Sacramental Union/Sealing: Another FV Dilemma

Commenting on Wes’ Part IV post of Lane’s Reply to TE’s Moon and Lawrence , I (Reed DePace) posted some comments that the FV demonstrates some weaknesses in terms of its understanding of both sacramental union and sealing in baptism. Let me explain a little more what I mean.

Sacramental Union: there is a spiritual relation between the sign of the sacrament and the thing to which the sign points, such that the sign can be used a shorthand for the thing. Sealing: the sign is used as a seal that confirms the grace in view, and in this way strengthens the possession of that grace. These biblical nuances are essential for distinguishing between the sign (water) and the thing (grace in view). Note that in both of these the Spirit is the critical component. He is the union in the spiritual relation between the sign of water and the grace in view in baptism. The Spirit is the Effector in the seal (Eph 1:13-14).

The FV will affirm both sacramental union and the sealing function in baptism. Yet it seems to not quite understand the nature of the Spirit’s role in these. This leads to at least the appearance of baptismal regeneration and ex opera operata in the FV’s system. The FV is not susceptible to these charges on the basis of its decretally based understanding of baptism (tier-one of Lane’s two-tier analogy). At this level the FV maintains the critical reformed nuances that biblically avoid these errors.

Yet the FV also proposes a covenantal based understanding of baptism (tier-two of Lane’s analogy). The FV argues that whenever baptism is administered it always results in the reception of an experience of the benefits of the covenant of grace. This, at the very least, gives a strong appearance of a form of baptismal regeneration/ex opera operata understanding for the water rite of baptism.

The FV may argue that these errors are not in view because the Spirit is understood as the One Who effects the reception of these covenantal benefits. Yet bring into view that these benefits, as formulated by the FV, are a variation of inward spiritually transformative ordo salutis benefits. They are not merely outward, external, only applicable to an unregenerate man. E.g., the FV’s notion of covenantal union with Christ means that the person really and truly participates a spiritually transformative experience.

To be consistent then the FV must argue for a covenantal version of the sealing function for baptism. This may not be a problem for some FV’ers, as it is logically consistent with the two-tier, dual system it proposes. Yet it will be hard (impossible in my view) for the FV to demonstrate that when the Bible speaks of the sealing function it speaks dually, decretally and covenantally. Just take a read of the primary sealing passage, Eph 1. It is only with an a priori decision to read this chapter covenantally that one can miss that it demands an exclusive decretal reading.

Of course, if the FV is willing to forgo a dual sealing function in baptism, then it faces a dilemma. If the covenantal benefits (FV defined as inward, spiritually transformative), that are purportedly effected by baptism, are not the result of the Spirit’s sealing work, then the only option available is that the water rite itself is the source of the sealing effect. Yet this is a form of baptismal regeneration/ex opera operata.

Posted by TE Reed DePace

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89 Comments

  1. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 4, 2010 at 7:45 am

    The word “sealing” is equivocal. We use it in modern parlance to mean “making airtight”, as in the expressions

    seal the jar
    seal off the room
    seal the deal

    When this usage is read into baptism as a “seal”, it makes it seem as if baptism is the action that makes salvation airtight, or certainly confers it (“in some sense”?). On this account, the appeal to baptism for assurance of salvation means “Baptism has sealed your salvation. Be confident of it therefore.”

    But “sealing” as used in Calvin — and therefore likely in the Confession — is a reference to the royal seal that certifies the authenticity of a document.

    For Calvin, baptism is a “seal”: a physical validation to the senses of the validity of the promise of the gospel. On his account, the appeal to baptism for assurance takes the form, “God has given additional confirmation, a royal seal, that his promise is good. Trust in it.”

    One strongly suspects that this was the intent of the Confession also.

    Interestingly, Eph 1 combines these two uses: We are marked with God’s royal seal, which then attests to God’s work; but because God’s work is ordained before the foundation of the world, it is therefore certain.

  2. Dean B said,

    March 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

    General revelation is rather meaningless without an understanding of special revelation. A person may become the world’s expert on general revelation but all his study is eternally worthless without faith in Christ which only comes by special revelation.

    The HS does not become more motivated/energized/useful for the natural mind as they study general revelation. He may be “closer to God” by studying His external beauty but the student will never be “naturally/generally united to Him” through this study. And it would be silly at best to talk about any temporary salvation benefits a student may posses by being “naturally/generally united to Him”.

    The same principle applies to the advocates of the FV. There is not any salvation benefits applied to natural man regardless of how “sacramentally united” he is to the external elements of true Christianity. He may be “closer to God” externally speaking but this is eternally meaningless and no temporary salvation benefits are ever accrued in natural man.

    Drawing attention to temporary “sacramental union” benefits is about as useful as a Christian guidance counselor encouraging ever public school student to study the natural sciences in the hope God will use this temporary natural/general union for their benefit while at the same time acknowledging there are not any eternal benefit.

  3. jared said,

    March 4, 2010 at 9:58 am

    It seems to me that FV does affirm a form of baptismal regeneration, at the covenant level. This regeneration is had merely by virtue of membership. One cannot become a member of the covenant without receiving the sign/seal, i.e. without union to the one in whom the covenant is established. Such a regeneration, it could be argued, is what enables the non-elect member to have the appearance of an elect member. They worship, they pray, they fellowship, they exercise their talents and so forth but ultimately they are given to apostasy.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    March 4, 2010 at 10:13 am

    Jared, I agree with your assessment of the FV. Where we disagree is in the nature of covenantal membership. The FV does not believe in a differentiated covenant membership, and I do (along with the confessions of the Reformed church). Whether you call it inner/outer, visible/invisible, administrative/essential, there is a difference when you talk about covenant membership with regard to the elect versus the non-elect. Union with Christ only belongs to the elect, not to the non-elect. Passages like John 15 do not bear the weight that the FV puts on them to prove otherwise.

  5. jared said,

    March 4, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Lane,

    But the FV does believe in a differentiated covenant membership. Those who are decretally elect possess benefits (and grace) that the reprobate members do not possess. At least this is the case with Wilson’s “brand” of FV. I think he would argue that union with Christ is two-tiered as well, that all covenant members are visibly united to Christ (along with the concomitant benefits) and that only the decretally elect members are invisibly (or savingly) united to Him. In other words, I don’t think Wilson would disagree with you in saying that there is a difference between the elect and non-elect covenant member. Where you differ is in just how that plays out theologically. You (and traditional Reformed theology?) seem to believe that the non-elect member gets nothing out of the relationship. In fact, what the non-elect members have cannot even be properly described as a relationship (which, imo, seems to beg the question of membership). It’s debatable whether or not passages like John 15 can bear the weight that FV puts on them, but I think they have a much larger body of support in the OT and how Israel was handled corporately and at the individual level.

  6. Vern Crisler said,

    March 4, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I think Jared is right in that for FVism, the “appearance” is all that counts. Trying to go beyond appearance to the reality is, in their view, trying to read the decree.

  7. jared said,

    March 4, 2010 at 11:45 am

    It’s not that appearance is “all that counts”, rather it’s that appearance, covenantally speaking, is what points us to decretal realities. In other words, our covenantal experience is a mediation of decretal truths. In the case of the elect that experience culminates in eternal life and in the case of the reprobate that experience culminates in apostasy. Since both ends are decreed I don’t see how this is a legitimate problem.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    March 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    The problem comes in the description of what the non-elect in fact receive. There seems to be a dialectic here between the decretal perspective and the covenantal perspective in FV thinking. So when one presses the FV on their descriptions of what the non-elect receive, they say, “Oh, but we believe the decretal perspective.” The FV seems to think that such a refuge gives them carte blanche to claim salvific benefits for the non-elect, as long as they qualify it by saying “in some sense,” implying some difference between these benefits and the benefits the elect receive. But when pressed on the exact nature of the difference between the “benefits” the non-elect receive, and the benefits the elect receive, no definition is forthcoming. Steve Wilkins, in his Sunday School lectures, indicated that the only difference between them was their outcome. When pressed by the Louisiana Presbytery, he admitted that there was a qualitative difference, but could not define what that was.

    So, leaving aside the decretal perspective for a moment, when the FV claims that salvific benefits come to the non-elect in the covenant, they are positing an Arminian scheme when it comes to the non-elect. Of course, they would claim black coffee Calvinism when it comes to the elect. But the elect were never really under dispute in the whole discussion. The whole debate revolves around what accrues to the non-elect. If the non-elect get forgiveness of sins, justification, adoption in any sense of those terms, and then lose them, then the schema is Arminian. Period.

  9. Dean B said,

    March 4, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Jared

    “but I think they have a much larger body of support in the OT and how Israel was handled corporately and at the individual level.”

    Either those Isrealites not in heaven are there because THEY stopped being covenantally obedient or covenantal obedience is possible only for the elect.

    Isn’t covenantal obedience (or whatever term you want to use) is a fruit and evidence, strictly speaking, of the fact they are elect?

    Would you agree the group of Israelites, who are currently in hell, are there simply because they are not elect. And by implication this group could not have made it to heaven even if they contintued in covenantal obedience.

    To argue differently allows for one to make it to heaven strictly by covenantal obedience. If this is possible, even hypothetically, then election is dependent on something other then the decree of God.

    Please help me understand how and why you differ.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    March 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Outstanding logic, Dean.

  11. jared said,

    March 4, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Lane,

    I agree with you that “falling back” onto affirming the decretal perspective does not excuse the FV from having some conception of what the non-elect gains (spiritually) from becoming a member of the visible body. This is an area that definitely needs development and some careful clarifications. I don’t believe this, de facto, demonstrates that the FV is in error. You say,

    If the non-elect get forgiveness of sins, justification, adoption in any sense of those terms, and then lose them, then the schema is Arminian. Period.

    What if the non-elect get these items only by association with the body at large? That is, what if they possess these charaterisics only in as much as they are members of the visible body, a membership that can be lost? I think this is what the FV is saying. In other words, the non-elect have those items corporately but not individually. So they lose them only in as much as they have them via visible membership. Again, this is an area that needs some desparate attention; I am more than willing to concede at least that much. As a personal note, I am not comfortable with anything that smacks of Arminianism so I think some real careful and fine distinctions/definitions need to be set forth in this area, but I don’t think this is impossible.

    Dean,

    You say,

    Either those Isrealites not in heaven are there because THEY stopped being covenantally obedient or covenantal obedience is possible only for the elect.

    I would say that faithful covenant obedience is only possible for the elect. The non-elect is capable of obeying but that obedience is not credited to him as righteous because his obedience is not being properly mediated. Those Israelites are not in heaven because, according to God’s decree, they did not remain faithful. Their covenant experience was determined by God’s prior decree. This is equally true of those who do remain faithful. You continue,

    Isn’t covenantal obedience (or whatever term you want to use) is a fruit and evidence, strictly speaking, of the fact they are elect?

    No, I don’t think this is necessarily the case. If we look to ourselves we will always be disappointed. Obedience must be qualified/characterized by genuine faith in order to be fruit and evidence of one’s election. So what does that look like? Well, it seems to me that genuine faith that which receives and rests on what Jesus has accomplished. You continue,

    Would you agree the group of Israelites, who are currently in hell, are there simply because they are not elect. And by implication this group could not have made it to heaven even if they contintued in covenantal obedience.

    The group of Israelites (and Christians) are currently in hell because that is according to God’s plan. It is not possible to change God’s decretal will. Moreover, because of this, I do not believe it would be possible for a non-elect to continue in covenantal obedience. Perseverance is, among other things, not given to them. You continue,

    To argue differently allows for one to make it to heaven strictly by covenantal obedience. If this is possible, even hypothetically, then election is dependent on something other then the decree of God.

    I agree with you. Election is not dependent on anything other than God’s decree/will. You won’t get any argument from me or FVer’s on this point. They would want to qualify it as “decretal election”, however, since some of them see election as a descriptor for the visible body as well as the invisible body. The former election can be lost, the latter cannot be; so they would say. I hope this has been somewhat heplful for you.

  12. Dean B said,

    March 4, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Jared

    No wonder there is confusion. Not only do the TR have to understand the historic/eschatological distinction; the elect unto glory vs the elect unto hell; elect justification vs non elect justification now I am introduced to faithful covenant obedience vs covenant obedience.

    Let me understand this covenantal obedience.

    Inquirer: I am a member, I am baptized, and I am obedient so I am saved, right pastor?

    Pastor: Well that really depends if you have “properly mediated” covenantal obedience?

    Inquirer: How do I know if my covenantal obedience is “properly mediated”?

    Pastor: You will know if it is “properly mediated” if you endure to the end?

    Inquirer: So assurance is only possible on the death bed?

    Pastor: No, I do not want to be accused of denying assurance so I will acknowledge that if you rest and receive in what Christ accomplishes you will go to heaven.

    Inquirer: So my church membership, baptism, and coventantal obedience is not real if I do not rest and receive Jesus?

    Pastor: No, it is sacramentally real.

    Inquirer: If I do not get to heaven then what is real about it?

    Pastor: Well err uh, I think, uh, err

    When will this creativity end? Either define what you mean with you say “in some sense” “real relationship with real benefits” … or simply acknowledge your system, if orthodox, does not improve anything but simply delays the questions at best back one step, but in the process destroy about 350 years of theological language.

  13. Vern Crisler said,

    March 4, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Jared said: “It’s not that appearance is “all that counts”, rather it’s that appearance, covenantally speaking, is what points us to decretal realities. In other words, our covenantal experience is a mediation of decretal truths.”

