A Retraction

It gives me no pleasure at all to write this post, first of all. To come to this conclusion means thinking worse of a person’s theology, which person has at the very least commanded my respect, and has been very courteous to me throughout our debates.

But I feel that I need to retract an earlier statement I made about Douglas Wilson’s theology. I have come to the conclusion that the law/gospel distinction is essential to preserving sola fide. Here’s how this worked in my own mind. If there is no distinction in the text of Scripture between law and gospel (that is, if the difference between law and gospel is only in the application, and not in the text), then all the discussion of faith in the New Testament is both law and gospel, which we’ll call Golawspel. This means that, even in the apostle Paul’s most rigorous separation of faith and works, which occurs in his discussions of justification, Paul is not really claiming that law observance is separate from faith within the structure of justification. For the definition of faith itself must fall prey to the Golawspel muddlement. If faith, therefore, is not opposed to works in justification, then justification is no longer sola fide.

Put more positively, the definition of sola fide has always been dependent on the prior distinction between law and gospel, such that when God calls people to faith, this has nothing to do with law observance of any kind. It is pure gospel. Paul does not speak of faith-faithfulness in justification, but of faith as utterly opposed to works in justification. Who are we to turn around and call faith Golawspel?

This means that every proponent of the Joint Federal Vision Statement denies sola fide. They will, of course, claim the opposite. And they will also claim that denying the distinction of law and gospel in the text of Scripture does not mean that they deny sola fide in justification. This will have to be a difference between them and me. For if there is no difference between law and gospel in the text of Scripture, then faith is no longer what the Reformers said it was: which is opposed to works in justification.

No doubt, references will be thrown at me like Paul’s “obedience of faith” in Romans 1:5. But Paul is not talking about justification there. When he talks about justification, he utterly opposes faith to all obedience. Faith, in the Christian life, always results in obedience. But faith itself is not a work of the law. Instead, it is a receiving and resting on Christ for His righteousness.

Another possible objection thrown my way is that people will say I believe in justification by a dead faith. I believe in nothing of the sort. But faith’s aliveness means its reality, not the obedience that results from faith.

I am not particularly interested in getting into a huge debate over this. And as I said, it brings me zero pleasure to write this. But I feel that I must. I hope and pray that it will result in reformulation among the FV proponents, especially of the law/gospel distinction, but also in their tendency to connect faith to faithfulness, even in justification.

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169 Comments

  1. Jared Nelson said,

    March 29, 2010 at 9:47 am

    I think the Law/Gospel distinction is necessary for sola fide if one is consistent. Having spent much time in Dispensational circles, in that time I never heard about a Law/Gospel distinction from them, and in fact heard a purposeful blurring among Progressive Dispensationalists. However, the vast majority of Dispensationalists affirm sola fide.

    I would note, however, that I am encountering a tsunami of NPP converts from Dispensationalism. I believe this may have much to do with a lack of a proper Law/Gospel distinction (as well as a poor understanding of the covenants across the eras). As they desire to become consistent, they either have to embrace a Law/Gospel distinction and become Reformed (as I did) or become NPP.

    All this to say, perhaps you should use the qualifier “consistent.” If one is consistent, you are correct. But thankfully, especially when looking at Dispensationalist theology, there are many happy inconsistencies in certain people’s theology.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Good point, Jared, and well taken.

  3. David Gray said,

    March 29, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Here I was thinking this posting would be about claims that PCA pastors are plotting to move the denomination under popery.

  4. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Are you denying, David, that Craig Higgins wants us closer to Rome, indeed, in some sense, under the Pope’s authority? I really don’t see how you can deny this.

  5. David Gray said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:03 am

    >Are you denying, David, that Craig Higgins wants us closer to Rome, indeed, in some sense, under the Pope’s authority?

    I’m stating that “Federal Visionist PCA Pastor Craig Higgins’ Vision for bringing the PCA under the Pope” is false witness.

    As Mason observes:

    “I can’t believe I’m going to agree with David Gray on something, but I do believe you are misreading Pastor Higgins with regard to episcopacy. I don’t impugn your motives the way David does, but I see nowhere that he advocates joining with the Roman Pope – he actually says it would be impossible to do so! I don’t see where you get that he advocates for joining Roman Catholics under the Bishop of Rome – it’s just not there.”

    Nor can I square it when Higgins writes:

    “Yet we in the Reformed churches will insist that episcopacy does not equal prelacy. Proposals such as “bishops in presbytery”—similar to the order of the Church of South India—should be both studied and, I believe, eventually embraced. As suggested above, the Presbyterian model of the senior pastor, presiding over the council of associate pastors and lay elders in the local congregation, provides a most helpful model for regional and larger bodies within a reunited Church.”

    Don’t rely on the apparently unreliable Otis. Read what Higgins actually wrote. Doesn’t mean he’s right but it does mean that suggesting Higgins wants to bring the PCA under the Pope, in any sense that we would understand it, is false witness. To argue he’s working to move the PCA under the Pope would require the word games which would be at least as bad as the worst word game played by an FV advocate (and there have been some as I’ve noted before).

  6. David Gray said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Let me state a bit more to ensure clarity. I’m not stating that Pastor White, when he posted his article, was consciously choosing to bear false witness. He may have been too lazy or sloppy to have actually read what Higgins wrote or perhaps he’s had dealings with Otis in the past which have led him to assume that Otis would be reliable and would not misrepresent others. It is harder to form a charitable conclusion once the broader context and remarks have been provided and there is no willingness to recant although it may be a form of inadequacy at work besides conscious misrepresentation.

  7. GLW Johnson said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:13 am

    DG
    Would it be fair to say that Higgins’ proposal is out of harmony with the distinctive form of Presbyterianism espoused by the Westminster Standards and since this is no minor issue shouldn’t Higgins seek another eccelesiastical tree to perch in -like the CREC which does have a de facto bishop.

  8. David Gray said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:16 am

    >Would it be fair to say that Higgins’ proposal is out of harmony with the distinctive form of Presbyterianism espoused by the Westminster Standards

    Yes.

    >and since this is no minor issue shouldn’t Higgins seek another eccelesiastical tree to perch in -like the CREC which does have a de facto bishop.

    As you well know the CREC is not episcopal in structure, indulging personal pique here detracts from your point. I think it would be fair to state that if Higgins believes episcopacy to required then he ought to either amend the PCA’s WCF, as has been done on lesser issues, or move to a church which would conform to that understanding. If he’s of the opinion that either is acceptable then isn’t he occupying territory in common with Calvin and would we want Calvin to move on as well?

  9. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:17 am

    David, how can this paragraph be anything other than deplorable, and precisely what Otis said it was?

    Higgins: One last comment: In Ut Unum Sint, Pope John Paul II has invited all the churches to discuss how the Petrine office should function in a reunited Church, and Reformed churchmen should welcome this conversation. Our idea of concentric circles of conciliar accountability would lead us to teach that, if the Church were visibly united around the world, there would need to be an ecumenical council, meeting as necessary to govern and guide the Church. The above argument for a (reformed) episcopacy would also lead us to teach that such a council would need a “presiding bishop,” serving as primus inter pares among his brothers, and historically such a position of honor has fallen to the bishop of Rome. How would we envision a Reformed(!) Petrine office? 23 First, as argued above, any such primacy would need to be exercised in a conciliar fashion; the universal episcopate must be seen first as a pastoral, rather than a juridical, office. The idea that the pope has an authority that exceeds even that of an ecumenical council must be rejected. Second, we must humbly but firmly insist that the dogma of papal infallibility is not only foreign to the holy Scriptures but also is not a catholic doctrine at all, but a sectarian one. The dogma of papal infallibility is a serious obstacle to true ecumenism, and another example of where the unity we seek awaits further reformation. End quote

    This is advocating an episcopacy where the Pope has prime position among bishops for the PCA. This brings the PCA under the authority of the Pope, even if he ostensibly doesn’t want it to look like the RC format.

  10. GLW Johnson said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:20 am

    DG
    Anyone who thinks that the CREC doesn’t have a single authorative voice to whom all others are answerable is living in lala land.

  11. Brian Kimmel said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:21 am

    From the Federal Vision Joint Statement:

    We deny that law and gospel should be considered as hermeneutics, or treated as such. We believe that any passage, whether indicative or imperative, can be heard by the faithful as good news, and that any passage, whether containing gospel promises or not, will be heard by the rebellious as intolerable demand. The fundamental division is not in the text, but rather in the human heart.

    Note the last sentence: The fundamental division is not in the text, but rather in the human heart. This is an explicit denial of a law/gospel hermeneutic and an affirmation of a law/gospel distinction in the human heart. This seems to me to be precisely what you require for consistency with sola fide.

  12. David Gray said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:21 am

    >This is advocating an episcopacy where the Pope has prime position among bishops for the PCA. This brings the PCA under the authority of the Pope, even if he ostensibly doesn’t want it to look like the RC format.

    Advocating an episcopacy in which the Bishop of Rome would hold a radically different position than today with a radically different understanding of his role cannot meaningfully be described as moving the PCA under the Pope as a normal person would understand it. This is so reminiscent of what some FV folk do with language. Did you read at least the rest what I posted under White’s post or did reading that paragraph suffice?

  13. A Retraction said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:22 am

    [...] Retraction I have retracted my statement that I believe Wilson to be upholding sola fide. Rev. Lane Keister Teaching Elder, [...]

  14. GLW Johnson said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

    If there is any doubt check with Andy Sandlin.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I’m sorry, David, but you’re just plain wrong. And I read the entire article by Higgins in its own context before I posted this.

  16. David Gray said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:27 am

    >I’m sorry, David, but you’re just plain wrong.

    How do you square “Federal Visionist PCA Pastor Craig Higgins’ Vision for bringing the PCA under the Pope” with:

    “The theme here is plausible ecumenism, and some of the topics above—such as the role of the bishop of Rome in a reunited Church—appear to be far from plausible.”

    >And I read the entire article by Higgins in its own context before I posted this.

    I am glad this is so, thanks.

  17. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:30 am

    He says it “appears” to be far from plausible. He then proceeds to argue for this supposedly implausible position, namely, that the Pope be a presiding bishop in the PCA with these words: “The above argument for a (reformed) episcopacy would also lead us to teach that such a council would need a “presiding bishop,” serving as primus inter pares among his brothers, and historically such a position of honor has fallen to the bishop of Rome.”

    How that would NOT be bringing the PCA under the authority of Rome to the normal pew-sitter, I have no idea.

  18. David Gray said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:35 am

    If you read the sentences around that sentence it seems perfectly clear to me. I’m sure you have the best of intentions, I’m glad that I’m no longer in the PCA. I’m sure many PCA pastors here are glad of the same.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:36 am

    He says “appears.” That means that he thinks it won’t work, but he is still advocating it. Why can’t you see this?

  20. Gage Browning said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I know getting back to the topic of the post, “Law and Gospel” isn’t as fun a discussion as say, a PCA Pastor may actually be an episcopal, or even a Roman Catholic, but I have to say that the Law and Gospel distinction which is often called a Lutheran distinction has been a great help to me. When I see certain commands or imperatives, and I realize my own failure, I am driven to despair. Like I know that I am not supposed to steal. “I don’t steal” I say to myself, but then Moses to the 4th power is let loose and I realize that I have stolen, continue to steal in various ways and I soon become grateful when I am told by the Text and the Preacher that Christ obeyed that command in all its fullness for me. FOR ME! Praise God that he did obey for me, because any level headed look at the Law, regardless of how many uses you find the Law to have, drives men to despair. The Gospel is free offer.

    Thanks for the reminder Lane!

  21. Towne said,

    March 29, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Mr. Gray:

    In your post (#6 above), you would accomplish more if you laid aside the barbs and little digs. You could have laid aside the charge and instead said, “…he may have simply failed to actually read what Higgins wrote…”. And again, in your final sentence, you could have laid aside the grasping rationalization as to why you have not seen your desired retraction. The statement would have been more powerful had it ended at the word “recant.”
    These little bits of enmity in reality do nothing more than to indicate that emotion has overpowered argument; that your opponent has, as I believe you say, “gotten your goat.”
    That said, I do not share your views in this matter, but I do hope for less vitriol in these discussions.

  22. J.Kru said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Hold on, what is actually being retracted here?

  23. terry west said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Lane,

    I read through the paragraph you cited. How do you get from that paragraph that Higgins wants the PCA UN the RC Pope? He specifically says a reformed Pope and explicitly says that such a presiding Bishop should not have the authority currently held by the RC Pope and that papal infallibility should be rejected. It sounds to me that what he is advocating is simply a world wide unified church established on reformed principles with a Episcopal government.

  24. Bobby Avant said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:19 am

    David I saw the headline as well & was hoping for a retraction at least on the. the headline “Federal Visionist PCA Pastor Craig Higgins’ Vision for bringing the PCA under the Pope”
    Its apparent from how you have shown how the quotes were mishandled that this was in no way what Higgins meant. Its simply false witness plain & simple.

  25. Bobby Avant said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Higgins is simply someone who has a concern for church unity but its apparent that what he is calling for a unity based on reformed pribciples.

    You also cannot fully understand his article without seeing that it is an article in a series. Its a discussion with other “orthodox” traditions. It in no way calls for the PCA to be joined under the existing Roman Catholic Church structure.

  26. pduggie said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:34 am

    How can you say “when God calls people to faith, this has nothing to do with law observance of any kind.”

    When the confession says that the duty of the first commandment includes having God as our only God and believing him.

    You can seriously argue that when God “calls” (commands?) people to have faith that this is unrelated to the first commandment duty, can you?

    It isn’t meritorious obedience to the command, but it doesn’t have “nothing” to do with it.

  27. Wes White said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:37 am

    In response to the criticism of my reporting on Craig Higgins’ words, I would just like to add that I did take note that Higgins said that the Pope could not be considered infallible and that he was not above the ecumenical council. However, what Gray and others are missing is that this has been a common view throughout the history of the Roman Catholic Church. I pointed this out in my article:

    “What surprised me is that Higgins actually has proposed that the PCA return to diocesan bishops and go back under the leadership of the Pope. I’m not kidding. Yes, he does not hold to papal infallibility, and he wants the Pope to exercise authority only with a council, but let us remember that Higgins’ view was one of the major viewpoints within the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages and was the view of many within the Roman Catholic Church long after the Reformation.”

  28. pduggie said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:40 am

    When the Lutherans signed the Cambridge Declaration, they added a provisio that the references to “soliciting faith” weren’t the gospel

    “In Lutheran circles we preach to everyone, the law will convict of sin and
    the gospel will bring grace,” said Veith. “We thought that statement that you
    have to solicit faith really weakens the good news of the gospel that Christ
    has done it all.”

    Do you agree with Veith? Why or why not?

  29. March 29, 2010 at 11:47 am

    [...] to the doctrine of justification (and it is) and if Wilson denies the same (and he does) then Wilson denies justification sola [...]

  30. David Gadbois said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:54 am

    This is not the appropriate thread for David Gray to continue his recent single-minded devotion to criticize Wes’ post. We don’t need off-topic clutter here.

  31. Dean B said,

    March 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Paster Keister

    Do you believe Wilson denies sola fedi with respect to the elect (using the WCF definition)?

    Dean

  32. J.Kru said,

    March 29, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Seriously, I just want to know what exactly is being retracted.

  33. pduggie said,

    March 29, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Lane, I think it would behoove you to explain how THIS

    “We affirm that those in rebellion against God are condemned both by His law, which they disobey, and His gospel, which they also disobey. When they have been brought to the point of repentance by the Holy Spirit, we affirm that the gracious nature of all God’s words becomes evident to them. At the same time, we affirm that it is appropriate to speak of law and gospel as having a redemptive and historical thrust, with the time of the law being the old covenant era and the time of the gospel being the time when we enter our maturity as God’s people. We further affirm that those who are first coming to faith in Christ frequently experience the law as an adversary and the gospel as deliverance from that adversary, meaning that traditional evangelistic applications of law and gospel are certainly scriptural and appropriate.

    We deny that law and gospel should be considered as hermeneutics, or treated as such. We believe that any passage, whether indicative or imperative, can be heard by the faithful as good news, and that any passage, whether containing gospel promises or not, will be heard by the rebellious as intolerable demand. The fundamental division is not in the text, but rather in the human heart.”

    specifically leads to the way you claim the FV should read Romans 4. This is not a generic “law=gospel, gospel= law” claim from the FV folks.

