Hermeneutic and Ontology in Justification

Some of the comments on the previous threads have gotten me thinking about the Law/Gospel Distinction (we’ll abbreviate LGD) and justification in terms of hermeneutics and ontology. Some seem to be saying that if the LGD has to be in the text, then we are basically saved by faith plus hermeneutics. The distinction that is thought to be important here is what is happening in the text versus what is happening in the person’s life when he is justified. Let me state the positive principle here: what you believe about what is happening has a drastic impact on what is actually happening. Can one actually be justified by grace alone through faith alone if that same person believes that he is actually being justified by faithfulness? Let’s ratchet it up a notch. Can one actually be saved by faith in Jesus Christ when that same person believes that he is actually being saved by Jesus Christ plus something else? I am probably going to shock some readers by saying this, but it seems fairly clear to me that a person cannot be justified in Christ if he believes that he is being justified by Christ plus something else. Quite simply, this is because the belief that someone is justified by Christ plus something else is not true faith. It has the wrong notitia (content, or knowledge). We do all believe that notitia is an essential element of faith, don’t we? In addition to this, to continue on to another key aspect of faith, such belief would be assenting to the wrong thing, as well. And, in fact, if one believes that trust is key to faith as well, one would be trusting in the something else, and not in Jesus Christ. So all three aspects of faith get messed up if the notitia is wrong on the point of justification.

Working some more on the right notitia, then, it is of the essence of justifying faith that one believes the right thing about the Word of God when it says, for instance, that faith is opposed to works in justification, or when the Bible defines justifying faith as having nothing to do with law, but rather has everything to do with Gospel. When the Bible defines faith, if one believes that it essentially equals faithfulness, then we have a problem here. The wrong content is being assigned to notitia.

The objections that will immediately come my way will probably sound like this: “You believe in justification by faith in justification.” Or, “You believe in justification by correct doctrine.” Or, “You are a rationalist.” No, currently I am comfortable with the three elements of knowledge, assent, and trust, as long as it is understood that in justification, none of these three elements can be defined in relation to law. “Trust,” especially gets difficult here, because people drive trucks through this word, and this is usually where “faithfulness” gets sneaked in the back door. But in justification, the trust aspect of faith simply means that we entrust our souls to Jesus. We are resting in His righteousness.

So, what is the relationship between hermeneutic and ontology in faith and justification? The content of our faith has a drastic impact on what is happening. And I firmly believe that if the content of our faith denies that the Word distinguishes in the text between law and gospel when it comes to justification (note the careful qualifiers here), then the content, or knowledge, of our faith will not be in Jesus Christ alone, but will rather be in Jesus Christ plus our own faithfulness.

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44 Comments

  1. K. H. Acton said,

    April 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    While I agree in the main with your argument and I do NOT believe that you have transgressed into rationalism or what not, I do wonder if you are letting notitia carry too much weight. I’m thinking pastorally here. For a theologian I agree with you completely, notions have consequences. But for the person in the pew, there are a lot of half assimilated understandings out there. Many will come around if lead to think through the consequences of their understanding, so I don’t think I’m referring to the completely ignorant. But could their be minor misunderstandings in notitia that the Lord, in his grace, overlooks (or forgives)?
    By the way, I do not like the abbreviation LGD, too much like LGBT.

  2. Manlius said,

    April 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Where in the Bible does it say that that faith is OPPOSED to works in justification? True, faith is the sole instrument of justification and is not the result of works. Indeed, works are the result of faith. Paul is clear about that. But far from being opposed to works, faith is completed by works. If we have a sort of faith that is not completed by works, we are NOT justified. James is clear about that.

    James 2:21ff (ESV) – “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that FAITH WAS ACTIVE ALONG WITH HIS WORKS, and FAITH WAS COMPLETED BY HIS WORKS; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is JUSTIFIED BY WORKS and NOT BY FAITH ALONE. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also FAITH APART FROM WORKS IS DEAD.”

    It’s perfectly legitimate to say that we are justified by faith alone, but we must limit that to saying that faith is the sole instrument of justification. If we say that faith is opposed to works in justification, we deny the Bible.

  3. K. H. Acton said,

    April 19, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    And could you, in your grace, overlook a couple of typos.
    Thank you.