    But how can they “point us to decreal realities” when it’s impossible to have insight into those realities. (There is so much of this that reminds me of Kant and the post-Kantians.) In FV thought, for practical purposes, the decree means nothing; the covenant means everything. Whether you want to say “points to” or “mediates,” it is still the case that the visible, external, tangible, covenantal, is all that really counts — counts in a practical sense — in FVism. This is why they are in principle at least (and sometimes in practice), ecclesiastical totalitarians.

    “In the case of the elect that experience culminates in eternal life and in the case of the reprobate that experience culminates in apostasy. Since both ends are decreed I don’t see how this is a legitimate problem.”

    Yes, this a decretal claim, but as the refrain has it, we have nothing to do with the decree. It is beyond us. For all pratical purposes every member of the visible church is elect until he apostatizes, and anyone, no matter how polluted his or her life, who is in the covenant, and has not been excommunicated (e.g., liberals), must be regarded as elect.

    It may be that from a decretal view, some non-elect are in the visible church. They may even receive vanilla salvific benefits — crumbs from the master’s table as it were — but that is all. But here on earth, according to FVism, we cannot adopt this perspective. We can’t distinguish elect and non-elect except by way of visible church membership. IOW, only appearances really count.

    Vern

  14. David deJong said,

    March 4, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    It seems to me that FV would be right to say that it is impossible to have insight into decretal realities. How can we know who is elect?

    In practice, both FV and non-FV point to the work of Christ for us as the ground of our assurance.

  15. jared said,

    March 4, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Dean,

    No, it doesn’t work that way. The pastor in your example needs to go back to seminary. The FV (in one accord with the TR) has assurance laid on what Jesus has accomplished, looking to Him, not to one’s self. How would you answer the inquirer’s first question? My first response would be to ask what makes him/her think she isn’t saved. You don’t drown a layperson in the deep end of the theolgy pool, especially if they don’t even have their swimmies yet.

    Vern,

    Since all of reality is mediated there is some truth to Kant’s formulation. God spoke creation into existence so from the very beginning we have the “barrier” of language. Now, contra Kant, this doesn’t mean we can’t “get at” reality because that’s precisely what language does. The FV is only Kantian to the extent that they distinguish between the decree and our covenantal experience of it (and doesn’t TR do that?). But, again contra Kant, the FV says we really can “get at” the decrees through the covenant. In fact, there’s no other way to get at them because outside of the covenant God’s word is foolishness and a stumbling block. You say,

    We [FV] can’t distinguish elect and non-elect except by way of visible church membership.

    How else should they be distinguished? The FV is clear that only the elect are members of the invisible church. They are also clear that only these invisible members receive all the benefits/promises of union with Jesus. Further they make it clear that these benefits cannot be lost by those members. What else do you need?

  16. Vern Crisler said,

    March 4, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Jared, if all reality is unknowable because mediated, then the claim “p” that would also be mediated. In addition, Kant’s phenomenal/noumenal distinction is self-stultifying because the distinction itself is claiming noumenal authority.

    Also, how does language get at reality if we have no unmediated access to reality? You wouldn’t be able to peek behind language (or whatever your medium is), in order to see whether it conformed to reality. There’s no checking it. In terms of idealistic epistemology, you’re stuck on this side of the divide. Hence, you can never say what reality is. If that’s the case, the claim that language mediates would also be self-stultifying since it’s making a non-mediated claim.

    Re: distinguishing, I think someone, can’t remember who, brought up the case of Judas. Because Judas was never “excommunicated” from the covenant — indeed was obeying the covenantal authorities — FVists would have to regard him as elect. Because the disciples were cast out of the covenant (the synagogues) they would have to be regarded as apostates.

    Thus, the covenant is reduced to a purely mechanical institution by FVists, with silly results.

    Vern

  17. Vern Crisler said,

    March 4, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Hmm, something got lost. That should be, “the claim ‘p’ that all reality is mediated” would also be mediated.

  18. Dean B said,

    March 4, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Jared

    Obedience is evidence the HS is working and when a person becomes aware of the activity of faith they are already efficaciously saved.

    However, not all good works are evidence of obedience. Obedience has a standard (His commands) and the person who willingly following His standard already shows evidence of faith.

    How many apples need to appear on an apple tree before one may determine it is an apple tree? If only one apple is evident on a tree a person can confidently believe it is an apple tree.

    Have you willingly obeyed His command only one time even though it was polluted with sin? If you can say “yes” then you may live confidently and “let your sins be strong”.

    Who wrote the following?
    If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God’s glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

  19. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 4, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    David deJong (#14):

    It seems to me that FV would be right to say that it is impossible to have insight into decretal realities. How can we know who is elect?

    This is true *if* our standard for knowing is mathematical certainty.

    But the Scripture points us in another direction. Consider the ways in which God tells us to use the evidence of our senses in order to come to some kind of insight about invisible things.

    * We are told (Matt 7.15-20) to recognize false teachers by their fruit.
    * We are told (2 Cor 13) to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith.
    * Membership in a church counts as evidence of faith; lack of membership, especially excommunication, counts as lack of evidence of faith.
    * Most importantly, we are to look to the resurrection of Christ as proof of His Lordship (Rom 1.4) and victory over death (1 Cor 15).

    NONE of these evidences can be said to have mathematical certainty (though I would go to the stake for that last one), but they do count as insight and knowledge. Save for that last, the knowledge is imperfect at best; but it is legitimate.

    In other words, instead of the covenantal and decretal perspectives operating on dual tracks, it appears in Scripture that the covenantal perspective is a provisional, imperfect look into the decretal.

  20. David deJong said,

    March 4, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    I don’t see how these are imperfect looks into the decretal at all. How could Paul’s exhortation to test yourself be taken as peering into whether one is elect or not? With the exhortation “examine yourself,” there is the possibility of doubt as to whether you are in the faith; there is the possibility of apostasy. This isn’t peering into the plans of God, which belong to him alone anyways (Deut 29:29); it’s working within the covenantal framework. The evidence you cite is precisely why the FV places so much emphasis on the covenantal perspective.

    Election is only clear in hindsight. A repeated scriptural emphasis is that election is a surprise to the undeserving. That’s the theme of the reversal of primogeniture in Genesis. Who can say why Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph were chosen? It upends human standards. Same with the new covenant: Paul in Rom 9-11 is dealing with the fundamental surprise that God has chosen the Gentiles and rejected Israel.

    Anyways, I wouldn’t see the covenant perspective as a look into the decretal. For me, the decretal perspective assures me that salvation is entirely the work of God; that I am completely in his hands. It doesn’t assure me that X individual is or is not elect: how could I know this?

  21. jared said,

    March 4, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Careful, Jeff, you’re stepping into FV waters with your comment! I don’t think you’ll find many FV advocates who believe that mathematical certainty is the standard for knowing.

    Vern (#16),

    You say, “Jared, if all reality is unknowable because mediated, then the claim “p” that would also be mediated.” Except I didn’t say anything about reality being unknowable because it’s mediated. That’s an inconsistency of Kant’s philosophy, not of my (or FV) theology. You continue,

    Also, how does language get at reality if we have no unmediated access to reality? You wouldn’t be able to peek behind language (or whatever your medium is), in order to see whether it conformed to reality.

    Language gets at reality by functioning as God intended. It is the divine mystery of language that it connects (reliably and accurately) with the created order. As I already noted, God spoke creation into existence so there is, in fact, nothing to peek at behind language. This isn’t a philosophy of language thread, though, so suffice it to say that language is how we, fundamentally, “get at” reality because that’s how reality was made. You continue,

    Re: distinguishing, I think someone, can’t remember who, brought up the case of Judas. Because Judas was never “excommunicated” from the covenant — indeed was obeying the covenantal authorities — FVists would have to regard him as elect. Because the disciples were cast out of the covenant (the synagogues) they would have to be regarded as apostates.

    Man! Sure got us there! Oh, and we can’t leave the Pharisees out either; they were never “excommunicated” yet Jesus calls them white-washed tombs and sons of the devil. Maybe we should go rework this part of the FV, eh? Silly indeed.

    Dean (#18),

    You say,

    Obedience is evidence the HS is working and when a person becomes aware of the activity of faith they are already efficaciously saved.

    Well I can definitely agree that obedience is evidence of the Holy Spirit working but that last bit seems a bit out of accord with the WCF. You’re still focusing assurance on self, which is a no no. I suspect Joseph Smith was aware of the activity of his faith but I don’t suppose he was already efficaciously saved. You continue,

    However, not all good works are evidence of obedience. Obedience has a standard (His commands) and the person who willingly following His standard already shows evidence of faith.

    Okay, I agree that not all good works are evidence of obedience (which kind of means they aren’t really “good”, doesn’t it?). I also agree that obedience has a standard and that one who willingly follows that standard shows evidence of faith. This, however, does not prove what you seem to think it proves; namely is doesn’t prove the authenticity of faith. Judas willingly followed and obeyed Jesus, yet look he ended up. I wonder if Judas didn’t start really questioning his faithfulness until the weight and noise of his coin-purse told him who he really was. You continue,

    How many apples need to appear on an apple tree before one may determine it is an apple tree? If only one apple is evident on a tree a person can confidently believe it is an apple tree.

    It should be kept in mind that it isn’t just the fruit we’re talking about. There are different kinds of trees; good trees produce good fruit (in varying quantities) and bad trees produce bad fruit or no fruit. It’s easy to tell if a tree isn’t producing any fruit but bad fruit is sometimes hard to tell until you examine it more closely. So, I agree that if only one apple is evident then one can conclude that it’s an apple tree, but one cannot conclude whether it’s a good tree or a bad tree. More time and effort are required for such an evaluation. You continue,

    Have you willingly obeyed His command only one time even though it was polluted with sin? If you can say “yes” then you may live confidently and “let your sins be strong”.

    This is plainly not true and you only need to carry out the tree analogy to see why. Trees produce fruit season after season. If they ever stop producing fruit they get cut down. Isn’t this why Jesus says one must hear and practice what he hears in order to build a house which stands? As for the quote, it sounds like something Luther would say and I fully agree that Jesus’ sacrifice is capable of covering all past, present and future sins of the believer.

  22. David Gray said,

    March 5, 2010 at 7:14 am

    >Would you agree the group of Israelites, who are currently in hell, are there simply because they are not elect.

    They are there because they are objectively guilty and they are responsible for their guilt.

    >And by implication this group could not have made it to heaven even if they contintued in covenantal obedience.

    They could not continue in covenantal obedience unless they were elect.

  23. Dean B said,

    March 5, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Jared

    I appreciate your time in responding to me. I really have understood your position better. We disagree on some points, but it has helped me clarify where we disagree. Thank you.

    “Judas willingly followed and obeyed Jesus, yet look he ended up. I wonder if Judas didn’t start really questioning his faithfulness until the weight and noise of his coin-purse told him who he really was.”

    I would qualify your description above and say, Judas “appeared to” willingly… I also believe Judas was a willing active participant and knew who his real father was before he held the weight of the coin-purse (John 13:26-30).

    “This is plainly not true and you only need to carry out the tree analogy to see why. Trees produce fruit season after season. If they ever stop producing fruit they get cut down.”

    I understand most of your criticism about my analogy. I was making the point that ONE good fruit is sign that it was a good tree. I the Bible does not support the position that a person may claim he did produced ONE good fruit 10 years ago and then concedes he has not done anything else. If the HS began a good work in us He will carry it through to completion and that means the person will continue to produce good fruit.

    “I also agree that obedience has a standard and that one who willingly follows that standard shows evidence of faith. This, however, does not prove what you seem to think it proves; namely is doesn’t prove the authenticity of faith.”

    I do not understand your criticism. Allow me to explain my understanding better to find out if we actually disagree.

    I believe works done in obedience to the command of God, in true faith, and for His glory then these works are in fact good. If one of these things is missing then they are simply works.

    I think this may be simplified even further. The HS makes one sincerely willing and ready to live for him (HC A 1). If I am sincerely willing and ready to do works then they are good, but if I am not sincerely willing and ready then they are simply works.

    Expressed differently the works done by the reprobate are never good. Judas never did a good work, he merely appeared to do good works. He did not stop doing good works he never truly did them.

    By introducing a system of doctrine for the non elect where one may be “in union” and then “out of union” you are forced defending an indefensible position. On the day of judgment all of the people who are in union with Christ and who the HS has began to work can accuse God of lying and being unfaithful to the promise in Phil 1:6.

    The problem with a non elect covenant members is not that God did not decree they would endure to the end, but more accurately that they were never “in”, despite all their appearances to the contrary they never did one good work.

  24. Reed Here said,

    March 5, 2010 at 8:42 am

    David De Jong (secondarily Jared):

    The FV “you can’t know the decretal so you must go with the covenantal” misses the biblical intent in an important way. Yes, election can only be objectively known by us in hindsight, ultimately in eternity (the FV’s “eschatalogical Chuch). There is no debate on this.

    This does not mean that by default all we’re left with is the FV’s covenantal perspective. The Bible does not call us to trust our own profession of faith or the professions of others on a provisional covenantal basis, as long as we/they maintain it. This is just not what the Scriptures do.

    Instead the Scriptures everywhere call us to rest in decretal considerations. Consider election. The arguments in Romans (9-10) are not covenantally rooted. They are decretally rooted.

    So how does this work in the Christian life? Simple – such decretal statements speak to faith. They speak to faith to give birth to it in the first place. They speak to faith to maintain it, to grow it, to persevere it. They speak to faith, to be sure, in a subjective manner. Yet this is no less a real manner, one that has true existence.