    Romans 4 is kinda a meta discussion anyway. Its neither a demand, nor a promise: its Paul telling us how demands and promises should or should not function.

  34. March 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    J. Kru…

    Lane held to understand that Doug Wilson held to Sola Fide. He is retracting this thought and pronouncement.

  35. Pete Myers said,

    March 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I think I’d want to echo Jared’s thoughts above, but perhaps in a slightly different way. Personal context: I too am classically Reformed (more so every day), and this is after having found elements of the FV attractive when I was moving away from a Modified Lutheran hermeneutic and into a Reformed one.

    Sola fide lies at the absolute heart of the gospel, which lies at the absolute heart of the universe. God’s absolute sovereignty is a principle from which every other truth is in relationship with.

    As such, any wrong view about anything in the world, any slight tinting of our worldview in the wrong direction, anything we believe that is not the truth revealed in scripture… or a truth discerned from general revelation that is kept in its proper contextual place within the framework scripture gives us… any incorrect thought, no matter how small, is somehow inconsistent with God’s absolute sovereignty, nature and character, and hence is inconsistent with sola fide.

    In other words, all of us believe something that denies sola fide, it’s just removed by X logical degrees from it.

    So, I’m not quite sure that proving this statement: “the law/gospel distinction is essential to preserving sola fide.” necessarily allows you to make this one: “This means that every proponent of the Joint Federal Vision Statement denies sola fide.”

    Doug Wilson seems to bend over backwards to try and demonstrate that what he believes is consistent with sola fide. He also jumps in for almost every other FV proponent, and tries really hard to demonstrate they are consistent with sola fide too! (I’d prefer them to speak for themselves, which would deal with a lot of the confusion I think) But… whether he’s successful or not, and whether his position is logically inconsistent with sola fide or not, it doesn’t appear to me that he’s denying it, he’s trying not to deny it.

  36. Ron Henzel said,

    March 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Pete,

    Regarding comment 35: it does not follow that simply because sola fide is “in relationship with” (whatever that means) God’s sovereignty along with all other truth, that any compromise of any truth is automatically a denial of sola fide. In my opinion, your logic seems invalid on both the formal and informal levels.

    I think what you’re essentially trying to say is that you don’t see how denying the law/gospel distinction results in a denial of sola fide. I think, however, that Lane did a fine job of explaining how this works in the actual statements of people who deny the distinction in the second paragraph of his post. Invariably the denial of the law/gospel distinction is accompanied by the reduction of faith to a kind of work. We’ve see this in Richard Baxter, in John Wesley, and now we see it the Federal Vision.

    As far as Doug Wilson is concerned, you will not find a carbon-based lifeform anywhere in our local family of galaxies who has irenically dialogued more extensively with Wilson, and understands Wilson’s position better, than Lane Keister.

  37. pduggie said,

    March 29, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Robert Shaw writes (and I, and Doug Wilson agree)

    Arminians maintain that faith itself, or the act of believing, is accepted as our justifying righteousness. In opposition to this our Confession teaches, that God does not justify us “by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, as our righteousness.” And in confirmation of this, we observe, that faith, as an act performed by us, is as much a work of obedience to the law as any other; and, therefore, to be justified by the act of faith, would be to be justified by a work. But this is contrary to the express declarations of Scripture, which exclude all sorts of works from the affair of justification.—Gal. ii. 16. Besides, faith is plainly distinguished from that righteousness by which we are justified. We read of “the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ;” and of “the righteousness which is of God by faith.” – Rom. iii. 22; Phil. iii. 9. No language could more clearly show that righteousness and faith are two different things. “Nothing,” says Mr Haldane, “can be a greater corruption of the truth than to represent faith itself as accepted instead of righteousness, or to be the righteousness that saves the sinner. Faith is not righteousness. Righteousness is the fulfilling of the law.”

    What I object to, Lane, is that you seem to want to deny what Shaw and I agree is true. But we also agree that it is not the act that justifies qua act.

    But it seems very silly to try to claim that when you have justifying faith, you aren’t obeying law.

  38. March 29, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Lane may have mentioned this already, but a crucial distinction to make is that, when we’re talking about justification in particular, the law and the gospel represent antithetical principles by which we inherit the heavenly promises.

    The reason it’s important that we make the connection between the law/gospel antithesis and justification specifically is that, when we’re looser with our language, we sometimes sound like there is no place for the law [of Christ] in our Christian lives (which, of course, is a wrong conclusion to draw).

  39. Pete Myers said,

    March 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    “it does not follow that simply because sola fide is “in relationship with” (whatever that means) God’s sovereignty along with all other truth, that any compromise of any truth is automatically a denial of sola fide.”

    Well, that’s -sort of- my point.

    “I think what you’re essentially trying to say is that you don’t see how denying the law/gospel distinction results in a denial of sola fide.”

    No, Ron, that’s not what I’m essentially trying to say.

    I apologise for being unclear.

    “As far as Doug Wilson is concerned, you will not find a carbon-based lifeform anywhere in our local family of galaxies who has irenically dialogued more extensively with Wilson, and understands Wilson’s position better, than Lane Keister.”

    Sure. I apologise if my comment implied anything otherwise. I was just reflecting on what he said, and left said, in this post. Certainly didn’t mean to impune the irenic spirit with which he’s engaged with Wilson.

    However, to return to the substantive point I was trying to make… any untruth is inconsistent with sola fide. And some truths are more blatantly inconsistent with it than others. Lane showed how a denial of the law/gospel distinction logically undercuts sola fide. But then moved on to saying that it is therefore a denial of sola fide itself.

    Your picking me up, Ron, on the usage of the term “denial” is quite helpful – is that is precisely what I was picking up with Lane. If the demonstration of the incompatibility of sola fide and a denial of the law/gospel distinction is granted, this still doesn’t justify saying that Wilson is “denying” sola fide… he’s just inconsistent.

    Lane set a helpful tone at the beginning of his post, that what he was saying was weighty and he doesn’t do it slowly or flippantly – I believe him. And so it’s in that context that I air this particular distinction.

  40. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    Paul, Shaw may not be as clear as we would like, but I think you are interpreting him exactly backwards. The bolded portion of the quotation is a further description of the Arminian position. This seems fairly evident from what follows, if you read it more carefully.

  41. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Pete, I will repeat what I said over on the Heidelblog. One of the reasons I wrote this was to point out the inconsistency of trying to uphold the l/g distinction and yet say one upholds sola fide. It can’t be done. Whether DW is doing this consciously or not, of course, is a different question. I’m saying that denying the l/g distinction involves a denial of sola fide, however much one may be saying that he is upholding it.

  42. greenbaggins said,

    March 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Jason is exactly right in 38, by the way, which is why I have carefully limited my scope to justification.

  43. Pete Myers said,

    March 29, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Thanks for your reply.

    “denying the l/g distinction involves a denial of sola fide,”

    I guess I think it matters what you mean by “denial”.

  44. Ron Henzel said,

    March 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Lane,

    As I read the Shaw quote you provided I can see that you are correct. Here is the source of the quote.

    I’m going to try to tread carefully here because I honestly do not wish to insult anyone, but this is a problem I come across again and again and again in my discussions with Federal Visionists. I could name names here, but I’ll resist. Is it just me, or has someone else occasionally wondered whether the root cause of the entire Federal Vision movement is actually something akin to dyslexia?

  45. Pete Myers said,

    March 29, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    “dyslexia” – yeah, probably unhelpful :)

    But you’re right in identifying the issue as hermeneutical

  46. Manlius said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Lane:
    Please forgive me for pestering you with these questions, but I’m genuinely interested. How exactly would you describe the faith that is opposed to works? Is it opposed to love as well? Is it opposed to repentance? Or does it include love and repentance, but not works? Does James believe that faith is opposed to works?

    Do you think it’s theoretically possible to construct a legitimate theological paradigm of salvation by grace alone through no merit of our own starting with James’ clear statement that we are “justified by works and not by faith alone” ? I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but I have to believe it’s possible if I’m serious about the Bible. Aren’t Doug Wilson and many of the FV guys just coming at these issues from a different angle but still arriving in the same general place? (Though by no means with as radical an approach as the one I just suggested.) Whether or not the NAPARC churches can accept that approach is another matter. I certainly have no dog in that fight.

    Oh, and one more thing: can you preach the Gospel without the Law? What would that look like? Aren’t Law and Gospel interdependent realities in divine revelation? I think that’s what the FVers are saying.

  47. pduggie said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    Well, ignore the Shaw thing then if you wish. I read it as Shaw admitting that yes, faith is an act, an act of obedience, but if we saw faith as the thing that God imputes as righteousness, then we’d be forced to conclude that faith is a work, and therefore we see Arminians (who udually don’t go around saying they are saved by Works) show themselves wrong. I find a different reading rather dubious, since I think shaw is including himself in the “we” who find that faith is an act of obedience. Just look at the other uses of the possessive plural by Shaw in the section.

    That aside, I’m still interested in your response to the 1st commandment and the “soliciting faith” thing.

    Even if I repudiated every FV thing you can think of, I’d have a hard time suppressing my intellect enough to claim that when Jesus says “believe in God, believe also in me” he isn’t commanding something.

  48. GLW Johnson said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    I personally think DW doesn’t know what he is doing. He displays a very superficial knowledge knowledge of the Reformed tradition and of historical theology in general. He means well but that could be said of a great many people down through the history of the church. I would like to hear DW acknowledge that he has relied too much on the likes of James Jordon for his views and go off to Westminster seminary in Calif. for a education-but I won’t hold my breath.

  49. March 29, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    [...] to the doctrine of justification (and it is) and if Wilson denies the same (and he does) then Wilson denies justification sola [...]

  50. pduggie said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Here is John Gill

    “Faith as such is a work of the law, as it is the gift of God, and a grace bestowed upon us; it is a part of the covenant of grace, as has been already observed, but as it is a duty required of us, and performed by us, it belongs to the laws and is done in obedience to it. It is called the commandment of God. This is his commandment, that ye believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23). It is called the work of God (John 6:28, 29), not only because it is wrought in us by God, but also because it is required of us by him; every command and all duty belongs to the law, as every promise and all grace does to the gospel. Now if faith, as an act of ours, is our justifying righteousness, then we are justified by a work of the law, whereas the scripture says (Rom. 3:20): By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.”

    And here is Fisher’s Catechism on the first command’s relation to faith and the promises of God

    “Q. 6. What is the connexion between the preface and the First Commandment?

    A. The preface reveals and exhibits the object of faith, and the First Commandment enjoins the duty of believing on that object: the one makes a grant of grace, and the other warrants us to lay hold on it.”

    “Q. 8. Can the obligation of the law be in the least weakened by the grace of the gospel, published in the preface?

    A. So far from it, that it is impossible for any man to share of the grace of the gospel, published in the preface, but in a way of believing, enjoined in the first command of the law, Rom. 3:31 — “Do we make void the law through faith? God forbid.”

  51. Mason said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Pastor Johnson @ #48 –

    I think you nailed it – in reading Wilson he seems not to have a comprehensive understanding of these issues, and I believe that’s the cause of much of his misunderstanding. I don’t think he intends to deny sola fide, but he doesn’t grasp that he does deny it implicitly with his Law/Gospel beliefs.

  52. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Green Baggins: “This means that every proponent of the Joint Federal Vision Statement denies sola fide.”

    Hmmmm…. The RCC denies sola fide. Does this mean that FV proponents are preaching a False Gospel, just as the RCC is said to be doing?

  53. GLW Johnson said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    pduggie
    Goodness gracious! What does that red herring accomplish? Does Gill deny the Law/Gospel distinction? Does Gill have a sacramental election? Does he advocate any of the other FV distinctives?!

  54. Mason said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    TUAD @ #51 –

    Actually, Roman Catholics do NOT deny sola fide explicitly. The Pope said so directly a couple of years ago. http://www.zenit.org/article-24302?l=english

    But if you read Benedict’s full sermon you realize he is not talking about the same faith we are. He claims that such faith is effectively the means to living a life of “charity,” and ultimately it is that charity that saves us:

    “Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled. Thus the whole law is observed in communion with Christ, in faith that creates charity.”

    Doug Wilson does not deny sola fide in an explicit sense, but like the Pope the implications of his theology lead to something else.

  55. pduggie said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Does Lane deny that a response of faith is obedient to law?

    goodness gracious? I don’t know. I hope he answers in the negative.

    Like Charles Hodge

  56. GLW Johnson said,

    March 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    pduggie
    You better be careful, these cherry picking expeditions of yours are going to catch up to you. So, are we to conclude that Gill and Hodge are allies with NT Wright , Norman Shepherd and the FV ?

  57. J.Kru said,

    March 29, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Re: #54
    So you’re saying that the law demands that he have faith in the Gospel of Christ?

  58. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    March 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Handling denials are really tricky, tricky business.

    Some denials, you just kinda give ‘em the benefit of the doubt.

    Other denials, you just have to blast through ‘em, and say in so many words, euphemistically or not, “You’re a liar and your denials are making things worse!”

    There’s an aspect and an art to the wisdom needed in handling denials. And sometimes I possess wisdom and sometimes I don’t.

  59. March 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    @GLW Johnson:

    I doubt pduggie means to imply Gill’s alliance with the FV, especially since he includes this part of Gill’s quote: “Now if faith, as an act of ours, is our justifying righteousness, then we are justified by a work of the law, whereas the scripture says (Rom. 3:20): By the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.”

    If I’m not mistaken, the FV would disagree with this part of Gill’s analysis, since according to Peter Leithart,

    “we do have the same obligation that Adam (and Abraham, and Moses, and David, and Jesus) had, namely, the obedience of faith. And, yes, covenant faithfulness is the way to salvation, for the ‘doers of the law will be justified’ at the final judgment. But this is all done in union with Christ, so that ‘our’ covenant faithfulness is dependent on the work of the Spirit of Christ in us, and our covenant faithfulness is about faith, trusting the Spirit to will and to do according to His good pleasure.”

    So, for FV proponents, faith = covenant faithfulness = that by which we are justified. Sean Gerety has pointed out Leithart’s error on this point, giving the reminder that it is Christ’s righteousness (His covenant faithfulness, in FV-speak) *imputed* to us, that we receive through faith, which justifies us. But of course, Leithart thinks that imputation is somehow a redundant, useless doctrine anyway.

  60. Ron Henzel said,

    March 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Paul,

    In comment 47 you wrote:

    Even if I repudiated every FV thing you can think of, I’d have a hard time suppressing my intellect enough to claim that when Jesus says “believe in God, believe also in me” he isn’t commanding something.

    But of course the real issue is: are we saved because of (or on the basis of) doing what Jesus commanded?

    No. As Charles Hodge wrote at the bottom of the very page to which you linked: “We are said to be justified by or through faith, but never on account of faith” (emphasis his).

    Rather we are saved because of what God has done for us, from beginning to end. Faith is merely the God-appointed means through which we receive His finished work of salvation in Christ.

  61. GLW Johnson said,

    March 29, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    My point exactly. pduggie resorted to dragging a red herring into the discussion.

  62. Manlius said,

    March 29, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Ron, what in your comment (#60) would Doug Wilson disagree with?

    The basis of our salvation, including justification and all the other components, is the grace of God in our Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus Christ. We are justified by grace alone through faith alone, and that faith is always expressed through a hoping trust in God’s promises and a loving obedience to God’s will. That’s the Reformed position in a nutshell, as I understand it. I don’t think Doug Wilson would disagree.

  63. Michael said,

    March 29, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Lane,
    Where does the Westminster Confession teach or imply a law-gospel distinction “in the text of scripture.” (I ask this because both Wilson and you subscribe to the WCF). I’m curious about what part of the WCF you think DW is denying, which would then make him unable to consistently affirm WCF chapter 11.

