FV: Faith = Faithfulness?

(Reed DePace)

If you’ve read Green Baggins for a while you may remember posts dealing with the FV issues of faithfulness. Wanted to draw your attention to a good summary of this issue Wes White has posted at his blog, Sola Fide or Sola Fidelity?

Wes has provided a very helpful and focused post on a critical FV problem with this issue. Is faith = faithfulness? Does the FV make faith = faithfulness? How those questions are answered make all the difference in the world.

If Wes is right in his observations (I tend to think he is) then the FV does commit a fatal error. It introduces into justification what is exclusive to sanctification. In doing so it ends up with a confused doctrine of justification, one which is synergistic not monergistic.

(Reed DePace)

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80 Comments

  1. Tim Prussic said,

    February 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    The word pistis (faith) has a range of meanings, even in the Bible. One of the meanings of pistis is remaining loyal or faithful.

    2 Tim 4:7 – Paul kept the faith – this means he remained faithful.

    Rom 3:3 – For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? – notice that the KJV translates “the faith of God” – very literal. What’s in view here? Clearly God’s faithfulness is in view.

    I could go on with examples. When we talk about justification by faith alone, we’re using faith in a fairly narrow and specific way, narrower than the overall biblical usage.

    Problems come when we make the narrower, theological usage of a term THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE usage of the term. Problems also come when we start dinking around with our theological terms and try to make them match a broader array of meanings. Therefore, when we speak of justification sola-fide, we mean this in the narrower sense of passively receiving and resting in Christ alone for forgiveness and our righteousness before God. We absolutely DO NOT mean it in the wider sense of faithfulness (or anything else the word “faith” means). But when someone talks about “faith” in another context, we ought not necessitate that he use the word in the narrower, theological sense. What right have we to do that? Much less, then, do we have the right to act as if someone has “denied justification” if he speaks of faith as faithfulness, unless he’s doing do in the context of a discussion of justification.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    February 23, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Tim, no one is denying the wider connotation of words. But see Shepherd’s quotation: “We must not set faith and faithfulness over against each other as antithetical and mutually exclusive principles of gospel and law when it comes to the justification of a sinner before almighty God.” Would you not agree that this quotation does the very thing you warned us of doing? Shepherd is not the only one to do this.

  3. Sean Gerety said,

    February 23, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    That is the point isn’t it. Meyers and his FV compatriots do speak of faith as faithfulness in the “context of a discussion of justification” and they do it routinely, openly, vigorously, and without the slightest ambiguity.

    Concerning 2 Timothy 4:7 Gordon Clark writes:

    Heydenrich and Barrett thoughtlessly expound pistis to mean fidelity in observing the rules of the game. But “the faith” is the doctrinal content of Christianity, the deposit which God deposited with Paul and Timothy. As Alford says, “The constant use of e pistis in these epistles in the objective technical sense must rule the expression here.” How can anyone think that Paul is boasting of his personal fidelity, on which will be based in the following verse his receiving the crown of righteousness? In our present age subjectivist milieu we may imagine the great apostle as worthy by his own righteousness, but the great apostle himself ever denied and combatted this opinion. Paul kept the faith.

  4. Stuart said,

    February 23, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Tim,

    I spent considerable time trying to think through this issue back in my ThM days. Semantic range of a particular word/word family is one thing. Technical theological terms that have particular meanings are another animal.

    When you’re in the Reformed camp and you start bringing possible semantic range definitions into an already established technical terminology, the least you can expect is a red flag to be raised.

    “We must not set faith and faithfulness over against each other as antithetical and mutually exclusive principles of gospel and law when it comes to the justification of a sinner before almighty God.”

    In the case of the above quote, you have to say that Shepherd’s language is ambiguous at best (Is Shepherd simply trying to say the same thing as WCF XI.2 in different language? Or is he challenging the historic position of the Reformation? Or is he expressing his views in strong, perhaps even exaggerated, language to combat a problem he sees in the church? Or is there some other explanation for the way he expresses himself in this quote?) At worst, this quote is a denial of the theology Reformed folks hold dear.

    If a candidate for ordination expressed himself this way on the floor of Presbytery, you can bet the alarms would go off and he’d have to answer some very thorough follow-up questions. And rightly so.

