His “transition from death to life” we’d say happened under the Old Covenant already. But the Spirit-filled community of the church needs to know that the gentiles will share in the same Spirit, and Peter is told that. Cornelius is an example that God has to use to get Peter to realize that he should have been willing to baptize Corny WITHOUT his speaking in tongues. Its not like every gentile had to speak in tongues before they would be convinces he qualified.

    Cornelius does go through a transition from death to life in his public visible reception of the Spirit (does it mean that he is the only one not under the judgement of charity”?) because, even though he wasn’t hellbound before Peter met him, he was an “old covenant” believer, in a covenant that was in the context of fallen man and death. Cornelius moves into the new Aeon of the ressurrection and Spirit inaugurated by Jesus. But he has an extraordinary visible mark of that, that leads to the ordinary mark of baptism.

    Shepherds’ point isn’t supposed to deal with situations where there are other visible manifestations than baptism. He’s dealing with the issue of secret regeneration versus the visible covenant signs. So Corny isn’t a case of secret regeneration.

    Also, Shepherd’s point is analogous to Jesus healings of Lepers. Even though healed, the man has to go show himself to the priest to be declared clean. Thats the point he *actually* can re-enter the living community, and stop being treated as a good-as-dead.

  567. curate said,

    February 26, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Jeff, I must be missing your point, because Calv. Cat. 329 simply states what I have always said, namely, that without faith the sacrament is ineffective. The sacrament remains what it is, but no benefits are conferred to unbelief.

    How this nullifies the fact that baptism is the point of transition for the believer I am not getting. Obviously unbelievers do not transition from death to life, but we are speaking of believers.

    This is no rhetorical refusal on my part to acknowledge your point. I think that you are misreading these passages.

  568. curate said,

    February 26, 2010 at 1:12 am

    The thesis under consideration is Shepherd’s, that “Baptism rather than regeneration is the point of transition from lostness in death to salvation in life.”

    Is Shepherd contrasting the modern baptistic/evangelical view that regeneration is unrelated to baptism, with the biblical and Reformation view (BCP, WCF) that regeneration is conferred in baptism?

    Since baptism confers the things it signifies, and it accomplishes the circumcision of the heart, (regeneration), baptism must be the moment of transition.

    Even when the child remains unregenerate, it has been matriculated into the covenant, and must be treated as regenerate, and held to his covenantal obligations of faith and repentance.

    So even in that case, baptism is a transition from being outside of the covenant to being inside.

  569. curate said,

    February 26, 2010 at 1:27 am

    For heresy is a forsaking of salvation, a renouncing of God’s grace, a departing from the body and spirit of Christ.

    Does the FV fulfill this? Truly?

    “According to this way which they call heresy I do worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which be written in the law and in the Prophets.”

    Think carefully before you accuse us of heresy Ron. You will answer to God for it.

  570. curate said,

    February 26, 2010 at 1:49 am

    This was the official view of the Reformed Church of England in the time of Elizabeth 1, written in reply to Trent’s accusation of reformation heresy. It was circulated in Europe throughout the Reformed Churches, where it was well received.

    And as for those persons, whom they (Rome) upon spite call Zuinglians and Lutherians, in very deed they of both sides be Christians, good friends and brethren. They vary not betwixt themselves upon the principles and foundations of our religion, nor as touching God, nor Christ, nor the Holy Ghost, nor of the means of justification, nor yet everlasting life, but upon one only question, which is neither weighty nor great: neither mistrust we, or make doubt at all, but they will shortly be agreed.

    That question was the Supper, and only one point of the Supper, which you know. Merle D’Aubigne concurs in this judgement. If you know of an historical document that proves that Baptism was a bone of contention among the Reformation Churches, I would like to see it.

    But there isn’t one, is there?

  571. curate said,

    February 26, 2010 at 1:50 am

    cont. It is from John Jewel’s Apology of the Church of England.

  572. Ron Henzel said,

    February 26, 2010 at 5:28 am

    Roger wrote in comment 568:

    Since baptism confers the things it signifies, and it accomplishes the circumcision of the heart, (regeneration), baptism must be the moment of transition.

    And, of course—as usual!—Roger is declaring the precise opposite of what the Westminster standards actually say (viz., WCF 28.6, note especially the first clause and closing prepositional phrase, which serve to bracket and substantially qualify the portion Roger plucks out of context). And he simultaneously undermines the standards’ entire system of doctrine with respect to the sacraments.

  573. Reed Here said,

    February 26, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Roger: I agree with Ron. You’re overstating. The Westminster Standards decidely do not teach this. The Belgic Confession does not teach this. I can’t even find the word “confer” used with reference to baptism in these. I’d be happy for you to show where.

    Are you sure your not reading into it? Let’s not get into the dueling history ouquotes again. I remember last time this went around. I remember concluding that your’s is decidedly the minority opinion. I also remember concluding that it was pretty obvious that these fathers did not make any claims to when the inward act occured with reference to the outward administration.

  574. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 26, 2010 at 7:05 am

    Curate (#568):

    Good morning.

    Is Shepherd contrasting the modern baptistic/evangelical view that regeneration is unrelated to baptism, with the biblical and Reformation view (BCP, WCF) that regeneration is conferred in baptism?

    Yes, he is doing so. But in so doing, he is swinging the pendulum in such a way that his words at least absolutize the moment of baptism as the moment of transition from death to life. Isn’t this flatly contrary to WCoF 28.6, “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered.”

    Ah, you say, but he’s speaking of a covenantal perspective!

    Yes, I reply, and so was the Confession. Why are children to be baptized? Because they are federally holy. Baptism is a covenant marker.

    BUT

    Having made that point, the Westminster divines also qualify this covenant marker with a boundary: its effectiveness should not be thought of as taking place at the moment of application.

    It’s all covenantal. And part of that “covenantal perspective” is a refusal to flatten God’s work into the symbols.

    I spent yesterday evening reading all the primary sources I could get my hands on, and I am firmly persuaded that this was Calvin’s view: efficacy? Yes. Attributing salvation to the symbol instead of the thing signified? No.

    And Shepherd’s view is too close to the latter line.

    If you know of an historical document that proves that Baptism was a bone of contention among the Reformation Churches, I would like to see it.