  4. Manlius said,

    April 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Just to be clear, though, I do agree that we are justified by Christ plus nothing else. Our faith is a gift of God, and the works which faith results in are also completely due to God’s grace. We earn nothing. God gets all the glory. I trust this means you would regard me as a Christian.

  5. Phil Derksen said,

    April 19, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Pastor Lane,

    I absolutely agree with the critical nature of truth and the need for Christians to accurately understand and present it. I too have been labeled a “purest” and all the rest. From what I can tell I think I’m in substantial agreement with you on the larger LGD/H issue, as relative to the FV error (“tending to heresy” :-O) concerning it.

    Still, I would have a few concerns with where the trajectory of your thoughts in this specific instance could lead. For example, I have been a believer for 25 years now. However, I wasn’t really aware that there even was such a thing as the LGD/H until about a year ago. Yet I know I have been saved (justified) from the beginning of my faith journey. So my incomplete knowledge of these things was not decisive in my forensic justification. Nor, of course, can I suppose that were I to reject or fail to grasp some aspect of the whole LGD/H dynamic now that I am in fact aware of it, then I might somehow lose or “damage” my justification.

    I certainly do think, though, that misconceptions and errors of such a nature can greatly harm other aspects of one’s spiritual health and wellbeing.

    Just some thoughts.

  6. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 20, 2010 at 6:30 am

    Lane, a question that piggy-backs on Phil’s comment:

    When I look through the WCoF, BC, and HC I can’t find any explicit mentions of the LGD. To be sure, there is in all three an explicit separation of faith and works in justification. And Heidelberg hints at the LGD in qn. 3 – 5. But none of the documents state or require that we see a Law/Gospel distinction.

    Why is this?

  7. Matt Beatty said,

    April 20, 2010 at 6:38 am

    Good question, Jeff.

  8. Paige Britton said,

    April 20, 2010 at 6:40 am

    I want to echo Phil’s and KHA’s observations about the people in the pews: maybe we need a “Pew/Pulpit Distinction” here, because ignorance and incompleteness in one’s personal understanding of theology does not seem to be on the same level of error as direct teaching that conflates “faith” and “faithfulness.”

  9. April 20, 2010 at 7:09 am

    @Manlius, Greenbaggins is not opposed to the works which James speaks of, however he is opposed to faith + works = justification, which is what the Scriptures is opposed to as well. Paul in Galatians makes a case that no man is justified by faith + something else. One must exegetically discern what James means by “justified by works”. Does he mean the same thing that Paul means when Paul says we are “justified by faith”? Of course not. Paul is speaking of how a sinner becomes a saint (a singular act), and James is speaking of the evidence that a sinner is a saint (continued evidence of a living and active faith). They are both using the word “justified” differently.

  10. reedhere said,

    April 20, 2010 at 7:09 am

    K.H., Phil, & Paige: if I might add a distinction I think is inherent in what Lane is observing. Consider three options:

    1. The believer who has studied it sufficiently to have an informed noetia: justification by faith alone (with nothing in anyway attached)

    2. The believer who has studied it sufficiently to have an informed noetia: justification by faith alone (plus something else in some manner attached).

    3. The believer who has not studied it sufficiently to have an informed noetia: justification by faith alone (with not even understanding the question).

    The first two positions can be described as actively informed affirmations; the individuals actually have an examined noetia. The latter position can be described as passively informed affirmation: the individual have a (relatively) unexamined noetia.

    The third position will include both those who rightly affirm JBFA (i.e., from regeneration) and those who do not (i.e., from unregenerated flesh). The deficiency of their notia is not the material cause of the difference.

    Lane’s critique does not apply to such folk in this third position. His critique applies to those in the second position. These are those who have to some degree examined the conditions of their profession. They offer an informed JBFA + plus something else construction.

    As well, Lane is not saying that mere affirmation of a faulty JBFA formula automatically defines one as reprobate. He has in previous conversations demonstrated he understands that there is the possibility of movement from error to accuracy in one’s affirmation.

    The group he is addressing is those who will posit a JBFA that is not consistent with the Biblical position. Lane is not addressing those who will say, “Huh, what are you talking about?”

  11. reedhere said,

    April 20, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Manlius:

    (What a great name! by the way)

    It may be Lane has been unclear or you are (not sure).