  5. Reed Here said,

    February 23, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    Tim: others have answered your concern fairly, yes?

    I appreciate your caution. I think if you read what Wes has said, and the examples he supplies, it is not a matter of not allowing for legitimate semantical range. It is rather what Stuart has specified, confusing and conflating terms to the end that faith = faithfulness. Lane’s right – that is exactly what we’re not supposed to do.

    Question is simple: do the examples Wes provides demonstrates this error? I’m more and more confident the answer is yes. But then, given my experience here at GB, no one should be surprised by that.

  6. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    If this is true:

    “The Federal Visionists want to replace the great sola fide (faith alone) of the Reformation with a doctrine of sola fidelity (justification by faithfulness alone). ”

    then can someone please point to where that is explicitly stated as such? Who in the FV has said “no more sola fide, it should be sola fidelity”? I understand the temptation to create and attribute positions to our opponents. Isn’t it bad enough that they’ve said things which are in error? Why invent more?

  7. Reed Here said,

    February 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    David: you might want to ask this question of Wes, at his blog, as you’re quoting him.

    I think it is pretty clear Wes is arguing that this is the import of the FV structure. He provides a number of documentable quotes.

    A man can deny that this is his intent, and nevertheless his words may amount to this. The standard of judgment is not to be restricted to “only express words.” It is completely keeping with justice to consider the necessary end of one’s words as well.

    A more reasonable question would be, do the quotes Wes provides necessarily lead to the conclusion he reaches? If not, why not.

    I’m willing to accept the FV’er’s “that is not what I mean” as such a denial goes to his intent. I am not willing to ignore his other statements that seem to bely the accuracy of his denial.

  8. David Gray said,

    February 23, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Reed,

    You see your statements above are reasonable. Stating that the logical consequence of FV words is to replace sola fide with sola fidelity is a different matter than stating that FV men “want” to replace sola fide. Thanks for being reasonable.

  9. Tim Prussic said,

    February 23, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Gents, I am uncomfortable with Shepherd’s comment. I am not, however, aware of any of the contexts of the quotes on Wes’s post. I trust him that he’s done his homework and is not misrepresenting anyone. That said, I think that some FV comments regarding faith and justification are misleading or plain false.

    On the flip side, I also think that Wes uses “salvation” loosely in his post (sometimes synonymous with justification and other times not). I think that that kind of loose language is injurious, too. If we say that “salvation’s by faith alone,” when we mean justification is by faith alone, I think that’s problematic and breeds confusion. Essentially, I think that we have heightened sensitivity on SOME regards, but not in others. Some loose language is acceptable, but other loose language is not. This is a problem.

  10. Stuart said,

    February 24, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Tim,

    I’m sympathetic to your concerns about making certain we truly understand what the other person is actually saying theologically. Sometimes our language is loose, but we don’t believe anything heretical. At other times we go off the deep end trying to be precise . . . nuancing our nuanced nuances. I think confusion can be found at either end of that spectrum.

    Concerning the acceptability of “loose” language, I think we must recognize that Scripture itself can be “loose” in language . . . “justify” and “salvation” words are not always used in the same way. If Scripture is “loose” in this way, surely we have at least some liberty to be “loose” as well. If Paul can say in Eph 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” and also say “For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” in Romans 13:11 then Wes’s “loose” language about salvation can’t be THAT problematic.

    That said, the problem with “loose” language is understanding what is actually meant when one uses a word or states something a certain way. Again, when we use “loose” language and others are using technical language, misunderstanding occurs. Misunderstanding also occurs when we use technical terms in a looser language environment.

    So, yes, the foundational issue is what is meant by the language used and not necessarily the particular language used. Yet we must interpret language in a context . . . and our context is not only a particular treatise written today by a particular person, but centuries of theological formulations.

    So when someone says, “we are justified by an obedient faith”, what he means by it may actually be orthodox (or not), but regardless of what he means, his expression pushes the boundaries of the technical theological language and formulations the Church has used for centuries. Thus at best ambiguity rules and confusion ensues.