    This is a bit of a secondary issue, since unity (which might well be the case) could cut both ways: it could prove that I’ve misread Calvin; or it could prove that you’ve misread the BCP. I’d say, let’s examine Calvin to see what he teaches, and then we can talk about the unity or lack thereof between Calvin and the BCP.

  575. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 26, 2010 at 7:19 am

    PDuggie (#566):

    The Acts 10:37 issue has good rhetorical effect, but I think a study of acts shows one “anomaly” after another, and that’s kinda the point.

    Certainly. But the anomaly was strong enough that Acts 10 is used as a prooftext for WCoF 28.5.

    And Calvin also reasoned as I did:

    Peter reasoneth from the thing to the sign; for, seeing that baptism is an addition or appurtenance of the spiritual grace, he which hath received the Spirit is also apt to receive baptism; and this is the (most) lawful order, that the minister admit those unto the receiving of the outward sign whom God hath testified to be his children by the mark and pledge of his Spirit; so that faith and doctrine are first. And whereas unlearned men infer thereupon that infants are not to be baptized, it is without all reason. I grant that those who are strangers from the Church must be taught before the sign of adoption be given them; but I say, that the children of the faithful which are born in the Church are from their mother’s womb of the household of the kingdom of God. Yea, the argument which they use preposterously against us do I turn back [retort] upon themselves; for, seeing that God hath adopted the children of the faithful before they be born, I conclude thereupon that they are not to be defrauded of the outward sign; otherwise men shall presume to take that from them which God hath granted them. As touching the manifest grace of the Spirit, there is no absurdity therein, if it follow after baptism [ed. note: "tempore", in point of time] in them.

    And as this testimony maketh nothing for maintenance of their error, so it doth strongly refute the error of the Papists, who tie the grace of the Spirit to the signs, and think that the same is fet [fetched] from heaven with enchantments, and think it can only be brought down from heaven by exorcisms. as those witches did think that they did pull down the moon with their charms. But forasmuch as Luke saith that these had the Holy Ghost given them who were not as yet baptized, he showeth that the Spirit is not included in baptism. — Calv Comm Acts 10.48

    So Shepherd’s point, while welcome insofar as it is a corrective to revivalistic notions of regeneration, goes too far by failing to be bounded by these kinds of statements in the Reformed lit. In the case of Calvin, he wanted us to view covenant children as (a) adopted prior to birth — not at baptism; and (b) recipients of the Spirit (which is assuredly the transition from death to life! — Cf. Rom 8) at God’s appointed time.

    This is the covenantal perspective that Calvin enjoins.

  576. curate said,

    February 26, 2010 at 7:23 am

    Having made that point, the Westminster divines also qualify this covenant marker with a boundary: its effectiveness should not be thought of as taking place at the moment of application.

    Way over-reading. It means that the efficacy of baptism continues after the event, and, it means that the benefits conveyed by means of baptism may only take effect later in life. IOW regeneration does not necessarily occur at the moment of baptism.

    To say that it should not be thought of as taking place at baptism is plain wrong, no offence.

  577. Ron Henzel said,

    February 26, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Reed,

    I believe Roger is referring to the text which I have bolded in the following quotation of WCF 28.6:

    The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.

    By insisting that “baptism must be the moment of transition [from lostness in death to salvation in life]” Roger contradicts the confession’s teaching that, “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered,” but that God confers the grace signified “in His appointed time.”

    Hi insistence is, however, conveniently in keeping with his notion that the historic Lutheran view of baptism (which is essentially baptismal regeneration) is virtually identical to the historic Reformed view of baptism. He seeks to establish this identification, in part, by defining “sacramental union” the same way Lutherans do, which I have shown to be erroneous in comment 551

    Roger wrote in comment 570:

    If you know of an historical document that proves that Baptism was a bone of contention among the Reformation Churches, I would like to see it.

    But this is not really the issue. The fact that Lutherans and Reformed Christians have not contended over their differences on baptism in no way disproves that differences did not exist.

  578. pduggie said,

    February 26, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Does it strike you, Jeff, that Calvin is asking different questions of the Acts text than the Acts text was written to answer?

    Peter had an issue with gentile inclusion. Calvin has an issue with arguing against romanists and anabaptists. I’m not sure the exegesis is legit, even if the theology is.

  579. todd said,

    February 26, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Louis Berkhof “Systematic Theology” (pg. 627)

    “The Lutheran Reformation did not entirely rid itself of the Roman Catholic conception of the sacraments. Luther did not regard the water in baptism as common water, but as a water which had become, through the Word with its inherit divine power, a gracious water of life, a washing of regeneration. Through this divine efficacy of the Word the sacrament effects regeneration. In the case of adults Luther made the effect of baptism dependant on faith in the recipient…Calvin and Reformed theology proceeded on the assumption that baptism is instituted for believers” (concerning adults), “and does not work but strengthens the new life.”

  580. Ron Henzel said,

    February 26, 2010 at 8:01 am

    Roger wrote in comment 576:

    Way over-reading. It means that the efficacy of baptism continues after the event, and, it means that the benefits conveyed by means of baptism may only take effect later in life. IOW regeneration does not necessarily occur at the moment of baptism.

    This is simply an attempt to keep one’s cake after having eaten it (or perhaps: after WCF 28.6 has eaten it). Roger is desperately trying to establish that the confession ties the efficacy of baptism (i.e., baptism’s power to produce an effect) to the moment of its administration, despite the fact that the confession specifically denies such a tie.

    He is also contradicting himself. He just stated in comment 568:

    Since baptism confers the things it signifies, and it accomplishes the circumcision of the heart, (regeneration), baptism must be the moment of transition.

    So, if we assume Roger expressed himself coherently in 568, he indicated that baptism confers regerneration at the moment of its administration. If that’s not what he meant, he chose an extremely poor way of wording whatever it was that he actually meant. But suddenly in comment 576 he wrote:

    [...] regeneration does not necessarily occur at the moment of baptism.

  581. Reed Here said,

    February 26, 2010 at 8:02 am

    Ron: thanks.

    Roger: sorry.

    Shoot. I even went and reviewed. Shows what happens when you comment before you’re really awake.

    Aside, I still think the point follows. NotThe Standards are careful to not note that conferring internally occurs at administering outwardly. That they later go on to emphasize, “at any time,” while not also taking the opportunity to say, “ordinarily at the moment of administration,” speaks loudly to their unwillingness to go there. This is quite in opposition to Roger’s claim that to historical precedence for his position.