    Lane is not arguing that there is no relationship between justification and good works. He is arguing about where you put the latter in relation to the former.

    You and he agree, the relationship is one of consequent necessity for good works to justification. Lane is arguing about a formulation in which good works are snuck in earlier, and end up being an antecedent necesssity.

    In this sense, the Bible does say faith is opposed to works in justification. Justification is accomplished, once and in perfection, in the believer, prior to and exclusive of any works on the part of the individual. This is an absolute exclusivity.

    Justification is related to sanctification, and the necessary fruit of sanctification is good works. In this sense then, justifying faith is a faith that receives real justification apart from any works, and experiences real sanctification yielding works. The individual is saved apart from any work. The individual then experiences good works as the fruit of the salvation.

  12. Paige Britton said,

    April 20, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Thanks, Reed. Yeah, I guess it’s more than just a teacher/student distinction, since students themselves will vary in their degree of understanding and articulation of the faith. We’re all responsible for the amount we’ve been given — though the teachers will be held to a higher standard of accountability.

  13. Phil Derksen said,

    April 20, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Jeff #6,

    Although, as you rightly note, there is no explicit mention of the “law-gospel distinction” in the TFU or WS, there is no doubt whatsoever that this doctrine is intrinsically interwoven throughout both of them. In fact, in his exposition of the HC co-author Ursinus states most explicitly:

    “The doctrine of the church consists of two parts: the Law and the Gospel; in which we have comprehended the sum and substance of the sacred Scriptures…This question [2] contains the statement and division of the whole catechism and at the same time accords with the division of the Scriptures into the Law and Gospel, and with the differences of these parts, as they have already been explained,” etc, etc, etc. (So much for the LGD – or even the LGH, for that matter – being just a Lutheran idea, or only a latecomer to Reformed thinking…) One can read Ursinis’ excellent commentary here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=hNpDAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Ursinus+catechism&lr=&ei=V7bNS92nJISyzgTEuKCECw&cd=1#v=onepage&q&f=false

    I think it is equally apparent that the WS are built on the same LGD foundation, while perhaps expressing various aspects of it with a slightly different vocabulary. So I have no trouble at all with what I have so far heard Lane, Reed, Wes, Ron and others emphasize with regard to its importance in having a correct understanding and appreciation of the Gospel – i.e, our gracious salvation.

    Reed #10,

    Thanks for your comments. However, I guess I still have the same practical questions/concerns that I expressed earlier.

    First, I don’t know that I’m completely comfortable with the construct of your three-fold division in the context of this specific discussion. For one thing it seems to imply, at least in my reading of it, that remaining ignorant of the whole truth about JBFA one (though the whole truth is certainly the simplest and, I wholeheartedly affirm, the only correct option under consideration) might often be prefereable to actually undertaking an in-depth study about it (i.e. it would be “safest” to simply remain in category 3). In other words, why even study such a doctrine, if there is a risk that if one missappropriates parts of it, then they effectively put themselves into category two, and therefore, on that basis, we must question whether or not they are in fact saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ (those in category one)? Or are you saying that everyone who studies this and reaches the wrong conclusion (JBF+X) is simply manifesting their non-election, unless they come to correct it later?

    Also along the practical line of my original comments, I guess I have a problem saying that possessing a completely accurate understanding of something even as critical as JBFA is, is requisite to actually being the beneficiary of it. Consider: Was Martin Luther or John Calvin saved (which we agree CAN only be DUE to JBFA), before they understood and embraced that truth? I am pretty confident that both would say they were-and I would concur. Would they have lost their salvation if they later confronted but hadn’t fully understood that truth? I must think not.

    I’m certainly open to being further, or perhaps better instructed in these things, so please feel free to offer corrections, or clarifications of your view. I know Lane tends not to comment much here, but I would certainly welcome any personal follow-up that he might be so good to give as well.

  14. Phil Derksen said,

    April 20, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Woops should read (!) Reed #11

  15. Phil Derksen said,

    April 20, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Whoops, Whoops – should read Reed #9 – my coffee ran out too soon this morning…

  16. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 20, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Using the categories of comment 9, which I think is very helpful, I’ll go even further, those who are in #3, that are actually believers as their noetia becomes better informed end up as #1 not #2. That is not to say however, that because of the bad influence of #2s on #3s that sometimes are mistaken for a while and seemingly embrace #2, but as the Spirit continues to work in them they will reject #2 and really embrace JBFA (#1). Often times #3s will appear to #2, not really understanding the implications, and might even describe themselves as #2, but haven’t been yet given the discernment to tell the difference. those are still #3. True believers never end up as #2s.