    (An aside here: I find the FV’s occassional accusation against its opponents that they rely too Greek-rooted philisophical categorical thinking quite humorous. The FV has enslaved itself to the Kantian objective-subjective dilemma. I don’t see this in their opponents).

    In other words, the Bible does not offer decretal expressions as some sort of promise that is only realized in the eternal state. These decretal expressions are nothing less than the life-giving Spirit’s calling that effects the results of God’s eternal decrees – now! The response of the Christian to these is not the FV’s provisional covenant one, but a faith one that securely rests in the decrees of God.

    Pleas forgive the lack of clarity in this post. This is an underlying issue for me, one that I keep struggling to find an efficient way of explaining. Let me just conclude that I think the FV proposes a use of the covenant that is not biblical. The covenant in which I live with my Lord is not provisional in any way shape or form, for me orfor any other professed believer with whom I come in contact.

    It is a real expression of God’s decree, sustained and prospered by the decree. There is nothing provisional about it. The FV offers at best a muddled version of this.

  25. David deJong said,

    March 5, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Reed,

    I think you’ve been clear enough. For you, the covenant is an expression of the decree and needs to be interpreted through the lens of the decree. So you say: “The covenant in which I live with my Lord is not provisional in any way shape or form” and later “It is real expression of God’s decree . . . There is nothing provisional about it.”

    I have a problem with this formulation, simply because I don’t read the covenant through the lens of the decree. For you, there is nothing conditional about the covenant; I think covenants in Scripture are inherently conditional. They contain two parts: God’s promise and our responsibility. This is true of every covenant. “Unilaterally established, bilaterally maintained.” This is most clear in Deut 28-29 and Lev 26 but is also true of the covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:1) and every other covenant in Scripture (e.g., with David, cf Ps 89). So for you to say there is nothing provisional about the covenant seems to me to depart from Scriptural teaching.

    Rom 9-10 certainly is the strongest support for your position. But again I would stress that the apostle is not trying to deny the conditionality of the covenant. Rather he explicitly warns the Gentile Christians at the end of Rom 11 that they can be cut off again. Paul is demonstrating that God’s ways are sovereign and mysterious, that we have no right to talk back to him, that he elects whom he will elect. He is not teaching that there is nothing provisional about the covenant.

    Further, what role does Peter’s exhortation to “make your calling and election sure” play in your assurance?

    I would say covenants in Scripture have an element of conditionality. If so, they can’t simply be read through the lens of the decree. Then there is the need for covenant faithfulness, and the real danger of apostasy.

    Maybe I’m closer to FV on this than makes you comfortable. But to me it remains astonishing that there are those on this blog who would actually put people with FV-like convictions out of the PCA. As I’ve said, there’s so much intricate covenant theology and hair-splitting going on in these discussions that it’s very hard to be precise and clear (as you acknowledge). Who can truly know how the decretal and covenantal modes in Scripture relate? The fact of the matter is:

    1) all parties in this debate affirm TULIP
    2) all parties affirm the importance of the covenant, and infant baptism
    3) all parties therefore propose a two-tiered realization of covenantal benefits, with different ways of formulating this

    And yet there are those who think the differences in formulation are enough to put pastors out of the church. This is discouraging, a tremendous blow to Christian unity (cf. John 17). With this attitude, how many of the Church Fathers would we defrock? Augustine, who provided the classic formulations of the doctrines of grace that we all defend, would undoubtedly not be able to serve in a PCA this narrowly defined (he did, after all, have a very high view of the sacraments).

  26. Reed Here said,

    March 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    David: please consider:

    > The covenant of works is explicitely conditional for Man. It requires his personal obedience.

    > The covenant of grace is implicitely conditional for Man, and at the same time explicitely unconditional for man. It is conditional upon the obedience of another, Christ, and not requring any personal obedience from Man.

    There is no real danger of apostasy for those in the covenant of grace decretally.

    You need to spend some time investigating the list of “covenantal benefits” the FV proposes. It is decidedly broader than what the Westminster Standards affirms is taught by the Bible. Effectively, the FV proposes a “covenantaL’ variety of every single one of the dectral ordo salutis benefits, excluding only perseverance from this list.

    FV-like conclusions, the two-tier system, is contrary to the Westminster Standards. I have no problem with the FV brethren who minister in the CREC, and am willing to leave our differences as merely academic, as I have no formal mutual accountability with them.

    However, if I’m right about the FV system not being consistent with the Westminster Standards, then asking them to take their convictions elsewhere is a matter of integrity. Rather than be astonished, grant us some expectation of better motives.

    The FV proposes a system that leaves all in the Church, both elect and reprobate, under the ministry of a provisional covenant. In my opinion this is neither what the Bible teaches, nor what the Westminster Standards summarize.

    It is really quite that simple, despite its seriousness.

  27. David Gray said,

    March 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    >There is no real danger of apostasy for those in the covenant of grace decretally.

    Then why are we warned of the dangers of apostasy? In one sense it is entirely true that there is no danger of apostasy for the elect and no avoiding it for the non-elect covenant member. But there must be another sense or scripture would not warn about it nor would Calvin have talked about the existence of real apostates and the danger of apostasy. I wonder if sometimes we try too hard to make things 100% consistent within our frame of reference when our frame of reference is so utterly finite and we are dealing with an infinite God.

  28. Dean B said,

    March 5, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    David

    “And yet there are those who think the differences in formulation are enough to put pastors out of the church.”

    I understand this concern very well. I have seen this work against pastors on other issues much to my dismay.

    However, I believe a denomination, presbytery, and local church has the prerogative to set the boundary what is confessional and what is not confessional. On this issue the PCA, OPC, URC, … have all agreed the FV system is not confessional.

    These denominations have judged that the FV system of doctrine is not confessional, but few have gone so far as to say it is heresy and a false gospel.

    All of us do this to one degree or another. I do not believe adult baptism is not a false gospel, but at the same time I would not want my pastor teaching adult baptism.

    All these TE knew the ground-rule prior to joining a presbytery. A pastor does not have the right to judge whether his views are confessional. That is the presbytery’s job. The presbytery did change the rules in the middle of the game, the pastors are the ones who changed their position. Just because the original exam was not exhaustive enough does not mean they get grandfathered or have tenure.

    “With this attitude, how many of the Church Fathers would we defrock? Augustine, who provided the classic formulations of the doctrines of grace that we all defend, would undoubtedly not be able to serve in a PCA this narrowly defined (he did, after all, have a very high view of the sacraments).”

    Looking back to Augustine anachronistically and stating he did not believe in the imputation of the active obedience of Christ and therefore a church/denomination is being sectarian if they believe it today is not very convincing.

    Historically speaking those who defended the truth of Scripture have almost always been labeled sectarian, but that does not necessarily make it so.

  29. David deJong said,

    March 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    “I have no problem with the FV brethren who minister in the CREC, and am willing to leave our differences as merely academic…”

    What’s astonishing to me is that you’re ok with two denominations that have “merely academic” differences.

    Somewhere our ecclesiology has gone haywire, so that denominationalism is acceptable as a status quo.

    Putting someone out of fellowship with you implies the refusal to commune with them, i.e. the refusal to eat at the Lord’s table together.

    The problem doesn’t go away with the existence of the CREC. There are still grievous divisions in Christ’s body.

  30. Reed Here said,

    March 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    David DeJong: you are reading way too much into my, inferring things I am not saying or do I believe.

    Actions to call men to consistency with their vows is not choosing to put someone out of fellowship. I assume your words or thinking are sloppy here, but that is an accusation way too far. This goes as well for celebrating the Lord’s Supper here. You are greatly over-stating the case, suggesting a wickedness on the part of those of us who take our vows seriously. I urge you to consider withdrawing these comments.

    Yes, the problem does not go away wih the existence of the CREC, nor the PCA, nor the OPC, nor the … [fill in the blank]. Your comments about denominationalism are at best naive. To infer that our opposition to the FV’s teaching means we prefer disunity with our brothers is an unkind judgment.

    Would you maintain such an opinion concerning any of the reformed fathers? After, modern Roman Catholicism offers lots of doctrinal flexibility (practice tyranny notwithstanding). Or maybe you would judge those at Dordt (arguably a “reformed” ecumenical council) as schismatics? After all, Arminianism is not “that bad.” Why didn’t they all choose just to agree to use the same language, all the while teaching a different system of belief? Maybe living with equiovation is not as bad as dividing?

    The problem is not any of these. You infer these wickednesses against us because: 1) you do not see the problems we see, 2) you believe we are wrong as the the seriousness of these matters, and 3) you judge us as at best as rash and irresponsible in our behavior, even willing to promote a sinful division in in the Church.

    At least we know your opinion of us.

  31. Reed Here said,

    March 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    David Gray: that is a very good and fair question. Simple answer here: such covenantal warnings are used by the Spirit to grow the faith of the elect, and to separate off the reprobate.

    I won’t say that the FV (generally speaking) will say it disagrees with this. I will say that when Fv explains how the Spirit uses such warnings to grow faith, I note a distinct lack of clinging to Christ language.

    I suspect we’re going to disagree on this. You may very well believe that the FV sincerely uses appropriate Chirst-alone language. I believe such language is necessarily understood via the covenant faithfulness notions.

    I don’t disagree with the decretal end. I disagree with how one gets there. I’m tempted in this regard to quote massive amounts of the The Marrow of Modern Divinity to demonstrate this, but truthfully I don’t have time right now.)

  32. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    David deJong (#20):

    I don’t see how these are imperfect looks into the decretal at all. How could Paul’s exhortation to test yourself be taken as peering into whether one is elect or not? With the exhortation “examine yourself,” there is the possibility of doubt as to whether you are in the faith; there is the possibility of apostasy.

    I’m struggling to respond to this because I’m not sure where the disconnect is, so please bear with me if I’m being unresponsive here.

    When Paul tells the Corinthians to “test themselves” or Peter says to “make your calling and election sure”, there is an assumed connection between outward appearance and inward reality.

    The decrees of God are not simply eschatological decrees that will pop out of nowhere at the end of time. Instead, they are decrees worked out in history. So all of the elect, and only the elect, have their election worked out by means of effectual calling, resulting in faith, resulting in salvation.

    This happens in time and space, and the result is that God’s decrees have visible effects on individual people.

    The problem, of course, is that those effects can be imitated; or they can be masked.

    So when we see, outwardly, what looks like the fruit of the Spirit, or a confession of faith we don’t absolutely assume that the presenter is saved; but we do count it as evidence thereof.

    And if it is evidence of faith, then it is evidence of election. Thus, belonging to the church visibly is evidence that you belong to the church invisibly also.

    Consider the alternative, that we push the decrees of God out into the entirely Other, the unknown and unknowable Noumenal realm, with no connection to the world that we see.

    What then do we make of Peter’s command to “make your calling and election sure”?

    How could Paul say to the Ephesians, “He chose you in him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight”?

    Paul is writing this to the Ephesian church because he is reasonably convinced that this group of people, his recipients, really have been chosen by God from before the foundation of the world. And he is convinced of this because of their visible membership in the Church.

    This would make no sense if the “decretal” perspective is utterly Other and unknowable.

  33. rfwhite said,

    March 5, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Reed/David Gray: do we know that the “we” who are warned of the dangers of apostasy are the same as those in the covenant of grace decretally? If so, how?

  34. jared said,

    March 6, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Dean (Re. #23),

    You say,

    I would qualify your description above and say, Judas “appeared to” willingly… I also believe Judas was a willing active participant and knew who his real father was before he held the weight of the coin-purse (John 13:26-30).

    Of course the analysis is easier, here, because we know Judas’ story. What if you were Peter, or John, or any of the other disciples who didn’t know which one would betray Jesus? To them did Judas merely “appear” to be following Jesus? How would they tell the difference? How do you tell the difference today? You say,

    I believe works done in obedience to the command of God, in true faith, and for His glory then these works are in fact good. If one of these things is missing then they are simply works.

    Okay, so who or what determines that works are done this way? In other words, how do you decide if one of these things is missing? Of course God knows, no one is questioning that. This is what I was criticizing: obedience does not authenticate faith. You can’t determine the genuineness of someone’s faith simply because they are obeying. The Judas problem prevents this as anyone is potentially only appearing to obey (sorry, that’s kind of an awkward sentence). You go on to try and simplify this scenario by bringing in the Holy Spirit, but again this is an inward reality that cannot be assured to anyone on the outside. It’s this very fact that makes brotherhood and unity so vital to the life of the Church. It also makes discipline just as vital. You continue,

    Expressed differently the works done by the reprobate are never good. Judas never did a good work, he merely appeared to do good works. He did not stop doing good works he never truly did them.

    I would say they can be good but they can’t be righteous. Nitpicking, I suppose, but I essentially agree with you on this point. Only works done in true faith can be pleasing to God because those are the only works washed by the blood of Jesus. You continue,

    By introducing a system of doctrine for the non elect where one may be “in union” and then “out of union” you are forced defending an indefensible position. On the day of judgment all of the people who are in union with Christ and who the HS has began to work can accuse God of lying and being unfaithful to the promise in Phil 1:6.

    I don’t see how this follows. This is like arguing that modern day Israel has divine rights to a certain amount of land in the Middle East because God promised it would be theirs. Forever, if I recall. Did God renege? No, so something is amiss here. Your tenses are leading you astray! On the day of judgment all of those who are in union with Christ will receive eternal life. All of those who were in union but did not remain will receive a greater punishment than those who never believed at all. Those who never believed are not covenant breakers, they never tasted the heavenly gift or the powers of the age to come. But those who believed and fell away did. They were goats experiencing the care of the Shepherd until they realized they were goats. The Shepherd knows His sheep and they know their Shepherd, they will remain. You conclude,

    The problem with a non elect covenant members is not that God did not decree they would endure to the end, but more accurately that they were never “in”, despite all their appearances to the contrary they never did one good work.