  64. Foolish Tar Heel said,

    March 29, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Lane (and others here in line with him on this),
    My own Biblical and theological views aside, I desire to apprehend better your understanding of the Law-Gospel distinction here. From my years of reading Systematic Theology and various figures in the Reformed tradition and my time at Westminster with Lane Tipton and others who follow Meredith Kline, it seems at least two understandings of the Law-Gospel distinction exist among generally-recognized Reformed folk.
    (1) The Law-Gospel distinction concerns the lack of human deeds (keeping the Law) with respect to Justification, but not the Gospel as a whole. We contribute nothing to our own Justification, which is, instead, by Grace alone through faith alone. However, the Law itself is not something opposed to the Gospel of grace in God’s economy of Salvation in the Covenant of Grace. In fact, God gave the Law in the context of the Covenant of Grace at Sinai. Israel keeping it was never a matter of works-principle earning of salvation but of obedience within the context of an already existent salvific relationship with God. This is the basic covenant dynamic of promise and obligation, understanding the place of the Law and obedience to it within the context of the Covenant of Grace. It can even be acceptable to talk about blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience within the context of the Covenant of Grace because we are not talking about it at the level of Justification-meriting works of obedience. In this way the Law does not stand fundamentally in opposition to the Gospel. God did not give it as some fundamentally different system of works-salvation in opposition to the salvation of the Covenant of Grace.
    (2) A more thoroughgoing understanding of the Law-Gospel distinction. This understanding tends to explicate the significance of the Law and Sinai in relation to the Covenant of Works, often speaking of it not only as a republication of the standards of the Covenant of Works, but itself as a re-establishment (typologically?) of the Covenant of Works. This approach tends to charge almost all Law obedience, especially anything connected with blessing, with works-principle (i.e., merit) significance. Thus, for example, the blessing for obedience theology of Deuteronomy is a type of (covenant of)works-merit-principle obedience. The Mosaic Covenant does not so much reside within an unfolding of the Covenant of Grace, but, again, constitutes a “typological” republication of the Covenant of Works and puts Israel under the works-principle.
    To be clear, the first option does not deny the Covenant of Works (though Murray does not like the term) and its defining place within Reformed understandings of Redemptive History, Christ’s work, and salvation. It simply does not situate the Mosaic Covenant in relation to the Covenant of Works in the same way as the second option. To mention relatively modern figures, as best I can tell, the first option represents the views of Vos, Machen, Murray, Gaffin, Ferguson, OP Robertson, etc. The second represents the views of Meredith Kline and those associated with him and anyone at Westminster California whose writings I have read. I ran this all by Professor Gaffin once at WTS and he concurred with my assessment of the matter.
    Lane (and whoever else), does my breakdown of options here make sense? How do your understandings of the Law-Gospel distinction relate to the options I set out? I put things this way, again, to help myself (and others) understand your views more accurately. Thanks.

  65. Foolish Tar Heel said,

    March 29, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Oops, when I copied and pasted that the spaces between paragraphs did not transfer too. Lane, any chance you could fix that for me? Thanks.

  66. pduggie said,

    March 29, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    Lane started the “herring” off by claiming “faith itself is not a work of the law.”

    I presented Shaw telling us the opposite, and Lane was so sure he needed to defend the idea that faith is not itself in any way an obedience, that he claimed I misread Shaw. Then I presented Gill and Fisher and Hodge also saying the thing, and suddenly I engaged in a red herring.

    Whether FV is true or not, it better not be shown to be false by claiming things that aren’t even confessional. And it disturbs me that in making an evaluation that Wilson isn’t orthodox on sola fide, Lane decides he has to claim something that isn’t true or confessional, that faith has NOTHING to do with law observance.

    I may be convinced that FV is wrong. But I won’t be convinced that Klinean antinomianism is right, or that the Mosaic covenant wasn’t an administration of the covenant of grace. The problem with the Jews is that they didn’t pursue the law as it was intended, by faith, but thought that it was to be pursued by works (Romans 9:31-32) as if it earned them anything, instead of being part of God’s gift

    What I can say about the Leithart quote is that I recognize that with respect to Adam (and Jesus) i agree its distinctive and controversial. But for us and Moses and David, “way of salvation” language is completely bog standard among those who aren’t antinomians. Those who are justified at the end will be found to be those who have fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law by the Spirit. It will not be “based on” that fulfillment.

    Patrick Ramsey quotes Colquhoun “It is the order immutably fixed in the everlasting covenant that a man be made holy in heart and in life before he is admitted to see and enjoy God in His holy place on high. The love and practice of good works, then, in one who has an opportunity of performing them, are necessary as appointed means of disposing or preparing him for the holy enjoyments and employments of the heavenly sanctuary.”

    I realize that Leithart is saying something else by claiming that Adam is in a similar state (though how similar is a matter of indecision in my mind [and perhaps his])

    But we’re talking about Lane and Wilson. Has Wilson said that Adam was in the same covenant of grace as Moses or David? Lets not get off topic.

  67. pduggie said,

    March 29, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    @60 Ron: I couldn’t agree more. Faith is a work of the law, but it isn’t a meritorious ground in any sense. I agree with Gill and Hodge.

    Now the issue for Klineans (as Tarheel has well summarized in @63) is that if you SAY THAT, you get forced into being unorthodox.

    because

    1. the condition of the covenant is different in a works covenant vs a grace covenant.

    2. if a condition is any kind of legal statement, then it is a works covenant.

    3. therefore, if you admit what is a fact of life, that God telling you to believe him is a command, you have turned the CoG into a CoW.

    Paul argues otherwise of course, which shows, to me, that the reasoning of the Klineans against admitting that God commands faith is suspect. The Lutherans worry about that too. You shouldn’t “solicit” faith, because you might confuse someone into thinking they need to obey something to be saved.

  68. March 29, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    [...] Lane has an interesting retraction to offer concerning the soteriology of leading FV advocate Dougla….  I think that more and more Reformed Christians are finally realizing that the FV is not some harmless and isolated group of guys with a few minor differences over our doctrines of baptism, justification, election, etc.  The FV is dangerous because it denies the material cause of the Protestant Reformation, justification sola gratia, sola fide.  Lets think through this logically folks.  If the FV denies the material cause of the Reformation, and therefore is outside the bounds of Protestant orthodoxy, where does that leave them? Blogroll [...]

  69. David deJong said,

    March 29, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    It seems to me that there’s a fallacy lurking here. On the one hand, Lane wishes to restrict his focus to justification – hence, no discussion of Rom 1:5. On the other hand, he wants to claim a law-gospel hermeneutic (i.e. an interpretive lens that applies to ALL of scripture) is necessary to maintain sola fide.

    If you make your focus of discussion Paul’s texts on justification (chiefly Gal 2-4, Rom 1-4), I’m not surprised that you will find a “law-gospel” hermeneutic, though more properly the contrast is between faith and works and not law and gospel.

    But it baffles me that Lane would say, “the law/gospel distinction is essential to preserving sola fide.” Is the logic here that 1) Paul applies a law-gospel distinction in his debates on justification, therefore 2) a law-gospel distinction must apply to every statement in Scripture? This seems to ignore a careful and contextual reading both of Paul’s argument and of the rest of Scripture. Why move from the particular to the universal in such a sloppy fashion?

    There are promises that are a part of the law (2nd, 5th commandments). The Beatitudes: law or gospel? They seem to be both. Scripture resists any simplistic schemes of categorization.

  70. Andy said,

    March 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    I don’t have the time to read through all comments on this post nor related posts but was curious to know how this law/gospel distinction works in a verse like 1 Jn. 3:23: “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another.” That seems to make a mess of distinctions but perhaps you can show me that it is cleaner than I think.

  71. March 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Heh. I hold that a man is justified by the sole instrument of God-given faith, as that faith is placed by the grace of God in the active and passive obedience of Jesus Christ alone, He who lived and died in our stead. I maintain that the only legitimate response that a creature may have toward His God, or any words that his God speaks, whether those words are promises, laws, threats, or comforting words, is a response of sheer, unadulterated faith — faith plus nothing else. I also hold that when the response to any of the words of God is something other than this kind of faith, then that response is legal, autonomous, prideful, and damnable.

    You have theologians who can extract from this a denial of sola fide, just as Swift had scholars who spent many years extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, and you think that I am thick, and need to spend some time in seminary?

  72. March 29, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    @Douglas Wilson: “…the only legitimate response that a creature may have toward His God, or any words that his God speaks, whether those words are promises, laws, threats, or comforting words, is a response of sheer, unadulterated faith — faith plus nothing else.”

    Does this mean that good works are not a legitimate response to God’s laws? Or have you redefined faith in such a way that obedient works = faith? You say “faith plus nothing else.” What other “else” could you have in mind?

  73. March 29, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    @pduggie: “Those who are justified at the end will be found to be those who have fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law by the Spirit.”

    How many slip-ups are we allowed before we don’t fit into the category of having “fulfilled the righteous requirement?” I believe the very definition of “fulfilled” implies that the requirement of the law must be *fully* kept, whether by our own power, or Spirit, or the flying spaghetti monster. There has been, and ever will be, only One Who ever fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law, and that One is Christ.

  74. March 29, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    SL, we are still talking about justification, right? And even after justification, faith is the sole legitimate response to God’s laws. And of course such faith necessarily results in obedient works — works that are not motivated and driven by faith are actually disobedient works.

  75. March 29, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Hi, I’ve switched settings to display my name rather than my blog’s name, SovereignLogos. Sorry for any confusion.

    @DW: “we are still talking about justification, right?”
    Yes.

    “And even after justification, faith is the sole legitimate response to God’s laws.”
    Faith cannot be a response to God’s laws. Only propositions can be believed. A proposition is the meaning of a declarative sentence. Laws are imperatives. The only response to an law is obedience (or disobedience).

    “And of course such faith necessarily results in obedient works…”
    “Such” faith (belief in imperatives) cannot exist.

    “…works that are not motivated and driven by faith are actually disobedient works.”
    Agreed. However, since you and I are in disagreement over what faith is, I will clarify my agreement: Since one gives the appropriate response to the propositions revealed in Scripture (belief), he then gives the appropriate response to the imperatives contained in Scripture (obedience).

  76. Daniel Hoffman said,

    March 29, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Goodness.
    We are justified on the ground of what Christ has done for us.
    What Christ has done for us becomes ours through living faith.

    No one is saying that dead faith is the instrument of justification, and no one is saying that the works of living faith are the ground upon which we are justified.

    I would really love to believe these never ending debates are about more than semantics – at least as far as these debates are represented in this post and discussion.

    Maybe I’m naive. I’m a second year seminary student.

    I mean, the ground of justification is what Christ has done – all agree. Is the question about whether the instrument that applies this work is only faith as such, or faith and the works faith produces?

  77. March 29, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    I attend Pastor Wilson’s church and was surprised by the impression that many people have of federal vision ministers.

    Maybe I am understanding things incorrectly, but much of this discussion gives me the impression that many believing pastors think that the Scriptures are divided… almost as though part of it were grace and part of it law… part of the Scriptures were good for saving people and part of the Scriptures bad and unwholesome to that end… Is Christ divided? If anything, Christ brought us a harder law, a law that applies to the heart… the law of Moses said that whoever committed adultery sinned, and Christ said that whoever looked at a woman lustfully was guilty of adultery? Scripture says that people who live in adultery have no place in the kingdom of heaven.

    How is it that I see godly learned ministers apologizing for God’s laws? Acting as though they are no avail to one’s salvation? That they have no integral place in the essential and faithful walk of a true believer? James says that faith without works is meaningless and self-deception and dead. It is the faith of demons. James uses very strong language answering this exact question. Are true faith and a righteous walk divided? Even a child is known by his actions, by whether what he does is pure and right…

    Christ says, “If you love me, obey me!” Christ’s greatest act of love and faith was simultaneously an act of obedience. He obeyed God’s will for Him. God’s will for us as believers is found in His laws, His commandments, His precepts, His Scriptures. I believe that we are saved by completely by faith alone and even that faith is a gift. My actions in faith do nothing to qualify me for salvation, but they are evidence of salvation. But I believe in a true faith, a transforming faith, a salvation faith is accompanied by action. It is a faith that clothes the naked and feeds the hungry and does not show partiality (James 1). God’s grace is powerful and transformative. If we have faith and aren’t acting… then God chastens us as it says in Hebrews. And if we aren’t walking faithfully and aren’t being chastened… then we are not sons.

    To the believer, God’s law is as James puts it, “a law of liberty”. God’s law is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. Our following that path and even seeing that path through His law is a work that is done in us by God through faith in Him, in such a way that we grow to greater faith in Him that we may bear more fruit. Our faith must be efficacious. Even the fruit of the Spirit is a command, it’s not simply a bunch of emotions or a good idea. And God gives us His Spirit and with His Spirit empowers us to live as becomes followers of Christ.

    Again, I believe in salvation by grace through faith alone, which is itself a gift, and I understand that faith alone saves… But the faith that I see in Scripture is never empty, is never flat, is never divorced from fruit. You know the root by the fruit. The faith I see Hebrews and kills giants and breaks down walls and bears children past the normal time and dances and sings and rejoices and trusts in God’s promises because it believes in the faithfulness of the One who is doing the promising. I believe in a living potent faith. A mountain moving, giant killing faith. A faith without any fruit is no true faith, and branches that do not bear fruit are fit to be burned. True faith is powerful stuff because true faith acts.

  78. Greg Gibson said,

    March 30, 2010 at 1:15 am

    Do John Frame and all other WTS professors believe in your definition of the law-gospel distinction? If so, do they implicitly deny justification by faith alone?

  79. Brian David said,

    March 30, 2010 at 3:07 am

    @pduggie -#26

    Within the proclamation of the gospel, there are commands/conditions by which one must be saved. But this does not rise to the level of law. The orientation between faith and works in relation to law does involve the action of an individual, certainly. But what removes “the law aspect” in the fulfillment of a person’s obligation to believe in the act of saving faith is precisely the object. The law makes demands upon a person, to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and his neighbor as him self. There is no appeal to faith, no appeal to whether a person is able to perform it or not, just the command given. The gospel proclaims that this law has been fulfilled by Christ, perfectly. To receive this completed work is an obligation, if one is to be justified before God. But the difference between the sort of obligation in these two scenarios is that the demands of the law are to be fulfilled by the person alone to whom the command is given. The latter is an obligation to look outside of one’s self, and unto Christ, because he has completed the work.

    Imagine that you have fallen into a deep manhole. As good providence would have it, there is a latter right next to you. But of course you should not read providence to easily, as there is a fire approaching from a nearby sewer branch. You have an obligation to get out, or you will die. You have an obligation to climb up the ladder and open the manhole lid. But unfortunately, upon falling, you broke both your legs, and your arms. You do not have the ability to fulfill what is obligated of you. You might try to climb a few of the bars, but you are in too much pain. You are far too weak in your condition, and you recognize by the sheer demand that the ladder requires to climb that you will not make it.

    But in your sorrow, you see someone strong, someone healthy. He freely offers his aid. He does not merely ask if he can help you on your way up on the latter (for your arms and legs are still useless). He picks you up and carries you on his back, all the way up the stairs. Now, you could be an idiot and demand that he simply do part of the work, and let you feel good about yourself by trying to climb with you broken arms and legs. But that will never work, and you know that. No, you have an obligation to look outside of yourself, what you might be able to accomplish or not, and wholly rely on this other person to bring you to safety, unless you be taken by the flames.

    This is merely an illustration, for justification by faith only of course. To miss the manner of difference between the obligation to climb up the manhole latter by your self, or by wholly relying upon another is to simply equivocate the term “obligation.”

    The good news of the gospel is that you do not have an obligation to complete the law in order to be saved. (As long as people deny the covenant of works, this will never make sense.)

    Luke 10:25-28
    And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

    If you will notice, the question concerns how does one inherit eternal life. Jesus responds by acknowledging that it is through keeping the law – “do this and you will live.” He is not talking about faith as a condition for law keeping, He is talking about the condition for eternal life. Our Lord makes does not tell the man He needs to have faith as the motivation for inheriting eternal life (for this is all too given), He does not tell the man that he will be given grace to complete this, nor does He tell the man that he will not be able to complete this. Our Lord merely confirms the man’s thoughts: as a strict rule, inheritance by eternal life is through law keeping.

    The demands of the gospel are not demands OF the gospel, the demands given with the gospel are the consequences if one rejects it. The demands of the law are its own demands: do this and you will live.