    The churches need to be diligent in the exercise of discipline so that those #2 are removed so that they may see the eternal death of their error and repent, and that the #3s might be protected.

  17. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 20, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Phil (#12):

    Thanks for that. The question I’m asking is not whether the LGD is legitimate Reformed theology; I’m asking whether the LGD is a legitimate line to draw given that it does not appear in the various Reformed confessions.

    In other words: Given that LGD was obviously known and discussed by the Reformed community, how do we account for its conspicuous absence in the standards? Is this absence a meaningful one or a coincidental one?

  18. Phil Derksen said,

    April 20, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Jeff #16,

    I guess I might still respectfully take issue with a statement like, “the LGD…does not appear in [or is 'absent from'] the various Reformed confessions.” That was my whole point – it absolutely does appear, if not expressed by those three particular words. Ursinus specifcally goes so far as to spell out that such is indeed the very substance and sub-structure of what he was intentionally teaching in his HC.

  19. Andy Gilman said,

    April 20, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Citing James 2, Manlius says:

    It’s perfectly legitimate to say that we are justified by faith alone, but we must limit that to saying that faith is the sole instrument of justification. If we say that faith is opposed to works in justification, we deny the Bible.

    Which is merely a repetition of the sophism which Calvin condemns:

    21. Was not Abraham. The Sophists lay hold on the word justified, and then they cry out as being victorious, that justification is partly by works. But we ought to seek out a right interpretation according to the general drift of the whole passage. We have already said that James does not speak here of the cause of justification, or of the manner how men obtain righteousness, and this is plain to every one; but that his object was only to shew that good works are always connected with faith; and, therefore, since he declares that Abraham was justified by works, he is speaking of the proof he gave of his justification.

    When, therefore, the Sophists set up James against Paul, they go astray through the ambiguous meaning of a term. When Paul says that we are justified by faith, he means no other thing than that by faith we are counted righteous before God. But James has quite another thing in view, even to shew that he who professes that he has faith, must prove the reality of his faith by his works. Doubtless James did not mean to teach us here the ground on which our hope of salvation ought to rest; and it is this alone that Paul dwells upon.

    That we may not then fall into that false reasoning which has deceived the Sophists, we must take notice of the two fold meaning, of the word justified. Paul means by it the gratuitous imputation of righteousness before the tribunal of God; and James, the manifestation of righteousness by the conduct, and that before men, as we may gather from the preceding words, “Shew to me thy faith,” etc. In this sense we fully allow that man is justified by works, as when any one says that a man is enriched by the purchase of a large and valuable chest, because his riches, before hid, shut up in a chest, were thus made known.

    22. By works was faith made perfect. By this he again shews, that the question here is not respecting the cause of our salvation, but whether works necessarily accompany faith; for in this sense it is said to have been perfected by works, because it was not idle. It is said to have been perfected by works, not because it received thence its own perfection, but because it was thus proved to be true. For the futile distinction which the Sophists draw from these words, between formed and unformed faith, needs no labored refutation; for the faith of Abram was formed and therefore perfected before he sacrificed his son. And this work was not as it were the finishing, or last work. Formerly things afterwards followed by which Abraham proved the increase of his faith. Hence this was not the perfection of his faith, nor did it then for the first time put on its form. James then understood no other thing, than that the integrity of his faith then appeared, because it brought forth that remarkable fruit of obedience.

    Romans 4:6 says that the imputation of righteousness, i.e. justification, is “apart from works.” Faith is instrumental in Justification. Works play no part in justification. Therefore it is not wrong to say that faith is “opposed” to works in justification.

  20. Phil Derksen said,

    April 20, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Andrew #15,

    Some interesting thoughts there…I’m still pondering them…

  21. Paige Britton said,

    April 20, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Andrew D. wrote (#15)
    The churches need to be diligent in the exercise of discipline so that those #2 are removed so that they may see the eternal death of their error and repent, and that the #3s might be protected.