    The problem with this is that it isn’t biblical. If you aren’t a good tree, you get chopped down. If you aren’t a fruitful branch, you get cut out. If you walk away, you never really belonged in the first place. What you are saying is that the non-elect covenant member isn’t (1) a tree at all, (2) a branch at all or (3) walking away from anything. So what is all that biblical language for anyway?

    Reed (#24),

    You say, “The FV “you can’t know the decretal so you must go with the covenantal” misses the biblical intent in an important way.” I’m not sure why you continue insisting that the FV believes you can’t know the decretal, you’re starting to sound like Vern, all obsessed with linking the FV to Kantian philosophy. In Kant’s scheme, however, one cannot “get at” the noumena at all. In the FV scheme one can get at the decretal because it is accurately (i.e. really) mirrored (or mediated) by the covenant. So to the extent that one is truly in covenant with God he is, in fact, “in touch” with the decretal reality. Kant would puff out his chest and indignantly declare that one can only “get at” the decretal in as much as the decretal is a priori constructed by the covenantal. This is completely opposite of how the FV has it formulated. You continue,

    This does not mean that by default all we’re left with is the FV’s covenantal perspective. The Bible does not call us to trust our own profession of faith or the professions of others on a provisional covenantal basis, as long as we/they maintain it. This is just not what the Scriptures do.

    And neither does the FV’s covenantal perspective eliminate (for all practical intents and purposes) the decretal. You’re right that the Bible does not call us to so-on and such-forth; neither does the FV. We are called to trust in what Jesus has done in fulfilling the [provisional] covenant and if we really do this then we are guaranteed salvation. And we aren’t guaranteed based on our doing, either; we are guaranteed based on His doing. You continue,

    Instead the Scriptures everywhere call us to rest in decretal considerations. Consider election. The arguments in Romans (9-10) are not covenantally rooted. They are decretally rooted.

    So do we leave out the fact that the Scriptures are God’s covenant words to His covenant people? FV does not deny the decretal roots of anything. You can argue (successfully, I believe) that all things are decretally rooted. But Paul’s arguments are couched in covenant. In fact, it seems to me that there are few places where Paul speaks more covenantally than in Romans 9-11 (except for Hebrews, if you believe he wrote that epistle). Now, are the decrees behind or in front of what Paul is saying to the Romans? Yes. And FV does not say otherwise. You continue,

    So how does this work in the Christian life? Simple – such decretal statements speak to faith. They speak to faith to give birth to it in the first place. They speak to faith to maintain it, to grow it, to persevere it. They speak to faith, to be sure, in a subjective manner. Yet this is no less a real manner, one that has true existence.

    Now you’ve become one! How do such decretal statements speak to faith? How do they give birth to it, grow it, maintain it, preserve it? Isn’t it through Jesus? Through the covenant? No one is saying the decretal is less real than the covenantal. You continue,

    In other words, the Bible does not offer decretal expressions as some sort of promise that is only realized in the eternal state. These decretal expressions are nothing less than the life-giving Spirit’s calling that effects the results of God’s eternal decrees – now! The response of the Christian to these is not the FV’s provisional covenant one, but a faith one that securely rests in the decrees of God.

    Amen; except for all that FV provisional covenant mumbo jumbo. In the FV scheme, as I understand it, the decretal expressions are realized covenantally now and ultimately result in an eternal future (but only for those who are really “in”; those who aren’t really “in” really get kicked out before that whole eternal thing gets passed around).

  35. Vern Crisler said,

    March 6, 2010 at 2:00 am

    Jared said, “I’m not sure why you [Reed] continue insisting that the FV believes you can’t know the decretal, you’re starting to sound like Vern, all obsessed with linking the FV to Kantian philosophy.”

    It is often stated by FV proponents that we have to look at the decree in light of the covenant, for the reason that we cannot have insight into the decree. No obsession, just noting the same epistemological error.

    “In Kant’s scheme, however, one cannot “get at” the noumena at all. In the FV scheme one can get at the decretal because it is accurately (i.e. really) mirrored (or mediated) by the covenant.”

    Kant taught that the noumenal was real and we get at it indirectly, i.e., mediated:

    “In the true sense of the word, therefore, I can never perceive external things, but I can only infer their existence from my own internal perception, regarding the perception as an effect of something external that must be the proximate cause.” (Critique, A367f.)

    So also FVists. They would say, “In the true sense of the word, we can never perceive the decree, but we can only infer its existence from my perception of the covenant, regarding the perception as an effect of something extra-covenantal that must be the proximate cause.”

    Vern

  36. jared said,

    March 6, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Vern,

    Except it’s the opposite. The FV says the only reason we see/experience the covenant is because of the decrees. Some experience the covenant more fully than others (i.e. reprobate vs. elect), but no FVist would say that experience of the covenant is indirect experience of the decrees. In fact that doesn’t make any sense at all. Kant’s mistake wasn’t the distinction between noumenal and phenomenal, rather his mistake was in how those two actually relate to one another. The “thing-in-itself” is really “the thing as God speaks it” and we have direct access to this via language. So just as language, coupled with the senses, is how we directly experience the created order, so is the covenant how we directly experience the decrees. The only thing Kantian about this setup is distinguishing between the decree and the covenant. Such distinguishing is necessary because there really is a difference between the decrees and the covenant, just as there’s a difference between the word “dog” and an actual dog. This disparity, however, does not require some arbitrary and indirect relationship between the two.

    Looking at the Kant quote we can clearly see his mistake. It’s the categories of the mind which pre-determine one’s experience of whatever it is “out there”. This is completely backwards to the way things actually are. Kant doesn’t even say we get at it indirectly, he says we can only infer its existence from our perception and even that we must regard this perception as only vague. Under Kant’s scheme the only reason we can interact with each other and the world in any coherent manner is because all human minds basically function the same (via the categories). And the only reason Kant got away with any of this nonsense is because he was an ambiguous and poor writer.

  37. Reed Here said,

    March 6, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Jared: in all your responses to me (and to Jeff above) I find myself responding “of course,” as in these are not the basis of disagreement with the FV. Maybe it would help if we tried to narrow down where the heart of the disagreement lies.

    So, agree or disagree? According the the FV scheme:

    1. The experience of the decretal in the historical Church is always provisional, and

    2. This provisional nature is only removed in the Eschatological Church.

    If agree you agree (I hope you recognize these in the FV), then what do you understand the FV to be arguing for in its covennant ordo salutis scheme?

  38. Reed Here said,

    March 6, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Dr. White, no, 33: interesting question. I’m initially inclined to answer in a way that would prompt an FV supporter to jump up with an “aha!” I.e., a “you shall know them by their fruits” kind of answer.

    But after thinking about the context of the apostasy warnings, I think the Bible’s answer goes in a different direction. The Bible knows that the “we” are the decretally in covenant because these “we” are the are the intended audience. I.O.W. the Bible itself narrowly defines for us that the decretally in covenant are the intended audience.

    We know this because of wha the Bible tells the “we” is the proper response to the warnings. The proper response is faith, believe if you will. We know this because all the response considerations listed in a warning passage (cf., Heb 6) are faith rooted responses. Particularly they are declarations of God’s covenantal actions that affirm the presence of His decretal will. These are the essential/necessary items to support the faith response.

    Further, bringing into mind the dominant covenantally rooted warning concept, to wit Jesus’ adoption of Isaiah’s seeing/not seeing, hearing/not hearing, hardened hearts (echoed in other prophets, repeated in Romans by Paul, et.al.),

    Bringing this into view, we see that the reason that those who are only externally in covenant (reprobate external only church members) do not heed the warnings is because they lack the one essential decretal characteristic necessary to respond to the decretally-rooted apostasy-avoidance mechanism – faith! They don’t have the very thing necessary to avoid apostasy. Hence they don’t respond. Hence they fall under it.

    Now I suspect the FV will offer some sort of “of course” to my observations. Yet I note that the FV does not automatically (inherently) go to the necessity of faith. Quite often immediately, but almost always necessarily inferred is the FV’s proposed response – faithfulness (obedience, assume the evangelical variety is intended for the sake of narrowing the debate).

    In this sense I think we see one of the serious problems in the FV. The FV in effective says the response is: faith, that is faithfulness. I.O.W. the FV writes the relationship between faith and (evangelical) obedience this way: faith = faithfulness (obedience). I.e., faith is the same as faithfulness. This is not the Bible’s definition of the relationship between these two.

    To be sure the FV minister will tell his people to respond in faith. Yet because he has taught his people that faith is faithfulness, they are led to immediately look to their own efforts, to look inside themselves for the source of the proper response to the warnings. The Bible always tells us to look outside of ourselves, something we can only do by exclusive faith in another.

    This is not a new problem in the Church. I wish I was better at explaining this to our FV brethren.

  39. Dean B said,

    March 6, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Jared

    “To them did Judas merely “appear” to be following Jesus? How would they tell the difference? How do you tell the difference today?”

    Just because someone “appears” to be trusting Jesus does not mean we create salvation language to describe what we think we see.

    Of course the elders and church openly allows and encourages these people to partake of communion but these hypocrites drink judgment to themselves. The elders to don’t drink judgment to themselves because a member may be a hypocrite.

    “I don’t see how this follows. This is like arguing that modern day Israel has divine rights to a certain amount of land in the Middle East because God promised it would be theirs. Forever, if I recall. Did God renege?”

    In criticizing Phil 1:6 you demonstrate and argue a very bad hermeneutic. The divine right to a certain amount of land in the Middle East is an sign and fulfilled in heaven. Do you believe if a male at your church is not circumcised he has broken the covenant (Gen 17:13-14)? Of course not, this is silly. However, there is nothing symbolic in Phil 1:6 and if God does not follow through He is guilty of sin.

    “What you are saying is that the non-elect covenant member isn’t (1) a tree at all, (2) a branch at all or (3) walking away from anything. So what is all that biblical language for anyway?”

    Have you changed your opinion in less than 48 hours? From your post #5 on this thread: “It’s debatable whether or not passages like John 15 can bear the weight that FV puts on them”. Yet now you use these passages to make a point and to be the final objection, yet you already acknowledge they do not carry very much weight.

    Please go to the OT and demonstrate from Scripture how the nation of Israel possessed saving elements by being in covenent of grace/sphere of the covenant and yet lost it. But before you begin you should spend time dealing with Rom 9 since this chapter will rather easily lift any weight you believe your propositions might bear.

    Find me one Reformed theologian who believed historic faith, miraculous faith, temporary faith… was true/genuine in which the person actually obtained saving temporal benefits. These men have looked at both John 15 and in the OT.

    Berkhof ST pg 502 on Temporal faith: “It is not rooted in a regenerated heart…This does not mean that it may not last as long as life lasts… This faith is sometimes called a hypocritical faith, but that is not entirely correct, for it does not necessarily involved conscious hypocrisy. They who possess this faith usually believe that they have true faith. It might better be called an imaginary faith seemingly genuine, but evanescent in character….In general it may be said that temporal faith is grounded in the emotional life and seeks personal enjoyment rather than the glory of God.”

    Just because a person thinks he may be saved, fool the church, and even fool himself does not make whatever he has real. He never was regenerated, effectually called and never had real faith. In other words God never began a good work in him.

    The FV can maintain the non elect covenant members are regenerated “in some sense” but after everything gets defined they will have to concede, if they are orthodox, it is merely temporary regeneration. Orthodox Christians will maintain this temporary regeneration is only imaginary and is not real regeneration and is not even Biblical so why even use the term and confuse people.

  40. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 6, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Reed (#38):

    Could it also be the case that the warnings in Heb 6 have the function of stimulating the elect-but-not-yet-effectually-called to repentance?

  41. Paige Britton said,

    March 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    #38 &#40 —
    It would make sense to say the warnings stimulate both, i.e., the elect-already-repentant and the elect-but-not-yet-effectually-called-till-this-minute, to faith and repentance, since the appropriate response is faith, and these are the only two groups that can exercise it.

    Though I guess we’d have to nuance our description of the first group’s response: it’s not, for the elect-already-repentant, the initial exercise of saving faith, but rather the continuing (persevering?) exercise of faith. I would even put this in the category of self-examination: “am I among those who believe?” and “there but for the grace of God go I.”

    Interesting point, Reed, about the “faith” and “faithfulness” distinction.

  42. Reed Here said,

    March 6, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Jeff: sounds right.

    Paige: yep, and yep ;-)

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 6, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Paige (#41): Yes, I would agree. Over in the sacraments discussion, it’s interesting that baptism is supposed to be effective during our entire lives, providing assurance of salvation even after salvation is present.

    Likewise here, the warnings to persevere clearly have “pastoral effect” for us, even after we are saved.

  44. Vern Crisler said,

    March 7, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Re: #36

    Jason said, “Except it’s the opposite. The FV says the only reason we see/experience the covenant is because of the decrees. Some experience the covenant more fully than others (i.e. reprobate vs. elect), but no FVist would say that experience of the covenant is indirect experience of the decrees. In fact that doesn’t make any sense at all.

