One More Time

Let’s try to clarify once more what we are talking about, because I feel that the third use of the law is not what we are talking about here.

I’ll ask the question this way: if there is no separation of law and gospel anywhere in the text of Scripture, then how is faith itself (speaking about the definition of it, now) not Golawspel? Douglas Wilson claims to hold to sola fide, faith alone. However, if faith is defined as both law and gospel, this gives away sola fide. On what biblical basis could one exclude law from justifying faith? On what exegetical or systematic basis could Douglas Wilson exclude law from justifying faith, in terms of how we appropriate Christ’s righteousness? We are not talking here about Jesus Christ, per se, either. We are talking about our appropriation of Christ’s righteousness in justification. So what exegetical justification (pardon the pun) is there for excluding law from our justification if there is no distinction in the text between law and gospel? How can the Bible be said to exclude law from our faith if there is no law/gospel distinction in the text? One can say sola fide, hoping that works are excluded. But if the law/gospel distinction is not present in the text, then faith itself is turned into Golawspel, by the Bible’s own definition. Faith becomes not mere grace, but also a work, since it would partake of both law and gospel. This is the nub of the issue. The Bible’s own definition of the nature of justifying faith is what is at stake here.

To head off another possible rabbit trail, we are not talking about sanctification here, only justification. Everyone in this discussion (including the infamous WSC faculty!) agrees with the third use of the law. Incidentally, not even all Lutherans deny the third use of the law. Witness article 6 of the Formula of Concord (see Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom, volume 3, pp. 130-131). Tomorrow, I will, Lord-willing, post a specific answer to Doug’s concerns, which are a caricature of my position, in my opinion.

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84 Comments

  1. tim prussic said,

    March 31, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Pastor, you say that if “faith is defined as both law and gospel,” but who *defines* faith as law or gospel? Faith is that gracious, vital relationship we have with Christ. It is neither law nor gospel. This is a confusion of categories.

    More: “On what biblical basis could one exclude law from justifying faith?”

    Again, I think you’re mixing up two categories. The Bible’s not interested in excluding certain texts of the Bible from out justification, that is law-texts. It’s interested in excluding OUR WORKS of the law from it.

  2. Manlius said,

    March 31, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Like Tim, I’m really confused about several of your definitions and categories. Your thinking seems to be all over the place. Perhaps it’s my fault and not yours, but I just don’t get it. And I don’t think I’m alone.

  3. terry west said,

    March 31, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    Lane,
    With all due respect, brother, if you have to go to such lengths to explain what you are saying, and (in my opinion and others as well) still not be very clear or certainly not be able to set forth a very sound argument. Then maybe you should back off for now on accusing someone of the very serious error of denying justification of faith alone. Just a thought.

  4. March 31, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Lane, you say:

    “However, if faith is defined as both law and gospel, this gives away sola fide.

    Of course it would. But I don’t do anything the kind. Faith is the God-given response to the Scriptures. Faith occurs in us, not in the text. It responds to the text. That text contains both law and grace, and law is always to be understood as dwelling within the larger context of grace. The law, according to the Reformed tradition, is incorporated into the covenant of grace. By this faith (saving faith, mind you), we obey the commands and tremble at the threats (WCF 14.2).

    Lane, you have accused me of denying sola fide, and you have done so on the basis of a wild misunderstanding of my position. I would respectfully ask you to reconsider.

  5. pduggie said,

    March 31, 2010 at 10:01 pm

    N T Wright solves your dilemma neatly (since its obvious that when we believe for justification, it is still in response to the imperative duty to believe) by downplaying the instrumental nature of faith in justification, and turning it into a badge of covenant membership. So if it isn’t even an instrumental cause, just an occasion for justification, then faith can’t be a substitute work. He’s concerned that faith might be seen as a substitute work, and so defines faith as a badge instead.

  6. pduggie said,

    March 31, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    @4 Doug Wilson:

    See, Lane doesn’t agree. He thinks that in justification, Paul is only thinking of Law as a covenant of work. I think perhaps he thinks that before saving faith is exercized, you can’t say that someone is obeying any covenant-of-grace laws. They are just failing to obey covenant of works laws. (even though the content of the demands are the same, of course)

    Lane would disagree with Thomas Manton, for instance,

    “There is a perfect opposition of the “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus to the law of sin and death” Here is law against law, and the spirit against sin, and life against death. Now what are these two laws? I think they may be explained by that of the apostle: Rom iii 27 “Where is boasting then? it is excluded. by what law? of works? nay but by the law of faith.” What is there called the law of works, and the law of faith is here called the law of the spirit of life, and the law of sin and death in short by these two laws is meant the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.”

    Sounds at first as if Lane might agree with this. The “law of works” would be ‘proper’ law, straight up, but the covenant of grace would only be a metaphorical law that isn’t really an imperative. But Manton says no about the CoG.

    “The covenant of grace is called the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. A law it is, for it hath all the requisites of a law: a precept, and a sanction They err certainly, that tell us the gospel is no law; for if there were no law there would be no governor and no government, no duty, no sin, no judgment, no punishment, nor reward.”

    futher

    “Christ being possessed of this lordship and dominion hath made a new law of grace which is propounded as a remedy for the relieving and restoring the lapsed world of mankind to the grace and favour of God; granting pardon and life to all that sincerely repent and believe in him, and live in new obedience and peremptorily concluding and damning those to everlasting death that shall refuse these terms.”

  7. Vern Crisler said,

    March 31, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    I still think the FV denial of the law-gospel distinction is because FVists think, in terms of their objectivism, that the visible church is virtually the same as the Israelite nation under the Mosaic covenant. Just as there was both severity and grace in the Mosaic covenant, so also in the church.

    It seems to follow from FV externalism that the gospel is ultimately a conditional message, a sort of two-edged sword. It’s not really good news, but more like almost good news.

  8. tim prussic said,

    March 31, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Vern, #7 is very interesting. You seem to be arguing that the covenant objectivism of the FV somehow generates the subjectivity regarding LGD. I have a hard time seeing any connection.

  9. March 31, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    But Vern, I don’t deny the law/gospel distinction. I deny the law/gospel hermeneutic. And if the law part of the text in a law/gospel hermeneutic is a law part that admits of three uses, as it must, then it follows (since the third use is filed under grace) that the law/gospel hermeneutic is actually a gospel hermeneutic. Right?

    And it would be nice if someone here acknowledged that saving faith responds to commands and threats appropriately according to WCF 14.2. Which means, if you follow the logic out, that the WCF denies sola fide.

  10. Dean B said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Pastor Keister

    The LGD is a hermeneutic. I believe it is an important hermeneutic, but it merely remains a mere tool in the pastors toolbox.

    If one does not understand the importance of the LGD they will have a higher propensity to include works in justificaiton, but I do not believe it is a necessary result. Nor does a good understanding of LGD necessarily prevent one from including obedience in faith.

    If in a sermon Pastor Wilson emphasize the second use of the law in Matt 5:27-30 and in your sermon on the same text you emphasize the third use of the law does it necessarily prove one of you denies sola fedi? In this scenario when you emphasized to your congregation the need to live holy lives were you guilty of teaching Golawspel?