    Well, this is where I’d bring in the Pew/Pulpit (or Student/Teacher) Distinction: As Reed noted, it isn’t only pastors who are in his category #2; but exercising discipline towards pastors/elders who believe and teach this error is appropriate. (I.e., would a church exercise discipline against a layperson who has no teaching responsibilities but does have a confused theology? Likely not.)

  22. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Phil (#18): It’s a good point you make.

    Do you think Ursinus’ quote is dispositive enough to show that a denial of LGD is in fact a denial of sola fide?

    And practically speaking, how would we distinguish #3’s from #2’s?

    I guess my basic discomfort is that we seem to be heading towards a situation where Scripture is our only rule for faith and practice, but the Confession is our accepted commentary on the Scripture, and now additional beliefs serve as accepted commentary on the Confession — and we have to subscribe to the whole thing in order to be orthodox.

    It all seems rather Talmudic.

  23. Reed Here said,

    April 20, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Phil, no. 13: I think maybe your difficulty is not actually with what Lane (or I) have said, but you’re reading in inferences that are not necessary. )I’m not trying to be argumentative, but hopefully helpful.)

    Particular to your concern, it is not how well we can articulate the position that saves us. This is an inference, to be sure, but it is not one on which Lane is picking up. Lane is arguing against the knowing articulation of a defective JBFA.

    I think Andrew’s comment following your’s, coupled with Paige’s teacher/student distinction, are helpful. The problem in view is the formulation of a JBFA that is fatally flawed because it introduces something “else” into the equation.

    Andrew helpfully notes that not all who are in position 2 at anyone time actually stay there. I’d go further and note that there exists the following possibility as well:

    > Those who assert a wrong JBFA, but are nevertheless truly saved (their defect is not fatal), and
    > Those who assert a wrong JBFA, but are nevertheless not truly saved (their defect is fatal).

    While Lane is pushing the envelope, he is pushing it against those who knowingly offer a defective JBFA. He is asking them to examine themselves, to make their calling and election sure; to, in other words, make sure their defect is not fatal.

  24. Andy Gilman said,

    April 20, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Lane said:

    … it is of the essence of justifying faith that one believes the right thing about the Word of God when it says, for instance, that faith is opposed to works in justification, or when the Bible defines justifying faith as having nothing to do with law, but rather has everything to do with Gospel.

    Or to say it another way, “faith in Jesus Christ” is a meaningless phrase until “Jesus Christ” is defined. If the “Jesus Christ” whom one “believes in” or “trusts in” or “places faith in” is a figment of one’s own imagination, then that “faith” is not biblical faith, and therefore cannot be instrumental in justification. To believe in a “Jesus Christ” who came into the world to make up the difference between the righteousness we achieve by works of the law, and the righteousness which God requires of us, is to believe in an idol. Such “faith” cannot justify. “Faith” is only biblical faith if its object is the biblical Christ, whose obedience and satisfaction is imputed to those who believe, without regard to their works.

  25. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    Just as a followup to #22:

    The Confession observes that

    All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

    Clearly, JFBA is one of those things necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, and in fact it is clearly taught in Scripture.

    The Law/Gospel distinction doesn’t appear to me to be so clear.

    I’m like Phil. In my seminary training, the Law/Gospel distinction was a minor point (not so with faith and works!). In all of my reading of Scripture, it never leapt off the page that there is an absolute dichotomy between the message of the Law and the message of the Gospel. Until this month, the LGD was something vague and Lutherany in my thinking.

    That the Law demands obedience and threatens punishment? Yes. That the Gospel preaches the comforts of redemption? Yes.

    That every passage of Scripture (presumably touching on justification) can be assigned to either Law or Gospel? No, not really.

    I’m just very nervous when we start adding on doctrines that we must affirm in order to be orthodox.

    It’s NOT NOT NOT that I dispute the core concern of the LGD, that salvation is all of receptive faith and none of works.

    Rather, it’s accepting a hermeneutical method not obvious in Scripture, not obvious in the Confession, as a touchstone of orthodoxy. It seems that something so large and important ought to pass the WCoF 1.7 test.

  26. pduggie said,

    April 20, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    What is the essence of biblical saving faith?
    What is the essence of biblical faithfulness?

    Are they different?