    (Forgive me if you have a response and it takes me a fair while to respond…)

  80. Brian David said,

    March 30, 2010 at 3:22 am

    A qualification – by covenant of works, I mean that substantially, not specifically nominally. Murry did not appreciate the terminology of “the covenant of works”, as do many currently. But Murry’s et al, is not a denial of the principle substantially, so I don’t mean to step on many toes by the statement “this will never make sense.” It is perhaps an overstatement, and I apologize. In substance for the covenant of works, there is an obligation to complete the law, and upon fulfillment eternal life is reward (in Adam’s case, his Sabbath work week, in order to enter into God’s rest: mirroring the work of His creator for a work week, then his work as God’s representative being confirmed as “very good”, and then entering into rest. Whether you think “six days” are literal or not, that is your business). The clause above that would not make sense without a covenant of works of sorts (substantially) is “to complete the law in order to be saved.”

  81. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 5:42 am

    Doug,

    The Joint FV Profession/Statement includes the following:

    We believe that any passage, whether indicative or imperative, can be heard by the faithful as good news, and that any passage, whether containing gospel promises or not, will be heard by the rebellious as intolerable demand. The fundamental division is not in the text, but rather in the human heart.

    If this is the case, could you please explain how the following passage can be “heard as good news?”:

    For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

    [Galatians 3:10-11, ESV, quoting Deuteronomy 27:26]

    Could you further explain how the fundamental division between law and gospel is not in the text itself?

    Could you also explain how the following text can be “heard as law?”:

    “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

    [Titus 3:5, ESV]

    And I would also like to know how the fundamental distinction between law and gospel is merely a function of how the text is read in this verse, and not a matter of what Paul was actually saying.

  82. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Foolish,

    Regarding comment 63: I am quite surprised that you ran it by Dr. Gaffin and he did not point out the following words from Vos:

    There is still another area in which the Reformed view of the law is influenced by the idea of the covenant. Even after the fall, the law retains something of its covenantal form. The law was not included in the federal relationship without having been affected by it. Even today the call of the law sounds in our ears: such a life I would give you, if you could fulfil me! God could have wholly eradicated that relation and have taken away the last traces of it from our minds, after the covenant of works was broken. However, He kept its memory alive in us. He has repeated that promise hypothetically and consequently has held up before us constantly the ideal of eternal life to be obtained by keeping the law, a lost ideal though it may be. Thus the essential content of the concept of covenant has been kept in our consciousness. When the work of the Spirit by means of the law and the gospel leads to true conversion, in this conversion the longing for this lost ideal of the covenant appears as an essential part. From the above we can also explain why the older theologians did not always clearly distinguish between the covenant of works and the Sinaitic covenant. At Sinai it was not the “bare” law that was given, but a reflection of the covenant of works revived, as it were, in the interests of the covenant of grace continued at Sinai.

    [Geerhardus Vos, “The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology,” in Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., ed., Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, (Phillipsburg, NJ, USA: P&R Publishing, 1980; 2001), 255; bold and italics added by me.]

    Based on this, it seems that Vos belongs in what you call the “second option” rather than the “first.”

  83. GLW Johnson said,

    March 30, 2010 at 6:26 am

    It is somewhat difficult to take DW’s affirmations about the importance of the imputation of the active and passive obedienceof Christ for understanding ‘sola fide’(as well as his committment to ‘the covenant of works’ )when he publically defends his aliance with his fellow combatants in the FV who not only catagorically reject these theological essentials but heap distain on them as things to be despised.

  84. curate said,

    March 30, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Lane started the “herring” off by claiming “faith itself is not a work of the law.”

    This is in fact true. The texts that say that we are justified by faith apart from the works of the law makes this plain. Faith is here contrasted with the works of the law. To conflate them is to make nonsense of the text.

    If scripture says it is not a work of the law, we had better take notice.

    The term “works of the law” has a specific meaning. It does not mean all possible actions. Sacraments and prayer are also excluded form the works of the law.

  85. johnbugay said,

    March 30, 2010 at 7:50 am

    On the topic of the NPP, anyone who is interested should know that RTS makes available for free a fabulous three-part lecture series by D. A. Carson addressing the NPP at its root levels. That is, Carson engages Sanders, Wright, and Dunn on their own terms; he explains their positions, and to a large degree helped me to understand and disentangle them.

    The lectures are available at iTunes.rts.edu.

    Also, the two volume series, “Justification and Variegated Nomism” by Carson, O’Brien and Siefrid is just fabulous. The first volume is dedicated to “out-Sandersing” Sanders. That is, Sanders came up with his theories on “second-temple Judaism” by reading and analyzing just a few works from that period. Carson, O’Brien, Siefrid et. all read a much more complete set of “second temple literature” and really put Sanders into perspective. Yes, Sanders makes some good points, but no, that world wasn’t dominated by “covenantal nomism” as Sanders implied. Rather, it was one small element in the backdrop against which Paul wrote. The second volume of that work talks more about Paul. (I haven’t gotten into that one yet, but I’m really looking forward to it).

  86. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Paul,

    In comment 65, you wrote:

    Lane started the “herring” off by claiming “faith itself is not a work of the law.”

    And then you go on to repeat your defense of your interpretation of Shaw, et. al., which I do not think is defensible since everything Shaw wrote after the part you highlighted (beginning with “But this is contrary to the express declarations of Scripture…”) directly contradicts the part you highlighted.

    But let’s put that to the side for the moment. Instead, I would like to focus on what you wrote in the first sentence of comment 65: you are disputing Lane’s claim that “faith itself is not a work of the law.” But this would seem to cause a huge problem, since if faith is a work of the law, and we are justified by faith, then we are justified by a work of the law. You seem to think this problem is resolved by your statement in comment 66: “Faith is a work of the law, but it isn’t a meritorious ground in any sense.”

    But this does not really solve the problem, but merely creates another one, because even though faith is not a meritorius ground of salvation in Reformed theology, it is still an instrumental means of salvation, and by classifying it as “a work of the law” in the context of salvation, you are still saying that we are saved through the instrumental means of a work of the law. This would seem to directly contradict Paul’s words here, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom. 3:28, ESV) and elsewhere. In Scripture, not even one single work of the law that we perform can be considered an instrumental means of our salvation. It seems to me that you’ve created a real problem here.

    Regarding the rest of your reasoning in comment 66, you make the following statement:

    2. if a condition is any kind of legal statement, then it is a works covenant.

    I think the problem you’re creating in this case is actually caused by the failure to distinguish between a pre-condition and a post-condition. In one sense we may speak of the faith that is given to us by the Spirit (and is therefore not a work of the law, but the equivalent of empty hands receiving Christ’s work for us) as a kind of pre-condition for our justification. In the same sense, the performing of good works is a post-condition—i.e., a condition that must be present to verify that spiritual life already exists.

    To follow up on what I said about justifying faith in the previous paragraph: we also need to distinguish between the the faith we are commanded to exercise under the law, through our own power, under the covenant of works (and for the authentic Reformed position on the covenant of works, see my comment 74), and the faith that is given to us as a gift, supernaturally, by the Holy Spirit. The latter, for reasons that should be axiomatic, can never earn merit for us, but come to us through the mertis of Christ.

    You also wrote:

    Paul argues otherwise of course, which shows, to me, that the reasoning of the Klineans against admitting that God commands faith is suspect. The Lutherans worry about that too. You shouldn’t “solicit” faith, because you might confuse someone into thinking they need to obey something to be saved.

    I believe you are totally misrepresenting Kline on this point. I know that you are totally representing Lutherans. You will never find a Lutheran shying away from soliciting faith, and I think it’s preposterous to allege that you will find a Klinean doing that, either. Nor do I think the fact that they actively solicit faith poses any problem for their theological positions. I have no idea where you’re getting this from.

    BTW: is it true that you’re part of the leadership at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, and that you will have some say in their pastoral search committee?

  87. GLW Johnson said,

    March 30, 2010 at 8:04 am

    pduggie
    Having been a student of the late Meredirth Kline while he was teaching at WTS, I would very much like to what, if anything, you have actually read by Kline?

  88. pduggie said,

    March 30, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Images of the Spirit, Kingdom Prologue, most of Structure of Biblical Authority, and his hatchet job on Murray in New Horizons.

  89. GLW Johnson said,

    March 30, 2010 at 8:21 am

    pduggie
    Read Muether’s bio of Van Til for CVT high opinion of Kline. I don’t recognize Kline in the things you accuse him of espousing.But then again your reading of Gill and Hodge doesn’t inspire much confidence either.Take time to respond to Ron Henzel.

  90. Kurt said,

    March 30, 2010 at 8:35 am

    #78

    Hello Mr. Henzel,

    Perhaps you could help me make sense of the following with regard to your belief that faith is not a work of the law.

    Since Westminster Larger Catechism #99 says:

    That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.

    and since answer #104 says:

    The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in anything he is offended; and walking humbly with him.

    How do we avoid that FAITH in particular being a species of trust and belief
    does not necessarily mean that included in the first commandment is imperative of trusting Christ for all of our righteousness. I am not trying to be combative (or so I think). I just have never been able to unravel this conundrum.

    Thanks.

  91. pduggie said,

    March 30, 2010 at 8:42 am

    @73

    Response of faith to the first statement “I am so thankful that my lord has not required me to rely on works of the law for my justification. Good news!”

    Response of unfaith to the second statement “How dare God think he’s all that offering his so called “grace” for my sins. He’s such a goody goody, and arrogant to offer to forgive my sins without taking me into account”

    @78

    If all Lane is saying is that the proper sense of “works of the law” is excluded from the definition of faith, I would agree. Part of that is that when we construe an act of obedience to law as a Work_of_The_law_Romans_4_sense we include in the definition that it is a meritorious ground. Work in Paul’s theology is something that is done to earn a payment. (and in physics, work is the amount of energy transferred by a force acting through a distance) So with that stipulated definition, I agree, works of the law are not in any way involved in faith. If that’s all he means, fine.

    So I spoke too hastily and improperly in saying “faith is a work of the law”. I mean work in an improper sense of obedience or act, (like Hodge does in teh quote above)

    But Lane seems to deny even that. “this has nothing to do with law observance of any kind” and that’s just meaningless, when faith is commanded by God in the First Commandment, as Fisher and Gill and others acknowledge (and that they do really should make you reevaluate your misreading of Shaw). Denying that is denying the meaning of words.

    Now Lutherans don’t like that. Lutherans freak out when you say “God commands you to believe in Jesus for justification”. The reformed don’t think that is a valid objection. James Boice kept that it is important to solicit faith in the Cambridge Declaration. The Lutherans also think it is wrong wrong wrong to say that good works are necessary for salvation in any sense, even as the “path of salvation”. I see Lane moving in this Lutheran direction in order to condemn Wilson. But that is not Reformed. I’ve been condemned by Lutherans for noting that our wills are powerfully determined by the Spirit to do that which is good, and then we believe in Jesus for salvation. That puts Law before faith to their way of thinking. Nonsense!

    “the faith we are commanded to exercise under the law, through our own power”

    Um, what? I don’t have that faith. Do you? Do we ever? Fisher says that the Preamble to the Decalogue gives us an object of grace, and then the command warrants us to lay hold on it. The preface teaches us that because God is our redeemer, we are bound to keep his commandments. As a Covenant of Works? God forbid! He is in the preface construed as our redeemer, so how can our boundedness to the first commandment be for works?

    I think Vos is wrong. Paul says that the problem the Jews had is that they stumbled. They didn’t get the law right. They pursued it as if it were by works. But it was Properly and Intentionally not to be pursued by works. Vos makes that a feature, not a “bug”.

  92. pduggie said,

    March 30, 2010 at 8:53 am

    @78 Ron

    Cambridge Declaration says “We deny that the gospel is preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared and faith in Christ and his work is not solicited.”

    News report

    “The Lutheran support for the document didn’t come without some qualifications, however. The Lutherans added a two-point addendum to the Cambridge Declaration specifying that “the solicitation of faith is not part of the Gospel” and that “we joyfully bind ourselves to the three ecumenical creeds as a correct articulation of our Trinitarian faith.”…

    The exception on “solicitation of faith,” Veith said, was intended to avoid any appearance of soliciting a “decision for Christ.”

    “In Lutheran circles we preach to everyone, the law will convict of sin and
    the gospel will bring grace,” said Veith. “We thought that statement that you
    have to solicit faith really weakens the good news of the gospel that Christ
    has done it all.””

    I remmeber Boice coming back from the negotiations and expressing surprise and amazement at how the “Lutherans really view things very differently”

    Oh, and I serve in no position of official authority at Tenth. So no need to go running to somebody to get me in trouble :)

    Besides, all I’m doing here is agreeing with Patrick Ramsay and the authors of the Kerux article against Klinean antinomianism, which, for instance, the OPC dealt with when they tried Lee Irons (Personally, I’d be happy to have the level of diversity that would allow an Irons to stay, but if we’re going to be “confessional”…) This isn’t FV stuff in the least, to my thinking.

    So…?

  93. GLW Johnson said,

    March 30, 2010 at 9:01 am

    You think Vos is wrong and Kline is clueless. “My, my”, said Guliver to the Lilliputians.

  94. pduggie said,

    March 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

    I have a high opinion of Kline and Lee Irons etc too. Images of the Spirit is great. Kingdom Prologue has some awesome stuff. I just don’t think their work on the republication of the covenant of works is 100% confessional.

    Lee Irons had to argue for tensions in the confession and a “broader reformed” viewpoint when he was on trial.

    And Kline started retracting his earlier work that talked about grace in the garden covenant after Van Til’s death, no?

  95. stuart said,

    March 30, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I’ll admit I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, nor am I an expert (self-proclaimed or otherwise) on Reformed theology, but it seems there is a lot of confusion about what one means by the phrase “law/gospel distinction.”

    If one defines “law” as “the commands of God which condemn all sinners” and “gospel” as “a right standing with God based on the imputed righteousness of Christ that is received by sinners through the instrument of faith apart from any striving to obey the law”, then it would seem the “law/gospel distinction” is indeed necessary to the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

    Yet some of the issues being raised in this debate appear to be directed toward something other than merely the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

    Some questions the debate seems to raise:

    1) How does the so called “third use of the law” relate to the law/gospel distinction?

    2) Is the gospel limited to justification only? It appears that for some the gospel is the message of justification, period. For others, the gospel seems to be the message of justification and other benefits of Christ’s work (sanctification, glorification, etc.). How does the starting defintion of the gospel control the way we understand the use of the “law/gospel distinction”?

    3) How do we distinguish between a “law/gospel distinction” and a “command/promise distinction” regarding hermeneutics? Are they one and the same, or is there a difference? If we think they are one and the same, how do we understand those passages which link both command and promise such as Revelation 2:10 – “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (ESV). If there is a difference between the two, how do we distinguish them in a way that is clearly understood?

    4) Are there legitimate ways in which the “law/gospel distinction” helps us understand certain passages of Scripture? Are there legitimate concerns about how the “law/gospel distinction” may obscure the meaning of certain texts?

  96. Foolish Tar Heel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Ron (74),

    Actually, I don’t think that quote puts Vos in the second category. That quote itself, even out of context (i.e., not that I am accusing you of ripping it out of context, but that I don’t have my copies of Vos’ books handy right now so I cannot go re-read that passage in context…unless I want to dig through boxes in the basement), does not place Vos in the second category. He still places the Sinaitic Covenant and the Law in the context of the unfolding of the Covenant of Grace, though also seeing it as a reflection (on a different level) of the stipulations of the Covenant of Works. For Vos the Law does not represent some different works-principle economy of salvation for Israel, but, emphatically, it stands as part of the unfolding of the Covenant of Grace with a reflection or reminder of the Covenant of Works…which, in fact, ultimately serves the Law’s Covenant of Grace context for Vos since it drives people to God’s grace as they remember that lost ideal (i.e., see the middle portion of the passage).

    BTW, I am basing my larger understanding of Vos on this issue from other writings in which he clearly rejects notions that the Law’s true significance was re-enshrining a works-principle dynamic for Israel. Instead he takes pains to state explicitly that the Law was given in the context of God’s gracious salvation — it was an imperative accompanying a prior gracious indicative. Again, since my volumes of Vos are collecting dust I cannot give you page numbers, but he makes this abundantly clear in Biblical Theology, in addition to other writings. I’m sure someone else here can cite the pages.

    Regardless, this is somewhat beside the point of my question (comment 63). I am still interested in how Lane and others (you?) understand the Law-Gospel distinction…especially since Lane (and others here?) make clear that rejecting that understanding of the Law-Gospel distinction renders one unable to truly believe in Sola-Fide.