  582. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 26, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Curate (#576):

    Way over-reading. It means that the efficacy of baptism continues after the event, and, it means that the benefits conveyed by means of baptism may only take effect later in life. IOW regeneration does not necessarily occur at the moment of baptism.

    To say that it should not be thought of as taking place at baptism is plain wrong, no offence.

    I’m confused as to what you mean. You say,

    (1) The efficacy continues after the event, and (BUT?)
    (2) The benefits may only take effect later in life.

    What is the difference between “efficacy” and “the benefits taking effect”?

    And anyways, how is it over-reading to think that the sentence

    “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered”

    means that

    The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered

    ?

    I’m scratching my head here. Doesn’t this sentence pretty much plainly mean that the efficacy of Baptism should not be viewed as taking place at the moment of baptism?!

    Help me understand what you’re saying. And if you would, take a look at Calv Comm on Gal 3, 1 Pet 3, and Rom 6 in re: baptism.

  583. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 26, 2010 at 8:49 am

    PDuggie (#578):

    Does it strike you, Jeff, that Calvin is asking different questions of the Acts text than the Acts text was written to answer?

    That’s tough, since I came to the same conclusion as Calvin before I read him. So we’re both guilty, if at all.

    Here’s why. Yes: the events in Acts are exceptional. But, they are exceptional to prove a point. One of the significant issues on the table in Acts is whether circumcision is necessary as a sign of being brought into the Covenant (followed by Law-keeping as a means of staying in). Cf. Acts 15.

    This issue is on the table for Peter. He considers Cornelius “unclean.” Why? Ultimately, because Cornelius is uncircumcised.

    The episode in Acts 10 demonstrates that God calls things “clean” whom man regards as “unclean.” Why? Because he justifies them through the agency of faith. (Acts 15.8, 9). NOT through the agency of circumcision.

    This contrast is crucial to Peter’s argument in Acts 15; and if true there, then it is equally true for baptism. The efficacy of baptism does not consist of the action itself (we all agree), but in faith.

    It follows therefore that the transition from death to life occurs at the moment of faith.

    I think Calvin is not over-reaching, but reading Acts 10 together with Acts 15.

    Jeff

  584. Ron Henzel said,

    February 26, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Jeff,

    In comment 582 you asked what is perhaps The Most Excellent Question Ever Asked in The Comment Section of a Reformed Blog:

    What is the difference between “efficacy” and “the benefits taking effect”?

    Since the word “efficacy” means “the ability to produce an effect,” the answer is, “There is no difference.”

  585. curate said,

    February 26, 2010 at 11:24 am

    Jeff, I am sorry to have confused you. I was summarizing.

    I mean that baptism is the ordinary moment of transition to new life, without making an absolute link. There are those whose baptism only works within them later in life. I am one. In the later case, the efficacy of the rite occurs after the event.

    I believe that that is what your WCF is saying. Baptism works, but not always at the moment of administration. That is the view of all the Reformation Churches.

    To say as you do, that they sought to deny that baptism works at the moment of its administration is over-reading.

    I will add that I think that the WCF is weak in this area. It refuses to take a stand on when the sacrament works, possibly because of an over-active decretal perspective.

  586. Ron Henzel said,

    February 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Roger wrote:

    I mean that baptism is the ordinary moment of transition to new life, without making an absolute link. There are those whose baptism only works within them later in life. I am one. In the later case, the efficacy of the rite occurs after the event.

    I think it should be observed that this does not fit well with Norman Shepherd’s third thesis: “Baptism rather than regeneration is the point of transition from lostness in death to salvation in life.” Shepherd here makes a definite cleavage between baptism and regeneration. To him, regeneration is something that baptism is not, thus the cleavage. This appears to me to be an unsustainable cleavage fraught with internal contradiction, since salvation in life, to which baptism supposedly marks the point of transition, must always include regeneration, and since Shepherdism/FVism always ends up with some form of baptismal regeneration.

    But if “the efficacy of the rite occurs after the event,” then the aforementioned “point of transition” is also after the event, which means that baptism no longer marks it, and Shepherd’s third thesis is invalidated. What is left to mark it? Inwardly, it would have to be regeneration. Outwardly, it would have to be a credible profession of faith.

  587. Ron Henzel said,

    February 26, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    On page 57 of “The Covenant Context for Evangelism,” Norman Shepherd wrote:

    Second thesis: Reformed evangelistic methodology must be consciously oriented to the covenant of grace rather than to the doctrine of election.

    Shepherd thus creates a dichotomy between covenant and election. In his mind, you can be oriented either to the covenant or to election. But how is such a dichotomy possible when the covenant of grace itself is already oriented to the doctrine of election?

    Q. 31. 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.

    [WLC]

  588. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 26, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    Curate (#585): There are those whose baptism only works within them later in life. I am one. In the later case, the efficacy of the rite occurs after the event.

    OK. Interestingly, there are some whose baptism works earlier in life. Cornelius was one; he received the benefits prior to baptism. I am another. I grew up as a “covenant child” in a Baptist house, and wasn’t walk-the-aisle-and-get-baptized-saved until age 10. But I believed prior to that time.

    And there are some who do not receive baptism at all, and yet receive the benefits thereof. These are relatively few (see below), as the norm for Christians is to receive baptism; but … well, WCoF 28.5.

    What we’re discussing is the history of the tradition and the right reading of it. I would like to presume on you to take a(nother) look at these sources, all from Calvin:

    Comm Rom 6.3-4
    Comm Col 2.8-12
    Comm 1 Cor 10.1-5
    Comm Gal 3.23-29
    Comm 1 Pet 3.19-22
    Geneva Catechism Q310 – 339
    Calv Inst on Sacraments
    Calv Inst on Baptism
    Calv Inst on Paedobaptism
    Calv Inst on Faith

    Based on these, I would put forward the following theses:

    1. Calvin sees the efficacy of baptism so strongly that views baptism as “putting on Christ.”
    2. He views the reality and effect as connected with the outward sign.
    3. Calvin reads Paul as avoiding two errors: overconfidence in the symbol, on the one hand; and emptying the symbol rightly received of its power, on the other.
    4. Calvin’s chief opponents in this matter are the papists and the anabaptists.
    5. The efficacy of the sacraments is faith.
    6. There are two planks in Calvin’s rebuttal of the papists.
    6A. First, as to mechanism, he denies that the symbol of itself has any power to regenerate. It must, says he, be received by faith.
    6B. Second, as to time, he denies that the time of baptism is in fact the time when these effects normally take place. In children, in fact, he views it as “sufficient if they exhibit faith at the age of discretion.”
    7. For Calvin, the reason we baptize children is that they are already in the covenant and are already federally holy, having been already (outwardly) adopted by God.