  27. David Gadbois said,

    April 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Jeff, you said It’s NOT NOT NOT that I dispute the core concern of the LGD, that salvation is all of receptive faith and none of works.

    But it seems to me that to say the latter is really saying the same thing as the former. Receptive faith >> gospel, works >> law.

  28. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    David,

    The problem is that the law is multi-functional, whereas “works” are not. Lane has already pointed out that the LGD is directed only at justification, the “first use” of the law.

    But further, a command to “repent and believe the Gospel” is simultaneously offering the Gospel redemptively, but also threatening a punishment if not:

    “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

    This is why the Formula of Concord’s discussion of Law and Gospel (chap 5) places commands to repent and believe under the category of Law in one sense and Gospel in another by employing a two-fold sense of the meaning of “Gospel”

    So whether we might sort this out in an LGD scheme or not, it seems plausible that someone might agree with a faith/works dichotomy, but disagree with a Law/Gospel dichotomy.

    And this would seemingly falsify the premise that a denial of LGD is a denial of sola fide.

    So the larger point is, isn’t faith/works the proper dichotomy to draw? That is, shouldn’t our main point not be the LGD per se, but that we not convert the preaching of the gospel into a preaching of salvation by repentance (cf. Concord 5.27, WCoF 11.1)

  29. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Or the short version: LGD is more restrictive than faith/works.

  30. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    @JC
    The question seems to me is not whether or not each and every passage of scripture can be distinguished as Law or Gospel, but rather, are there not some passages which are clearly Law as distinguished from Gospel and Gospel and not Law? That to me is the sine qua non of the LGD as a prerequisite for the Reformed doctrine of JBFA.

    The FV deny that there is any such distinction in the text of any passage of scripture, and any such distinction is only manifest in the heart of the reader.

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

    A Joint Federal Vision Statement Page 6 “Law and Gospel”

    That nonsense not only denies the necessary LGD necessary for JBFA, but also really replaces the objective truth of scripture with a neo-orthodox idea what scripture means to the believer.

    @PD What’s the difference between trusting and resting in Christ and His righteousness alone, and trusting that you are righteous yourself?

  31. Phil Derksen said,

    April 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Reed #23,

    Thanks again for the interaction. I truly appreciate it.

    The two additional lines to your equation are very welcome, and helpful in terms of clarifying your ultimate position. I am confident that we would actually all agree that yet another category can be added: “Those who assert (have intellectual knowledge of and verbally profess) a correct JBFA, but are nevertheless not truly saved (their lack of true faith/trust is fatal).”

    It’s not that I would disagree with any of the individual points that you or Lane have asserted. Yet given the diverse possibilities behind how a person may understand and express the doctrine of JBFA at any given time, as you and Andrew admit may be the case, then I guess I’m still having some difficulty in seeing a practical or actionable application for Lane’s construct.

    If it is simply reinforcing the point that the historical, orthodox Reformed (i.e. biblical and confessional) understanding of JBFA should be carefully studied, articulated, understood, promoted and defended, and that all other variations of this doctrine (including the manifold FV errors “tending to heresy” :-O in this area) must be clearly refuted, denounced, and ultimately removed from confessional churches (whether through repentance of those who promote it, preferably, or their being shown the door, if necessary), then I’m completely on board.

    Jeff #22, 25,

    Thanks also for your interaction, and yes, I do share some of your concerns. I often find myself torn in terms of knowing how to best defend and promote Gospel truth – every last detail of which is truly important – and uncompromisingly opposing all that would deny or water it down, while at the same time not making too much of a particular construct or extra-biblical expression of it. All of this his is especially so when it comes to knowing how I should relate to other Christians with whom I may disagree, and when I recognize my own limitations. I better leave it at that.

  32. pduggie said,

    April 20, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    @PD What’s the difference between trusting and resting in Christ and His righteousness alone, and trusting that you are righteous yourself?

    A huge difference.

    But why is “trusting myself that I am righteous” (what the pharisee is condemned for) of the essence of ‘faithfulness”? Wouldn’t faithFUL following of Christ mean trusting in him alone?

    Your move to put “faithfulness” in the category of ‘works’ is what seems strange to me.