    Or is there by definition only one reformed way to emphasize Matt 5;27-30 to a congregation?

    I could be misunderstanding what you are trying to communicate. If I have misunderstood please help me understand better.

  11. stuart said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:25 am

    A question for Douglas Wilson @#9

    I can be a little dense at times, and more than one commenter on this blog during the recent discussions has given occasion for me to scratch my head and ask, “I wonder what he’s really saying?” So please forgive me for my need for further clarification . . .

    By saying that you deny “the law/gospel hermeneutic” do you mean that any use of a law/gospel hermeneutic in interpreting any passage of Scripture is illegitimate, or are you saying you don’t agree with such a hermeneutic being used as THE hermeneutic for all Scripture as oppossed to other hermeneutic approaches? Or are you saying something else?

    Thanks.

  12. Vern Crisler said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:32 am

    #9, Hi Doug,
    When I use the term law-gospel distinction, I’m talking about the hermeneutical distinction vis-a-vis the FV denial: “The fundamental division is not in the text, but rather in the human heart.” (Joint Federal Vision Profession.)

    #8, Tim, I know you’re trying to refute my point — playing on the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity — but I just don’t see the logic of your question. The FVists are denying that the law-gospel distinction is an objective TEXTUAL matter but is really a subjective response (the human heart).

    That’s not the same thing as FV objectivism with respect to the covenant. Their covenantal objectivism is more like Barth’s objectivity, his Christo-centricism. He too argued we can’t talk about God back there, or about eternal decrees, but only about Christ. For God is wholly revealed in Christ. So also FVists say we cannot talk about God’s decrees, but only about covenant. God is wholly revealed in covenant. They are thus covenant-centric.

    They regard the visible church as an objective external covenant, with Christ as head, pretty much the same as the Mosaic covenant, an external covenant with both believers and apostates. In FVism, grace and faith and all other soteriological loci are essentially reduced to ecclesiastical loci.

    That’s why in FV thought, the gospel is almost good news (playing on Lincoln’s “almost chosen people.”) It never quite measures up as good news.

  13. Andy said,

    April 1, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Lane (or anyone), one simple question: is 1 John 3:23 law or gospel? “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

  14. GLW Johnson said,

    April 1, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Douglas
    Like Rick Phillips over at REf 21 I commend you for your insightful critique of Waltke’s sad stance on evolution. If only you had taken the same approach to the FV.

  15. April 1, 2010 at 11:26 am

    When Paul says in Romans 7:22 that he delights in the Law and in 25 that he serves the Law of God is that “Law” or “Gospel”?

  16. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    April 1, 2010 at 11:31 am

    What I hear Wilson objecting to is a law/gospel DICHOTOMY, in which the two operate in hermetically sealed, antithetical categories that by their nature can have no harmonious relationship to each other. I’m not sure Rev. Keister actually is now arguing for such a *dichotomy*, but it has that sound.

    I think it would be helpful if Rev. Keister were to more carefully make a distinction {pardon the pun} between “distinction” and “dichotomy”. IF both Keister and Wilson were to agree that law/gospel are not necessarily *dichotomous*, then the discussion could perhaps move more fruitfully to explore the functional relationship between the two.

  17. Joe Branca said,

    April 1, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Andy re #13,

    John is providing a shorthand summary of the appropriate response to the call of faith and the necessary evidence of appropriately responding to that call, faith and faith working itself out through love. When we have verses like this which refer to the *entire* experience of the Christian instead of being simply an evangelistic text or is not explicitly dealing with soteric-justification issues like Paul tackled head on, these verses may be unhelpful in trying to neatly categorize things.

    I don’t think the question should be whether faith is also commanded in response to the gospel as well as works being commanded by the law. The question should be whether the commands function the same in each case or function differently.

    1 John 3:23 does nicely summarize the characteristic responses within the new covenant, and although the responses may be similar to the responses under the old (Mosaic) covenant, the way they function are contrasted elsewhere. Under the old covenant, believing/faithfulness/obedience were means of maintaining the blessings offered in the covenant. “The one doing them shall live by them”. Paul explicitly limits that sort of functioning of response-to-commands to the Mosaic law itself only (Rom. 10:5, Gal 3:10,12). So whatever the command to respond in faith in the gospel means, it cannot mean the sort of a doing by which we live.

    The reason why the gospel call to faith is like a release from bondage is because faith is simply deferring to the acceptable work of another. It doesn’t matter that faith is “commanded” per se, it’s not the kind of commanding that threatens curse and exposes our sinful state. I guess I do not understand how the call to faith could be considered *law* to the unbeliever when that call is characterized in ways like “Come unto me you who are wary and heavy laden”. While the Law exposes our unfulfilled burdens, the Gospel simply promises release from those heavy burdens.

    j

  18. Jesse Pirschel said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I have to say “here, here” to Tim’s first post. I dont think this explanation clarifies but rather muddles the situation. Faith is not a work (in the normal mode of biblical speech), nor is it good news.

    Lane, I think what you are trying to get after is that with respect to justification their are two options, law or Gospel. Do this and live or this is done, believe. If that is ever muddled we have a problem, either that or the reformers need to say sorry.

    But this conversation is all over the map from the principles of law and Gospel with respect to justification, to the hermeneutic of law and Gospel (where in some circles Gen. 1.1 is “law” because its not Gospel), to the uses of the law. This post only seems to muddy the water all the more.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Doug, a couple of points. First, and most importantly, one cannot redefine the law/gospel distinction to be something in a person, or in application. That is not the law/gospel distinction as it has been historically understood. The law/gospel distinction is something that is in the text. Therefore, I would seriously question whether it can even be called a hermeneutic. That certain passages are law and certain other passages are gospel is the law/gospel distinction. We do not get to redefine these terms. If you say otherwise, then you are not understanding the tradition on this point. None of the Reformed fathers define the law/gospel distinction the way you do. I challenge you to come up with one single Reformed author from the 16th or 17th century who defines law/gospel distinction as being not in the text but in the application, or in the person. This is crucially important to this discussion.

    Faith is defined by the Scriptures. Faith as an instantiation happens in people. But just because the latter happens does not mean that it is defined by experience and not by the text. Scripture defines what faith is, such as Hebrews 11:1 “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” So, again I ask the question: when Paul is contrasting faith and works in justification, most notably in Romans 3-5, Romans 9:30-33, and Galatians 3, is that Golawspel, or pure Gospel? When Paul says that law-keeping has NOTHING to do with how we obtain justification, how can we say that that is law? Paul is excluding law-keeping from the discussion of how we are justified. How can we reintroduce law into the equation by denying the law/gospel distinction here? That’s a bit like the computer warning: “keyboard disconnected: hit any key to continue.”