    How far can we agree to these? If we are in substantial agreement, I’ll pull up 17th and then 18th century treatments of same.

    Jeff

  589. Reed Here said,

    February 26, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Roger, side question: what do you think of the argument that the Westminster Standards do not teach that grace is conferred ordinarily at the moment of administration because the grace conferred is not converting grace?

    I’m reading an interesting article in The Confessional Presbyterian (vol. 4, 2008) by Patrick Ramsey, “Baptismal Regeneration and the Westminster Confession” (pp. 183-191). I really do think it is worth your attention. If Ramsey is right, then the WCF cannot understand baptism to confer converting grace in the first place.

    I’m just saying …

  590. February 26, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Roger,

    I believe that that is what your WCF is saying. Baptism works, but not always at the moment of administration. That is the view of all the Reformation Churches.

    Actually, that depends on what you mean. All those baptized are not necessarily saved. We see that every day. Baptism joins the individual to the visible church where they will hear the Word preached, observe the sacraments, and fellowship with other church members. However, they receive no saving graces without eventually and until exercising faith. Their sins are not forgiven, they are not justified, etc. That’s what Westminster says.

    So, what do you mean “baptism works”?

  591. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Hey mods, I posted a message with a lot of links and it may have gotten held up in queue

  592. February 26, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Jeff,

    Thanks for the heads up. It did go to spam purgatory, but I dipped into the treasury of the saints to grant a plenary indulgence and spring it from purgatory.

  593. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 26, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    “Sobald das Byte im Sprechsort singt / im huy das Post im Himmel springt.”

    “As soon as byte in combox sings, the post from purgatory springs.”

  594. February 26, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Touché!

  595. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Jeff

    Great research there. Many of the things that you are reading as differences are in fact fine-tunings of the doctrine. There are a few things that I will have to say by way of reminder that may help to clear the muddied waters a little.

    No-one thinks that the mechanism, the actual water, of baptism does anything. That is the kind of objection that baptistic-minded people have, (no slur), because they are out of the loop, so to speak. Baptism is a means of grace, it is the way that God confers the things signified. The power of the rite is Christ working in it, and faith within the recipient. The rite is the how, not the why. There is no magic here.

    The offspring of Christians are indeed holy, but holy and regenerate are different things. It is because they are holy that they must be brought to baptism, to be made regenerate. It is in baptism that original sin is knocked on the head, and the new nature implanted.

    It is indeed possible for God to regenerate before baptism, but when we look into scripture there are almost no examples of it. If the regulative principle means anything, that should be a red light to us.

    The thief on the cross cannot be cited, because we don’t know whether he had been baptised or not. Personally I believe that it is more likely than not that he was, but there is no evidence either way.

    Cornelius must be read carefully. He is clearly a one-off, because he and his house are the very first Gentiles to be included in the covenant. The are granted the Spirit first as a sign to Peter and the Jewish Church that God had indeed accepted the Gentile dogs. What had been unclean God had now made clean.

    Acts 10:44   While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. 45 And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

    When Peter sees the Spirit poured out, he gets the point, and baptises the household.

    Notice the importance of the covenantal perspective here! Peter argues that the sign of the covenant cannot be refused to those whom God has clearly accepted.

     Then Peter answered, 47 “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

    To conclude the reading of Cornelius, it would be quite wrong to see his case as setting a precedent. It is about the inclusion of the Gentiles, not a pattern for us to emulate. After him no-one receives the Spirit before baptism.

    In your own case, I would argue that the withholding of baptism is so disordered that nothing can be made from it. There is no way that I as a Pastor could accept your testimony that you were regenerate prior to your baptism. I need something solid and objective to work with, like a covenant sign. That removes all the ambiguity and doubt. Until you are matriculated you are outside, just like Cornelius.

  596. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:50 am

    Bob Mattes no. 590 However, (baptised infants) receive no saving graces without eventually and until exercising faith. Their sins are not forgiven, they are not justified, etc.

    I note the words eventually and until. Remember that you said that trust is the key ingredient in faith? Why do you assume that infants cannot have and exercise trust? Why do they have to wait for it? Nothing is more natural to a small child than trust.

    It is for this reason that we have to receive the kingdom like little children. They are the model for those of us who have added knowledge and assent. We are the lesser, they are the greater.

    Little children can and do model trust for us grown-ups. Since they have trust, they receive the blessings aright, and so receive the things signified by the sign by the sacramental union of the sign and the reality.

    THAT is what Westminster says. More than that, it is what Christ says.

  597. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 5:37 am

    cont. … and what is more, according to your post infants cannot be saved. Hell is full of infants who died young. I am assuming that you do not want to say that. So then, what can be made of your assertions?

  598. pduggie said,

    February 27, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Jeff:

    Cornelius exercised faith and decretally passed from death to life long before he met Peter. He was a God-fearer. So was Lydia.

    So, here we have a situation where a man has saving faith, but doesn’t have the Spirit? In what sense did he not have the Spirit?

    Calvin is using the public manifestation of the Spirit and its relation to baptism to ask a question about the secret work of the Spirit and its relation to baptism. Peter is willing to say that God showed he ACCEPTED men by the public receipt of the Spirit, even though the things that happen when the Spirit comes on a man publicly DON’T ensure that a man is elect in the decretal sense! Corinthians can speak in tongues or cast out demons, and find themselves in hell. (can’t they?). The Galatians can “begin with the Spirit” but fall away into works righteousness.

    Cornelius is a point in the FV favor, I think. His justification is visible and de facto, and is a form of the visible de facto justification that is the possession of all in the visible church, visibly justified by the Spirit at Pentecost (Gaffin), once the extraordinary manifestation of the Spirit’s work settles down into baptism per the great commission (which is continual).