  97. pduggie said,

    March 30, 2010 at 10:07 am

    @87 interesting

    I’m kinda with Bryan Estelle in seeing Vos as unclear on this. This famous quote

    “But the Judaizers went wrong in inferring that the connection must be meritorious, that,if Israel keeps the cherished gifts of Jehovah through observance of His law, this must be so, because in strict justice they had earned them. The connection is of a totally different kind. It belongs not to the legal sphere of merit, but to the symbolico-typical sphere of appropriateness of expression.”

    while on the one hand well stating what I was trying to say about Romans 9, that the Judaizers created a bug in the code that had no bugs, still seems like gobbledygook.

    Even the Kerux article doesn’t tell us what “symbolico-typical sphere of appropriateness of expression.” is supposed to mean, then just repeat it.

    Maybe this is getting at how form and essence are so closely related in the covenant. Turretin, etc say Moses has a legal form but a gospel essence.

    So saying “I command you to believe in Jesus” is ‘symbolico typically appropriate” way to express the call of the Gospel, because you can’t linguistically avoid an imperative in telling people about faith. Its an accident of language.

    But for Klineans (maybe not Kline himself, just his followers), when you have the FORM of command and reward, you have the essence (maybe only typologically, but that just seems like special pleading) of “Works”. I have some sympathy for this, because how else are you supposed to discern the essence of a text except by looking at the form it takes. But its still confessional considering the confession in its totality, which tell us great things like this

    “It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin:[16] and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience,and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law: and not under grace”

    So I can “expect blessings for obedience” but when Israel did it they had a typical covenant of works, but when I do it I don’t, even though the FORM that lets me expect the blessings is the same in both cases.

    Vos said the Judaizers were WRONG for expecting rewards as “due to them by law”. I agree with that. But were they supposed to hanker after that as some kind of lost ideal ???

  98. March 30, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Apparently I’ve been having problems with my comments showing up here, since I changed my display name to “Patrick T. McWilliams” instead of “SovereignLogos.” If I’m logged in, I can see my comments, but if I’m not, they disappear. At this point, I’m just trying to figure out if this is a WordPress glitch, a setting I’ve overlooked, or if my comments are being moderated. I’m still kind of new to WordPress. So anyway, if I’m being moderated for any reason, could someone let me know so I can stop pestering WordPress support? Thanks…

  99. Jesse Pirschel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Lane,

    For the readers sake can you define what you mean by the “law/Gospel” distinction. There is a lot of fur flying between comments but I also see a lot of talking past one another.

  100. Patrick T. McWilliams said,

    March 30, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Apparently I’ve been having problems with my comments showing up here, since I changed my display name to “Patrick T. McWilliams” instead of “SovereignLogos.” If I’m logged in, I can see my comments, but if I’m not, they disappear. At this point, I’m just trying to figure out if this is a WordPress glitch, a setting I’ve overlooked, or if my comments are being moderated. I’m still kind of new to WordPress. So anyway, if I’m being moderated for any reason, could someone let me know so I can stop pestering WordPress support? Thanks…

  101. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Paul,

    You wrote a bunch of stuff in comments 83 and 84 that I don’t have time to respond to right now, but you wrote something in comment 86 to which I’d like to quickly respond:

    I just don’t think their work on the republication of the covenant of works is 100% confessional.

    The doctrine of the republication of the covenant of works is something that goes all the way back to the confessional period, at the very least. I have demonstrated this in a comment in which I extensively quoted Francis Turretin (1623-1687), C. Matthew McMahon has demonstrated this with an extensive article by Herman Witsius (1636-1708), and Scott Clark has discussed the confessional authenticity at length in his “Republication of the Covenant of Works” series, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

  102. rfwhite said,

    March 30, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Lane: I agree with Jesse Pirschel. It would help for you to define what you mean by the L/G distinction.

  103. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Foolish,

    You wrote:

    He still places the Sinaitic Covenant and the Law in the context of the unfolding of the Covenant of Grace, [...]

    How is this inconsistent with the republication view?

    [...] though also seeing it as a reflection (on a different level) of the stipulations of the Covenant of Works.

    You mean “reflection” as in “mirror image,” or as in something so similar to the original that it can be difficult at times to tell the difference? That’s sort of what I think Vos meant.

    You wrote:

    For Vos the Law does not represent some different works-principle economy of salvation for Israel, [...]

    And neither does it in the republication view. Where did you get this idea?

    You wrote:

    but, emphatically, it stands as part of the unfolding of the Covenant of Grace with a reflection or reminder of the Covenant of Works…which, in fact, ultimately serves the Law’s Covenant of Grace context for Vos since it drives people to God’s grace as they remember that lost ideal (i.e., see the middle portion of the passage).

    “Reflection or reminder?” Is a reflection merely a reminder? Is that really what Vos had in mind? Is that all he meant by “However, He kept its [the covenant of works'] memory alive in us”? Apparently not. Referring to the promise of the covenant of works to grant life through obedience to it, Vos wrote:

    He has repeated that promise hypothetically and consequently has held up before us constantly the ideal of eternal life to be obtained by keeping the law, a lost ideal though it may be.

    You would have a bit more logic on your side if you were to simply agree with Paul when he said, “I think Vos is wrong” (comment 83), than to try to make Vos say something other than what is most obvious from his writings.

  104. tim prussic said,

    March 30, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Pastor, I think you’ve managed to confuse things, here. You want to find a law/gospel distinction (LGD) in the text itself; Paul et al want to find it in the person. Is the justified person himself trusting in Christ alone, or in some merit of his own? THAT’s the issue. It seems to me that the good fellows down at Westminster have generated a very rigid *hermeneutic* (and I quote: “Every pericope is either Law or Gospel” & “The first thing you should ask yourself when you come to a text is, ‘Is this Law or is this Gospel?’”). After positing this semi-synthetic hermeneutic (certainly over-rigid), they have then elevated it to the level of gospel faithfulness.

    Somehow, Pastor, you’ve followed them in this, which baffles me. Listen, to deny an absolute LGD in one’s *hermeneutics* is NOT the same a denial of the LGD en toto. Denying the LGD does created a muddle, I quite agree, but I think you’ve gone too far with this unhappy critique. Do all those not holding to the rigid LGD hermeneutic as taught at Westminster now deny the Gospel?

  105. Jim Sherman said,

    March 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Hi all,

    I guess I’m just confused as to the difference between a law/gospel distinction in the text, and a law/gospel distinction in the heart. Could someone perhaps clarify what the second one is?

    Thanks, Jim

  106. greenbaggins said,

    March 30, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    I just approved about a dozen comments in the moderator’s queue. Please forgive me, as I do not have internet at home. All first-time commenters, or those who change any aspect of their login info, your comments are always held until moderator approval. Please do not think that your comments were deleted for other reasons.

  107. March 30, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    @greenbaggins: Thanks, sorry for the bit of spam!

  108. greenbaggins said,

    March 30, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    It’s not spam, actually, which gets caught by a different filter. Tuesday’s normally my day off, so I often don’t get to the office in the mornings.

  109. pduggie said,

    March 30, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    @101 I have no problem with “republication” as to the accidents of form. but Turretin denies it is a republcaition as to essence, and I’d add, even typological essence. There are two admins, one covenant of grace. And formwise, there is even some continuity, though quantitative, not so much qualitative.

    The WCF says that the COG was *administered* in the time of the law by circumcision. Was circumcision properly to be interpreted as intended to be a work of law? No, the Jews *mistook* it for that.

  110. tim prussic said,

    March 30, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Jim (#105),

    LGD in the heart/person has to do with the nature of the individual reading/hearing the Bible. The idea is that, to the unconverted, all is Law in the sense that all condemns. To the converted, all is Gospel (only) in the sense that the whole Bible is God’s word and grace to us. The Law has been crucified to us and no longer stands as a judge condemning us (Col 2:14).

    LGD in the text is an aspect of hermeneutics, which asserts that some texts are Law (tell us of God’s demands) and some are Gospel (tell us of what God’s done for us in Christ). Thus, in the text means in the Bible objectively while in the person has to do with the subjective reception of the Bible.

    To posit one to the exclusion of the other (either direction) is error, especially as they are not dealing with precisely the same issue.

    The LGD, rather than being an aspect of biblical hermeneutics (in the hands of some good men at Westminster West), has become quite central and of inflated importance (see #104).

  111. greenbaggins said,

    March 30, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Tim, please read my recent post, and read very carefully the linked posts on the LGD.

  112. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Tim,

    Regarding your comment 104: since Doug Wilson hasn’t yet gotten around to responding to my comment 81, perhaps you could try your hand at it, since it goes directly to the matter of whether the law/gospel distiinction resides in the text or the person who reads it.

  113. Kurt said,

    March 30, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    #112

    Ron,

    I believe pduggie attempted to respond to your statment in #81 with #91.

  114. Todd said,

    March 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Maybe a better question for those who do not affirm a law/gospel distinction in the Scriptures themselves: in what way can this verse be understood as gospel?

    “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.” (Deut 28:15

  115. tim prussic said,

    March 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    Ron (#112 and #81),

    How is the objective good news of the Gospel subjectively good to an unrepentant sinner? That Gospel (good news in itself) becomes bad news and further condemns him (Jn 3:18). Conversely, when I read the objective bad news of “cursed is everyone who does not continue on all the things written in the law, to do them,” it becomes to me (subjectively) very good news, for I know that Christ was made a curse for me. Those texts don’t MEAN those things, but are received in those ways.

    There are two different things going on: objective and subjective. Objective LGD is in the text. I heartily affirm that. Subjective LGD is in the person. That distinction is simple enough and shouldn’t be scandalous. As mentioned above, if one is urged to the negation of the other, we have problems. But there are also another problem with the objective LGD, that is the openness or rigidness with which that aspect of hermeneutics is applied. Does every single text find itself totally on one of two ledgers? If so, the distinction descends into evident silliness pretty quickly. It becomes unnatural, like a hermeneutical hobby horse, something like Rev 20 to dispys… everything’s viewed through it.

  116. tim prussic said,

    March 30, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Sorry, Pr. Lane, what should I read? What recent post and links?
    Thanks!

  117. tim prussic said,

    March 30, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Oh, THAT one! Nevermind. :)

  118. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Kurt,

    In comment 113, you wrote:

    I believe pduggie attempted to respond to your statment in #81 with #91.

    I re-read comment 91 and I can’t figure out why you’re saying that. Meanwhile, I’ll try to respond to your comment 90 soon.

  119. Kurt Scharping said,

    March 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Ron,

    #81 you wrote:

    >If this is the case, could you please explain how the following passage can be “heard as good news?”:

    For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

    [Galatians 3:10-11, ESV, quoting Deuteronomy 27:26]

    I assume pduggie’s response to that was in #91 where he wrote:

    >Response of faith to the first statement “I am so thankful that my lord has not required me to rely on works of the law for my justification. Good news!”

    You also wrote in #81:

    >Could you also explain how the following text can be “heard as law?”:

    “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

    [Titus 3:5, ESV]

    To which I believe pduggie wrote in #91:

    >Response of unfaith to the second statement “How dare God think he’s all that offering his so called “grace” for my sins. He’s such a goody goody, and arrogant to offer to forgive my sins without taking me into account”

    Perhaps he meant to type #81 or some responses where held back in the filter and added later moving yours.

    Thanks.

  120. J.Kru said,

    March 30, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    #114: I can’t answer this as someone who denies a law-gospel distinction, but it’s an interesting conversation, so I’ll chime in.

    “all” in Deut. 28 carries the same meaning as “all” in John 3:16 – it’s not exhaustive, it’s representative. It indicates the general inclination of God – kindness toward the world, although there are some in the world he hates. In the same way, are the people looking to establish righteousness and put away murder? Remember that part of the Mosiac covenant includes making sacrifices, so the law never expected sinless people. Israel under David received the blessings of the covenant, so did Israel under Josiah, and several other kings as well. And of course, several kings brought about curses – but note that when God curses the people, it’s not because they’re being a little gossipy, it’s because they abandon the Lord and run after Baal. In other words, they abandon the faith.

    How would you respond to Psalm 119:97 as Gospel? (O how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day) Why would someone love the law if it’s only function was condemnation?

  121. todd said,

    March 30, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    #115

    “Conversely, when I read the objective bad news of “cursed is everyone who does not continue on all the things written in the law, to do them,” it becomes to me (subjectively) very good news, for I know that Christ was made a curse for me. ”

    This answer affirms the traditional Law-gospel distinction

  122. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Stuart (#95):

    For a fellow who calls himself “not the sharpest tool in the shed”, you managed to ask some very good questions.

    I second Stuart’s question: How does the L/G distinction work when we consider the 3rd use of the law?

    Clearly, the law commands; the Spirit enables. Is this not a confluence of the Law and the Gospel — post-justification?

    Or am I misunderstanding the L/G distinction?

    Also: is the L/G distinction supposed to cover every passage of Scripture? Are there some passages which contain distinct elements of both, such as

    “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

    (Gospel, at least typologically, followed by law).

    Finally, Lane, what changed your thoughts on this, and what specific thoughts changed?

  123. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I’m struck when reading the Formula of Concord on Law and Gospel that the Lutherans struggle with placing the command “repent and believe the Gospel” into a neat L or G bin.

    Their method of solution is to speak of the Gospel in a broad sense, which includes the command to repent, and the Gospel in a “proper” sense, which is a message only of grace. Thus, the command to “repent” is Gospel in the broad sense, but Law in the narrow sense. Whew!

    Interestingly, the theological concern (answering your question, Daniel Hoffman in #75) for the Lutherans was to avoid making the “preaching of repentance” an exercise in laying down the law.

    That is, they wanted that the proclamation of the Gospel never be confused with a proclamation to repent. This seems wise; but at the cost of making the L/G system a little confusing on this point.

  124. stuart said,

    March 30, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Some questions for whoever would like to answer . . .

    1) Is it really legitimate for any of us to deny a law/gospel distinction altogether? Certain passages of Scripture certainly seem to make this distinction (Romans 3 for example).

    2) Is is legitimate to say that a law/gospel distinction is not always the best hermeneutic in understanding the main intent of every Scriptural text? In other words, is it appropriate to use a law/gospel distinction as “a hermeneutic” but not as “THE hermeneutic”?

    3) When we say the law/gospel distinction is “in the text” what do we mean? The underlying message of Scripture itself? A perspective from which every passage can be understood? Certain passages (but not all) clearly have this distinction in mind?

    I asked some similar questions in comment #95 that as of yet no one seems to have attempted to answer. Maybe it’s because they’re dumb questions . . . it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve shown my ignorance by the questions I ask.

  125. Greg Gibson said,

    March 30, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    John Frame says…
    “It has become increasingly common in Reformed circles, as it has long been in Lutheran circles, to say that the distinction between law and gospel is the key to sound theology, even to say that to differ with certain traditional formulations of this distinction is to deny the gospel itself…One has recently claimed that people who hold a different view repudiate the Reformation and even deny the gospel itself. On that view, we must use the term gospel only in what the Formula calls the “proper” sense, not in the biblical sense. I believe that we should stand with the Scriptures against this tradition.”

    http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2002Law.htm

    So, does Frame deny just. by faith alone?

  126. March 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    [...] A Retraction It gives me no pleasure at all to write this post, first of all. To come to this conclusion means thinking worse of a [...] [...]

  127. David deJong said,

    March 30, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    95, 124. I made the same observation in 69. Tim Prussic has repeatedly been saying this, and Jeff Cagle brought it up as well. The law-gospel distinction simply cannot be applied as a hermeneutic through which we look at all of Scripture.

    Ron Henzel in 81 appears to argue against this. However, no one is saying that there are not SOME texts in Scripture that are laws, and that there are not SOME texts in Scripture that are gospel. To deny that would be ridiculous. (Ron’s opponent is a straw man.) To claim, however, that all of Scripture can be viewed through this lens is equally ridiculous, or, if not ridiculous, at least distinctively Lutheran and not Calvinist. :)

  128. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Kurt,

    I’ve read and re-read your comment 90 several times now. After citing WLC 99 and 104, you seem to boil down your question when you write:

    How do we avoid that FAITH in particular being a species of trust and belief does not necessarily mean that included in the first commandment is imperative of trusting Christ for all of our righteousness.

    I apologize for my confusion, but I really can’t say that I understand with a reasonable degree of confidence precisely what you are asking here. Could you please re-word it for me? Thanks!