    Doug, it is very clear that you claim to believe in sola fide. What I am saying here is that the denial of the law/gospel distinction is inconsistent with a claim to sola fide. I make no judgment as to why this is happening in your theology. You clearly think that the denial of the law/gospel distinction (what you erroneously call the law/gospel hermeneutic) is consistent with a claim to sola fide. That is the paradigm I challenge here. The fact that so many people think I am speaking a foreign language is because those people have not read what the Reformers wrote about the law/gospel distinction, or their dire warnings about confusion on this point.

    To answer Mark, I believe that, IN THE MATTER OF OUR JUSTIFICATION, there can no greater *dichotomy* than that between law and gospel. It is utter bifurcation with zero overlap whatsoever. Paul makes this dichotomy ever so clear. In this whole discussion, I have never denied the third use of the law, nor have I said that all passages are clearly one or the other. Could they be layered in some places? Sure. But in justification? Never. Is law and gospel bifurcated elsewhere in the theological loci? No. People are not getting (though I have said in numerous times already) that I am limiting this discussion to justification. They think I am talking about the entire rest of the Christian life. As a result, my statements get extended beyond their proper scope, and refutation of the extension is thought to be refutation of the substance. Anyone trained in logic knows that this is ridiculous. But no one has yet to address the substance of my argument, though I have asked repeatedly for it. Here it is: if Paul disassociates our law-keeping from justification so utterly and completely, how can we possibly describe that as law? In the matter of justification, faith acts in a completely opposite manner to works. How then can faith, IN JUSTIFICATION, be defined Scripturally as law and gospel, which is what has to happen if there is no distinction between law and gospel in the text?

  20. greenbaggins said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    Jess, I would encourage you to ask all the critics of the FV on this website whether my posts have muddled things or clarified things. I think you’ll find the latter is the answer of them, and the former is the answer of all those who have sympathies with the FV. The reason is that none of the sympathizers of the FV have ever taken the trouble to understand the law/gospel distinction as it has been traditionally laid out by the Reformers (hardly, I might add, a backwater minority of the tradition).

  21. David Gray said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    >The reason is that none of the sympathizers of the FV have ever taken the trouble to understand the law/gospel distinction as it has been traditionally laid out by the Reformers

    None? Ever?

  22. greenbaggins said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    One does not understand the law/gospel distinction truly if one does not see how it affects justification, David. I have not seen this kind of understanding from any FV person of whom I’m aware.

  23. David Gray said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    >I have not seen this kind of understanding from any FV person of whom I’m aware.

    But in fairness your statement also addressed people who are not FV but have sympathy for people who are FV. People can see problems with the FV but still see problems with how the FV has been handled or conclude that there are some areas where they’ve had things to say which are helpful. I just think the brush was a bit broad.

  24. Andy said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Joe Branca (#17), You write, ” these verses may be unhelpful in trying to neatly categorize things.” I’ll play devil’s advocate. Why is the verse to be blamed for poor categorization and not your categories (ex: the rigid law/gospel distinction)? My point is that the sort of black/white distinction being drawn by Lane makes verses like these messy indeed.

    Lane (et al), if you are going to thrown down the gauntlet about this matter then fine. But answer the question with a one-word answer (if the matter is that simple). Is 1 John 3:23 law or gospel?

  25. Jesse Pirschel said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Lane,

    You may or may not be correct in your assessment, as I cant ask each one involved. My only point is that your post above wasn’t very clear imo (I’ve been wrong before). When we start saying things like “faith” is either law or Gospel, I think it is unhelpful. I have no problem with your last paragraph in 19, I think that helps bring some clarity to what you are saying. I just felt the OP was fuzzy, that is my only point. That is why several days ago I requested definitions, because this conversation has been all over the place.

    I have no problem confessing with you that law/Gospel is a legit distinction that is of the utmost necessity for understanding justification by faith properly so as not to mix in living faith wrought works as any sort of ground for our standing with God. I was just confused by the OP.

  26. tim prussic said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Pr. Lane, you’re complaining that no one is engaging you, but I’ve TRIED multiple times. Having read and reread you, I still think you are mixing up categories. Here’s perfect example of the confusion: “Paul is excluding law-keeping from the discussion of how we are justified. How can we reintroduce law into the equation by denying the law/gospel distinction here?” Let me ask a question or two that I hope will focus in on where I think the confusion is.

    Does the Bible exclude particular passages of the Bible from our justification?
    -OR-
    Does the Bible exclude human efforts from our justification?

    When the Bible speaks of the radical exclusion of works of the law from our justification, is it speaking of the exclusion of certain portions of the Bible from our justification?
    -OR-
    When the Bible speaks of the radical exclusion of works of the law from our justification, is it speaking of the exclusion of all human efforts and works from our justification?

  27. tim prussic said,

    April 1, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Also, another big problem is that the law is viewed too heavily as the covenant of works by those influenced by Kline. The recapitualtion *aspect* of the law (which I do NOT deny) is only one *aspect* of the first use (and possibly second use) of the law, it is not the identity of the law. The Mosaic law is a dispensation of the covenant of grace, it is not a rearticulation of the covenant of works. If we push the recapitulation too hard, we’re certainly far less than confessional and we’re dabbling in covenantal regression.

  28. stuart said,

    April 1, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Lane,

    First, and most importantly, one cannot redefine the law/gospel distinction to be something in a person, or in application. That is not the law/gospel distinction as it has been historically understood. The law/gospel distinction is something that is in the text.

    I hear what you are saying, but the statement “The law/gospel distinction is something that is in the text” is not entirely clear as is evident from the many questions that have been posed on this blog.

    I repeat the questions I raised on a previous post . . .

    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 think defining this well would help clarify your position. The closest explanation I’ve seen from you thus far is this statement . . .

    That certain passages are law and certain other passages are gospel is the law/gospel distinction.

    I think this statement is clear enough for those who already know what you’re trying to say, but for those who are struggling to understand the concept that statement still needs further explanation.

    Therefore, I would seriously question whether it can even be called a hermeneutic.

    Perhaps you’re right and the law/gospel distinction should not be called a hermeneutic, but believe me when I say that it is being used as a hermeneutic for some.

    I would encourage you to ask all the critics of the FV on this website whether my posts have muddled things or clarified things. I think you’ll find the latter is the answer of them, and the former is the answer of all those who have sympathies with the FV. The reason is that none of the sympathizers of the FV have ever taken the trouble to understand the law/gospel distinction as it has been traditionally laid out by the Reformers (hardly, I might add, a backwater minority of the tradition).

    I say this with all due respect, while your posts have clarified your view on how the law/gospel distinction is necessary to our understanding the biblical view of justification (and I would agree that a denial of a law/gospel disinction undermines our view of justification), I don’t believe you have been addressing what some people are asking. Some of the discussion I’ve seen may be a misunderstanding of the law/gospel distinction as historically understood, but it seems to me several questions have been asked that do not touch on justification per se.

    Call us ignorant or FV sympathizers if you wish, but if you want people to really understand your view, at some point you have to start dealing with questions with more than just “I’m talking about justification, guys!”

    My 2 cents, and probably worth every penny.