    Having said all that, I too have struggled with the way “salvation” language can be used. My struggle usually occurs when someone says something along the lines of “salvation is all of grace, and we contribute nothing to it” but then goes on to express how sanctification is synergistic with God doing his part and Christians doing their part. If we understand “salvation” in that context as the whole redemptive plan from God’s foreknowledge to our glorification, then a certain amount of dissonance is created.

  11. Ken Christian said,

    February 24, 2011 at 10:31 am

    Honest question: To be truly guilty of teaching “justification by faithfulness” (or whatever we want to call it), does not one have to be claiming that God delivers the verdict of justification because the person’s faith is “personally loyal”/”obedient”/”faithful”? If so, where do find Leithart or Meyers teaching that? Personally, I don’t see it in the quotes offered by Wes.

    I’d grant that Shepherd appears to come close to saying the above; but since he’s not in the PCA, his views are not that important to me at the moment.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    February 24, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Ken, I wouldn’t agree that the word “because” (or the concept of causality) has to be present in order for Wes’s case to be made. All that has to be present is for Leithart and Meyers to define faith as personal loyalty or faithfulness, and then for them to say that we are justified by faith (even alone!). This would teach justification by faithfulness, or by loyalty. The orthodox way of putting this would be to say that faith is one thing, faithfulness another. Faith belongs to justification, faithfulness to sanctification. And by the way, I’m not separating the two, I’m distinguishing the two. God never gives one without the other.

  13. Reed Here said,

    February 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Ken; Lane’s hit the center of the target. If the men quoted by Wes are re-defining faith to include faithfulness, then they’re affirmation of “justification by faith alone” is akin to a Mormon saying he believes “Jesus is the Son of God.” His redefining in what way Jesus is God’s son results in him using the same words as us to say exactly the opposite what we mean by those words.

    I will agree with David Gray that things are not so baldly obvious that we can pint to where these men say “justification by faithfulness alone.” I accept as well that it is possible they are just confused in their own formulations. They may not mean to mix sanctification only aspects of faith (e.g., faithfulness) with justification only aspects of faith, but …

    At the end of the debates if in any manner they have imported the tiniest degree of faithfulness into justification – then the game is up. It reasonable to question and challenge them on that basis.

    For me the rubber meets the road when I observe how the average FV layman applies this stuff to his life and (if he has a wife and children) his shepherding of his family. I am convinced that at that level all the sanctification nuances swallow up all the justification affirmations.

  14. Ken Christian said,

    February 24, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Lane/Reed –

    Thank you, brothers, for the interaction. Though I need to ponder your comments a bit more, I’m inclined to agree with the substance of them. Obviously it’s possible to redefine justifying faith in such a convoluted way that it makes one’s formal affirmation of the doctrine meaningless.

    That said, I wonder (along with Reed, it appears) if that’s what Leithart and Meyers are really doing. In the Meyers quote Wes provides, what we see is Meyers describing faith as personally loyal, not saying that faith is loyalty. For some brothers that might be a very small distinction. In such cases, Meyers should be pressed to explain further. Such a process is taking place in the MOP.

    As for the Leithart quote, the context appears to be faith as it relates to one’s entire Christian life, not the moment of justification. The sentence right before Wes’ quote reads: “Faith expresses itself in a life of loving, worshiping, and following Jesus.”

    As was the case with Meyers, there are some brothers who won’t agree that the sentence above saves the ones that follow it from redefining justifying faith. In such cases, Leithart should be asked to explain further. But isn’t that what is already happening in PNW pres?

    Finally, Reed, I’m not sure what to say about your assessments of the average FV layman (whoever he might be). I can only add that my own pastoral experience with FV types I know has been much different. Some of them are the most grace centered people I’ve ever met.