    Objectively, or essentially, the message that Jesus brings is a gospel message. Meaning, God’s intention with it is offering Christ to sinners for salvation. Some won’t hear God’s message of salvation. Christ did not condemn the world, but the world gets condemned, not because the essence or objective meaning of Christ was condemnation, but because there was a subjective failure to believe the message.

    I think that’s what’s meant by the denial of a ‘textual’ quality to the LGD.

    The whole bible is “good news” for sinners, not ‘neutral news’. Baptism is a ‘good promise’ to the recipient, not , as Kline claims, a neutral ordeal.

    The gospel has illocutionary intention as Gospel. The decalog is illocutionarily intended for the believer as a rule of life. But either can have the perlocutionary effect of condemning.

  33. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    @PD

    but the world gets condemned, not because the essence or objective meaning of Christ was condemnation, but because there was a subjective failure to believe the message.

    Two words: Original Sin.

    The whole bible is “good news” for sinners, not ‘neutral news’. Baptism is a ‘good promise’ to the recipient, not , as Kline claims, a neutral ordeal.

    The good news is presented in contrast the the bad news of that Law/Sin, and Death.

    But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

    Galatians 3:22-24

    For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord

    Romans 6:26

    What worries me is that you seem not to be able to see the distinction of Law and Gospel in the above. Law, Sin condemnation and Death vs Eternal Life Justified by faith in Jesus Christ.

    Do I sense now a rejection of the three uses of the Law coming next?

  34. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 20, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Andrew (#30): The question seems to me is not whether or not each and every passage of scripture can be distinguished as Law or Gospel, but rather, are there not some passages which are clearly Law as distinguished from Gospel and Gospel and not Law? That to me is the sine qua non of the LGD…

    Yes, that makes perfect sense.

    If all that one means by the LGD is Rom 3.20 – 22, then I have no objection.

    But it seems that something much larger is afoot when we say that “every text of Scripture [touching on justification] may be referred exclusively to either the Law or the Gospel.”

  35. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Paul (#32):

    “faithfulness” is a characteristic of an individual which might also be expressed by the qualities of obedience, loyalty, integrity, reliability. “Faith”, meanwhile, means a trust or reliance upon. For better or worse, both translate as “πιστις” in Koine. But not so in Hebrew, where faithfulness or reliability is expressed by the אמ֥ן group, while faith or trust is expressed by בָּטָ֑ח

    There are a couple of exceptions: “trust” is occasionally represented by אמ֥ן in the Hiphil, with the sense of “make to be faithful” as in “lean upon.” (Deut 1.32, 2 Chr 20.20).

    But in general, there is a distinction between reliability and reliance upon.

    “Faithfulness”, which is genuine lawkeeping from the heart, cannot justify us because we are not capable of it (“Two words: original sin”). We must be justified instead by a reliance upon God who justifies the ungodly.

    Faithfulness is really a transformative work of the Spirit, a fruit of having been regenerated.

    OK, but why then does Habakkuk say that “the righteous man will live by his faithfulness” (וְצַדִּ֖יק בֶּאֱמוּנָתֹ֥ו יִחְיֶֽה), while Paul makes it to be “the righteous man will live by his faith” (Rom 1.17)? Does this mean that the righteousness of faith is actually a righteousness of faithfulness?

    Delitzsch on Hab 2.4:

    The emunah is opposed to the pride of the Chaldean, to his exaltation of himself above God; and for that very reason it cannot denote integrity in itself, but simply some quality which has for its leading feature humble submission to God, that is to say, faith, or firm reliance upon God (K&D Minor Prophets 402)

    Delitzsch clearly sees this use of אֱמוּנָתֹ֥ו as exceptional based on (1) its contextual contrast to pride, and (2) Paul’s usage in Romans (pp. 402 – 403).

    Is D’s argument legitimate? Well, assuming Paul quoted Habbakkuk correctly, we see in Rom 3 that Paul is describing a lack of faithfulness in 3.10-18. It is impossible that we would be justified by our faithfulness. Instead, there is a righteousness of God that justifies the ungodly through faith in Jesus. So it seems clear that Paul is using “the just shall live by faith” in terms of reliance and not faithfulness.

    In other words, it is not the faithfulness that justifies, but the object of faith who justifies.

    But isn’t justifying faith a steadfast faith? (Heb 10) Indeed — but the steadfast faith that justifies is steadfast because the Spirit enables us to persevere; it is justifying because it receives Christ. (Or put another way: if steadfastness were the quality that justified, then we could not be justified until after we had persevered).