  29. Al said,

    April 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I tried to resist, but this is killing me. When you say this ” First, and most importantly, one cannot redefine the law/gospel distinction to be something in a person, or in application. That is not the law/gospel distinction as it has been historically understood. The law/gospel distinction is something that is in the text.” While at the same time quoting “Colquhoun’s magnificent” statement:

    “Seeing as how the law/gospel distinction is becoming rather a hot topic on my blog, I thought I would direct readers to John Colquhoun’s magnificent treatise on the subject. Right at the get-go, he says this: “Every passage of sacred Scripture is either law or gospel, or is capable of being referred either to the one or to the other” (p. xxv).”

    I have to ask you this… Are the texts “capable” or are the persons reading them so? Are the texts self-referring or do they require application by a living breathing theologian?

    How is that not a hermeneutic?

    al sends

  30. tim prussic said,

    April 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    It seems that the LGD, as Pr. Lane’s speaking of it, is not an aspect of hermeneutics, but some sort of *textual ontology*. This text IS law (that is, covenant of works) and that text IS gospel (that is, covenant of grace). If this is what’s being affirmed, I deny it. Also, is Pr. Lane’s contention with Pr. Wilson rest on the idea that if this textual ontology is denied, then sola fide falls, I think our boat’s drifted too far down the river.

  31. pduggie said,

    April 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    lane, you write

    “So, again I ask the question: when Paul is contrasting faith and works in justification, most notably in Romans 3-5, Romans 9:30-33, and Galatians 3, is that Golawspel, or pure Gospel?”

    Romans 9: 31-32 says “but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.”

    That I think is a good example of why the distinction IS NOT in the ‘text’. Israel pursued a textual law, but they, in their hearts pursued AS IF IT WERE (it wasn’t supposed to be) by WORKS.

    The contrast in Romans 9 is not between law and grace, but a law by works and a law by faith. Everything I’ve said about faith as an imperative and duty (and non-COW law) is to that point. It is our duty to seek the righteousness of another.

    I’d argue they should have seen the gracious character of the preamble plus first command, instead of treating it as a work to perform. They should have seen the true gracious heart message of circumcision, instead of turning it into a work whereby they made themselves holy.

  32. greenbaggins said,

    April 1, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I will try to answer everyone, and then I am really done. This is taking up far too much of my time right now.

    First, Tim. The Bible excludes any and all human works from our justification. The Bible also specifically says that the law is not of faith, Galatians 3:12. So, when we define faith, we must define it in such a way that there is no reference to law-keeping. Faith is not law-keeping. It is receiving and resting in Jesus Christ, who has done the law-keeping on our behalf. That is the gospel. All of this can be derived straight from the pages of Scripture. The problem is, these very texts that say this are called law and gospel by those who deny the distinction in the text. So the biblical definitions of faith that are strongly opposed to law-keeping in the matter of justification are still called law by those who deny the distinction in the text. Do you see the problem now? The idea of recapitulation is not directly relevant to the question at hand, so it would be better to leave that off to the side for now.

    Stuart, what the law/gospel distinction means is this: some passages are law, and some passages are gospel. Some passages are bad news (telling us of our sin), and some passages are good news (telling us of the solution). The third use of the law is not applicable to anyone outside of Christ, and this is the point at issue: how does the law function for an unbeliever? It functions to condemn us. In this, it drives us to the Gospel, and that is how God ordained that it should function for those who will eventually be Christians. So the first use of the law has the Gospel as its goal for the elect before they come to faith. Of course, for the reprobate, it does nothing of the sort, but merely condemns. And the Gospel does not cease to be the Gospel just because the reprobate reject it. All the talk about aroma does not change the nature of the Gospel as Gospel. Our reaction to the Gospel does not change the nature of the Gospel. Rather, it tells us where we are in relation to it.

    Al, re-read the beginning of the quotation: “Every passage of Scripture IS either law or gospel.” To read “capable” as indicating some kind of latent meaning which a theologian has to come up with would seem to me wide of the mark. This is what God meant when He sent us the text. He sent us law and gospel, and we have to recognize it for what it is. This is the case with all hermeneutics, unless you want to descend to reader-response criticism, where the reader is the one primarily responsible for manufacturing the meaning, in which case writers ought to stop writing, if they intend to mean anything by what they say.

    Paul, you misunderstand Romans 9. Gentiles attain righteousness by faith in that they lay hold of Christ’s righteousness. Israel tried to get righteousness by the law, an inherent righteousness of their own, rather than pursuing the righteousness of Christ by faith. They tried using the law as the way of getting life, rather than using the law to point them to Christ. In other words, they confused the first and the third use of the law before they were regenerated. The law is not the way to salvation for us any more because of sin.

  33. stuart said,

    April 1, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for your time, Lane. I apologize for being one of the ones who have taken up your time with my questions.

    Forgive me for bringing this up, but I still think you misunderstand my own concerns. I’m not a FV guy. I don’t deny a law/gospel distinction. I don’t believe works are involved in our justification. I agree with you that a law/gospel distinction is needed in understanding justification. I don’t believe the law/gospel distinction is only in hte subjective experience of the person. And as far as I know I’ve never said anything close to such things as “the Gospel ceases to be the Gospel because the reprobate reject it” or “our reaction to the Gospel changes the nature of the Gospel” (I’m not sure what brought those ideas out).

    I was actaully trying to ask questions to help the discussion since you were getting lots of comments that seemed to be coming at the issues you raised from very different vantage points.

    Perhaps I’m naive, but I don’t think everyone who has questions about the law/gospel distinction is a heretic, FV sympathizer, or opposed to the Reformed faith.

    Anyway, I appreciate your recommendation of John Colquhoun’s work, and I’ll put in on my ever growing reading list.

  34. greenbaggins said,

    April 1, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Stuart, I probably wasn’t being very clear. I didn’t intend for my paragraph to you to sound irritated. :-)

  35. stuart said,

    April 1, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    No biggie. That’s one of the many problems with internet discussions . . . the tone of the remark is hard to discern.

    Another problem with these discussions is something close to contextualessness. Comments seem to come out of the blue because you don’t know my context, and I know very little of yours. It is easier to miss the point of short posts or comments when the contexts are somewhat different.

    Thanks again for your interactions.

  36. Joe Branca said,

    April 1, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Andy (#24),

    “I’ll play devil’s advocate. Why is the verse to be blamed for poor categorization and not your categories (ex: the rigid law/gospel distinction)? My point is that the sort of black/white distinction being drawn by Lane makes verses like these messy indeed.”

    Well, I would say that other parts of scripture do make these black/white contrasts. Paul in Gal 3 et al contrasts two covenant administrations as exemplifying two ways of attaining life; one by doing, one by believing. We can’t also accuse Paul of making *too* sharp of distinctions, since John talks about the command to believe and love elsewhere. Because of Paul’s special care in making distinctions, it makes sense to me that we adopt those distinctions in our broader hermeneutics, especially in relating redemptive history with ordo salutis/justification.