  129. tim prussic said,

    March 30, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Stuart (#124), I’ll take a swing and these three and hopefully not strike out.

    1) Is it really legitimate for any of us to deny a law/gospel distinction altogether? Certain passages of Scripture certainly seem to make this distinction (Romans 3 for example).

    It is illegitimate for us to deny the LGD altogether, as the concept necessary to the doctrine of justification (even it the terminology differs).

    2) Is is legitimate to say that a law/gospel distinction is not always the best hermeneutic in understanding the main intent of every Scriptural text? In other words, is it appropriate to use a law/gospel distinction as “a hermeneutic” but not as “THE hermeneutic”?

    Yes, the LGD is one aspect of our hermeneutics, which does not apply to every text of Scripture.

    3) When we say the law/gospel distinction is “in the text” what do we mean? The underlying message of Scripture itself? A perspective from which every passage can be understood? Certain passages (but not all) clearly have this distinction in mind?

    “In the text” basically means objectively. Are there things in the Bible that are law (simple demands of God)? Sure. Are there sheer promises of grace in Christ (Gospel)? Happily so. What’s meant here is that we find both law and gospel in these narrow senses in the Bible (or in the text).

    “In the person” basically means subjectively. How does a person receive any given text of the Bible? A person dead in sin receives the whole Bible as condemnation, while all the same texts minister life to the believer (though in different ways).

    Hope that helps.

  130. stuart said,

    March 30, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Tim,

    Thanks for your answers.

    I agree with you that it is illegitimate for us to deny a law/gospel distinction altogether.

    I also agree with you that a law/gospel distinction is a legitmate aspect of the way we interpret Scripture, yet it is not the only way we interpret every passage of Scripture.

    It appears, however, that we are not on the same page as others. If Lane’s quotation of John Colquhoun in another post is any indication of how a law/gospel distinction should be understood, then I defintely find myself out of synch. Here’s the quote . . .

    “Every passage of sacred Scripture is either law or gospel, or is capable of being referred either to the one or to the other”

    Perhaps the statement “or is capable of being referred either to the one or to the other” is a qualification of the first part of the sentence that can be broadened enough that I would be in agreement with him, but unless I read he book myself, I can’t say.

  131. Kurt Scharping said,

    March 30, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    #127

    Ron,

    What I meant was if faith is equivalent to or a specific kind of belief or trust, then how does one avoid the conclusion that faith is obedience to the first commandment and that faith in Christ which is type of faith or a particular instance of faith is obedience to the first commandment?

    Thanks.

  132. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    To put a point on Stuart’s question, Scripture contains the following:

    “On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. They set out, this first time, at the LORD’s command through Moses.” (Num 10)

    “O LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
    You have set your glory
    above the heavens.

    From the lips of children and infants
    you have ordained praise
    because of your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.” (Ps. 8)

    “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.” (Luke 9)

    Which bin, Law or Gospel, would these go in, and why?

  133. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    David,

    In comment 126 you wrote:

    [...] The law-gospel distinction simply cannot be applied as a hermeneutic through which we look at all of Scripture.

    Ron Henzel in 81 appears to argue against this. However, no one is saying that there are not SOME texts in Scripture that are laws, and that there are not SOME texts in Scripture that are gospel. To deny that would be ridiculous. (Ron’s opponent is a straw man.) To claim, however, that all of Scripture can be viewed through this lens is equally ridiculous, or, if not ridiculous, at least distinctively Lutheran and not Calvinist. :)

    It would be nice if you addressed your misinterpretations directly to the person in question while that person is still among the living. I don’t see how you can get the notion from what I wrote in comment 81 that every single verse of Scripture (which seems to be what you mean by “all of Scripture”) is subject to the law/gospel hermeneutic. I, for one, would never try to apply it to John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”

    On the other hand, John 11:35 is part of a larger pericope portraying Christ as the resurrection and the life, and there seems to be a lot of gospel and very little (if any) law in it. I’m more comfortable looking for law texts and gospel texts in larger portions of Scripture.

    But neither does this mean that I have a hyper-compartmentalized view of Scripture in light of the law/gospel distinction. If you read Lane’s post closely and carefully, the question here is not, “Is every single verse in the Bible either law or gospel?” Rather the question is (to paraphrase the fourth sentence in the second paragraph of Lane’s post), “Is there a distinction in the text of Scripture between law and gospel?”

    The Federal Vision has officially gone on record as answering a resounding, “No!” to this question. They say the distinction lies only in the reader. To them—despite all their talk about “the objectivity of the covenant”—it is an entirely subjective thing. The FV is left with a Bible in which the authors only intended to communicate good news, never intended to communicate law, and only the misperception of unbelieving readers has construed it otherwise.

    On the surface, this would seem to be the straightest path to antinomianism one could think of finding, but to conclude that would be to miss the actual manner in which the denial of the law/gospel distinction is actually employed in the FV. It is not employed so much to turn the law into a gospel, but to turn the gospel into a law. According to this “good news,” God initially justifies us by faith alone, but ultimately justifies us by covenant faithfulness.

    So never mind whether each and every text of Scripture can be classified as either “law” or “gospel.” That argument is simply a smokescreen to keep us from thinking through the implications of denying the law/gospel distinction. When that happens, something has to give. Either interpreting Scripture becomes an entirely random procedure (which the human mind hates), or everything slides over to antinomianism (which many Reformed people have a nearly genetic antipathy for), or everything slides over to legalism (voilà!—welcome to the FV!).

    It never ceases to amaze me how some presumably Reformed folk become apoplectic at the mere mention of this distinction and immediately begin fulminating about everything from “antinomianism” to “Lutheranism” to who-knows-what. The fact is that hardly any of these golawspel deniers of the law/gospel distinction even understand how it actually works in Lutheran theology. Lutheran writer Rick Ritchie enlightens us:

    Since Luther understood the law in terms of what God demands of us, and the gospel in terms of what God gives us, he was sometimes able to find both law and gospel in the same passage, sometimes even in the same statement! The law is not the gospel; we are condemned by the law and saved by the gospel. A given passage can contain both, however.

    In his Large Catechism, for example, Luther explicates the Ten Commandments in such a way that they portray God as one who can be trusted. He speaks of the “gracious offer,” the “cordial invitation,” and the “rich…promise” that God brings to us in the first commandment. Luther can find gospel in the Ten Commandments. Elsewhere, he states very clearly that we are not saved by keeping the Ten Commandments, but that they show us our sin and condemn us. He finds law in them as well. If we read a passage to learn of God’s holy justice and see what God demands of us, this is law, and will condemn us. If we are reading the same passage to see what it tells us of God’s mercy and promises, our trust can be awakened, and this trust is saving faith.

    [Rick Ritchie, “The Law According to Jesus,” in Michael Horton, ed., Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Book House, 1992), 73.]

    Personally I believe we need Calvin to come in at this point to explain why we can find the gospel in the commandments: viz., it is because Christ has kept the commandments for us, and because now God condescends to accept believer’s imperfect works because we are in Him. In other words, only the Good News itself can transform the law into “good news” for sinners. The text of the law is objectively law, and, contrary to the FV, cannot be legitimately read as anything but condemnation by an unbeliever. And this, of course, presupposes that there is a law and that there is a gospel in Scripture, and that they are very distinct and in a very real sense polar opposites of each other.

    The portion where Ritchie writes, “If we read a passage to learn of God’s holy justice…” and “If we are reading the same passage to see what it tells us of God’s mercy and promises…” may sound to some like the following portion of the FV Joint Statement:

    We believe that any passage, whether indicative or imperative, can be heard by the faithful as good news, and that any passage, whether containing gospel promises or not, will be heard by the rebellious as intolerable demand.

    ["A Joint Federal Vision Profession," 6.]

    Of course, when we look at the way that the rebellious actually read both the law and gospel promises, this statement is stunningly ludicrous. Rebels like the scribes and Pharisees believed that the promises were for them because of the merit of their physical lineage, and that keeping the law was a very tolerable condition, indeed, for retaining those promises!

    But even apart from this silliness, the general idea here is still quite far from what Luther or Ritchie are talking about. As Ritchie explained on the previous page:

    Yet, while the law and the gospel are both found in the Old and New Testaments, they differ. According to Luther: “The Law and Gospel are two doctrines that are absolutely contrary.”

    [Ritchie, ibid., 72.]

    To Luther, the law/gospel distinction was rooted in the text itself. To the FV, on the other hand:

    The fundamental division is not in the text, but rather in the human heart.

    ["A Joint Federal Vision Profession," 6.]

    This is the key question, and on its answer hinges the doctrine of justification by faith, as well as salvation by grace alone.

  134. Ron Henzel said,

    March 30, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    BTW: JV Fesko puts the historic Reformed use of the law/gospel hermeneutic into perspective for us in his article titled, “Justification In Church History: The Reformation and Post-Reformation (1517-1700).”

  135. March 30, 2010 at 10:04 pm

    Ron,

    Sorry for the delayed response to your #81. I am in bold.

    “Could you please explain how the following passage can be ‘heard as good news?’”:

    For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” [Galatians 3:10-11, ESV, quoting Deuteronomy 27:26].

    My response would be that it is good news, not in itself, but in its context. It was this message that drove me to abandon all efforts at self-justification, and now that I have been justified (by faith alone everybody!), I can look back on the day when someone first shared that verse with me, and say that it was the best day of my life. When Christ gave the intolerable demand to the rich young ruler, he went away sad because he did not understand it in its good news context. If he was eventually saved (as I think he was — I think he was Mark, actually), he could look back on it, and say that when Christ spoke those words to him, it was because he loved him.

    You also ask, “Could you also explain how the following text can be “heard as law?””:

    “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” [Titus 3:5, ESV]

    I reply that this passage exudes the aroma of Christ, which is, to those who are perishing, the aroma of death. It doesn’t smell like good news to them at all.

    “And I would also like to know how the fundamental distinction between law and gospel is merely a function of how the text is read in this verse, and not a matter of what Paul was actually saying.”

    Just to be clear, I am not denying that the text has indicatives and imperatives. I am saying that to the unregenerate and the regenerate, the same imperative elicits a completely different reaction.

  136. March 30, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Two questions for my critics on this point:

    1. Do you all believe in the three uses of the law?

    2. And when you insist on the law/gospel hermeneutic, and say that the difference must be found in the text, are you treating those textual passages as totus lex or nuda lex?

  137. March 30, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    The law passages, I mean.

  138. pduggie said,

    March 30, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Ron@132

    It seems to me that all the discussion of “law” there by Ritchie is talking about law “properly” as a covenant of works. I don’t think that’s the only way (though it is a valid way, and when we do so construe it I agree with you) construe a command or an imperative, and it think saying “law” in general has nothing to do with the gospel ends up evading the fact that faith is, in fact, commanded.

  139. Vern Crisler said,

    March 31, 2010 at 1:31 am

    #132, Ron, excellent discussion.
    #134, Doug, are you not confusing theology with psychology?

  140. Dean B said,

    March 31, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Pastor Wilson

    “Two questions for my critics on this point:

    1. Do you all believe in the three uses of the law?”

    Yes.

    Do you acknowledge the third use of the law is impossible for those who ALL those going to hell because they did not have true faith?

    Temporary (imaginary) faith only produces “disobedient works” (from post #71) and these works can never please God. True obedience is gratitude for the fact we have been delivered from the curse of the law. Those not delivered from the curse of the law will ALL end up in hell.

  141. March 31, 2010 at 8:53 am

    @Douglas Wilson:
    You said “I am not denying that the text has indicatives and imperatives. I am saying that to the unregenerate and the regenerate, the same imperative elicits a completely different reaction.”

    This may be what you’re saying *now*, but earlier, you said “…the only legitimate response that a creature may have toward His God, or any words that his God speaks, whether those words are promises, laws, threats, or comforting words, is a response of sheer, unadulterated faith — faith plus nothing else.”

    The first paragraph says that 1 imperative elicits 2 reactions (from the regenerate and unregenerate). The second paragraph (your earlier statement) says that 2 different kinds of statements (both indicatives & imperatives) elicit 1 response from the regenerate man (namely, “faith”).

    Nice try, though.

  142. March 31, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Dean B, yes, I believe the third use of the law is impossible for all the reprobate.

    Vern, no, not at all. See a post later this morning over at Mablog. The three uses of the law are all personally contextual.

  143. March 31, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Close italics, sorry.

  144. David deJong said,

    March 31, 2010 at 8:58 am

    132. Thanks for the clarification. If, however, you are not claiming (as Lane appears to be) that a law-gospel hermeneutic is necessary, then what are you claiming? That some passages are “law”, while others (e.g. Jn 3:16) clearly extend the promise of the gospel? But who would deny this? There is a division in the text, insofar as the text clearly contains a variety of genres. You also pointed to narrative (“Jesus wept”). But proponents of the law-gospel hermeneutic are not just talking about genre. They are claiming that the “law” and “gospel” function as fundamental theological categories to which every passage in Scripture, regardless of genre, can and must be assigned. Some passages even need to be assigned to both categories, as you point out. That’s what I have an issue with.

    How those passages are received by believers, of course, is another matter. For example, the Heidelberg catechism in its first part (on sin and misery) has this q&a:

    Q. From where do you know your sins and misery?
    A. From the law of God.

    Is this bad news or good news? I would say that it is good news to know what the problem is. A doctor who performs an accurate diagnosis may have some unpleasant information for you, but you are happy both that the diagnosis is accurate and that you can seek the proper remedy. So I would say the faithful can receive the condemning words of the law as good news, as the truth which points them to Christ. Instead of living like unbelievers, who often don’t KNOW why they are so miserable and what it is that in them is longing for something more, we in the law receive the KNOWLEDGE of the true problem, which is sin. This knowledge is unequivocally a good thing.

    Thanks for the conversation.

  145. stuart said,

    March 31, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Ron@132

    Thanks for your further discussion of this issue.

    Allow me to say that I did not intend my question concerning whether a law/gospel distinction is always “the best hermeneutic in understanding the main intent of every Scriptural text” to be a smokescreen of any sort. I do not deny that a law/gospel distinction can be found in Scripture. Nor do I deny that a legitimate application of any command found in Scripture could serve as a reminder of our falling short of God’s glory and how Christ obeyed perfectly those commands on behalf of his people.

    My question (and again I will admit I am ignorant of many things so perhaps I am only showing my ignorance in even asking this question this way), however, is not whether it is legitimate to see a law/gospel distinction throughout Scripture, but whether it is (and I’ll repeat my exact words with a bit of added emphasis) “the BEST hermeneutic in understanding the MAIN INTENT of EVERY Scriptural text.”

    Allow me to flesh out this question a little (and again, forgive me if my ignorance shows here . . . I really do want to understand what we are talking about in more depth) . . .

    Philippians 2:3 . . . Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (ESV).

    Here is a command of how we are to treat others. I can look at this command and legitmately say, “I have not done this, and thus God is just in judging me accordingly.” I can further say (legitimately as well), “Where I have failed in keeping this command, Christ has not, and his obedience is the ground for my justification before the thrice holy God. And so as I receive and rest upon Christ alone by faith alone, apart from any works that I can try to muster, I have a right standing before God . . . not because of my faithfulness, but because of Christ’s faithfulness.”

    Yet is that Paul’s point in giving the command? Was Paul saying, “Here’s the command, we all fail at it, but Christ has not, so let’s be thankful that our justification doesn’t depend upon our faithfulness to this command, but on Christ’s faithfulness”? I don’t think he intended that interpretation at all. Again, this is not to say that it wouldn’t be a legitimate way of looking at the text in a systematic way.

    It seems to me that what Paul is doing here is teasing out what he said in Philippians 1:27 – “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And so the intent appears to be that we are reminded of the gospel and because of the gospel of Christ we are called to obey. This obedience doesn’t cause our salvation, it is the natural outflow of God’s grace in Christ. It’s the way I understand Ephesisans 2:8-10 . . .

    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (ESV).

    This is why I asked the questions, “Are there legitimate concerns about how the “law/gospel distinction” may obscure the meaning of certain texts?” and “is it appropriate to use a law/gospel distinction as “a hermeneutic” but not as “THE hermeneutic”?”

    If I am way off base here, please correct me, but I find myself wondering in some of these discussions if we (those who have commented on this post) are talking past each other, using language differently, or if we legitimately have different views.