  15. Cal Boroughs said,

    February 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I have read through the Missouri Presbytery document and the verdict concerning TE Jeff Meyers does not seem so clear-cut as Wes White’s blog entry would suggest. The question preceding the section that is cited asks: “Is justification through faith or faithfulness?” The answer Meyers gives is: “We are justified by God grace alone because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection; and this justification is ours through faith alone. We might say that the ground of justification is the faithfulness of Jesus. But the instrument of justification, the way we receive God’s judicial verdict of not guilty and righteous in his sight, is through faith alone not faithfulness. As Paul says: ‘We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ’ (Gal. 2:16). Of course, those who exercise faith in Jesus and are justified will be faithful to the end. They will have faith-filled lives. But their faithfulness is not the material or instrumental cause of their justification, but the fruit of their salvation. Faith itself is not something we offer to God to become good enough to be worthy of his friendship, but rather a means by which we are united to Christ so that his sacrifice applies to us.”

    The next question asks “How would you interpret Paul’s use of the Greek word pistis: 1) belief or faith or 2) faithfulness?” This is the section that contains the quote cited in Wes White’s blog. To quote part of a lengthy answer: “Once again, I can’t answer this question without a specific context. Pistis is not a technical term for Paul. Its meaning can be discovered only when one sees how Paul uses the word in context. I suppose the question is getting at whether I believe in justification by faith or justification by faithfulness? Do I believe that God justifies those whom he finds to be good and faithful members of the covenant? No. Do I believe that God declares righteous those whom he finds to be righteous? No. If, however, you mean by ‘faithful’ something like ‘faith-filled,’ then I suppose that would be acceptable. God justifies those who have faith. I was asked by someone recently what I meant when I said that Christians are those who are faithful unto death. Was I teaching justification by faithfulness? No. All I meant by that is justified Christians live a life of faith. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Hab.2:4;Rom.1:17). A justified Christian believes, trusts, place his faith in Jesus throughout his entire life, even unto death. I don’t believe that God justifies those whom he finds worthy or acceptable because they have been so faithful to his covenant that they are, in fact, righteous.”

    As I understand Meyers from his answers I don’t see that he believes that faith = faithfulness. What am I missing?

  16. Reed Here said,

    February 24, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks Ken. I admit my experience with FV laymen is not to be the deciding factor. I’m expressing a pastoral concern, observing what has been common in my experience.

  17. Sean Gerety said,

    February 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Ken, in response to a critical comment questioning James Jordan’s claim “that justification by faith is clear in the Ten Commandments,” Meyers said:

    It seems pretty clear to me that the first word of the decalogue (not commandments) has to do with trusting Yahweh alone. The language of “having” or “possessing” no other god is marriage language.

    Israel, the bride, is to cling to Yahweh, her Husband and Lord, in faithfulness. What is this but salvation by faith? How is that wrong?

    Do you agree with Meyers that clinging to Yahweh in faithfulness is salvation by faith?

  18. Ken Christian said,

    February 24, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Sean (in #17) -

    Do I agree with that particular statement of Meyers. In short, no.

    That said, I’d want want to examine more context and hear more explanation before I let that one statement somehow convince me that Meyers was teaching views contrary to the system of doctrine contained in the Westminster Standards.

  19. Ken Christian said,

    February 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Reed (16) – Understood. And I am, of course, sorry that those poor people under your care have been so troubled. May God bless you in your continued ministry to them.

  20. Sean Gerety said,

    February 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Ken, if you want to examine the context, I’ve published the exchange from where that quote comes from, message #2918 from the Wrightsaid Yahoo group. See http://tinyurl.com/62cebsr and please let me know if anything changes for you.

  21. Richard Tallach said,

    February 24, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Seems like a rather obvious attempt to smuggle works righteousness into the means by which we receive justification.

    Faithfulness to Christ in every way should be an (evenly or unevenly) developing characteristic of the true Christian, but even after years of sanctification it will be less than perfect and cannot merit justification.

  22. TurretinFan said,

    February 24, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    “The language of “having” or “possessing” no other god is marriage language. Israel, the bride, is to cling to Yahweh, her Husband and Lord, in faithfulness. What is this but salvation by faith? How is that wrong?”

    It’s hard to see how that statement could be interpreted in a way that is consistent with the standards, or with any Reformed or Calvinist soteriology in general.