    I don’t think John was ignorant of that law/gospel contrast, nor was he unnecessarily sloppy. He simply made use of another sense of “command” in his epistle for the purpose of exhorting and encouraging his audience according to their vantage point. While Paul’s contribution was to explain and clarify, on a higher level of abstraction so to speak, the distinction of Law and Gospel, using historical arguments by comparing the demands revealed at Sinai with the promised blessings revealed to Abraham and so on, John speaks from the vantage point of experience, of actually attaining the promises of the covenant of Grace, believing, living, seeing, cherishing the blessings of eternal life freely promised and given. John’s concern is that his audience do not deceive themselves in that regard but really make sure they have attained that eternal life, that is faith evidenced by love for the brethren. Since John was not addressing the higher level theme regards the basis for judicial justification, him speaking of the “commandment” to “believe” is not muddling things in the least. That shouldn’t be taken to mean John has “poor categorization” since I don’t think anyone is arguing for a uniform expression in language of a LGC in all parts of scripture that mention believing or commands.

    As well, think about when Jesus answers the question “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” by stating “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (Jn 6:29) Jesus is making use of irony (as he sometimes did in his answers) because of the assumptions in the question being posed. The way of life, the work of God, is to believe in the works of another, the One whom God has sent. It’s actually another instance of contrast between believing and doing, by ironically pointing out the futility of *doing* something to attain life when the One who was sent to bring life as a free gift of grace was standing right in front of them. This crowd grumbled at the answers being given in John 6, because Jesus kept making assertions about his identity as the one sent from heaven to impart life (believe on me). That discouraged the crowd from a program of action (doing) to attain results that would be blessed by God. So again even though the literal language Jesus uses connects “work” and “believe”, I think a careful reading of that passage demonstrates in substance an aspect of the LGC.

    just some thoughts

  37. Mark Van Der Molen said,

    April 2, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    >To answer Mark, I believe that, IN THE MATTER OF OUR JUSTIFICATION, there can no greater *dichotomy* than that between law and gospel. It is utter bifurcation with zero overlap whatsoever. Paul makes this dichotomy ever so clear. In this whole discussion, I have never denied the third use of the law, nor have I said that all passages are clearly one or the other. Could they be layered in some places? Sure. But in justification? Never. Is law and gospel bifurcated elsewhere in the theological loci? No.>

    Appreciate the clarification, that the bifurcated, antithetical LG dichotomy is specifically in relation to our *justification*. That certainly is a narrower subset of all the manners in which the confessions do speak of the relationship of law and the gospel.

    Also, your clarification that you do not hold to an apriori, across the board, antithetical dichotomy between law and gospel is helpful. I trust you reject the idea that the law “always” condemns, for that would reduce the law to the first use only. I’m not saying this of you, but we can all recognize that a person can claim that they don’t deny the second or third use of the law, but their writings elsewhere could belie that protestation.

  38. greenbaggins said,

    April 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Yes, that’s true, Mark. I am primarily reacting against the view that says that they are never dichotomized, even in justification.

  39. Roger Mann said,

    April 2, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    27. Tim wrote,

    Also, another big problem is that the law is viewed too heavily as the covenant of works by those influenced by Kline. The recapitualtion *aspect* of the law (which I do NOT deny) is only one *aspect* of the first use (and possibly second use) of the law, it is not the identity of the law. The Mosaic law is a dispensation of the covenant of grace, it is not a rearticulation of the covenant of works. If we push the recapitulation too hard, we’re certainly far less than confessional and we’re dabbling in covenantal regression.

    The notion that the moral law is “viewed too heavily as the covenant of works,” or that such a view is “certainly far less than confessional,” is patently absurd. The Westminster Confession makes it crystal clear that the moral law was given “as a covenant of works,” and that it retains this “identity” throughout redemptive history:

    1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

    2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man. (WCF 19)

    And the Westminster Larger Catechism confirms in even clearer language that the moral law retains its nature “as a covenant of works” throughout redemptive history:

    Question 93: What is the moral law?

    Answer: The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding everyone to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul and body, and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he owes to God and man: promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it. [which makes the moral law a "covenant of works" in its essential nature]

    So, please, let’s stop with the nonsense about this view being a “Klinean” novelty and “covenantal regression.” By the way, this was also Calvin’s view of the moral law. So this cannot even legitimately be characterized as a post-Reformation “scholastic” view. It is the historical Reformed view through and through:

    “We, indeed, hold with Paul, that those who fulfill the Law are justified by God, but because we are all far from observing the Law, we infer that the works which should be most effectual to justification are of no avail to us, because we are destitute of them… Here it is proper to remember the relation which we previously established between faith and the Gospel; faith being said to justify because it receives and embraces the righteousness offered in the Gospel. By the very fact of its being said to be offered by the Gospel, all consideration of works is excluded. This Paul repeatedly declares, and in two passages, in particular, most clearly demonstrates. In the Epistle to the Romans, comparing the Law and the Gospel, he says, “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise,—If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,” (Rom. 10:5, 6:9). Do you see how he makes the distinction between the Law and the Gospel to be, that the former gives justification to works, whereas the latter bestows it freely without any help from works? This is a notable passage, and may free us from many difficulties if we understand that the justification which is given us by the Gospel is free from any terms of Law. It is for this reason he more than once places the promise in diametrical opposition to the Law. “If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise,” (Gal. 3:18). Expressions of similar import occur in the same chapter. Undoubtedly the Law also has its promises; and, therefore, between them and the Gospel promises there must be some distinction and difference, unless we are to hold that the comparison is inept. And in what can the difference consist unless in this that the promises of the Gospel are gratuitous, and founded on the mere mercy of God, whereas the promises of the Law depend on the condition of works? But let no pester here allege that only the righteousness which men would obtrude upon God of their own strength and free will is repudiated; since Paul declares, without exceptions that the Law gained nothing by its commands, being such as none, not only of mankind in general, but none even of the most perfect, are able to fulfill.” (Institutes 3.11.15-17)

  40. tim prussic said,

    April 2, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Pastor, you said: “So the biblical definitions of faith that are strongly opposed to law-keeping in the matter of justification are still called law by those who deny the distinction in the text.”

    You’re still mixing up our designation of a Bible text with the actual person believing. They’re two different things, but you move from one to the other as if they’re the same. That’s what I don’t get. I can’t figure out another way to say it, but that you’re confusing categories.

    More positively: Faith in the person justified is NONE of the law. (Amen!) That is, he’s not trusting in any work/merit/fashion sense of his own, but rather trusting and resting in Christ and his finished word alone. That is one (exceedingly important) thing, what we call this or that text (or even what it is in itself, if that can be said) is quite another.

  41. Dave H said,

    April 2, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    A famous theologian once wrote that these types of debates “distract attention from the real point of what the Bible is there for. (I am reminded of a legend about Karl Barth. On being asked by a woman whether the serpent in Genesis actually spoke, he replied, “Madam, it doesn’t matter whether the serpent spoke. What matters is what the serpent said.”) Squabbling over particular definitions of the qualities of the Bible is like a married couple squabbling over which of them loves the children more, when they should be getting on with bringing them up and setting them a good example. The Bible is there to enable God’s people to be equipped to do God’s work in God’s world, not to give them an excuse to sit back smugly, knowing they possess all God’s truth.”