    I think Shepherd’s point that baptism is the covenantal marker is a sound one. That seems what Paul is teaching in Romans 6. Its not that Cornelius can throw up his hand at Paul’s teaching in Romans 6 and say “What are you saying, Paul, that I wasn’t already buried with Christ 30 seconds before baptism, when the Spirit came on me”? Paul is teaching the normative, and unusual cases like Conry or the thief on the cross don’t negate the point.

    And Shepherd is one to say, as someone recently noted to me “Regeneration is such a radical, pervasive, and efficacious transformation that it immediately registers itself in the conscious activity of the person concerned in the exercise of faith and repentance and new obedience” So there is a ‘transition’ there too. But its not the covenantal marker.

  599. Reed Here said,

    February 27, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Paul: when Shepherd says “baptism as a marker” he is referring to the visible rite, yes?

    This kind of argument always seems to leave out what is assumed, namely the sacramental union issue. Rom 6 is not merely about the rite, what is visible. It means nothing without the invisible Spirit’s baptism.

    It would be to go too far to say that Rom 6 is only referring to Spirit-baptism. It is the opposite error to merely observe it as referring to water-baptism. Both are in view, and frankly the outward is pointless to Paul’s argument without the inward. In other words, it is the fact of Spirit-baptism that drives the rest of Paul’s arguments in this section.

    Water-baptism is in view, but we must be careful not to ennoble it with results it does not have. When reading Rom 6 this way, the outward covenantal dimension is but a shell, a means of delivery for the inward decretal dimension. The FV flattens this perspective when it reads Rom 6 as predominantly (exclusively at times) covenantal.

  600. February 27, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Paul,

    Cornelius exercised faith and decretally passed from death to life long before he met Peter. He was a God-fearer.

    That’s not what a God-fearer was. From the ESV Study Bible note on Acts 10:2:

    a Gentile who worshiped Israel’s God and was in some way attached to a synagogue but who had not submitted to Jewish conversion rites (esp. circumcision). He followed two of the primary expressions of Jewish piety—prayer and almsgiving. Alms are gifts to the poor.

    He did not know Christ until he met Peter. Cornelius is an outstanding example against FV. He wasn’t in any covenant until the Spirit called and regenerated him.

    Lydia in Acts 16 is even more explicit. Verse 14 explicitly calls out her effectual calling to hear the Word and the Spirit making the Word effectual in her, regenerating her. Again, she belonged to no covenant until her effectual call and regeneration.

    Cornelius and Lydia provide no help to FV. God’s elect come from all the corners of the earth, and he doesn’t lose a single one (Jn 17). Neither Corinth or Galatia are listed as exceptions. All those who are baptized but never receive the gift of faith in due time will remain reprobates for all time. They have no share in the saving graces, even temporarily. All who the Spirit effectually calls and regenerates will spend eternity with Christ in heaven. This is simply Reformed faith 101. What Shepherd teaches is something else. Westminster East and the OPC both rejected his false teaching on justification.

  601. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 27, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Curate (#595):

    No-one thinks that the mechanism, the actual water, of baptism does anything.

    Yes, I agree with you. My thesis 6 was a bit of an epiphany because I had an “Aha!” moment concerning the controversy over Leithart and also concerning our own discussion here.

    We recall that Calvin was arguing among other things against the Catholic version of “baptismal regeneration.” His basic criticism was that they conflated the sign with the thing signified.

    And so over against that, he raised two — not one! — propositions.

    First, he related the mechanism of baptism to his underlying theory of sacraments. The sacrament is “an appendix to the word.” (Inst 4.14.3) given to help our faith. The sacrament is effective when the Holy Spirit uses it to increase or confirm our faith (Inst 4.14.9).

    This was in contrast to the “papist” (using his term) teaching that the sacrament was effective when the HS used it to give grace to the recipient ex opere operato.

    Crucially in this connection, Calvin says, “So that we cannot have a better argument to refute the hallucination of those who ascribe the whole to the virtue of water than we derive from the very meaning of baptism, which leads us away as well from the visible element which is presented to our eye, as from all other means, that it may fix our minds on Christ alone.” (Inst. 4.15.2).

    This is the “looking along the beam” argument that I was making before (see also Inst 4.14.11).

    His second proposition was that the grace given in baptism was NOT conferred at the moment of baptism, but instead conferred at the time of God’s own choosing. Baptism happened at t0, the thing signified happened at t1, and the relationship between t0 and t1 was up to God Himself. The sign and the thing signified are not to be conflated in time, no more than in mechanism.

    For he argues that children should receive baptism. Why? In order to cause them to be regenerated? By no means. They are to be baptized because they have already been adopted into the covenant. They have the thing signified already; how can they be denied the sign? (Inst. 4.16.5).

    He employs the same argument against the anabaptists, who require the thing signified before the sign, saying

    No other conclusion can be drawn from a passage in Peter, on which they strongly found. He says, that baptism is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 3: 21.) From this they contend that nothing is left for paedobaptism, which becomes mere empty smoke, as being altogether at variance with the meaning of baptism. But the delusion which misleads them is, that they would always have the thing to precede the sign in the order of time. For the truth of circumcision consisted in the same answer of a good conscience; but if the truth must necessarily have preceded, infants would never have been circumcised by the command of God. But he himself, showing that the answer of a good conscience forms the truth of circumcision, and, at the same time, commanding infants to be circumcised, plainly intimates that, in their case, circumcision had reference to the future. Wherefore, nothing more of present effect is to be required in paedobaptism, than to confirm and sanction the covenant which the Lord has made with them. The other part of the meaning of the sacrament will follow at the time which God himself has provided. — Inst. 4.16.21

    In other words: baptism “preaches the gospel” to them, thus confirming the covenant (Inst. 4.14.17: “Wherefore, let it be a fixed point, that the office of the sacraments differs not from the word of God; and this is to hold forth and offer Christ to us, and, in him, the treasures of heavenly grace.”)

    He argues consistently with this in the Geneva Catechism:

    339. On what conditions should we baptize little children?

    As a sign and testimony that they are heirs of God’s blessing promised to the seed of the faithful, that when they come of age they are to acknowledge the truth of their Baptism, in order to derive benefit from it.

    So: my epiphany was this. Leithart (and you also) agree with Calvin on the first point, that the mechanism of baptism is neither more nor less than faith. But you disagree with Calvin on the second part, that the effect of baptism is independent in time from the action. For you, baptism is normally the time when the effect takes place.