    -TurretinFan

  23. Sean Gerety said,

    February 24, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Richard, I think covental nomism takes care of the idea of having to merit something. The idea is that we enter into a covenantal union with Christ via the waters of baptism and the words of a priest (the FV men still like to call themselves pastors) and we remain in through our own God wrought obedience. Also, and perhaps interestingly, Peter Liethart complains in The Baptized Body that “For some, the central problem with the Federal Vision is that it denies justification by faith, which no one has ever done….” But no one I know of has ever said that any of these men deny justification by faith. The pope doesn’t even deny justification by faith. What they deny is justification by belief alone. The supposed *fiducial* element, what Meyers calls an active, living, obedient faith is what keeps us in the covenant. This is why Wes White says they’ve replace sola fide with sola fidelity. He’s right.

  24. Alan D. Strange said,

    February 24, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Wes is correct: the distinction between faith and faithfulness is crucial. Westminster Larger Catechism 73, as has been mentioned, makes this crucial distinction clear.

    However, justifying faith is also not “belief alone.” Westminster is quite clear on this as well: “justifying faith… not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness” (WLC 72). This which is more than mere assent is what all the Reformers, to a man, called “fiducia”–trust.

    While it is wrong to fatten faith by identifying it with the other evangelical graces that always accompany it, or the fruit that it always produces, as WLC 73 notes, it is also wrong to emaciate it by removing trust and reducing it merely to assent, per WLC 72.

    Faith is knowledge, assent, and trust. We may not respond to the error of identifying faith and faithfulness by defining justifying faith as “belief or assent alone,” absent trust. For more on this see my review of Gordon Clark’s What is Saving Faith? at http://www.midamerica.edu/resources/journal/15/reviews.pdf.

  25. rcjr said,

    February 25, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Well said Alan. Would that more of those doing the good work of cautioning folks about the faith/faithfulness problem would also guard against the bare assent problem. The standards have it exactly right.

  26. Sean Gerety said,

    February 25, 2011 at 7:28 am

    IMO Dr. Strange is grossly mistaken and it is a mistake that has without question contributed to the sad state the church is in today. To believe someone is to trust what they say. And to trust someone is to believe what they say. In English belief and trust are synonymous. Translating these words into Latin changes nothing, although we’ve seen it does obscure and confuse things.

    Gordon Clark was right when he wrote:

    The crux of the difficulty with the popular analysis of faith into notitia (understanding), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust), is that fiducia comes from the same root as fides (faith). Hence this popular analysis reduces to the obviously absurd definition that faith consists of understanding, assent, and faith. Something better than this tautology must be found.

    FWIW the FV men have found that something better and have avoided Clark’s tautology charge by defining *fiducia* in terms of their imagined God wrought obedience. Further, even in his description of his review, Dr. Strange fails to even articulate Clark’s view correctly so as to properly critique it. While Clark did define faith as belief, since they are both translations of the single Greek word pistis, he did not define belief in terms of assent alone. By attempting to distinguishing faith and belief it is my view that Dr. Strange obscures justification by belief alone and implies, even in his remarks above, that justification by *faith* alone is somehow something more; something different.

    I would recommend that after reading Dr. Strange’s review of What is Saving Faith, they read that book for themselves. Or, at the very least they read Dr.Robbins response to Dr. Strange (incidentally the OPC’s New Horizon magazine that also published the Strange review refused to publish Dr. Robbins’ response or even my own).

    http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/an-answer-to-alan-strange/

    Finally, on De Regno Christi James Jordon decried attacks on the FV on this blog as the “Clark controversy with feet on it.” The FV men see themselves as defenders of the same misunderstanding of saving faith that Dr. Strange advances. I’d say he was right.

  27. David Gray said,

    February 25, 2011 at 8:25 am

    New Horizons magazine is an excellent denominational magazine with generally very good judgment. If the PCA ever is good enough to its members to liquidate By Faith they could have a good look at New Horizons to see how such things ought to be done. I still cringe at the year’s subscription I paid for from By Faith.

  28. Alan D. Strange said,

    February 25, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Mr. Gerety, I am happy to invite readers to peruse Clark’s book, my review, and Dr. Robbins’ (and your) reponses and decide for themselves. To imply that I , or all the Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries, give aid and comfort to FV (or are “fellow-travelers” of FV) in insisting that justifying faith consists of knowledge, assent, and trust is thoroughly confused and is not historically Reformed or Protestant.