    Seems like the last time I visited this blog site six months ago, the same darned bickering was going on. If the FVer’s claim they believe A, B and C, then trust them, get past your prideful ways, and move on. Unbelievable! And blessings on this Good Friday which all believers may hold in common.

  42. Vern Crisler said,

    April 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    #41
    I recall Van Til in a lecture referenced this anecdote about Barth as WHAT WAS WRONG with Barth’s theology — history swallowed up by meaning.

  43. Dave H said,

    April 2, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    You fail to prove any points with that one, Vern. See you again in six months on this blog, still talking about how the FV guys believe what they say they don’t believe; and ripping apart the church over mere definitions. Try leaving the choosing to God, not the Green Baggins’ ordination exam. Or better yet, let’s all start up a fantasy baseball squad; a much better use of everyone’s time while still satisfying our masculine deep-seated need to destroy and conquer.

  44. todd said,

    April 2, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    A great quote from Spurgeon, who, ironically, the FVers should sit at the feet of to learn covenant theology:

    “THERE cannot be a greater difference in the world between two things than there is between law and grace. And yet, strange to say, while the things are diametrically opposed and essentially different from each other, the human mind is so depraved, and the intellect, even when blessed by the Spirit, has become so turned aside from right judgment, that one of the most difficult things in the world is to discriminate properly between law and grace. He who knows the difference, and always recollects it—the essential difference between law and grace—has grasped the marrow of divinity. He is not far from understanding the gospel theme in all its ramifications, its outlets, and its branches, who can properly tell the difference between law and grace. There is always in a science some part which is very simple and easy when we have learned it, but which, in the commencement, stands like a high threshold before the porch. Now, the first difficulty in striving to learn the gospel is this. Between law and grace there is a difference plain enough to every Christian, and especially to every enlightened and instructed one; but still, when most enlightened and instructed, there is always a tendency in us to confound the two things. They are as opposite as light and darkness, and can no more agree than fire and water; yet man will be perpetually striving to make a compound of them—often ignorantly, and sometimes wilfully. They seek to blend the two, when God has positively put them asunder.”

    If you want to read a great sermon on how the Law was a covenant of works serving the purposes of the covenant of grace, see the following sermon (from which the above quote is taken)

    http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0069.htm

  45. Vern Crisler said,

    April 2, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    David H,
    There would be no church if there were no definitions. Ask the Arians…..

  46. Andy said,

    April 4, 2010 at 9:41 am

    I am now working on producing a law/gospel study bible. All law verses will appear in black print and all gospel verses will appear in red print. This should settle the matter.

  47. April 4, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Roger M, Re #39,

    Outstanding! Thanks for bringing that historic wisdom to the table.

  48. April 4, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    David H., RE #41 and 43,

    I’m not sure the Barth would be my first choice for support in a theological discussion.

    I think that you’ve lost sight of the overall context. Anyone can believe what they like, FV or otherwise. However, they cannot be officers in the PCA, OPC, BPC, URC, RCUS, RPCNA, OCRC, etc. That’s the point. However, sowers of dissent outside the PCA and NAPARC continue to poke their noses where they don’t belong, disturbing the peace of the church by advocating for those who taint the purity of the church. Were it not for that unhappy fact, we wouldn’t need some of these discussions.

  49. April 4, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    todd, RE #44,

    Excellent excerpt! We use Spurgeon quite a bit in our small group Bible study. He would be no friend of FV’s mythical “objective covenant.”

  50. todd said,

    April 4, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    reformedmusings,

    Yes, I find Spurgeon extremely well-versed in basic covenant theology, minus the baptism issue.

  51. David Gray said,

    April 4, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    >We use Spurgeon quite a bit in our small group Bible study.

    He would be no friend of any complete reformed theology.

  52. April 4, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    DG, RE #51,

    Yeah, I think we know that. We use discernment to take the good (which is considerable) and leave the rest. All truth is God’s truth.

  53. David Gray said,

    April 4, 2010 at 6:05 pm

    >Yeah, I think we know that.

    Great!

    >We use discernment to take the good (which is considerable) and leave the rest.

    Me too…

  54. April 4, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Since we are fans of definitions, what say we define nuda lex and totus lex. Let us define as Turretin did. Or would that create an inconvenience?

  55. Phil Derksen said,

    April 4, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Pastor Wilson.

    Might you first answer (for yourself) the questions that were addressed to you in #11, before you chime in on yet another issue? With all due respect, you seem to appear, disappear, and then suddenly reappear as you will from the discussions into which you interject yourself here, like some etheral spirit. How about some real interaction with these folks? Thanks!

  56. Roger Mann said,

    April 5, 2010 at 1:19 am

    54. Doug Wilson writes,

    Since we are fans of definitions, what say we define nuda lex and totus lex.

    Well, nuda lex means bare law, while totus lex refers to the whole law. So, what’s your point? We have been clearly discussing the moral law throughout this thread, so what does totus lex have to do with anything? If we were discussing totus lex, then obviously we wouldn’t be drawing the sharp Law/Gospel or CoW/CoG contrast as we have been doing. That type or error was exposed by Calvin 500 years ago — while still plainly asserting that the righteousness of the moral law is diametrically “opposed” to the righteousness held forth in the Gospel:

    Hence, also, we see the error of those who, in comparing the Law with the Gospel, represent it merely as a comparison between the merit of works, and the gratuitous imputation of righteousness. The contrast thus made is by no means to be rejected, because, by the term Law, Paul frequently understands that rule of holy living in which God exacts what is his due, giving no hope of life unless we obey in every respect; and, on the other hand, denouncing a curse for the slightest failure [i.e., the moral law which functions as a covenant of works]. This Paul does when showing that we are freely accepted of God, and accounted righteous by being pardoned, because that obedience of the Law to which the reward is promised is nowhere to be found. Hence he appropriately represents the righteousness of the Law and the Gospel as opposed to each other. But the Gospel has not succeeded the whole Law in such a sense as to introduce a different method of salvation. It rather confirms the Law, and proves that every thing which it promised is fulfilled. What was shadow, it has made substance. When Christ says that the Law and the Prophets were until John, he does not consign the fathers to the curse, which, as the slaves of the Law, they could not escape. He intimates that they were only imbued with the rudiments, and remained far beneath the height of the Gospel doctrine. Accordingly Paul, after calling the Gospel “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” shortly after adds, that it was “witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,” (Rom. 1:16; 3:21). And in the end of the same Epistle, though he describes “the preaching of Jesus Christ” as “the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began,” he modifies the expression by adding, that it is “now made manifest” “by the scriptures of the prophets,” (Rom. 16:25, 26). Hence we infer, that when the whole Law is spoken of, the Gospel differs from it only in respect of clearness of manifestation. Still, on account of the inestimable riches of grace set before us in Christ, there is good reason for saying, that by his advent the kingdom of heaven was erected on the earth (Mt. 12:28). (Institutes 3.11.15-17)

    If that quote is insufficient to demonstrate that the nuda lex or moral law functions as a “covenant of works” in its essential nature — thus proving the Law/Gospel dichotomy of which we have been speaking — then this one ought to suffice:

    But in order that a sense of guilt may urge us to seek for pardon, it is of importance to know how our being instructed in the Moral Law renders us more inexcusable. If it is true, that a perfect righteousness is set before us in the Law, it follows, that the complete observance of it is perfect righteousness in the sight of God; that is, a righteousness by which a man may be deemed and pronounced righteous at the divine tribunal. Wherefore Moses, after promulgating the Law, hesitates not to call heaven and earth to witness, that he had set life and death, good and evil, before the people. Nor can it be denied, that the reward of eternal salvation, as promised by the Lord, awaits the perfect obedience of the Law (Deut. 30:19). Again, however, it is of importance to understand in what way we perform that obedience for which we justly entertain the hope of that reward. For of what use is it to see that the reward of eternal life depends on the observance of the Law, unless it moreover appears whether it be in our power in that way to attain to eternal life? Herein, then, the weakness of the Law is manifested; for, in none of us is that righteousness of the Law manifested [other than in "the Man" Christ Jesus, who perfectly obeyed the Law in our stead -- RM],and, therefore, being excluded from the promises of life, we again fall under the curse [again, which proves that the moral law functions as a "covenant of works" in its essential nature -- RM]. I state not only what happens, but what must necessarily happen. The doctrine of the Law transcending our capacity, a man may indeed look from a distance at the promises held forth, but he cannot derive any benefit from them. The only thing, therefore, remaining for him is, from their excellence to form a better estimate of his own misery, while he considers that the hope of salvation is cut off, and he is threatened with certain death. On the other hand, those fearful denunciations which strike not at a few individuals, but at every individual without exceptions rise up; rise up, I say, and, with inexorable severity, pursue us; so that nothing but instant death is presented by the Law. Therefore, if we look merely to the Law, the result must be despondency, confusion, and despair, seeing that by it we are all cursed and condemned, while we are kept far away from the blessedness which it holds forth to its observers. (Institutes 2.7.3-4)

    Truly, I’m not sure how the Law/Gospel or CoW/CoG dichotomy in the matter of justification could be presented any clearer or any more forcefully!

  57. April 5, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Phil, sorry for not getting to #11. I reject a hermeneutic that says a passage must either be law or gospel — on the grounds (among others) that such a hermeneutic in principle destroys the three uses of the law. I accept a hermeneutic that teaches us to distinguish law and gospel as applied to various individuals in different situations.

  58. Tom Wenger said,

    April 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Doug,

    How does such a hermeneutic destroy the three uses of the law? As statements of the moral character of God all three uses reveal sin but produce different responses through each respective use. The 1st use reveals to the unregenerate the worthiness of their damnation, the 2nd the horror of evil so as to restrain all humanity in from further evil. The 3rd use reveals God’s holy character and in turn the sin still existent in the life of the believer, but now produces sorrow for sin rather than the fear of damnation in the 1st use. This is born out quite clearly in Calvin’s work on these issues.

    All that the Law/Gospel hermeneutic does is determine whether or not passages are designed to reveal sin or statements of gracious promise.

  59. Roger Mann said,

    April 5, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    57. Doug Wilson wrote,

    I reject a hermeneutic that says a passage must either be law or gospel — on the grounds (among others) that such a hermeneutic in principle destroys the three uses of the law.

    The “three uses of the law” doesn’t alter the essential nature of the law. The moral law was given “as a covenant of works” (WCF 19.1), and it retains the nature of a covenant of works throughout redemptive history (WFC 19.2; LC 93). The only thing that changes is how we relate to the moral law. In other words, the moral law stops functioning as a “covenant of works” for those who have been freely justified by faith in Jesus Christ (who fulfilled the “works of the law” in our stead). The reason it stops functioning as a “covenant of works” for believers is because we have already fulfilled all of its demands in our Covenant Head, Jesus Christ. Thus, the essential nature of the moral law has not changed (i.e., it is still a “covenant of works”); only our relationship to it has changed.

  60. April 5, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    To say the essential nature of the law is bare demand is to say that it is the law’s essential nature to be understood without reference to Christ. That approach, that of nuda lex, is appropriate at a provisional level only, as part of the process of bringing someone to Christ. I affirm that use of the law, but it is a use, an application.

    Rather, the essential nature of the law is the holy character of God — He brings sinners to repentance, He restrains the rebellious, and He instructs the humble. The essential nature of the law is a Person.

  61. Phil Derksen said,

    April 6, 2010 at 10:30 am

    #57 Doug Wilson

    “I accept a hermeneutic that teaches us to distinguish law and gospel as applied to various individuals in different situations.”

    Joint Federal Vision Profession

    “We deny that law and gospel should be considered as hermeneutics, or treated as such.”

  62. Roger Mann said,

    April 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    60. Doug Wilson wrote,

    To say the essential nature of the law is bare demand is to say that it is the law’s essential nature to be understood without reference to Christ.

    No it isn’t. Christ, as the second Person of the Godhead, is the sovereign lawgiver who gave mankind the moral law “as a covenant of works” (WCF 19.1-2; LC 93). So the moral law necessarily has “reference to Christ” under the historical Reformed view. Moreover, since the moral law was given by God “as a covenant of works,” it follows that the moral law must be a “covenant of works” in its essential nature. In other words, that is how it was designed to function in and of itself. As God’s Word plainly declares: “The man who does those things shall live by them” (Romans 10:5; Galatians 3:12); and “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Galatians 3:10).

    That approach, that of nuda lex, is appropriate at a provisional level only, as part of the process of bringing someone to Christ. I affirm that use of the law, but it is a use, an application.

    If the “covenant of works” is merely an “application” of the moral law, as you claim, then Jesus has not “redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13); He has merely redeemed us from an “application of the law.” What kind of nonsense is that? Do you really think that is what Scripture teaches? And how did Jesus redeem us? By “having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Sorry, but that is not merely an “application of the law.” That is the essential nature of the moral law. That is what it does. It “curses” all who violate its terms.

    Rather, the essential nature of the law is the holy character of God — He brings sinners to repentance, He restrains the rebellious, and He instructs the humble. The essential nature of the law is a Person.

    The moral law clearly reflects the righteous character of God, since perfect obedience to the moral law is described as “righteousness” (Romans 10:5), and since it is by “one Man’s obedience” to the moral law that “many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). But that doesn’t negate the essential nature of the moral law as a covenant of works — i.e., that God gave the moral law “as a covenant of works” (WCF 19.1), and that it retains the nature of a “covenant of works” throughout redemptive history (WFC 19.2; LC 93). Do you deny what the Confession clearly teaches here?

    As I said before, the essential nature of the moral law has not changed (it is still a “covenant of works”); only our relationship to it changes when we are redeemed by Christ — “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6).

  63. pduggie said,

    April 12, 2010 at 9:05 am

    “Q Is not faith itself a good work? A Yes but it justifies not as a good work but only as an instrument receiving Christ and his righteousness for justification of life.”