    Vern: If we cannot have insight into the decree, but can only “know” the decree by way of the covenant, then that is an indirect experience of the decree. FVist Tim Gallant says, “As we have noted, the covenant is our only historical access to the knowledge of the identity of the elect, including whether we ourselves are elect.” Rich Lusk also says, “the Bible ordinarily (though not always) views election through the lens of the covenant. . . . This is why covenant members can be addressed consistently as God’s eternally elect, even though some of those covenant members may apostatize and prove themselves to not be elected to eternal salvation. . . . To follow the Biblical model, we must view our fellow church members as elect and regenerate and threaten them with the dangers of falling away. This is not contradictory because we admit we only have a creaturely knowledge of God’s decree.”

    This is all warmed over Tyler theology (with Jim Jordan as godfather, as Scott Clark rightly noted). In FVism, sovereign grace ends up as little more than a limiting concept leading to paradoxical church membership.

    Jason continued: “Kant’s mistake wasn’t the distinction between noumenal and phenomenal, rather his mistake was in how those two actually relate to one another. The “thing-in-itself” is really “the thing as God speaks it” and we have direct access to this via language.”

    Vern: Your idea that we have direct access to things-in-themselves through language is unintelligible. If you have to go through language to get to reality, then you don’t have direct access to reality. You have mediated access, and all the attendant problems that go along with that view.

    Jason said, “So just as language, coupled with the senses, is how we directly experience the created order, so is the covenant how we directly experience the decrees.”

    Vern: This just restates my original charge, that the covenant is what we know immediately, and the decree, at best, mediately.

    Jason: The only thing Kantian about this setup is distinguishing between the decree and the covenant. Such distinguishing is necessary because there really is a difference between the decrees and the covenant, just as there’s a difference between the word “dog” and an actual dog. This disparity, however, does not require some arbitrary and indirect relationship between the two.

    Vern: The distinction between decree and covenant is not a mere use-mention issue. I just don’t see how a distinction between referent and signifier is of any relevance in this context.

    Jason: Looking at the Kant quote we can clearly see his mistake. It’s the categories of the mind which pre-determine one’s experience of whatever it is “out there”. This is completely backwards to the way things actually are. Kant doesn’t even say we get at it indirectly, he says we can only infer its existence from our perception and even that we must regard this perception as only vague. Under Kant’s scheme the only reason we can interact with each other and the world in any coherent manner is because all human minds basically function the same (via the categories). And the only reason Kant got away with any of this nonsense is because he was an ambiguous and poor writer.

    Vern: Kant certainly did think in terms of an immediate/mediate distinction. He says, “We are perfectly justified in maintaining that only what is within ourselves can be immediately and directly perceived, and that only my own existence can be the object of a mere perception. Thus the existence of a real object outside me can never be given immediately and directly in perception, but can only be added in thought to the perception, which is a modification of the internal sense, and thus inferred as its external cause. . . .” (Critique, A367 f.)

    Thus, perceptions are experienced immediately, whereas things-in-themselves are experienced mediately, by way of inference. Even if Kant did not use the precise term “mediately,” it is still implied in his explanation of how objects are given.

    Kant’s noumenal/phenomenal distinction was meant to distinguish his views from Berkeley’s. Kant sought to avoid what he regarded as Berkeley’s subjectivism by arguing that external (noumenal) objects are the ground or cause of our immediate inner perceptions, which are ordered by our mental architecture as they come to us. So our mental perceptions really are representations of mediate things-in-themselves, not mere illusions.

    If the question is asked how we know these representations actually mirror things-in-themselves, Kant’s answer is not an Idealist “habit,” “custom,” or “association,” but rather conformity to cognitive rules which find expression in a priori concepts. Ironically, the emphasis on cognitive laws shows that Kant wanted his epistemology to be “Newtonian” — a science of the mind with universal laws as valid as Newton’s physical laws.

    In sum, Kant wanted some realism in his epistemology, no matter how irrelevant he eventually made it.

    FVists do not, a la Kant, deny the reality of the decree, but they deny we have unmediated access to it (Lusk allows himself a — seldom used — escape hatch with the term “ordinarily.”) The decree is noumenal for all practical purposes while the covenant is phenomenal, directly accessible.

    FVists in effect believe in the ideality of decretal reality. Thus, sovereign grace — hitherto the glory of Protestant and especially Calvinist theology – cannot be accessed directly in FV thought. We can have no direct contact with it as a living, breathing reality — as something relevant for assurance. That’s why Lusk does not want to preach sovereign grace to church members but wants to “threaten them with the dangers of falling away.”

    It is no wonder that FVism results in an enfeebling of the Protestant doctrine of assurance, and returns us to Romanist doubt. Warfield warned about this very thing in his book Perfectionism. Perhaps FVists should put aside their Jordan and Shepherd books and read Warfield for a while, no?

    Vern

  45. David Gray said,

    March 7, 2010 at 7:23 am

    >That’s why Lusk does not want to preach sovereign grace to church members but wants to “threaten them with the dangers of falling away.”

    Vern, don’t the scriptures “threaten” us with “the dangers of falling away”? Didn’t Calvin? As Reed notes above, correctly in my opnion, those scriptures are for believers, not just non-elect covenant members.

  46. jared said,

    March 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Reed (Re. #37),

    1. Agree. It requires real, authentic, living faith (WCF 16.2 & 17.1). Reprobates, with their temporary faith, don’t see or experience all the things the elect see and experience. They get a taste of some things (e.g. presence of the Holy Spirit) but they do not get to feast and hang around for desert (WCF 10.4).

    2. Agree. In the eschatological/invisible church there is no need to distinguish between covenantal and decretal; they are the same group (WCF 25.1). In the end, only those with real, authentic, living faith will remain (WCF 14.3). Once all the goats have been separated out the covenant no longer is provisional. In other words, the church is no longer filled with people being saved and people not being saved; rather it’s filled only with those who are saved.

    In answer to your last question, I believe the FV is arguing for a proper and practical understanding of how to handle the existence of reprobates in the covenant visible/historical body. The FV wants to acknowledge that these reprobate members have been called by the ministry of the word and share some common operations of the Spirit. Constructing an alternate ordo is a way to affirm the reality and seriousness of what the reprobate member loses once he apostatizes. I think they believe this model helps believers look harder to Christ, helps them cling to their faith in Him and what He has accomplished, helps motivate them continue (or start!) spreading His kingdom in whatever capacity and circumstance He has provided.

    Dean (Re. #39),

    You say, “Just because someone ‘appears’ to be trusting Jesus does not mean we create salvation language to describe what we think we see.” You’re right, we use the same salvation language to speak about all professing believers, whether they are true believers or not because it isn’t our place to pronounce the eternal judgment upon someone’s soul. We can (and should) pronounce temporary judgments based on their actions, but ultimately we cannot condemn someone to hell anymore than we can commend someone to heaven. You didn’t really answer my question(s) here but that was my point: you can’t. You continue,

    In criticizing Phil 1:6 you demonstrate and argue a very bad hermeneutic. The divine right to a certain amount of land in the Middle East is an sign and fulfilled in heaven. Do you believe if a male at your church is not circumcised he has broken the covenant (Gen 17:13-14)? Of course not, this is silly. However, there is nothing symbolic in Phil 1:6 and if God does not follow through He is guilty of sin.

    We are, actually, agreeing here. God doesn’t begin a good (or righteous) work in the life of the reprobate covenant member. You’ve ignored the rest of my paragraph. They get a taste of that goodness/righteousness, but they don’t possess it. God promises life to those who remain (and only those to whom it is given will remain) and greater condemnation for those who don’t; and, yes, He always keeps His promises. You continue,

    Have you changed your opinion in less than 48 hours? From your post #5 on this thread: “It’s debatable whether or not passages like John 15 can bear the weight that FV puts on them”. Yet now you use these passages to make a point and to be the final objection, yet you already acknowledge they do not carry very much weight.

    No, I haven’t changed my opinion. Read my post #5 again and keep in mind that it’s a response to Lane. Lane says (in #4), “Passages like John 15 do not bear the weight that the FV puts on them to prove otherwise.” This is what I was responding to in my post #5. It is debatable that passages like John 15 do not bear the weight that the FV puts on them. In other words, it is not settled; I am saying those passages could bear such weight. You continue,

    Please go to the OT and demonstrate from Scripture how the nation of Israel possessed saving elements by being in covenent of grace/sphere of the covenant and yet lost it. But before you begin you should spend time dealing with Rom 9 since this chapter will rather easily lift any weight you believe your propositions might bear.

    I think Israel in the wilderness is a perfect example of this. A whole generation doesn’t get to set foot in the promised land because of their disobedience (including Moses!). However, Israel as a nation did proceed on under the leadership of Joshua. Of course the obvious difference here is that we’re talking about heaven and not Canaan. I’m not trying to say all those Israelites went to hell (which is patently untrue in the case of Moses). But Israel as a nation was promised the land even though a whole generation died before they obtained it. The contrast the FV is highlighting is that of the group versus the individual members thereof. As a nation Israel was loved and protected by God, but there were plenty of individuals who didn’t make the cut, as it were. But for a time those individuals enjoyed some of the benefits of the nation as a whole (e.g. witnessing or experiencing the presence of God). The same is true of the Church. I think Romans 9-11 confirms this setup. One is a true member in as much as they are children of the promise. Reprobates are not children of the promise, but they can be members of the covenant. And because they aren’t children of the promise they, eventually, get cast out. On top of this, they don’t have any choice about the matter. Is that fair? Paul admonishes us not to question God in this regard, for how foolish is it for the pot to question the potter? The FV is trying to work out the details of what it means for “not all the descendants of Israel are Israel”. How do we know any particular pot is made to be broken until it actually breaks? Maybe the trajectory of some is easy to determine but, clearly, it is not for us to judge on this matter. You challenge,

    Find me one Reformed theologian who believed historic faith, miraculous faith, temporary faith… was true/genuine in which the person actually obtained saving temporal benefits. These men have looked at both John 15 and in the OT.

    I’m not sure what you’re asking. No Reformed theologians, that I know of, would say that temporary faith was true and genuine. If the faith were true and genuine it wouldn’t be temporary. The phrase “saving temporal benefits” is nonsensical to me, if the benefits are saving then they aren’t temporary. You continue,

    Just because a person thinks he may be saved, fool the church, and even fool himself does not make whatever he has real. He never was regenerated, effectually called and never had real faith. In other words God never began a good work in him.

    Part of the problem here is with what we mean by the term “real”. I would say that whatever this person has is real, it just isn’t that which is necessary for salvation. In other words, if your categories are “real faith” and “temporary faith” then, of course, you’re going to say the individual who has temporary faith doesn’t have anything that is real. But if your categories are “temporary faith” and “persevering faith” then you can truthfully say that both of them have real faith, just not the same kind of faith. A related issue raised by this FV question: how is it that the reprobate member can experience the “common operations of the Spirit” if he is spiritually dead? How can they positively respond to being called by the ministry of the Word if they are spiritually dead? It seems to me that one of the things all members of visible church have in common is life in Jesus. Not all have it savingly (not all who say “Lord, Lord”) but all have it to one degree or another.

  47. rfwhite said,

    March 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    38 Reed: If I am understanding David Gray rightly he wants to highlight the doctrine taught in WCF 14.3, namely, that “by this [saving] faith, a Christian … acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof [of the Word] containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, … for this life, and that which is to come”; or in WCF 19.6, where the law, “as a rule of life informing them [true believers] of the will of God, is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve.”

    You, on the other hand, want to highlight what WCF teaches in the words of 14.3, that “by this [saving] faith, a Christian … acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof [of the Word] containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, … embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.”

    As all this relates to your post, is it possible, in this life, to attain an infallible assurance that one is in the state of grace? If so, what role does baptism have in attaining that infallible assurance?

  48. Vern Crisler said,

    March 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Oops, Jared, not Jason.

  49. Vern Crisler said,

    March 7, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    #45,
    David, the judgment of charity has both a positive and negative side. FV reductionism, however, does not use the same principle. The elect are NOT in danger of falling away, and that is the basis of assurance. (This point is made in Scott Clark’s recent interview with Lane on Heidelblog.)

  50. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Vern (#44):

    Just curious: do you believe we have unmediated access to reality?

  51. rfwhite said,

    March 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    45 David Gray; 49 Vern Crisler:

    As I read your exchange, it seems to me to boil down to this: How do those who are certainly assured that they are in the state of grace respond to the warnings of God in Scripture against apostasy?

  52. jared said,

    March 7, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Vern (Re. #44, 48),

    No worries on the name. You say,

    If we cannot have insight into the decree, but can only “know” the decree by way of the covenant, then that is an indirect experience of the decree.

    So do we have insight into the decree directly or do we have it through Jesus? Kant wants to say that perception is a barrier which obstructs, in a negative way, our experiencing (or knowing anything about) the thing-in-itself. On the other hand, Scripture (and the FV) says that mediation is how we are created to know things. God created by the power of His word, and the NT informs us that all things were made through Jesus. You continue,

    Your idea that we have direct access to things-in-themselves through language is unintelligible. If you have to go through language to get to reality, then you don’t have direct access to reality. You have mediated access, and all the attendant problems that go along with that view.

    So how do we have direct access to things-in-themselves? You continue,

    This just restates my original charge, that the covenant is what we know immediately, and the decree, at best, mediately.

    Except that it doesn’t. Even the covenant is mediated (directly) to us through Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit. The more you keep responding like this the more curious (and skeptical) I become of whatever view you’re trying to put forth. The rest of your post is just more of the same, so how about it? What do we have direct, unmediated access to? What does it even mean to have the sort of direct access that you seem to believe in?