    As a result, many view him (and you) as holding to “baptismal regeneration”, because you deny one of the two planks that Calvin raises against papist confusion of the sign with the thing signified. Against Calvin, you tie the moment of baptism to the moment of regeneration.

    You, meanwhile, reject the charge of baptismal regeneration because you affirm the other plank that Calvin raises, that baptism itself is not the cause per se; but rather the working of the Spirit.

    While I think the “mechanism” plank is more serious than the “independent time” plank, I still think you err a bit in your thinking (sorry), and the error is such that your hearers could well have their focus drawn from the thing signified to the sign itself.

    In other words, I’m waving a yellow caution flag here, hoping that you will consider it in light of Calvin’s teaching about the relationship between the sign and thing signified.

    You argue that “The offspring of Christians are indeed holy, but holy and regenerate are different things. It is because they are holy that they must be brought to baptism, to be made regenerate. It is in baptism that original sin is knocked on the head, and the new nature implanted.”

    But Calvin argues quite differently. Never, ever does he say that original sin is knocked on the head by baptism (not that I could find); nor does he say that children are made regenerate by the mechanism of baptism. Instead, he says, that believer’s children should be presumed to be of the covenant *from birth* (or the womb!). And if they are not, then baptism can have its effect later.

    By uniting the time of baptism to the time of regeneration, you point people to the sign; which insinuates something you do not wish — that the sign itself accomplishes the regeneration.

    You know how people are with cause and effect. If X always follows Y, they thing of X as the cause of Y. And if you are saying that regeneration is the outcome of baptism, they will think that baptism is what regenerates. From the grave, Calvin is shouting “Do not confuse the sign with the thing signified!”

    But as Augustine shows in the above passages that a sacrament is a thing of no value if separated from its truth; so also, when the two are conjoined, he reminds us that it is necessary to distinguish, in order that we may not cleave too much to the external sign. “As it is servile weakness to follow the latter, and take the signs for the thing signified, so to interpret the signs as of no use is an extravagant error,” (August. de Doct. Christ. Lib. 3 c. 9.) He mentions two faults which are here to be avoided; the one when we receive the signs as if they had been given in vain, and by malignantly destroying or impairing their secret meanings, prevent them from yielding any fruit – the other, when by not raising our minds beyond the visible sign, we attribute to it blessings which are conferred upon us by Christ alone, and that by means of the holy Spirit, who makes us to be partakers of Christ, external signs assisting if they invite us to Christ; whereas, when wrested to any other purpose, their whole utility is overthrown. — Inst 4.14.16

    Likewise, consider how you doubt my testimony of believing prior to baptism. Why? Is not the substance of faith greater than the sign?! You doubt my testimony because I tell of my faith; but you would accept it because I receive the sign? Philip believed the eunuch; why would you not believe me? (I’m not offended — I’m just pointing out the problem with your reliance on the sign)

    Calvin says this: “From this another thing follows, viz., that assurance of salvation does not depend on participation in the sacraments, as if justification consisted in it. This, which is treasured up in Christ alone, we know to be communicated, not less by the preaching of the Gospel than by the seal of a sacrament, and may be completely enjoyed without this seal.” — Inst. 4.14.14.

    The word, the sacrament — both are accomplishing the same thing, says Calvin: illumining the eye of the mind so that the hearer, the recipient can see Christ.

    It is the reception of Christ, not the reception of the sign, that saves. I know you believe this! But now, believe it even more so, and let go of baptism, the sign, as the necessary instrument of regeneration. The word accomplishes the same thing. The two work together, in the time of God’s own choosing, to accomplish faith.

    Jeff Cagle

  602. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 27, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Pduggie (#598): I’m not sure that I can say that Cornelius was a believer prior to Peter’s preaching. I understand your point, that he was devout; but this leaves us uncertain as to the precise meaning. Something was lacking in his faith, as evidenced by the fact that he still needed Christ preached to him.

    But the larger point was this: the reason Cornelius did not need circumcision to make him clean was that he had already been justified (street Greek: “cleaned up”) by faith. This is the interpretation Peter puts on the event in Acts 15.

    And so Calvin employs this to point out that children of believers, who are presumed adopted by God, should likewise not be refused the sign. They already have the thing signified; how can we refuse them the sign?

    I dunno, I think this is pretty much good and necessary inference. What’s the error?

  603. Ron Henzel said,

    February 27, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Roger wrote in comment 595:

    No-one thinks that the mechanism, the actual water, of baptism does anything. That is the kind of objection that baptistic-minded people have, (no slur), because they are out of the loop, so to speak. Baptism is a means of grace, it is the way that God confers the things signified. The power of the rite is Christ working in it, and faith within the recipient. The rite is the how, not the why. There is no magic here.

    There is so much here that I like that I would prefer to simply register my appreciation for it and stop there. I don’t want to quibble about the locus of “the power of the rite” as Roger describes it. When he adds, “The rite is the how, not the why,” I take him to be affirming the purely instrumental nature of the efficacy of baptism, which I also affirm. So generally speaking, these are statements with which I think all Reformed people can agree, with one exception that I, at least, consider important: “…it is the way that God confers the things signified.” No: it is a way that God confers the thing signified. As Calvin wrote:

    Therefore, let it be regarded as a settled principle that the sacraments have the same office as the Word of God: to offer and set forth Christ to us, and in him the treasures of heavenly grace.

    [Institutes 4.14.17, Battles 1292.]

    Baptism, therefore, does not occupy any office that is not also occupied by Scripture. But not only is baptism not the way that God confers the things it signifies, it is not even the primary way. According to Calvin, word and sacrament do not share their office equally; Scripture clearly has priority. “You see,” wrote Calvin, “how the sacrament requires preaching to beget faith,” (ibid., 4.14.8, Battles 1279), and this preaching is doctrinal, as he clarifies in the same paragraph. Calvin presents a distinct ordo of word and sacrament, if you will, with the sacrament subservient to the word. He wrote:

    For first, the Lord teaches and instructs us by his Word. Secondly, he confirms it by the sacraments. Finally, he illumines our minds by the light of his Holy Spirit and opens our hearts for the Word and sacraments to enter in, which would otherwise only strike our ears and appear before our eyes, but not at all affect us within.

    [Institutes 4.14.8, Battles 1284.]

    If people try to conclude from this that infants, then, should not be baptized, Calvin dispenses with their arguments in Institutes 4.16 (Battles 1324-1359).