    Everyone needs to be aware, in being properly alerted to FV errors, that what Mr. Gerety would propogate here in this respect (“assent alone”) departs from the historic Reformed and Protestant faith. This position is not without precedent in the Protestant churches (as an extreme minority position). But the Reformed churches have always regarded any definition of faith that merely intellectualizes faith as being in error (just as we regard any position that de-intellectualizes faith to be in error).

    Saving faith is not simply belief in the facts of the gospel. It is a giving oneself to, a resting and trusting in, an entrusting oneself to, the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ as our all-sufficient Savior. It is not the same as repentance or good works. The former always accompanies such faith and the latter is the fruit of such faith. But the church has always recognized that faith may not be reduced to a mere rational act and that when the Spirit renews the heart, such a heart not only believes but entrusts itself to, the Savior.

  29. greenbaggins said,

    February 25, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I agree with Dr. Strange on this one. Any suggestion that having the three elements of faith (knowledge, assent and trust) is the cause of the problem in the FV is misguided. This three-fold definition of faith was an absolute commonplace among the Puritans. They didn’t exactly struggle with FV-related problems. Many critics today who vigorously oppose FV yet believe in the three-fold definition of faith. That being said, one has to understand the fiducia part carefully, and define it well. The FV guys take fiducia and confuse it with life-long loyalty to God. What it actually is (in justifying faith) is an entrusting of oneself to God, a once for all event.

  30. Sean Gerety said,

    February 25, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Here again Dr. Strange distorts the position he critiques. Neither Gordon Clark, John Robbins or I have said “assent alone.” One must understand what it is they are assenting to. That is belief and the difference between ordinary belief and saving belief are the propositions believed, not some nebulous psychological element that is supposed to complete belief. Further faith, belief, is by definition an intellectual act (what Strange strangely deprecates by calling it a “mere rational act”).

    I do hope people will take Dr. Strange’s advice and read Gordon Clark’s What is Saving Faith? for themselves. Then they will see precisely how Federal Visionist have been able to exploit the traditional (notice I didn’t say Confessional) understanding of saving faith to the destruction of countless souls and the corruption of the church. And by the church I specifically mean here the PCA and the OPC (which evidently did not understand the similarly corrupting twist on faith being advanced by Norman Shepherd and later John Kinnnaird which explains why their GA exonerated the latter and let the former go without discipline).

  31. Sean Gerety said,

    February 25, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Before I get the left-foot of fellowship again from this blog, let me just add re the relationship between the traditional understanding of faith and the FV, Lane wrote in an earlier piece here at Greenbaggins:

    “Trust,” especially gets difficult here, because people drive trucks through this word, and this is usually where “faithfulness” gets sneaked in the back door.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  32. TurretinFan said,

    February 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Two points:

    1) The quotation I identified at #22 is problematic even under the three-fold analysis of faith (Rejected by Gordon Clark, but taught by the real Francis Turretin).

    2) Rejection of the three-fold analysis of faith is problematic as well, but in an entirely different direction. I realize that FV advocates or supporters might like to get Sean G. riled up over that issue, since it is one that divides those who reject the FV, but I hope we can keep those two unrelated issues separate.

    3) Or, in other words, the quotation is problem whether faith is just notion, notion and assent, or notion, assent, and trust. So, while it might be important to address Gordon Clark’s position, it isn’t important to do it here and now.

    -TurretinFan

  33. Alan D. Strange said,

    February 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

    TF, in re:#32, I am quite aware that your point at #22, with respect to the quotation, is in the opposite direction from the one that I am making with respect to the three-fold defintion of faith. I am in complete agreement with Wes, Reed, Lane, et al. that it is deadly to confuse faith and faithfulness.

    Because Mr. Gerety threw in the “belief alone” comment, however, as that which is definitive of justifying faith, I thought that it was helpul to point out that the remedy to the problem of identifying faith and faithfulness is not to strip faith of trust. I agree with Lane that one must rightly define trust, and not overload it with that which more properly accompanies faith or is the fruit of faith.

    I stand by my remarks and think them cogent and to the point here. Mr. Gerety has proven them to be, because he contends that if one holds to the classic three-fold definition of faith, one is aiding and abetting FV. Thus in this discussion it is necessary to clear the matter up.