  53. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 7, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    (And wouldn’t #48 argue for a mediated reality? ;) )

  54. Dean B said,

    March 7, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Jared

    “You didn’t really answer my question(s) here but that was my point: you can’t.”

    Your original question was “To them did Judas merely “appear” to be following Jesus? How would they tell the difference? How do you tell the difference today?”

    The covenant of grace is a broader sense is comprised of both elect and reprobate. The covenant of grace in the narrow sense is just the elect. Just because a reprobate person may appear to be elect does not make them elect for a time. An elder or pastor is never admonished in the Scriptures for admitting in hypocrites into church membership, but it does admonish elders and pastors not to admit or retain those who are life and/or doctrine are inconsistent with the profession of a Christian.

    As long as a member appears to be a Christian in life and practice a Pastor can confidently assume they are one, but their confidence is not and never was intended to be infallible proof, as you admit. So your question merely addresses appearances and as such is biblically/theologically unimportant.

    “In other words, if your categories are “real faith” and “temporary faith” then, of course, you’re going to say the individual who has temporary faith doesn’t have anything that is real. But if your categories are “temporary faith” and “persevering faith” then you can truthfully say that both of them have real faith, just not the same kind of faith.”

    My son sleeps with a teddy bear. It is not real. He may refer to it as a bear, I may refer to it as a bear, everyone throughout history may have referred to it as a bear but it is not a real bear. The same it true of temporary faith. It is not real. There differences are not merely of kind, degrees, qualitative, quantitative, but as different as stuffed material in the form of a bear to the genuine flesh destroying real live bear.

    “A related issue raised by this FV question: how is it that the reprobate member can experience the “common operations of the Spirit” if he is spiritually dead? How can they positively respond to being called by the ministry of the Word if they are spiritually dead?”

    I researched roots in studying Mark 4:17 particularly the phrase “they have no root in themselves.” What is fascinating about seeds is that everything needed for life is found in the seed itself.

    Although seeds vary greatly, all have three basic parts: the miniature plant (embryo) on the inside, a supply of food (endosperm) for the tiny plant, and a protective coating (seed coat).

    The embryo is a miniature plant in arrested development complete with a stem, leaves, and root waiting for water to begin the germination process. Germination is the last of three stages a seed goes through before becoming a seedling.

    Without going into too much detail, the primary root and the coleoptile (first sprout that emerges from the ground) and primary leaf are all found in the seed itself. With the food and life found in the seed itself the primary root and coleoptile simply emerge from the ground without any nutrients or help from the soil around it. If the soil conditions are suitable the nodal (permanent) roots emerge as well as what they call the first true leaf. In other words seed emerges and is self sufficient on its own without any help at all from the soil environment.

    If the soil conditions are bad (rocky, weedy…) the seed can still support the primary root, coleoptile, and primary leaf for a maximum of three to five weeks before it dies off. However, if the soil condition is good the primary roots and primary leaf simply become part the permanent plant structure.

    Germination process ends for a plant and the seedling process begins when the “first true leaf” emerges. It is theologically helpful to realize scientist understand the coleoptile and primary leaf, while they emerge first, are not considered the “first true leaf.”

    I do not see any theological difficulty speaking of a common operation of the HS or even having the seed of regeneration emerging and showing evidence of life from a person yet that person himself may not be able to support life ie spiritually dead.

    Or to use Mark 4:17, these people “have not root in themselves” which means they did not produced a notal root system. The seed never moved out of the germination stage and became a seedling. All the life that was visible was merely the life of the seed itself which was not dependent on the soil conditions of the person.

    I have some very interesting pictures of the germination and seedling stages which demonstrate this fact. I can send them to you if you want. [Dbekkering] {at} yahoo (com)

  55. jared said,

    March 8, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Dean (Re. #54),

    You say,

    My son sleeps with a teddy bear. It is not real. He may refer to it as a bear, I may refer to it as a bear, everyone throughout history may have referred to it as a bear but it is not a real bear. The same it true of temporary faith. It is not real. There differences are not merely of kind, degrees, qualitative, quantitative, but as different as stuffed material in the form of a bear to the genuine flesh destroying real live bear.

    This is helpful. I agree that the bear is not a real bear, but that is decidedly different than saying it isn’t real at all, in any sense. Let’s make this analogy fit our discussion a bit better. What if your son’s “teddy bear” was the same size as a real bear, had real bear fur, smelled like a real bear and moved like a real bear yet the only thing powering it was batteries (which you can’t determine until the “bear” has been slain and autopsied)? It’s not a real bear, in the way you are defining it (it’s only a facsimile), but I bet it could still maul you to death. Telling this “bear” that it isn’t real and, therefore, it cannot do all the things a real bear can do isn’t going to prevent you from being mauled either (though, technically, you would be speaking the truth). On your definition I feel safe agreeing with you that temporary faith isn’t real; I suspect the FV would agree given these parameters as well. You continue,

    I do not see any theological difficulty speaking of a common operation of the HS or even having the seed of regeneration emerging and showing evidence of life from a person yet that person himself may not be able to support life ie spiritually dead.

    Thanks for the science lesson. There are still two problems: (1) even if you’re right in your conclusions drawn from your research (and they seem solid enough to me), Mark 4:17 refers to the seeds which fell on the rocky soil, so there are still the seeds which fell amongst the thorns that need addressing. (2) Paul plants and Apollos waters but it’s God who causes growth. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit is an illusionist, only giving the appearance of life in those who ultimately fall away. It should be kept in mind that the seed represents the gospel, not faith or one’s heart/soul. The parable gives us four responses: those who don’t respond at all (unbelievers who never come to belief), those who believe but only for a very short time (believers who fall away), those who believe but eventually are “choked out” (believers who fall away) and those who end up producing a crop (believers who don’t fall away).

    It seems to me that the only kind of life that the gospel produces is spiritual life, so even if it sprouts and doesn’t take root (or doesn’t bear fruit) there is still life. It’s temporary, but spiritual nonetheless. I was going to say “real nonetheless” but we’ve established that temporary faith/life isn’t real because we’re defining real as persevering and productive. The seed does the best it can do given the respective hostile environments. Sometimes nothing at all happens. Sometimes life happens but it doesn’t last long. Sometimes life happens but it isn’t fruitful. Sometimes life happens and it is fruitful. The FV model accounts for all four outcomes whereas it seems the traditional model only accounts for two (the first and the last, lumping the middle two outcomes in with the first). In this instance I think more is better.

  56. Reed Here said,

    March 8, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Jared, one rolling question about how the FV plays out in a congregation:

    Agreed that a given local church has both true (elect) professers and false (reproabte) professers. Agreed that until otherwise demonstrated in apostasy, the pastor of this church cannot tell the difference.

    According to the FV, the pastor preaches indiscriminantly to both, e.g., “because you are united to Christ, draw upon Him for your life.” The FV pastor however believes that he is actually preaching two different unions in the one proclamation, decretal eternal union, and covenantal temporal union. He expects that the hearers will respond under the proper one to their particular class of union. I.e., he expects both to bring forth fruits proper to that union, fruits that are to the eye undifferentiated.

    Further, when the reprobate falls away, he falls away from a real experience of a real spiritual union, albeit one different than the elect. As well, neither he nor the pastor know he really is reprobate only responding under the covenant temporary union, until that moment he apostacizes.

    Fair summary?

    At seeing the baptism of another, does the reprobate then recieve blessings if he strives to “improve” his baptism? Does the Spirit then deliver confirmatory temporary grace to such a one? (I argue under the FV scheme, He must).

    Does the Spirit actually say out of one side of his mouth, “yes, you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.” (using 1Co 6:11)?

    Or does the Spirit confirm to the reprobate, “you are saved, not because of works done by you in righteousness, but according to God’sown mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on you richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace you might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (using Tit 3:5-7)?

    Does the Spirit actually give temporary grace with one hand, while holding onto it with the other so that at some point He can enexpectedly yank it back?

    Now, how would you feel sitting in such a congregation, and not yet having the gift of assurance from the Spirit? How would this ministry in any way remove your fears, innoculate you against more self-effort faithfulness, when everything you’re told is provisional?

    “You may be elect, you may be reprobate, and for the time being you just don’t know. So rest in Christ” What!?!?!

    I agree that there are the common operations of the Spirit under which a reprobate can bring forth counterfeit fruits for a time. But the FV goes too far in its understanding of what occurs here. It proposes a full blown temporary Calvinistic scheme of salvation (minus perseverance).

    Is this what the Scripture really teaches, that there are two real experiences of real saving faith, one eternal and one temporal?

  57. Dean B said,

    March 8, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Jared

    “What if your son’s “teddy bear” was the same size as a real bear, had real bear fur, smelled like a real bear and moved like a real bear yet the only thing powering it was batteries (which you can’t determine until the “bear” has been slain and autopsied)? It’s not a real bear, in the way you are defining it (it’s only a facsimile), but I bet it could still maul you to death.”

    Throughout church history these bears have done plenty of mauling. The Bible refers to them as wolves in sheep clothing. They only appear to be sheep but they are wolves.

    “Mark 4:17 refers to the seeds which fell on the rocky soil, so there are still the seeds which fell amongst the thorns that need addressing.”

    The thorny soil can choke plant life also. A seed may sprout up but choke out, but this does not mean it had a notal root system or a first true leaf.

    “Paul plants and Apollos waters but it’s God who causes growth. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit is an illusionist, only giving the appearance of life in those who ultimately fall away.”

    I agree the HS is not an illusionist, but not all the work of the HS is saving. Berkhof ST, “Scripture clearly shows that not all the operations of the Holy Spirit are part and parcel of the saving work of Jesus Christ. Just as the Son of God is not only mediator of regeneration, but also the mediator of creation, so the Holy Spirit, as represented in Scripture, is operative, not only in the work of redemption, but also in the work of creation.”

    “It seems to me that the only kind of life that the gospel produces is spiritual life, so even if it sprouts and doesn’t take root (or doesn’t bear fruit) there is still life. It’s temporary, but spiritual nonetheless.”

    Without true faith (as evidence by a notal root system and the first true leaf) the germination life may be real, but it never became a seedling. Germination life is similar to creation work of the HS, but the recreative work is similar to seedling life. Both lives (germination and seedling) are real but germination life may exists in a dead heart, but once it progresses past germination and into seedling life this is proof their is a living heart.

  58. jared said,

    March 8, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Reed (Re. #56),

    Yes, I think you’ve offered a fair summary. You continue,

    At seeing the baptism of another, does the reprobate then recieve blessings if he strives to “improve” his baptism? Does the Spirit then deliver confirmatory temporary grace to such a one? (I argue under the FV scheme, He must)

    I want to be careful here and answer with a qualified “yes” to both of these questions. The qualification is that ultimately these “blessings and grace” given to the reprobate will only serve to condemn him all the more. So from the “big picture” one can argue that the reprobate isn’t receiving blessings and grace because they don’t do for him what they do for the elect (i.e. they don’t remain blessings and grace). This is the issue/problem of appearance that Dean and I have been talking about. You ask, “Does the Spirit actually say out of one side of his mouth, ‘yes, you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified.’ (using 1Co 6:11)?” No. The Holy Spirit, like our FV pastor above, speaks indiscriminately to all covenant members. I think this answers your next question as well, is this not what we typically call the judgment of charity? While Scripture distinguishes theologically between elect and reprobate members, practically it does not; this is why discipline is so important. You ask, “Does the Spirit actually give temporary grace with one hand, while holding onto it with the other so that at some point He can enexpectedly yank it back?” Again, no. I think the Spirit gives and takes with both hands. I also think it’s obvious when He gives (e.g. conversion) and obvious when He takes (e.g. apostasy). You continue,

    Now, how would you feel sitting in such a congregation, and not yet having the gift of assurance from the Spirit? How would this ministry in any way remove your fears, innoculate you against more self-effort faithfulness, when everything you’re told is provisional?

    If the pastor was preaching “because you are united to Christ, draw upon Him for life” I think I’d feel pretty good about this ministry even if I didn’t have assurance. The pastor is going to point me to Jesus, not to myself or to my works. Understanding that true faith is persevering faith (i.e. “provisional”) would make me want to pursue and confirm my calling and election all the more. It certainly wouldn’t drive me to despair. If anything it drives one towards unity, a “let’s make sure all of us are in the same boat” kind of thing. If someone falls out of the boat we make our best effort to get them back on, but because God is in control He is the one who ultimately decides whether we are successful or not. I like this boat analogy because it makes the FV point so clear. The TR position seems to say that those who fall out of the boat and are never rescued, well, they were never really in the boat (they only “appeared” to be). You continue,

    “You may be elect, you may be reprobate, and for the time being you just don’t know. So rest in Christ” What!?!?!

    Now you’ve changed what the FV pastor says. We went from indiscriminate gospel preaching in the fair summary above to this maybe/maybe not glop. I can almost hear you thinking in your head “But that’s exactly what the FV logically entails!” while pulling on your beard and wondering why I (and they) can’t see that. Here’s the problem for you as a pastor: when a congregant comes up to you and says, “Hey, I’m not so sure I’m saved”, what do you tell them? You minister to them with the gospel, right? You tell them what Jesus has done in His life, death and resurrection and you show them the places where He has promised life, promised to finish what He began, etc., right? This does not change the fact that the congregant may or may not be saved and that you don’t/can’t know which is the case. You don’t slap them in the face with your lack of knowledge (the maybe/maybe not glop), rather you love them with the truth of the gospel. Is loving them with the truth of the gospel inconsistent with the fact that you don’t know their eternal status? Of course not. Why would you get on to the FV about something you, yourself, do?