  36. pduggie said,

    April 20, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    @33: no I affirm the uses of the law. But while the first use to condemn is certainly how God has provided for the law to be used, it isn’t his law in its essence. Law is the character of God. God’s condemnation of sin is his “alien” work. His ‘Proper’ work is to give life to the dead. Calvin sees both of these operative in both the law and the gospel (though clearer in the Gospel, of course)

    I can readily agree that Original sin is the cause of rejection of the Gospel. Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. I think there might be a bit more going on in terms of historical progression of condemnation: as condemnation that comes along with the gospel is more intense: Jesus will judge the world, and what God overlooked is now called to account in a more intense way.

    I think an emphasis on a Law that is essentially and exclusively condemnatory bad news means that it can’t really be used in the third way.

  37. Andrew Duggan said,

    April 20, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    @36, Paul,

    I think an emphasis on a Law that is essentially and exclusively condemnatory bad news means that it can’t really be used in the third way.

    Well I didn’t say essentially and exclusively did I, what you failed to consider is that the third use of the law only comes after the the law has demonstrated the condemnation and pollution of sin and the need for Christ. One doesn’t get to the third use of the law until after one is a believer.

    I think there might be a bit more going on in terms of historical progression of condemnation: as condemnation that comes along with the gospel is more intense:

    Let’s see if we can get JBFA down first before we tackle that.

    @JC

    (Or put another way: if steadfastness were the quality that justified, then we could not be justified until after we had persevered).

    I think that’s why they (the FV) have a “second justification” on the Day of Judgment.

  38. pduggie said,

    April 20, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    “what you failed to consider is that the third use of the law only comes after the the law has demonstrated the condemnation and pollution of sin and the need for Christ.”

    Well no, I was assuming it. It’s not first, its third.

  39. Ron Henzel said,

    April 21, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Andrew,

    You wrote in comment 37:

    …the third use of the law only comes after the the law has demonstrated the condemnation and pollution of sin and the need for Christ. One doesn’t get to the third use of the law until after one is a believer.

    I believe that you have essentially captured a point that Calvin makes again and again and again and again in his writings. The Gospel removes the condemnation of the Law for believers. It could not do that if there was no distinction between Law and Gospel.

  40. pduggie said,

    April 21, 2010 at 11:30 am

    I thought i posted this yesterday but I don’t see it today:

    @jeff

    With that stipulated, sure, I affirm the distinction between faith and faithfulness. And I’d never want to merge distinct biblical language.

    I was conceiving of faithfulness in its essence as just ongoing trust in Christ, a following after him in all things as my saving head. Not my own reliability. The state of justification is maintained by the instrument of faith, and that’s what I was getting at by calling it “faithfulness”. But if that’s not how we’re using the term, sure.

    Does that help?

    Also, you write “Faithfulness is really a transformative work of the Spirit, a fruit of having been regenerate”

    Since Faith is too, what distinction are you making here?

  41. jkru said,

    April 21, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Lane, I see 2 implications here:
    1: All sin is idolatry; the essence of idolatry is trusting someone or something else besides the Triune God. Isn’t every sinner, committing a sin, looking somewhere besides Christ?

    2: It seems to set up, in some way, the unforgivable sin as theological error. I can understand a lack of confidence in people who say “I trust in Jesus plus Brahma.” I can’t understand people who say “Jesus, period” but then have some theological implications which they unwittingly assent to. Doesn’t Jesus forgive bad theology along with everything else?

  42. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    April 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    It seems odd to divorce faith and its three elements entirely from the law. Doesn’t one have to know and agree that the law sets out a standard of righteousness that is perfect? If one reads the law as a sliding scale of some kind, then it becomes the kind of thing that I can do, with some help, maybe, from God. So, the notitia and assensus of saving faith do have to do with the law in some sense.

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Pduggie (#40):

    Yes, it does help. You are thinking of “faithfulness” as meaning “full of faith.”

    I would suggest that this is non-standard usage, but I’m glad to understand what you mean by it.

  44. Sean Gerety said,

    April 22, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    At the risk of anathemas from the mods for trying to post in violation of the terms of my exile, truly outstanding post Lane.

    Well done.


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