    John Brown “AN ESSAY TOWARDS AN EASY PLAIN PRACTICAL AND EXTENSIVE EXPLICATION OF THE ASSEMBLY’S SHORTER CATECHISM”

  64. pduggie said,

    April 13, 2010 at 10:38 am

    more from John Brown

    “Q. Doth God command every man that hears the gospel to take his gift Christ out of his hand?

    A. Yes under pain of his most dreadful wrath. “

  65. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    The Theological Word of the Day is “Federal Vision”.

    I clicked on it. Read the definition. At the bottom of the entry, it said to click here for more information. I clicked on it and it took me to federal-vision-dot-com. I saw this one post called “Federal Vision for the Average Joe.” I’m an average joe trying to understand more fully all the reasons for all the heated rhetoric that’s going on.

    Question: Does this paper by Luke Nieuwsma give a fair and accurate and balanced representation and explanation of Federal Vision?

  66. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    http://www.federal-vision.com/?p=44

    That’s the link.

  67. Phil Derksen said,

    April 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Truth 65, 66,

    Most Orthodox Reformed scholars would likely maintain that Nieuwsma’s article is typical of FV writings: sounds OK at first, but upon closer scrutiny has numerous and serious, if subtle problems. For resources that point out the problems with FV, I would suggest starting with these:

    http://www.wscal.edu/clark/fvnpp.php

    Perhaps start with the article titled, “For those just Tuning in”

    http://johannesweslianus.blogspot.com/2010/02/reply-to-joint-fv-profession.html

    For sequential articles in this series, check the Blog Archive for February and March 2010, in the right-hand column of Wes’s blog.

    Green Baggins also has a FV category in the left-hand column of this blog.

    These should keep you busy for a few months… :-)

  68. David Gray said,

    April 14, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    >Perhaps start with the article titled, “For those just Tuning in”

    That is a source which has been found to be highly unreliable.

  69. Phil Derksen said,

    April 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    68

    Whatever, David. The truth of the matter is that these churches have all substantially agreed with Dr. Clark’a take on the FV:

    The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
    The Canadian Reformed Churches
    The Reformed Church of Quebec (ERQ)
    The Free Reformed Churches of North America
    The Heritage Reformed Congregations
    The Korean American Presbyterian Church
    The Orthodox Presbyterian Church
    The Presbyterian Church in America
    The Reformed Church in the United States
    The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
    The United Reformed Churches in North America

    What, by the way, are your credentials to judge in this?

  70. David Gray said,

    April 14, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    >Whatever, David. The truth of the matter is that these churches have all substantially agreed with Dr. Clark’a take on the FV:

    I erred as it was my intent to refer to Pastor White, not Dr. Clark.

    My credentials in relation to Pastor White is that I understand the English language.

  71. David Gray said,

    April 14, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    And I don’t have any great issue with my denomination’s report, that of the OPC. Read it?

  72. Phil Derksen said,

    April 15, 2010 at 8:34 am

    #70

    So in other words, while you supposedly agree with what all these churches, Dr. Clark, and Rev. White uniformly say about the FV–which was the only point at hand here–but you nonetheless wanted to continue to grind your personal axe against the last. Pathetic.

  73. David Gray said,

    April 15, 2010 at 8:38 am

    >So in other words, while you supposedly agree with what all these churches,

    You don’t read well. I said I don’t have any great issue with the OPC report. Have you read it? Or do you just invoke it, like some magical talisman?

    >Dr. Clark, and Rev. White uniformly say about the FV–which was the only point at hand here–but you nonetheless wanted to continue to grind your personal axe against the last. Pathetic.

    When a man dishonors himself it has consequences.

  74. Phil Derksen said,

    April 15, 2010 at 8:56 am

    73

    The “supposedly” in my remark was simply the product of “good and necessary consequence,” based on the sum of your past remarks on this blog and elswhere. Or, let me repeat a metaphor of mine that you seemed to like so much before: “If it looks lika duck, and quacks like a duck (and I might add, ‘loves duck food’), then, it must be a duck.”

    As for “dishonor,” as you choose to term it, I also seem to recall your own devices and behavior eliciting warnings and cunsures from the moderators on this post several times before. Or as this circumstance might be put into metaphor: “Those who live in glass houses, shouldn’t cast stones.”

    I’m done with this, so have a good day, David.

  75. David Gray said,

    April 15, 2010 at 9:39 am

    >The “supposedly” in my remark was simply the product of “good and necessary consequence,” based on the sum of your past remarks on this blog and elswhere.

    You remain at war with the English language. I didn’t comment on any church’s report in that exchange, save my own. You clearly aren’t familiar with the OPC report leaving it a mystery as to why you choose to invoke it.

  76. Truth Unites... and Divides said,

    April 15, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for your responses, Phil.

    It’s just so hard to make progress in sorting it all out when both sides are vociferous and adamant that the other side is misrepresenting what they’re saying.

    With regards to David Gray’s snark (Eg., “My credentials in relation to Pastor White is that I understand the English language.”) I’ve been aware of it for quite some time and on other blogs. He is what he is.

  77. David Gray said,

    April 15, 2010 at 10:58 am

    >I’ve been aware of it for quite some time and on other blogs. He is what he is.

    And your refusal to give out your name resulted in your banishment.

  78. Phil Derksen said,

    April 15, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Truth #76

    You’re certainly not alone in finding it tough going when trying to make out what the real implications of FV vs. confessional or historical Reformed belief are. For one thing, what is commonly called “FV” has always been a rather amorphous yet moving target. Still, there are some very important (salvific) truths at stake in all this.

    And that’s precisely where I think Dr. Clark’s and Wes’ writings, among others, can be helpful in sorting things out. Wes’ critiques in particular are generally based on taking actual FV teachings and then evaluating them in light of Scripture, confessional Reformed writers, and common sense.

    I am committing to keeping you in prayer in this matter, asking God to lead a sincere seeker to ultimately arrive at the truth, both for your edification and His glory.

    P.S. David Gray: I am sincerily and seriously asking you to please refrain from interjecting any further comments into this particular discussion. They have been uncharitable, unhelpful and unwelcome. Thank you.

  79. David Gray said,

    April 15, 2010 at 11:29 am

    >I am sincerily and seriously asking you to please refrain from interjecting any further comments into this particular discussion. They have been uncharitable, unhelpful and unwelcome.

    I would imagine you are sincere. However they have been helpful to those who honor truth, their utility for others may vary.

  80. Reed Here said,

    April 15, 2010 at 11:51 am

    David: that is quite enough! Your last comment impugns the character of all who disagree with on your take in your criticism of Dr. Clarke and Pastor White.

    No more!

  81. David Gray said,

    April 15, 2010 at 11:57 am

    I’ve criticized Dr. Clarke on occasion but not in this thread.

  82. Reed Here said,

    April 15, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    David: I stand corrected. Do you!?!?!

    Such cutting the baby clarification does not mitigate your offense. It only makes your dishonorable display worse.

  83. David Gray said,

    April 15, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Actually I replied to you offline already.

  84. Reed Here said,

    April 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    You should have only replied off line, at least until we resolve this. Please see my response.


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