    As to your last couple of comments, I have admitted elsewhere (in other threads) that I am uncomfortable with the language of a temporary ordo. I think there are better ways to frame what the FV is trying to emphasize (like the boat analogy). Setting up a covenantal ordo and a decretal ordo is a cumbersome way of doing things given the established systematic definitions we have for the ordo terms. I don’t believe all FV advocates are teaching that there are two different experiences of the one saving faith. I think they are teaching that there are two different covenantal experiences, one which involves saving faith and another which does not. In the former the individual can only temporarily lose the blessings and grace of the covenant (they ultimately will persevere) and in the latter the individual only temporarily has the blessings and grace of the covenant (they ultimately will fall away). But the pastor ministers to both individuals in the same way, he presumes they are both saved.

    I’m not a pastor, nor have I had any pastor training, so please forgive me if I am misrepresenting or misunderstanding what an actual pastor would do given a congregant who comes to them with this issue.

    Dean (Re. #57),

    You say,

    The thorny soil can choke plant life also. A seed may sprout up but choke out, but this does not mean it had a notal root system or a first true leaf.

    I think the context of the parable implies that the seed which grows amongst the thorns lasts longer than the seed which falls amongst the rocks. It seems like that seed grows to be mature enough to produce fruit, but because of the thorns it is unfruitful. You continue,

    I agree the HS is not an illusionist, but not all the work of the HS is saving. Berkhof ST, “Scripture clearly shows that not all the operations of the Holy Spirit are part and parcel of the saving work of Jesus Christ. Just as the Son of God is not only mediator of regeneration, but also the mediator of creation, so the Holy Spirit, as represented in Scripture, is operative, not only in the work of redemption, but also in the work of creation.”

    I quite agree that not all of the Holy Spirit’s work is saving, but it is all life-producing (that was my point). The Holy Spirit doesn’t create or produce death. You continue,

    Without true faith (as evidence by a notal root system and the first true leaf) the germination life may be real, but it never became a seedling. Germination life is similar to creation work of the HS, but the recreative work is similar to seedling life. Both lives (germination and seedling) are real but germination life may exists in a dead heart, but once it progresses past germination and into seedling life this is proof their is a living heart.

    This is all well and good except for the part about life existing in a dead heart. If there’s life in the heart, then it isn’t dead. Again this is my point, if there’s life in the soil, regardless of how weak/strong it is, then the soil isn’t dead. It may not be real life (i.e. able to facilitate a notal root system) but it is life nevertheless.

  59. Reed Here said,

    March 9, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Jared:

    You say, “The Holy Spirit, like our FV pastor above, speaks indiscriminately to all covenant members. … While Scripture distinguishes theologically between elect and reprobate members, practically it does not; this is why discipline is so important. ”

    Can you demonstrate this from Scripture? Consider, all it takes is one example to prove you wrong.

    Is not the fact of discipline a presumption of Spiritual distinguishing? Does not 1Co 5 rest on a presumption of the Spirit’s practical distinguishing (i.e., the discipline will not objectively “work” on the mere basis of the objective actions of men, but will on the basis of Spirit).

    It seems to me that to maintain your position here you must force even the ministry of the Spirit to merely an external provisional evidence in a person’s life. This is what comes from the FV’s absolutizing of the covenantal perspective – it trumps, controls, and dominates anything else, quite is opposition to the Scripture’s more balanced nuance.

    With reference to my comment, ““You may be elect, you may be reprobate, and for the time being you just don’t know. So rest in Christ” What!?!?!”

    You respond, “Now you’ve changed what the FV pastor says. We went from indiscriminate gospel preaching in the fair summary above to this maybe/maybe not glop.”

    But is not what you call “glop” nothing more than a fair/accurate summary of the FV’s teaching on the two types of union? Does not the FV teach that there is decretal union and covenantal union, and these cannot be distinguished objectively until the eschaton?

    If so, how is my summary not fair? The FV preacher may say a thousand times over “look to Christ.” He has trained his congregation to understand that they may end up doing this one of two ways, decretally or covenantally, and that they cannot tell the difference until it is too late. This is nothing more that ordinary FVism.

    This is why the FV puts so much emphasis on Shepherd’s faithfulness (necessary good works unto, not from faith). It is the only things that offers real assurance.

    Jared, if you are so troubled with the FV’s covenantal ordo, why give a qualified “yes” to the idea that the Spirit gives provisional covenantal grace in baptism throughout the life of the not-yet apostacized reprobate? More important, can you demonstrate this scheme from the Scriptures?

    It is clear that in the past year you’ve read lots more FV materials. How much personal, unmediated by modern men, reading of Calvin, or Turretin, or Witsius, or Owen, have you completed?

    Finally friend, you rightly take umbrage with the bare, unqualified labeling of an FV proponent with the word “Arminian.” I know we’ve talked about this before, and I do not think you are using it other than in ignorance, but,

    Do you realize that the FV’s use of “TR” (truly reformed) is a pejorative FV proponents use for we who oppose their system, and that in their use it has the force of “schismatic troubler”? I take great offense at their use of it, knowing that they do so to belittle their opponent without any respect for their concerns.

    I take little offense at your use. I just assume you mean better but have naively picked up language without thinking all that much about it. Please, more consideration of brotherly respect would be appreciated.

    Even more, what else have you naively picked up from the FV?

  60. jared said,

    March 10, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Reed (Re. #59),

    Let’s tighten this up a bit:

    1. I was mistaken in saying that the Holy Spirit speaks indiscriminately, like the pastor. Reading back over it I’m not entirely sure what I was thinking (or that I was thinking). Yes, the Holy Spirit speaks according to one’s decretal status and limits Himself with regards to the reprobate (they receive only a taste of what the elect receives). Thanks for pointing this out to me. I still don’t think the FV absolutizes the covenantal perspective in the way you seem to believe they do. Covenant is a very prominent concept and central theme throughout Scripture and the FV says that our understanding of all things decretal is mitigated via the covenant. I do not believe this necessarily undermines the value and place of the decrees in the way you believe it does.

    2. Indiscriminate preaching does not result in “maybe/maybe not” glop. Your fair summary ceases being fair when it concludes that the FV can provide only this glop to their congregations. I suspect FV pastors minister in a very similar manner to how you minister, so if they are serving up glop then so are you. The FV does teach two different unions but they do not teach that those unions, without qualification, cannot be distinguished until the eschaton. Rather the FV seems to be saying that the Church cannot distinguish between the two corporately but that some individual members can come to assured conclusions about their own status. In other words, the Church knows that she is both covenantally and decretally elect but she cannot know which of her particular members are decretally elect until the eschaton. As I understand it, the FV teaches that individual members who are true believers can have objective knowledge of their elect status. The true believer’s knowledge is founded on the divine promises of salvation, the inward proof of grace which is brought about by having those promises, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit witnessing to their spirits that they are, indeed, children of God. This is why the FV emphasizes biblical faithfulness, because a faith that is alive will produce works. I haven’t read any of Shepherd but if he thought/taught that works are what maintain faith then he was mistaken. It is true, living, faith which maintains works and I think the FV teaches the latter, not the former.

    3. I’m uncomfortable with the language of the FV’s covenantal ordo, not with the theological content. It seems to me that the ordo has pretty narrow parameters for some key terms (like regeneration, justification, faith, etc.) so I don’t think it’s a good idea to try and inject/expand those terms with the FV’s covenantal concepts. It’s not that I think those concepts are necessarily bad, I just don’t think the ordo terms are a very good home for them. I do think Doug is/was on the right track here.

    Also, I think pretty much any passage that warns of apostasy demonstrates that the reprobate member has received/is receiving provisional covenantal grace. In fact I think it’s the same provisional covenantal (not decretal) grace that the elect member receives. The author of Hebrews notes that once this reprobate has fallen away, it’s impossible for him to be restored. Why? Because it would require Jesus to die again! I’d say makes the covenantal grace he’s received very real, very serious, and identical to the elect member’s. He loses his corporate identity which, the FV argues, includes covenantal regeneration, justification, salvation, etc. This is where it can get very tricky to understand what the FV is and is not teaching. This is also where most of the cries of “foul” and the comparisons to Arminianism come in to play. What I’ve taken from the FV is that the difference comes down to the decrees. The covenantal grace bestowed to the elect member works more deeply and affects permanent spiritual change. This change can be objectively known by the individual and this is (partly) why assurance is possible. Oh, and if Doug’s blog counts as “lots more FV materials” then you are right on that point. Otherwise, no, I haven’t.

    4. I was not aware that “TR” was a pejorative term and I have always (and only ever) used it to mean “Traditional Reformed”. Since you take offense at the term I will, from now on, refrain from using it without this clarification. I don’t know if it’s fair to say I naively or unthinkingly picked up the term, though, as I’ve not seen it used pejoratively. So maybe ignorantly picked up from FV is more accurate? Anyway, now I know (and knowing is half the battle). I have naively picked up paedocommunion from the FV too; guess that means I’m not just a sympathizer anymore, eh?

  61. GLW Johnson said,

    March 11, 2010 at 6:12 am

    Jared
    Exactly what constitutes ‘covenantal regeneration’? Is this an aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit in the new birth? How can you have any Biblical understanding of what being ‘in Christ’ means apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration? Do any of the Reformed Confession deal with ‘covenantal regeneration? The link to to Wilson is hardly helpful ( and most second year seminary students from Reformed seminaries would have a field day with his befuddledness). Wilson would have been better served to have taken time to look up the section on ‘Regeneration’ in any standard Reformed work in sytematic theology like Hodge,Shedd, Bavinck, Berkhof or Reymond before revealing his higglety-pigglety dilemma. This kind of
    hebetude creates artifical catagories that Calvin would have labelled sophism.

  62. rfwhite said,

    March 11, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Reed: You state, “these benefits, as formulated by the FV, are a variation of inward spiritually transformative ordo salutis benefits. They are not merely outward, external, only applicable to an unregenerate man.”

    Granted this is so according to FV formulations, do you have any thoughts on why these concerns for inward, aka subjective, benefits emerge when FV concerns have otherwise been for the “objectivity” of the covenant?

    Also, when WCF 27.1 states that sacraments “are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God … to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the church, and the rest of the world,” what is the nature of the act described as “putting a visible difference between” church members and the world? If this act is objective-outward-external, is there a subjective-inward-internal experience that accompanies that act for the church member? for the world?

  63. jared said,

    March 11, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    GLW Johnson,

    As I understand it, covenantal regeneration is that regeneration which is wrought in all members of the visible body. It is based on the individual’s initial acceptance of the gospel message and it is the work of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, commensurable with either temporary or persevering faith (this might be another way of saying it’s tied to the efficacy of their baptism). The elect member continues on in the covenant because he has ordo regeneration, i.e. the kind that always results in salvation. It seems to me that one could legitimately posit that ordo regeneration is fully affective covenantal regeneration. In other words, regeneration works differently within covenant members depending on whether they are elect or reprobate. In either case the Holy Spirit must be involved because it’s His work that brings about the initial acceptance of the gospel. In the reprobate’s case He will eventually be rejected and in the elect’s case He is embraced and will never be wholly forsaken. The Reformed confessions don’t appear to deal with reprobate covenant members at all. My intent with the Wilson link was to demonstrate that his concern parallels mine; namely, that the traditional model doesn’t answer some very important and practical questions. It isn’t that the traditional model is wrong, it just isn’t comprehensive. The questions at the end of his post are meant to show the inadequacy of a rigid grip on the model rather than on the concepts contained therein.

  64. GLW Johnson said,

    March 12, 2010 at 5:23 am

    Jared
    Have you read the Reformed works that I cited above on this subject? It doesn’t appear that Wilson has.

  65. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Jared, some response to no. 60 (this and following comments):

    You say: “I still don’t think the FV absolutizes the covenantal perspective in the way you seem to believe they do. Covenant is a very prominent concept and central theme throughout Scripture and the FV says that our understanding of all things decretal is mitigated via the covenant. I do not believe this necessarily undermines the value and place of the decrees in the way you believe it does.”

    I think that some more study and prayer should be done on this issue. You use the word “mitigate,” meaning: to lessen in force or intensity, as wrath, grief, harshness, or pain; moderate. I think the FV would choose a different word or phrases.

    The FV adds a hermeneutical function to the covenant structure of Scripture. Agreeing with the common reformed understanding, the FV rightly observes that the covenant is the context for the decretal. Yet because the FV uses a presupposition about the practical (objective) un-know-ability of the decretal, it overloads the context function of the covenant hermeneutic. In effect the covenant becomes dominant for the FV’s interpretation. It serves as a hermeneutic that forces the text to be read in a way that overloads the covenant, and ends up impinging on the decretal.

    I note your response to Gary Johnson concerning “covenantal regeneration.” You did a fine job of theologizing in that comment (not being facetious). In it you demonstrate the force of the FV covenant hermeneutic. You follow a necessarily logical path and affirm notions for which you cannot find Scriptural support – unless you read the text with the FV’s covenant-dominated spectacles.

    I know you do not agree with this. May I suggest you take up Gary’s suggestion, and read such questions in more generally recognized sound masters of Scripture. Even merely a review of Berkhof will be helpful.

  66. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Jared, second response to no. 60:

    With regard to my charge of “indiscriminate glop,” concerning the FV”s preaching of two unions, I think you’re proving my point when you say, “This is why the FV emphasizes biblical faithfulness, because a faith that is alive will produce works.”