    As much as I agree with most of Roger’s second paragraph in comment 595, in his following paragraph he seems to take away with one hand what he has granted with another:

    The offspring of Christians are indeed holy, but holy and regenerate are different things.

    Good so far. But then:

    It is because they are holy that they must be brought to baptism, to be made regenerate.

    I don’t know how to interpret this other than as an affirmation that baptism is instrumental in effecting regeneration. I think it is timely that Reed brought up D. Patrick Ramsey’s article in The Confessional Presbyterian. Samuel Rutherford and George Gillespie were right when they insisted before the Westminster Assembly that the sacraments are not converting ordinances but confirming ordinances.

    In light of Gillespie’s influence, his discussion of sacramental language during the sitting of the Assembly is highly significant and instructive. Addressing whether the Lord’s Supper is a converting ordinance, Gillespie asserts that the Reformed deny that the sacraments are instrumental means for conveying the first grace. Indeed, he boldly states that, “this is so well known to all who have studied the sacramentarian controversy, that I should not need to prove it.” After supporting his point from the writings of Calvin, Bullinger, Ursinus, Musculus, Bucer, Honnius, Aretius, Vossius, and from several Reformed confessions, including the Synod of Dort, Gillespie confronts the objection that sacraments are “Exhibitive signs, so that the thing signified is given and exhibited to the soul” (Aaron’s Rod, 233). He writes:

    I answer, That exhibition which they speak of, is not the giving of grace where it is not (as is manifest by the afore-quoted testimonies), but an exhibition to believers—a real effectual lively application of Christ, and of all his benefits, to everyone that believeth; for the staying, strengthening, confirming, and comforting of the soul…

    [Ramsey, "Baptismal Regeneration and the Westminster Confession," The Confessional Presbyterian 4 (2008): 185.]

    And this is what we find over and over again in Calvin: while they remind us of the initial grace we received at conversion, the actual efficacy of the sacraments in general and baptism in particular is not directed toward conversion to faith but confirmation of faith; they’re not about the onset of faith but the increase of faith. Calvin wrote:

    Therefore, Word and sacraments confirm our faith when they set before our eyes the good will of our Heavenly Father toward us, by the knowledge of whom the whole firmness of our faith stands fast and increases in strength.

    [Institutes 4.14.10, Battles 1286.]

    In other words, the sacraments confirm us in our faith by confirming God’s promises to us (although for Calvin, the emphasis was on the former), which is totally in keeping with the way Calvin actually defines the word “sacrament”:

    First, we must consider what a sacrament is. It seems to me that a simple and proper definition would be to say that it is an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men. Here is another briefer definition: one may call it a testimony of
    divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual
    attestation of our piety toward him.

    [Institutes 4.14.1, Battles 1277.]

    And again:

    Now, from the definition that I have set forth we understand that a sacrament is never without a preceding promise but is joined to it as a sort of appendix, with the purpose of confirming and sealing the promise itself, and of making it more evident to us and in a sense ratifying it. By this
    means God provides first for our ignorance and dullness, then for our weakness. Yet, properly speaking, it is not so much needed to confirm his
    Sacred Word as to establish us in faith in it.

    [Institutes 4.14.3, Battles 1278.]

    For Calvin, the sacraments presupposed faith, were designed to nourish that faith, and thus pointed away from themselves:

    In like manner, he nourishes faith spiritually through the sacraments, whose function is to set his promises before our eyes to be looked upon, indeed, to guarantee them to us. It is our duty to put no confidence in other creatures which have been destined for our use by God’s generosity and beneficence, and through whose ministry he lavishes the gifts of his bounty upon us; nor to admire and proclaim them as the causes of our good. In the same way, neither ought our confidence to inhere in the sacraments, nor the glory of God be transferred to them.

    [Institutes 4.14.12, Battles 1287.]

    Thus Calvin had not patience for the next thing Roger wrote:

    It is in baptism that original sin is knocked on the head, and the new nature implanted.

    Calvin would have none of this. He wrote:

    Now, it is clear how false is the teaching, long propagated by some and still persisted in by others, that through baptism we are released and made exempt from original sin, and from the corruption that descended from Adam into all his posterity; and are restored into that same righteousness and purity of nature which Adam would have obtained if he had remained upright as he was first created.

    [Institutes 4.15.10, Battles 1311.]

    Roger may not hold the full-blown version of this teaching that Calvin outlines here, but his words express enough of it to bring it under Calvin’s condemnation, and Calvin’s response applies equally to Roger’s view:

    As we are vitiated and corrupted in all parts of our nature, we are held rightly condemned on account of such corruption alone and convicted before God, to whom nothing is acceptable but righteousness, innocence, and purity. Even infants bear their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb; for, though they have not yet brought forth the fruits of their own iniquity, they have the seed enclosed within themselves. Indeed, their whole nature is a seed of sin; thus it cannot but be hateful and abominable to God. Through baptism, believers are assured that this condemnation has been removed and withdrawn from them, since (as was said) the Lord promises us by this sign that full and complete remission has been made, both of the guilt that should have been imputed to us, and of the punishment that we ought to have undergone because of the guilt. They also lay hold on righteousness, but such righteousness as the people of God can obtain in this life, that is, by imputation only, since the Lord of his own mercy considers them righteous and innocent.

    [Ibid. Italics are mine.]

    In what an effort to make baptism a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit, Roger wrote:

    Cornelius must be read carefully. He is clearly a one-off, because he and his house are the very first Gentiles to be included in the covenant. The are granted the Spirit first as a sign to Peter and the Jewish Church that God had indeed accepted the Gentile dogs. What had been unclean God had now made clean.

    [...]

    To conclude the reading of Cornelius, it would be quite wrong to see his case as setting a precedent. It is about the inclusion of the Gentiles, not a pattern for us to emulate. After him no-one receives the Spirit before baptism.

    Again we see the danger of building theology on the narrative portions of Scripture at the expense of the didactic portions. Calvin helps us to put this train back on the rails. Because of our manifold weaknesses, baptism is given “for the arousing, nourishing, and confirming of our faith … that we should see spiritual things in physical, as if set before our very eyes. For the Lord was pleased to represent them by such figures—not because such graces are bound and enclosed in the sacrament so as to be conferred upon us by its power, but only because the Lord by this token attests his will toward us, namely, that he is pleased to lavish all these things upon us. (Institutes 4.15.14, Battles 1314).