    We must oppose both any addition of works to faith and any removing of trust from faith. I am on record rather extensively opposing the FV confusion of faith and faithfulness as well as opposing those who would deny the fiducial aspect of justifying faith. Both must be done; otherwise, the true character of justifying faith is not grasped.

  34. greenbaggins said,

    February 25, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Yup, Sean (#31). I stand by that comment entirely. But wouldn’t you agree that it is possible to hold to a three-fold definition and 1. not be a heretic, and 2. not support the FV by doing so? Couldn’t you say this even if you disagreed with said position?

  35. Reed Here said,

    February 25, 2011 at 11:32 am

    TFan: agreed.

  36. TurretinFan said,

    February 25, 2011 at 11:39 am

    To build on what Lane just offered, my impression of Clark’s objection to trust as the third category is that Clark thought that trust could be reduced to assent to further propositions. Assuming for the sake of argument that Clark was right, that’s a formal objection rather than substantial objection. He would say that we should not label that as something distinct from assent, but he couldn’t very well call that an error in substance, could he?

  37. Sean Gerety said,

    February 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Yup, Sean (#31). I stand by that comment entirely. But wouldn’t you agree that it is possible to hold to a three-fold definition and 1. not be a heretic, and 2. not support the FV by doing so? Couldn’t you say this even if you disagreed with said position?

    Of course Lane. I’m surprised you would even say that. I don’t think the three fold definition is in itself heretical, just imprecise. Which is why, as you say, people have been able to drive a truck through it. I believe it is this imprecision which has led to the kind of assault on the doctrine of JBFA that we’re now dealing with and seems to go on without end. I truly believe that had more people paid attention to Clark’s argument in What is Saving Faith? a lot of where we are today, where presbytery after presbytery have exonerated known Federal Visionists (and in some cases more than once), could have been avoided. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but maybe not.

    But ask yourself, why have we been imprecise on what we mean by faith which is, after all, the alone instrument in justification? Why instead of defining our terms clearly using literal language, when it comes to defining what this third element of saving faith is we resort to figures of speech and simply repeat the word “trust” over and over as Dr. Strange has done in #28? Notice too in #33 what got this ball rolling was the fact that I “threw in the ‘belief alone’ comment.” For Dr. Strange belief alone and faith alone are not the same thing at all, but, again, in ordinary English belief and trust are synonyms.

    As Dr. Robbins observed and in response to something R.C. Sproul had written (and, FWIW, Robbins thought Sproul was a hero for his actions on the floor of the GA during the FV/NPP report debate), belief and trust are the same thing:

    SPROUL: It’s an intellectual awareness. You can’t have faith in nothing; there has to be content to the faith. You have to believe something or trust someone.

    ROBBINS: Notice that Sproul here uses the verbs “believe” and “trust” interchangeably, as synonyms. This is both good English and sound theology. Belief, that is to say, faith (there is only one word in the New Testament for belief, pistis) and trust are the same; they are synonyms. If you believe what a person says, you trust him. If you trust a person, you believe what he says. If you have faith in him, you believe what he says and trust his words. If you trust a bank, you believe its claims to be safe and secure. Strictly speaking, trust is belief of propositions in the future tense, such as “he will be good to me” or “this bank will keep my money safe.” This is important, because Sproul’s incorrect analysis of saving faith, his splitting it up into three parts, the third part being trust, depends on denying that belief and trust are the same thing. But here he correctly implies they are the same by using the words interchangeably.

    From my perspective, one of the hardest things in this fight against the real heretics of the FV is getting people to see how these FV men have been equating faith with faithfulness as the “fiducial” element of saving faith and how it has allowed them to even profess JBFA through redefinition. I suspect it is hard for many to see how the traditional formulation has been abused simply because they believe saving faith is something more than a simple belief, precisely what they can’t really say, but that is hardly reason for labeling men like Meyers, Wilson and Leithart heretics for maintaining (I’d say playing fast and loose with) the “fiducial” element of saving faith.