    I think you are wrong here, “ I haven’t read any of Shepherd but if he thought/taught that works are what maintain faith then he was mistaken. It is true, living, faith which maintains works and I think the FV teaches the latter, not the former.” The FV is much more beholden to Dr. Norman Shepherd than you may realize. As with all the other FV notions, proper common reformed caveats are added to it’s explanation of “faithfulness.” Yet this is nothing more than the exercise of equivocation. In the end the FV affirms a necessity of good works that impinge on the sovereignty of God in salvation.

  67. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Jared, third response to no. 60:

    You say: “Also, I think pretty much any passage that warns of apostasy demonstrates that the reprobate member has received/is receiving provisional covenantal grace. In fact I think it’s the same provisional covenantal (not decretal) grace that the elect member receives.”

    The problem is with how the FV defines the nature of the provisional “covenantal” grace. One thing is for sure, this definition has more in common with the Arminian scheme than the common reformed scheme. Again, I’m not seeking to be provocative, but descriptive. A review of the denials of the Canons of Dordt will demonstrate what I’m saying.

  68. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Jared, fourth response to no. 60 (tired yet? :-)):

    You say: “I’m uncomfortable with the language of the FV’s covenantal ordo, not with the theological content. It seems to me that the ordo has pretty narrow parameters for some key terms (like regeneration, justification, faith, etc.) so I don’t think it’s a good idea to try and inject/expand those terms with the FV’s covenantal concepts.”

    You’ve effectively expressed the FV proposition that it is not contradicting the Bible, just speaking more fully as to its usage. I.e., the FV holds that the Bible teaches both a decretal and a covenantal ordo salutis. The problem is that the overloaded covenantal hermeneutic is effectively applied to decretal rooted passages and read to be teaching a covenantal ordo salutis. This is a practice of eisegesis.

  69. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Jared, fifth response to no. 60:

    You say: “4. I was not aware that “TR” was a pejorative term and I have always (and only ever) used it to mean “Traditional Reformed”.”

    I suggest, out of respect for the FV brethren, you might want to avoid using the phrase or its abbreviation at all. This is because the FV will in no way settle for allowing their opponents to be labeled “traditional.” This would be to give into to one of the criticisms, to wit that the FV is a novelty and out of accord with the history of reformed theology.

    Let me be clear: I do think the FV is a novelty, not “traditional” (common, classic, orthodox) reformed theology. But out of respect for the discussion process, I agree to limit my usage of such phrases, and only do so when a particular point requires their use. Better to simply label things pro-FV, con-FV.

    I do want to strongly suggest Jared, that you follow a suggestion offered (in various forms) a number of times. As I’ve sought to grow in my understanding of these things, I have found that the best thing to do is NOT to balance the majority of my reading in anti-FV blogs, nor even in blogs in general. Instead I’ve found it most helpful to read in theology works, and ones not particularly involved in this issue.

    Berkhof is an exceptional place to start (at least his Manuel, or Systematic. You’re already past his Summary.) Reymond, Hodge, Owen, Witsius, Turretin, and Calvin would be valuable places to go next. I expect this means you will be reading somewhat deeply for a little while. It will be worth it.

  70. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Dr White, no. 62:

    You asked, “Do you have any thoughts on why these concerns for inward, aka subjective, benefits emerge when FV concerns have otherwise been for the “objectivity” of the covenant?”

    An interesting question. On the one hand, as the FV affirms a decretal inward/subjective experience, one might expect that this would not be an issue for the FV.

    Yet considering that this inward/subjective covenant ordo salutis is used to explain the experience of the reprobate church member, I suspect the reason lies in some presuppositions here. It’s as if the overloaded covenant hermeneutic forces the FV to a logical consistency that over-reads such texts of Heb. 6.

    I note that other reformed theologians are comfortable calling the reprobate experience “real” and via the Spirit’s work. The critical distinction they make is that this is real in a physical/fallen human sense. I.e., the Spirit works in the reprobate similarly to how He worked in Pharoah. The Spirit sovereignly directed the free choices of Pharoah, yet left him spiritually unchanged. He remained dead in sins, unregenerate. King Saul would be another example.

    I’m struggling here. What do you think?

  71. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Dr White, no. 62:

    You asked, “What is the nature of the act described as “putting a visible difference between” church members and the world? If this act is objective-outward-external, is there a subjective-inward-internal experience that accompanies that act for the church member? for the world?”

    My understanding is that this is exclusively objective-outward-external. This is why the Confession uses the word “visible.” The sacraments visibly, to the eye, mark for all who observe a difference between those who are members of the church and those who are not. These are outward only distinctions that infers an inward also distinction, i.e., the sacraments are signs.

    The sacraments, however, are not the thing signified. The inward experience is only received by those who respond in faith to the signs, a faith that looks not expressly/exclusively to the signs, but via the signs expressly to the thing signified, to wit, the Spirit who ministers Christ to us.

    (Man, answering your questions sometimes feels like I’m being “catechized” :-))

  72. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 12, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Reed (#71): As a followup: Given that you view the mark as exclusively objective-outward-external, how do reconcile that with the nature of the sacramental union, which unites the outward sign to the inward grace?

    (not disputing you … just moving the ball downfield a bit)

  73. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Uhh, Jeff, you may be reading more into my answer to Dr. White than I intend. I was primarily addressing the issue of the visible difference.

    That notwithstanding, I think my latter comment answers you. The sign is sacramentally united to the thing signified when and where the Spirit responds to the faith of the recipient of the sacrament.

    Where there is no (Spirit-wrought saving) faith, there is no sacramental union. In this regard, any FV notion of “covenantal” sacramental union is nothing more than an imposition of the FV’s overloaded covenantal hermeneutic on the text. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is there any text that necessarily must be understood to teach a “covenantal” sacramental union?

  74. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Is there any text that necessarily must be understood to teach a “covenantal” sacramental union?

    I would say not.

    What remains, then, is some account of how a sacrament whose effect is contingent on an invisible internal grace, is also a sacrament whose effect is to visibly mark the difference between the church and the world.

  75. Paige Britton said,

    March 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Following up on Jeff & Reed’s exchange:

    WCF 27:1 lists (as I read it) three tasks for which the sacraments were instituted by God:

    1. to represent Christ, and his benefits; and to confirm our interest in him:
    2. to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the church & the rest of the world;
    3. solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word.

    It seems that all three are a package deal for the saints, whenever they awaken to faith; but for those who never respond to God but who are in the midst of the church, only the second, outward effect occurs.

    Thoughts?

  76. rfwhite said,

    March 12, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    70 Reed: With you I’m piecing the picture together. It’s looking to me that the concern to describe the subjective benefits of reprobate covenant members arises because there are competing paradigms of covenant in the FV proposal. The controlling covenant model is sometimes conceived as the Father’s eternal covenant with the Son, sometimes as the Lord’s historical covenant with His people. The paradigmatic competition ends up in the need to explain the salvation of apostates, which leads, in turn, to an ordo salutis or else a soteriology for apostates.

    71 Reed: “catechised”? Really?! Shoot; from my side, sometimes it’s hard even to know what I’m asking. Trying to “matriculate” the ball down the field with Jeff. Alternatives: punt, fumble, or turn the ball over on downs.

  77. rfwhite said,

    March 12, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    72-75: does the accomplishment of the 2nd function — to put a visible difference between church members and the world — require faith in those who are baptized? If so, how or why?

  78. Reed Here said,

    March 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Dr. White: it does not require faith. This visible distinction is purely external, and therefore is undifferentiated between elect and reprobate church members.

  79. jared said,

    March 12, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    GLW Johnson and Reed,

    I’m not opposed to getting into Berkhof or any of the others listed. I suspect, however, that the FV’s point will remain unanswered. As Wilson says in the link I posted, the project isn’t to change the tradition but to press it further into more biblically accurate models. In other words, I don’t believe I will disagree (much) with what Berkhof and Co. have to say, but neither will they address the FV concern(s). My suspicion arises from already seeing that the Reformed confessions do not address reprobate covenant members in anything even remotely resembling detail. Since I’m living with my father-in-law I happen to have access to Berkhof’s and Reymond’s systematics (and I own a copy of Grudem’s, but he’s probably not as popular around these parts). I’ll give them a good mulling and well see about the results.

  80. Anne Ivy said,

    March 12, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Re: “…the Reformed confessions do not address reprobate covenant members in anything even remotely resembling detail.”

    Why is this assumed to be an oversight or other weakness in the confessions? Most likely it wasn’t addressed much because there really isn’t much to say. “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” Some people in the outward covenant aren’t actually saved. This isn’t particularly complicated, though a bunch of folk are trying to make it so.

  81. GLW Johnson said,

    March 13, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Anne
    Where have you been? Missed your always insightful comments.

  82. GLW Johnson said,

    March 13, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Jared
    One might gather from your comments that someone like Bavinck was totally unaware of the kind of monocovenantalism ( in Wilson case it is ,in the final analysis, the same thing), sacerdotalism, and reconfiguring of justification by faithfulness that defines the FV. You really haven’t read Bavinck at all, have you?

  83. greenbaggins said,

    March 13, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Anne!! We have certainly missed your gracious Southern accent, mixed with droll common sense, here on GB.

  84. Reed Here said,

    March 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Jared: in addition to Bavinck, you should look at Turretin. Both will say lots on the reprobate.

    I disagree with Wilson’s (the FV’s_ claim that they’re “ploughing new ground.” This is just another intellectual arrogance. The issue of the reprobate’s experience in the Church is neith neither new or one on which the Church has been silent. Say you disagree with the ploughing that went on before you. Please don’t ignore it.

    By the by, I thought that the preeminent audience for the gospel ministry was to be the elect? Why does the FV need to worry so much about the reprobate?

  85. jared said,

    March 13, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Ann Ivy,

    The issue isn’t “from Israel are Israel”. No one one either “side” is denying the reality that there are those who call themselves Christians who, in the end, will not be in heaven. That part isn’t complicated. Also, I don’t think it’s an oversight or weakness for confessions not to deal with these things in detail; that isn’t the goal of such documents. But if I have questions about what’s going on, theologically and spiritually, within the life of a reprobate Christian then pointing me to the confessions is quite unhelpful. Furthermore, pointing me to the decrees isn’t helpful because there we see the same thing as in the confessions, namely that an individual either is or isn’t saved in the end. Okay, so what about in the meantime? What about until his apostasy becomes explicit? What if Lane turns out to be an apostate? Did the hundreds (or thousands) of believers underneath him for all those years receive no benefit at all through his ministry because, in the end, he turned out to be a false brother? If we only talk about how the covenant relates to the elect then we aren’t getting the whole picture.

    GLW Johnson,

    No, I haven’t read Bavinck at all; I’ve already admitted on more than one occasion on this blog that I’m not “well read” in formal (or informal) systematics (or at all by the apparent standards of those who frequent here).

    Reed,

    The FV “worries” about the reprobate because (1) no one seems to know anything about their place within the covenant and (2) they want to ensure, and assure, their congregants that they aren’t to be counted amongst them.

  86. Reed Here said,

    March 14, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Jared: and the FV’s way of assuring their congregants that they are not among the reprobate is decidedly contra “lean on Christ.” I know they use those words – they do not mean the same think Christ or his apostles meant.

    The FV compiles a scheme where members look to externals for assurance. Instead the Bible teaches one to look throughexternals to Christ. The FV proposes a mediated gospel, but one in which the signs mediate Christ, not Christ mediates God. The means of grace are not mediating means, they are the Spirit’s tools.

    The FV concept of mediation, by way of example, mixes the sign of water baptism, with the thing the Spirit’s baptism. This is most obvious with covenant children. For the FV, the children are taught baptism has united them to Christ in some salvific way, but no one is really sure which way. So these children need to be about living out their undifferentiated faith, or else …

    It is not a system worthy of the label “gospel.” I do not say that with any meanness, but much, much sadness.

  87. GLW Johnson said,

    March 14, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Jared
    How then can you claim that the FV is trying to change the Reformed tradition but to “press futher into more Biblically accurate grounds” when you personally are completely in the dark about what the Reformed tradition teaches as represented by the likes of Bavinck? If it is any comfort to you NONE of the FV big guns (and I would single out Wilson as chief among them) seem to be the least bit aware of Bavinck either!

  88. March 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    jared,

    no one seems to know anything about their place within the covenant

    Are you joking? This has been settled for centuries in the Reformed tradition. Do you really think a bunch of good ol’ boys sipping mint julep and waxing eloquently on the glories of the Confederacy were the first to consider the question? The Reformed answer to the baptized reprobates in the visible church is summarized in WLC Q 62 & 63. They are in the Covenant of Grace externally considered. They receive no saving graces unless and until the Spirit regenerates them and they become members of the invisible church.

    they want to ensure, and assure, their congregants that they aren’t to be counted amongst them

    Then FVers should quit with the myth of an undifferentiated covenant nonsense and preach the unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ. The FVers offer only false assurance based on their objective covenant myth, for which there is no Biblical warrant. As far as the false promises and other errors of FV trying to make the baptized reprobates in the pews feel better, Mat 7:23 makes it clear that there is truly no balm in Gilead for them. Only when they see themselves as helpless sinners in desperate need of trusting in Jesus Christ and His righteousness alone, by grace alone and completely apart from their works, whether grace-enabled or not, they will be destined for the eternal fire. As WLC Q 80 says, assurance comes by the witness of the Holy Spirit working in them, not from the robes, collars, mint julep, or mythical covenant of the Federal Vision.

  89. jared said,

    March 15, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    So then, I guess it’s time for me to have a break. Thanks for the suggested reading.


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