    Thanks for any thoughts you (or others) would like to share.

  146. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2010 at 9:11 am

    DW, I’ll answer your two questions.

    1. Absolutely I believe in all three uses of the law.

    2. Not sure what this distinction is getting at. Could you be a little more explicit? What is the difference between totus lex and nuda lex?

  147. March 31, 2010 at 9:52 am

    The entire law must be understood as part of the administration of the covenant of grace (totus lex). The pedagogical use of the law is what is happening when a sinner is being driven to Christ (nuda lex). Now, when you say that law is in the text, is it nuda lex in the text or totus lex in the text?

  148. greenbaggins said,

    March 31, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Doug. I believe that some instances of the law are clearly that of the CoW. Other instances are equally clearly in the context of the CoG. I certainly would not want to make a sweeping generalization of one or the other. In holding to the three uses of the law, I want to make sure that we do not confuse the pedagogical use of the law with the third use of the law. So, for instance, when Paul opposes works to faith in justification, he is clearly making a statement about the law that is nuda lex, to use your categories. When he is talking about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, this is clearly totus lex. Of course, one could conceive of situations where it might be difficult to tell which one it is.

  149. Vern Crisler said,

    March 31, 2010 at 11:14 am

    #142

    Doug, your discussion on yor blog is interesting but is beside the point. You still end up with a psychological conception of the law-gospel distinction: “We are therefore not outside that tradition when we say that the real division between law and grace lies within the human heart, not in the text itself.”

    Why either/or? In fact the real distinction between law and gospel arises out of the text, and leads to the theology of sovereign grace (Reformed theology). It is not just a matter of how people respond subjectively, i.e., not just a matter of psychology.

    Vern

  150. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 31, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Ron (#133): Thanks for your thoughts. So in your view, not every passage of Scripture is either law or Gospel and can be referred either to one or the other?

  151. Shawn said,

    March 31, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Praise God for your courage in this public retraction and a clearer understanding of the Law/Gospel distinction.

  152. April 1, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I hope this is somewhat germane, even if it was lifted from my blog.

    There has been a debate raging for quite a while in the Reformed tradition regarding obedience and the gospel. In my estimation the terms are ill-defined, which might explain why the debate is not progressing very well. It might be helpful to make some initial observations regarding points of agreement that are unfortunately not often assumed by the opposing “camps” let alone articulated by them. I believe Escondido holds one view and it’s hard to say who all holds the other. No institution does in my estimation. Both views are extreme (but in a sense noble); yet both contain truth.

    1. The gospel as it is narrowly defined in 1 Corinthians 15 does not address obedience. The gospel in that context is an historical fact only. Jesus died for our sins, was buried and raised from the dead. Whereas the gospel that Paul is jealous to guard in Galatians has to do not with Christ’s work but rather the appropriation of that work: it is appropriated by grace through faith alone apart from ceremonial law-works. In neither of those two cases does the gospel address obedience. Both sides of the issue should agree.

    2. Now leaving aside for a moment any discussion regarding (a) elect infants dying in infancy, (b) other elect persons incapable of being outwardly called by the word, and (c) infants God regenerates in infancy – both sides should also agree that one is justified upon appropriating Christ’s obedience and satisfaction through the evangelical grace of faith alone, which is accompanied by the evangelical grace of repentance unto life, also a necessary condition for pardon. (WCF 15.3)

    3. Both sides also agree that faith without works is dead.

    4. With respect to the question of whether justifying faith is an obedient response to the gospel call – it should first be observed that a sinner who tries to obey the command to flee the wrath to come and turn to Christ does so either with a regenerate heart or out of enlightened self-interest. When the latter occurs, obviously no justifying faith is present, obedient or otherwise. Accordingly, it is only possible for one to flee the wrath to come with a regenerate heart. Both sides should agree here too.

    5. The question that remains is whether repentance and faith are acts of obedience. Before finding an answer, I think there is at least one more point of agreement between the sides that should be mentioned. As committed Calvinists, both sides agree that God alone effects faith and repentance in the application of redemption.

    Getting to the nub of the matter:

    In one sense, if God alone effects justifying faith in dead sinners through the gifts of faith and repentance, then it is somewhat misleading to refer the such implanted graces as obedience. Consider the case of the sinner broken before God who all of a sudden is converted by the invading work of the Holy Spirit. Would we say that such a one who was burdened and heavy laden with his sin and finally found rest in Christ was being obedient, especially if conversion was wrought without even a whisper of a command? What would one be obeying in such a scenario? They would be fleeing into the arms of a loving Savior out of pure desire and without any command. That is why it’s hard for me to believe that anyone who did not have a personal axe to grind would insist that we must always consider justifying faith obedient. Certainly Scripture will support the distinction between the mental “acts” of resting upon and receiving Christ, and the physical acts that proceed from such faith, such as feeding the poor, comforting the sick, loving our wives, serving in our churches, etc. Remember James’ epistle?

    Yet on the other hand, given that the grace of faith can be exercised in direct response to a command to repent and believe, then of course there is an appropriateness in referring to justifying faith as obedient in such cases, simply because it is a response to a command. Imagine another case – this time a person who was a hardened criminal and not burdened with his sin. Then imagine God quickening such a one in his tracks after his hearing the call to repent and believe. In such a case, it is most fitting to describe such a response as obedient to the command (while not forgetting that God granted the obedience).

    The error that one is trying to guard against will often dictate the position he defends. If one is jealous to guard against the notion of merit, then of course he will recoil over the term obedient faith (in the realm of justification). If one wishes to fight against antinomianism, then he might prefer to speak in terms of the gospel’s demands and use terms like obedient faith. However, we must be willing to notice that people come to Jesus in different ways – some by heeding God’s command and others in utter shame. (Paul Helm touches upon this point in The Begginings (Word & Spirit in Conversion.)

    Escondido certainly has the backing of the Confession in that the Confession distinguishes between faith and the acts that proceed from faith: “By this faith, a Christian believes… and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, etc. But the principle acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone…” WCF 14.2

    So yes, by the faith that justifies sinners, men do act and obey, but the principle acts of justifying faith are accepting, receiving and resting, which I believe Escondido wishes to distinguish from obedience. We should have no problem with that distinction; it’s a good one.

    Let’s take another conversion scenario that clearly bolsters Escondido’s position. In those cases in which God regenerates infants, those infants are not merely regenerated without also sharing in all the benefits of Christ, including justification. Accordingly, lest justification need not be accompanied by faith, we must conclude that the seed of faith that is implanted in those regenerate infants is justifying faith. Indeed, that faith must (and will) be exercised during years of discretion, but nonetheless justifying faith is present. In all fairness, Escondido’s paradigm fits those situations much better, for how does a baby obey in conversion?! Again, there is a place for referring to obedience to the gospel call upon men’s lives in the realm of conversion (and even more so in the work of progressive sanctification), but it would be a monstrosity to suggest that a woman converted through the shame of adultery and an infant converted in the mother’s womb are obeying when God grants them rest.

    Another related item – Covenant Blessings and Obedience:

    Mike Horton [MH] wrote “Law And Gospel,” an article that appeared in the October, 2006 issue of Tabletalk. In that article he wrote:

    “The new covenant, like the promise to Adam after the fall, renewed in the covenants with Abraham and David, is not like the Sinai covenant. The blessings of the new covenant do not depend on our obedience, but on God’s grace: He will put His Law within us, so that it will not only be an external command that condemns us but an inward longing of our heart; He will be our God and we will be His people – yet another one-sided promise on God’s part. Instead of always giving imperatives (like ‘Know the Lord’), in the new covenant people will know the Lord because He has revealed Himself as their Savior.”

    I’d like to take a look at one part only within the larger context of what MH wrote. “The blessings of the new covenant do not depend on our obedience, but on God’s grace…”

    In order to try to understand MH’s meaning, we should be quick to acknowledge what he clearly affirms and in doing so not let anything he wrote contradict what must be considered bedrock for him.

    MH is not antinomian! He appreciates that faith without works is dead. Accordingly, he is not saying that all blessings of the new covenant can be received without good works being present in the life of the believer. Moreover, being a committed Calvinist he also appreciates that good works are not the product of libertarian free will but rather a result of God working in his redeemed both to will and do of his good pleasure. Consequently, whatever MH’s point is, it cannot pivot upon the question of whether man needs grace to obey, or whether obedience will be present in those who receive blessings in the new covenant. He clearly affirms both, our need for grace and the resultant obedience that comes by grace. Moreover, certainly MH appreciates through scripturally informed experience that obedience begets blessings, and that this too is a principle that transcends testaments. In other words, MH must appreciate that proverbs living will generally be a means to good things bestowed (blessings if you will).

    There are many discontinuities between the old and new covenant, yet notwithstanding there is no break in the principle that sovereign grace effects creaturely obedience, which in turn places us in the path of realized covenant blessings. In fact, the obedience that God is pleased to grant is in-and-of-itself a covenant blessing! Sure, the blessings are more extraordinary under the newer economy but so will be the obedience/ Can God under the newer economy be our God without our walking in his ways and obeying His imperatives? Neither covenant operated under a quid pro quo for our obedience is nothing other than what John Murray called the “reciprocal responses of faith.” Our obedience, which too is a grace, is necessary in order to receive many blessings that the covenant contemplates.

    On the other hand, maybe MH means this:

    When the apostle says in Ephesians 1:3 that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessings in Christ, I am struck afresh by the fact that these blessings are ours now – and that we are not dependent upon God’s works of future providence in order to gain them. Our task is by grace to appreciate the full blown reality of these blessings and when we do, we too with Paul will praise God for them – even in spite of our circumstances. These blessings include our election unto holiness, the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, adoption and the hope of glory. (I am grateful that Pastor Bob Letham always gave thanks in his pastoral prayer for these blessings.) I would like to think that these are the blessings to which MH is referring that are not dependent upon obedience. The reason I am somewhat reluctant to read him this way is that all those blessings belonged to God’s elect under Moses. Yes, these blessings were theirs in much smaller measure, but nonetheless they were still there and they had nothing to do with obedience. Maybe MH is just comparing the physical blessings under Moses (that came through obedience) with the spiritual blessings under Christ (that are 100% ours without remainder through union with Christ). Maybe he is just not footnoting that today we have physical blessings under Christ (through faithful obedience), just like under Moses they had spiritual blessings (upon conversion). I remain perplexed over what the Escondido crowd is trying to say, but I couldn’t be more clear on what Scripture says on these matters.

    (In passing… Bob Letham also kept another balance always before his congregation; although the accent may have fallen on the spiritual blessings we have through union with Christ, he always guarded against any inclination we might have toward Gnostic-dualism, placing before us the physical: incarnation, Supper and Christ’s desire to heal the sick (just as “for instances”). We must not forget the physical blessings of the covenant. As he recently reminded me, “God created the heavens and the earth.”)

  153. tim prussic said,

    April 1, 2010 at 1:48 am

    #151, Shawn, clearer? There’s been a lot going on ’round this blog for the past couple days, but not a lot of clarity.

  154. David Gray said,

    April 1, 2010 at 7:28 am

    >Praise God for your courage in this public retraction

    Actually his original take took rather more courage than this retraction.

  155. Ron Henzel said,

    April 2, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Doug,

    Thank you for responding to me on Tuesday in comment 134. I’ve been very busy with other things up to now, but I’m finally able to get around to a reply.

    Before I proceed with the actual reply, I want to be clear on what I mean by two terms:

    1. law/gospel distinction, and
    2. law/gospel hermeneutic.

    First, the law/gospel distinction is the distinction between the role of the law in condemning sinners and the role of the gospel in saving sinners. Since the Fall, both of these roles have been fulfilled in the context of the Covenant of Grace.

    Second, the law/gospel hermeneutic is the application of the law/gospel distinction to the text of Scripture that enables us to distinguish between texts that have the primary purpose of bringing sinners under condemnation versus texts that have the primary function of bringing sinners to salvation.

    Note: in both the law/gospel distinction and the law/gospel hermeneutic, only the first (or pegagogical) use of the law is in view. This is because with the coming of the gospel has the second use become obsolete (WCF 19.4), and not until the gospel comes to the individual can he or she read the law without coming under its condemnation, and thus find spiritual profit in it (WCF 19.6), which irrevocably changes the nature of the original distinction. So, hypothetically, I suppose it’s possible to speak of two different “law/gospel distinctions”: one distinction that applies to unbelievers (the condemnation of the law as distinct from the salvation of the gospel), and another distinction that applies to believers (the law as a rule of life as distinct from the gospel as the ground of life), but since the term has by long tradition only applied to the former distinction, it would be unhelpful to extend the term’s meaning now. It is the traditional meaning that is under discussion here.

    Now, you wrote regarding Paul’s citation of Deuteronomy 27:26 in Galatians 3:10-11:

    My response would be that it is good news, not in itself, but in its context.

    Allow me to ask some follow-up questions and make one observation, then:

    Questions:You now state that this text is not “good news…in itself.” What is it then, in itself? Is it some kind of neutral abstraction? You’re saying the text has neither good news about salvation nor bad news about the desire of sinners to be justified on their own merits? But given what Paul says in the context, how can that be? And how can it be that reading this verse as a law that sinners are unable to keep is merely one of those “Pharisaical distortions of the law of Moses” (à la “Reformed” Is Not Enough, 65), when it seems pretty clear that, read straightforwardly, this text actually is a law that sinners—even saved, regenerated, and justified sinners—are unable to keep?

    Observation:You say that the verse is “good news…in its context.” But the context is still the text. Thus you must still find gospel objectively in the text, and not merely in the human heart.

    But before I go too much further, I think it’s necessary to point out that we are now venturing into the domain of philosophical hermeneutics (as opposed to strictly biblical hermeneutics) when we ask the question: “Where is the meaning of a text located?” If I may boil down an exceedingly complex discussion—which I doubt I am able to do to the satisfaction of everyone familiar with it—the four competing answers to this question, as I understand them, are as follows:

    1. The meaning of the text is located in the intention of the author.
    2. The meaning of the text is located in the text itself.
    3. The meaning of the text is located in the reader.
    4. The meaning of the text is ultimately inaccessible.

    You would seem to be arguing for answer 3, at least with regard to the question of whether a particular text communicates the meaning of impossible-to-keep (for sinners) demands of the law versus the meaning of the good news of the gospel. I find this view not only highly problematic, but exceedlingly dangerous to all theology. If you are not affirming a reader-response type of hermeneutic on this point, I would like to know what you think you’re affirming.

    As I understand it, the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture means that we can discern the intent of the ultimate Author regarding its meaning in the text itself. We do not need to ask the reader what it means to him or her. But you apparently think you have some sort of scriptural backing for your view, since you wrote regarding Titus 3:5:

    I reply that this passage exudes the aroma of Christ, which is, to those who are perishing, the aroma of death. It doesn’t smell like good news to them at all.

    So now this sounds to me as though you are making some sort of reader-response-oriented hermeneutical rule out of what Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 2:14-16:

    But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

    [ESV]

    It seems that you want to interpret these verses as actually indicating that the same text that is read as “law” (“a fragrance from death to death”) by some people (unbelievers) is read as “gospel” (“a fragrance from life to life”) by others (believers). I believe these verses fail to support your position for the following reason:

    1. In the process of mixing two metaphors here (the Roman triumphal procession metaphor and the fragrant offering metaphor) Paul does not say that the text is capable of two “aromas” (meanings), but first of all that “we are the aroma of Christ to God” (v 15), and this “aroma” that we spread is specifically “the knowledge of him” (v 14). The knowledge of Christ is not automatically limited to the knowledge of His saving work by anything in the context. In fact, the Roman triumphal procession metaphor puts the focus on Christ’s eschatological victory, which has already commenced and is currently proceeding (He “always leads us in triumphal procession”), and will culminate in the Last Judgment. The verses to which you allude do not present us with a message that can be interpreted one way from the standpoint of a believer, and another way from the standpoint of an unbeliever.

    2. These verses are part of a larger pericope—2 Cor. 2:12-3:6—in which Paul’s ultimate point is to actually affirm the law/gospel distinction:

    He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

    [2 Cor. 3:6, ESV]

    This verse clearly parallels Romans 7:6:

    But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

    [ESV]

    The “letter” that “kills” obviously parallels (and is thus identified with) “the written code,” which is the Law of Moses (cf. “the written code” in Rom. 2:7), “the new way of the Spirit” which parallels “the Spirit” that “gives life” is an obvious reference to the gospel in its saving power (cf. Rom. 8:1-2).