    Thus, for Calvin, Cornelius is not some kind of exception to a general rule, but rather a demonstration of the biblical principle that the sacraments confirm faith:

    Let us take as proof of this, Cornelius the centurion, who, having already received forgiveness of sins and the visible graces of the Holy Spirit, was nevertheless baptized [Acts 10:48]. He did not seek an ampler forgiveness of sins through baptism, but a surer exercise of faith—indeed, increase of assurance from a pledge. Perhaps someone will object: why, then, did Ananias tell Paul to wash away his sins through baptism Acts 22:16; cf. ch. 9:17-18] if sins are not washed away by the power of baptism itself? I reply: we are said to receive, obtain, and acquire what, according as our faith is aware, is shown forth to us by the Lord, whether when he first testifies to it, or when he confirms more fully and more surely what has been attested, Ananias meant only this: “To be assured, Paul, that your sins are forgiven, be baptized. For the Lord promises forgiveness of sins in baptism; receive it, and be secure.”

    [Institutes 4.15.15, Battles 1315.]

    Calvin, indeed, would be furious to read the final paragraph in Roger’s comment 595, and he would be rolling over in his grave (obviously figuratively speaking) if he knew how the Federal Vision was trying to claim him as an authority for their teachings.

  604. Reed Here said,

    February 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Ron: whew! Hard, good work dude! Thanks.

  605. February 27, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Ron,

    Bravo! That’s just what FV cannot abide – context.

  606. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Ron no.603

    Lots of hard work there, and much that is good. But you have attacked a straw man again. You object that I am arguing against faith being a prerequisite for baptism. Not so. I have explicitly said that without faith the sacrament conveys nothing. For baptism to be effective it must be received by faith.

    I am afraid that much of your hard work was in vain. I fully affirm and believe that.

    But this fact must be noted, and marked well: faith comes to a man before his regeneration and justification. It is in baptism that the new birth and the remission of sins is granted. Now do not immediately run to the ordo salutis, because that is a logical sequence, not an experiential one.

    Look at Paul’s conversion and call. Was he justified on the Damascus Road, or when he was baptised? When did he first believe? On the Road. But Ananias says to him, Rise and be baptised, washing away your sins, calling on the Lord.

    Why would he say that if Paul was already justified? It makes no sense. The Pentecost crowd, having believed, asks, What must we do? Answer: repent and be baptised everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ – for the remission of your sins. They were not justified when they believed, but having believed, when they were baptised.

    First faith, then baptism, and in baptism, the blessings are conveyed.

  607. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Jeff

    I did not say that you did not believe before you were baptised. I said that I cannot accept that you were regenerated. I accept that you may have been, but there is no way for me as a Pastor to know that. I cannot see into your heart. I need the objective word that God speaks.

    That word is spoken in baptism. Baptism is not a man speaking to God, but God speaking to the man. In baptism God promises the candidate that his sins are washed away, and that a new heart is given him! That is the key thing to mark.

    Seen this way, the right way, your baptised is the moment that God declared to you the remission of your sins and circumcised your heart. Not before. That is why in the Bible baptism is for the remission of sins.

  608. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    cont. and not merely declared, but accomplished.

  609. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Ron and Jeff, I think your problem with getting my argument is that you believe that faith and regeneration are simultaneously given. The Bible paints a different picture.

  610. Ron Henzel said,

    February 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Roger,

    In comment 606, you wrote:

    Lots of hard work there, and much that is good. But you have attacked a straw man again. You object that I am arguing against faith being a prerequisite for baptism. Not so. I have explicitly said that without faith the sacrament conveys nothing. For baptism to be effective it must be received by faith.

    Roger, please read my post again. I only used the word “prerequisite” once. It was in the following sentence:

    In what an effort to make baptism a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit, Roger wrote:

    [...]

    I don’t recall saying that you denied that faith is a prerequisite for baptism, but I do recall saying that you made baptism a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit. And based on the rest of what you wrote I find it difficult to believe that you gave much consideration to my quotations from John Calvin, since what you are now adding would be quickly repudiated by him, as some of those quote have already shown.

  611. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Ron, I will read your post again, slowly. In the meantime read this:

    Justification by faith does not dispense with the necessity for Baptism. Hooker condemned those ‘who fixing their minds wholly on the known necessity of faith imagine that nothing but faith is necessary for the attainment of all grace. Yet it is a branch of belief that sacraments are in their place no less required than belief itself. . . If Christ himself which giveth salvation do require Baptism, it is not for us who look for salvation to sound and examine Him, whether unbaptized men may be saved, but seriously to do that which is required.’[1]

    [1]Hooker; Eccles. Polity, V. lx. 4.

  612. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    And I have written nothing that denies that sacraments confirm faith. I have rather affirmed it. Calvin and I are in agreement on that. Cornelius can be used to make that point, but it is not the point of the passage in Acts.

  613. Ron Henzel said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Roger,

    In comment 609, you wrote:

    Ron and Jeff, I think your problem with getting my argument is that you believe that faith and regeneration are simultaneously given. The Bible paints a different picture.

    Here is the Reformed position:

    Regeneration —> Saving Faith —> Justification

    A valid baptism can occur either before or after these events, but baptism is never the instrumental cause of any of these three things.

  614. curate said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Ron said: Thus Calvin had not patience for the next thing Roger wrote: It is in baptism that original sin is knocked on the head, and the new nature implanted.

    You are misquoting the great man. He is not addressing my issue. Here is my proof text:

    Col. 2:11   In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

  615. Ron Henzel said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Roger,

    Regarding comment 610: are you now arguing for the necessity of baptism for salvation? The thrust of your Richard Hooker citation seems to be that the sacraments are required for salvation in addition to faith, and that those who think otherwise are challenging the authority of Christ. But why would you think that a self-consciously via media Anglican theologian who wrote specifically to defend his views from Presbyterian Puritans (as well as Roman Catholics) would have any bearing on a discussion of Reformed views? Hooker was a towering figure in Anglican church history, and leaned in the direction of the Reformation on the subject of justification, but the portion of his uncompleted magnum opus that you just cited clearly expresses something that no Reformed person could affirm.

  616. Ron Henzel said,

    February 27, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Roger,

    Regarding what you said in your comment 611, “Ron, I will read your post again, slowly,” along with your subs