    So there is a clear law/gospel distinction in Scripture. The Scripture teaches that it is the law’s role to condemn sinners, and that it is the gospel’s role to save sinners. Thus we must exercise care when interpreting Scriptures that make demands on us that are impossible to keep, so that we avoid confusing those passages with “gospel.” This was, in fact, the hermeneutical error that nearly drove Luther crazy while he was a monk. Likewise, we must be careful to avoid misinterpreting passages that clearly show the promises of salvation to us as somehow presenting them to us as a “law” for us to keep. This is the chief concern of the law/gospel hermeneutic.

    You wrote:

    Just to be clear, I am not denying that the text has indicatives and imperatives. I am saying that to the unregenerate and the regenerate, the same imperative elicits a completely different reaction.

    Again, you are describing a reader-response hermeneutic. It is, however, a significantly different way of framing the issue from the way you chose to frame it on your blog this past Wednesday:

    Think of it this way. Can the same law (thou shalt not steal, for example) be used both pedagogical and didactically? Sure. And which use is it in the text? In the most immediate sense, that depends on the heart of the person reading it, right?

    [Emphasis yours.]

    The significant difference here is your use of the words “use” and “used.” With these words the focus automatically shifts from what a text means to how it is used, or applied. But you don’t seem to acknowledge this shift, and this lack of acknowledgment introduces confusion when you ask, “…which use is it in the text?” But this confuses the law’s commanding role with the law’s judging role. It does, on the other hand, help us advance the discussion.

    All law codes distinguish between statutes (commandments) and penalties, and they sometimes put them in separate places, depending on how each code is organized. Mosaic case law prescribed specfic penalties for civil enforcement, including for various instances in which the command “Thou shalt not steal” was broken, but they are found in a separate place from the commandment itself (e.g., Ex. 22:1-14). Those were, as we say, for the “body politic” of Israel (WCF 19.4), and regardless of how you view their current validity, there is an even bigger penalty that applies to the law as a whole that transcends the civil use. It is also found in a separate place from the commandment itself: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26).

    In each case, however, the text of Scripture addresses how the commandment is to be used. Are you a member of the body politic of Israel? Then you can use the commandment in its Mosaic context to determine exactly what kind of penalty will be required of you should you break the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” Are you a sinner who has violated this or any other commandment? Then you can use the commandment in its overall context as part of the “letter” of the old covenant, the “written code,” to know that you are under the curse of God and in need of salvation. Are you a believer? Then you can use the commandment in the context of the gospel, which has removed the curse of the law, to know the kind of behavior that pleases God.

    If the text of Scripture itself did not make a distinction between law and gospel, we would never know that the gospel removed the curse of the law so that we can approach it without fear and seek to please God through it. And without recognizing the scriptural distinction between law and gospel, we are in constant danger of being either driven to despair on the one hand, or lured into legalism on the other, out of failure to properly exercise the law/gospel hermeneutic as we read our Bibles. In other words: we are jeopardizing the truth of sola fide in our own lives, and, if we are in leadership positions, in the lives of others.

    It is a serious error to attribute the recognition of the importance of the law/gospel distinction to an imaginary, contrived confusion between nuda lex (the “bare law”) and totus lex. First of all, it is totally contrary to Reformed theology to identify the first use of the law with the “bare law.” Even when it is spoken of in terms of a revival or republication of the covenant of works, the first use of the law is never detached from the Covenant of Grace so as to be left “bare.” As Vos wrote (and he then expounds on first use of the law in a footnote to this):

    At Sinai it was not the “bare” law that was given, but a reflection of the covenant of works revived, as it were, in the interests of the covenant of grace continued at Sinai.

    [Geerhardus Vos, “The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology,” in Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., ed., Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, (Phillipsburg, NJ, USA: P&R Publishing, 1980; 2001), 255.]

    It is also a profound misrepresentation to limit the recognition of the importance of the law/gospel distinction to “a small creek on the edge of the Reformed bayou.” The law/gospel distinction is as deeply rooted in the Reformed as any other part of it. Commenting on Rom. 10:8, Calvin wrote:

    At the same time he [Paul] desired to inform his readers of the great difference which exists between the righteousness of the law and that of the Gospel. The former presents itself at a distance, and prevents the whole human race from approaching it, while the latter, encountering us close at hand, invites us warmly to enjoy its gifts.

    [...]

    The contrast between law and Gospel is to be understood, and from this distinction we deduce that, just as the law demands work, the Gospel requires only that men should bring faith in order to receive the grace of God.

    [John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans and Thessalonians, in Torrance and Torrance, eds., Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 8, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1991), 226-227].

    As Covenant Theology became more developed, it became more and more common for Reformed theologians to speak of the Covenant of Works versus Covenant of Grace distinction, but it was essentially the same thing as the law/gospel distinction. So it stands to reason that if you’re going to deny the Covenant of Works (as you have) you will inevitably deny the law/gospel distinction, since they are one and the same. Once that occurs, there is nothing to keep you from the inevitable drift either into antinomianism or legalism, although your chosen heresy seems to be the latter, and you are already reaping what you’ve sown.

    Meanwhile, it is simply an anti-confessional slander to charge those who uphold WCF 19.4 with lacking “a coherent place for the civil use of the law,” and then use that slander as a smokescreen for an anti-Reformed denial of the law/gospel distinction. When I first started writing this reply, I thought there was a potential for serious discussion, but then I read your blog post I had to conclude that you are not really serious about discussing any of this. People who write such things demonstrate that they know little or nothing about any of the “accepted language in the Reformed tradition,” what the “Reformed historically [have or have] not held,” which “Reformed tradition” is “the real one,” or just what a “tragedy” it is when better-informed people disagree with them. If such people spent as much time studying the Reformed tradition as they do sharpening their skills at mockery, perhaps we could see some sincere dialogue instead of being subject to hollow rants from the Federal Vision echo chamber.

  156. Ron Henzel said,

    April 2, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Errata:

    Toward the middle of my comment 155, as I was addressing 2 Cor. 2:14-16, I wrote:

    The verses to which you allude do not present us with a message that can be interpreted one way from the standpoint of a believer, and another way from the standpoint of an unbeliever.

    I meant to write:

    The verses to which you allude do not present us with a hermeneutical procedure for interpreting texts one way from the standpoint of a believer, and another way from the standpoint of an unbeliever.

  157. Ron Henzel said,

    April 2, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Stuart,

    Regarding your comment 145, I think you’re asking a very good question, which I will attempt to encapsulate as follows: “In light of the law/gospel hermeneutic, how do we view the moral imperatives of the New Testament?”

    I think what is happening in the New Testament is that the apostles are showing us how to apply the third use of the law, which means teaching us how to read the law from the point of view of people who have been saved by the gospel, and who need no longer fear the condemnation of God’s law. Verses such as the ones you quote from Philippians, I believe, are expositions on various commandments, especially the command to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

    The law/gospel distinction is technically between the first use of the law and the gospel. Once we become Christians, law texts do not get transformed into gospel texts. Nor are they transformed into “neutral texts.” Texts that present us with standards of behavior that are impossible for sinners are still “law,” and texts that present us with promises of rescue from condemnation are still “gospel.” But once we have become Christians, we *have* been rescued from condemnation, law texts continue to show us what kind of behavior pleases God.

    Notice that Paul especially takes pains to first lay a foundation of grace before directing our attention to moral imperatives for Christians. In a sense, this has always been true of the way God presents his law in Scripture. Before presenting the Ten Commandments, God reminded the people that He had delivered them from bondage in Egypt. But the grace of the gospel far exceeds the grace of the exodus. The grace of the gospel means that God has rescued us from the bondage to condemnation that came from the Ten Commandments themselves. We now have that grace as a past event in history, whereas the Israelites had it only in types and shadows, as something to look forward to. The New Testament presents God’s law to us afresh, after it assures us that we are fully forgiven for breaking it.

  158. Ron Henzel said,

    April 2, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Jeff,

    In comment 150, you wrote:

    So in your view, not every passage of Scripture is either law or Gospel and can be referred either to one or the other?

    Yes, I am hesitant to say that every passage of Scripture is either law or gospel. What about the genealogies? How about the Song of Solomon? I suppose we could view the genealogies that lead to Christ as “gospel,” and the others (e.g., Cain’s) as—what? law?—but I think it’s possible that by committing to pigeonholing every verse in the Bible in either the “law” or “gospel” category that we could end up making endless hyper-scholastic-style distinctions to justify the procedure.

    I think the important thing here is that there is a distinction between law and gospel in Scripture, there are texts that have the primary function of communicating condemnation to sinners (law) and there are texts that have the primary function of communication salvation to sinners (gospel). The distinction exists in Scripture and is crucial for correctly understanding all of special revelation.

  159. tim prussic said,

    April 2, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Ron, #155, you said:

    First, the law/gospel distinction is the distinction between the role of the law in condemning sinners and the role of the gospel in saving sinners. Since the Fall, both of these roles have been fulfilled in the context of the Covenant of Grace.

    Second, the law/gospel hermeneutic is the application of the law/gospel distinction to the text of Scripture that enables us to distinguish between texts that have the primary purpose of bringing sinners under condemnation versus texts that have the primary function of bringing sinners to salvation.

    I say: BRAVO – very clear and most agreeable. Well done.

  160. tim prussic said,

    April 2, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Ron, you said this: “with the coming of the gospel has the second use become obsolete (WCF 19.4)”

    That is incorrect and also an impressive misreading of Westminster. Our Standard says that the “sundry judicial laws” given to Israel as a “body politic” are abrogated, except insofar as the “general equity” may require us to apply those “sundry judicial laws” to the political bodies of which we happen to be a part.

    The second use of the law is still very much in force, according to Westminster. A certain (fairly narrow) subsection of the OT laws are what’s in view in WCF 19.4.

  161. stuart said,

    April 3, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Ron @157,

    Thanks for your further comments. It’s helpful to clarify what we mean by our theological terms and phrases, and also to tease out what that looks like. I think you’ve done well in helping clarify what you mean.

    I think the way you rephrased my original question is fair enough . . .

    “In light of the law/gospel hermeneutic, how do we view the moral imperatives of the New Testament?”

    and I think your answer to that question is very similar to my own, although I might nuance things a little differently than you did. In the interest of seeking unity I won’t bore you or anyone else with picky, minor details.

    One question I will raise (and I’ve already done this once before but no one seemed to take notice) is in our understanding of the grace given in the gospel of our salvation. You stated,

    The grace of the gospel means that God has rescued us from the bondage to condemnation that came from the Ten Commandments themselves. We now have that grace as a past event in history, whereas the Israelites had it only in types and shadows, as something to look forward to. The New Testament presents God’s law to us afresh, after it assures us that we are fully forgiven for breaking it.

    When you describe grace as “a past event in history” are you simply speaking of the grace of justification without further reference to any present and future grace God gives as part of our salvation?

    Perhaps another avenue to be persued in this discussion would be this question: is the good news of our salvation about justification only, or does that good news extend to our sanctification and glorification as well?

    I ask this question because in various discussions I’ve been a part of or witnessed from the sidelines (on this blog and in other venues) the defintions of salvation, gospel, grace, law, etc., have been assumed by various parties but not explicitly stated. Thus I think a good bit of the confusion (but not all) comes from having different definitions but communicating with each other as if we all agree on the terminology. If someone is speaking of salvation mainly in terms of justification while another person is thinking of the “whole package” from election to glorification, then there is bound to be some confusion.

    I may be wrong about this, but when I hear someone raise an objection about the third use of the law in a discussion about the relationship between the law and gospel in justification I have to wonder if there might be differences of terminology. It also makes me wonder if there might be different contextual concerns at work.

  162. April 4, 2010 at 1:19 am

    [...] Wilson responds to the accusation that his view of Law and Gospel imply a denial of Sola Fide. He includes a great quote from [...]

  163. April 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

    [...] 8, 2010 at 8:54 am (Uncategorized) Lane’s recent post questioning the consistency of Doug Wilson’s affirmation of sola fide evoked a number of [...]

  164. Ron Henzel said,

    April 8, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Tim,

    In comment 160, you wrote:

    Ron, you said this: “with the coming of the gospel has the second use become obsolete (WCF 19.4)”

    That is incorrect and also an impressive misreading of Westminster. Our Standard says that the “sundry judicial laws” given to Israel as a “body politic” are abrogated, except

    insofar as the “general equity” may require us to apply those “sundry judicial laws” to the political bodies of which we happen to be a part.

    The second use of the law is still very much in force, according to Westminster. A certain (fairly narrow) subsection of the OT laws are what’s in view in WCF 19.4.

    First of all, I notice that in my haste I became confused in my use of terminology by referring to the civil laws of Israel as the “second [i.e., civil] use of the law.” To be clear, I

    ended up cross-wiring the following categories inappropriately:

    3 Kinds of Mosaic Laws:
    1. Ceremonial (typological and temporary)
    2. Civil (forensically unique and temporary)
    3. Moral (universal and permanent)

    3 Uses of the Moral Law
    1. Pedagogical: to condemn us a sinners and drive us to Christ.
    2. Civil: to restrain evil
    3. Normative: to serve as a rule of life for believers.

    (Note: in some lists, the order of the first and second uses are reversed. But this is a common order, and the one we find in the list Doug Wilson provides on his blog post.)

    I was thinking of the civil law of Moses but referring to the civil use of the moral law. (WCF 19.4 addresses the former, but not the latter.) To be accurate I should have written,

    “with the coming of the gospel, Israel’s civil laws became obsolete (they are to be no longer used), leaving us with the civil (second) use of the moral law.” This means I will also

    need to modify the first sentence in my final paragraph of comment 155:

    Meanwhile, it is simply an anti-confessional slander to charge those who uphold WCF 19.4 with lacking “a coherent place for the civil use of the law,” and then use

    that slander as a smokescreen for an anti-Reformed denial of the law/gospel distinction.

    Since WCF 19.4 does not refer to the civil use of the moral law, the reference should have been to WCF 23.4 (1788 American Revision).

    Having corrected myself here, however, I think the confusion continued with your response, since in it you seem to also be following my lead in referring to the civil laws of Israel

    as “the second use.” I apologize for getting that ball rolling down the wrong side of the hill. But as I look closely at your response, assuming—unless I am mistaken—that you

    meant to write “The use of Israel’s civil law is still very much in force” instead of “The second use of the law is still very much in force,” you would seem to be drawing theonomic

    implications from WCF 19.4. Please let me know if I am drawing an incorrect conclusion from what you wrote.

    I did not intend for my part in this discussion to go in this direction. I assume that you are probably aware that Lane has written several posts critiquing Theonomy, including “Why Theonomy Is Biblically-Theologically Wrong.” The best

    analysis of Theonomist attempts to use WCF 19 that I am aware of is found in Sinclair B. Ferguson’s “An Assembly of Theonomists? The Teaching of the Westminster Divinses

    on the Law of God,” in Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Academie Books/Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), 315-349. Even the most

    cursory response to Ferguson’s impressive case is pathetically absent from Gary North’s (ed.)

    Theonomy: an Informed Response, (Tyler, TX, USA: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991).

    Similarly, unless I missed something on another comment thread, any response by Wilson to my demonstration in comment 155 that he is, among other things,

    1) engaging in a dangerous reader-response hermeneutic,
    2) confusing the meaning of the text with the uses of the text (viz., the meaning of law texts with the uses of the law), and
    3) falsely equating the pedagogical use of the law with “bare law” (nuda lex), and even “raw obligation,” which is a staggering error (to use Wilson’s own

    word), since the only way a pedagogical use can even exist in the first place is in the context of the Covenant of Grace!,

    are conspicuous by their absence.

  165. April 17, 2010 at 9:19 am

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  166. December 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    [...] I want to encourage you to read Lane’s excellent post at Green Baggins where he demonstrates clearly and decisively that Doug Wilson and the Federal Vision deny [...]

  167. February 5, 2011 at 8:03 am

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  168. June 25, 2013 at 9:58 pm

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  169. October 30, 2013 at 11:13 am

    […] to the doctrine of justification (and it is) and if Wilson denies the same (and he does) then Wilson denies justification sola […]


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