  38. David Reece said,

    February 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    TurretinFan,

    He may call it an error in substance if he believes that an individual is using “trust” for something other those additional propositions. In either case, formal objections are important because of the effect that poor form can have on communication. We shall be held accountable for every idle word after all.

  39. Theophilus said,

    February 25, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    I am confused. In this question and answer session, RC Sproul says very clearly (about 9 minutes in) that Justification is synergistic but regeneration is monergistic:
    http://www.ligonier.org/blog/watch-last-weeks-ask-rc-live-session/

  40. rcjr said,

    February 25, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    If such would not be deemed a rabbit trail, can I ask Sean to help me understand how his position deals with James’ observation that the demon’s believe, and tremble? Does not the devil agree that it is true that Jesus is the Son of God incarnate who suffered the wrath of the Father in the place of those who would trust in that work? I’m not eager to have a debate on the issue, but I want to better understand this position and thought this question might help.

  41. rcjr said,

    February 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Theopholus,

    What is confusing? God regenerates us without our invitation or cooperation. We do nothing but lie there dead. We bring nothing but our need. Thus regeneration is monergistic. The work of Christ, his atonement, however, comes to us when we believe. Though no one believes unless or until God regenerates him, and though all He regenerates will believe and thus we have no room to boast, nevertheless God does not believe for us, and we are not justified by regeneration, but by faith. Make sense?

  42. Sean Gerety said,

    February 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    rcjr I’m not eager to debate the issue here either, and, for the record I’m not the one who started this rabbit trail although my name keeps popping up as if I had, but I addressed your question as best I can here:

    http://godshammer.wordpress.com/2007/09/17/demonic-theology/

    If you’d like to discuss it more, sans any debate or offer correction, please contact me off line.

  43. Theophilus said,

    February 25, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    RCJR,

    I am not confused by regeneration but the claim of the last line of this blog entry: “…confused doctrine of justification, one which is synergistic not monergistic.”

    So it appears that there are two accomplished bible teachers (much more so than I) who are saying contradictory things.

  44. rcjr said,

    February 25, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks Sean. I enjoyed the article.

  45. rcjr said,

    February 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Theophilus,
    Do you mind asking where you said this? I suspect, though I can’t say without reading it, that the gentleman who made the objection to what my dad said accidentally conflated regeneration and justification. It’s a common problem in our Reformed circles, people thinking regeneration is the instrumental cause of our justification. or at least treating the two as synonyms.

  46. Theophilus said,

    February 25, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    RCJR,

    Can you please scroll up to the top of the page and read the whole statement made by Rev. DePace?

  47. rcjr said,

    February 25, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    There is is, thanks. Stupid of me to have to ask. Well, I’m pretty confident that neither Reed nor Wes would disagree with what I described. Perhaps what they are saying is that conflating faith and faithfulness makes the ground of our justification monergistic. I can’t see how anyone could suggest that the instrumental cause is monergistic.

  48. Theophilus said,

    February 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Well, I would think that since the charge of heresy is involved, the careful and proper use of terms would be a requirement.

    I am not a bible scholar and have no bible training. I have had some training in formal logic. I would like to say very simply that if you FV critics are trying to persuade people through reasoning there are serious problems with FV theology, this is NOT a way to do it!

  49. David Reece said,

    February 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Theophilus (RE: # 38),

    you said, “I would like to say very simply that if you FV critics are trying to persuade people through reasoning there are serious problems with FV theology, this is NOT a way to do it!”

    WHAT “is NOT the way to do it”?

    Do you mean that the opponents of FV are not taking care to make “proper use of terms”?

    If this is the case could you please point to the example you are trying to discourage?

  50. Theophilus said,

    February 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    David,

    Please look at my first post and follow the link to the ask RC video.

  51. Reed Here said,

    February 25, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Theophilus: maybe it helps for me to distinguish this way. The faith that receives justification is:

    > synergistic in that it includes the act of the individual to receive the result, but
    > monergistic (God alone) in that individual’s act in no manner is meritorious towards the result.

    Faithfulness, as the FV seems to be saying, seems to introduce a synergistic (meritorious( aspect to the individual’s act of receiving the result.

    In other words, I was using the mono-, syn-ergistic terms to distinguish:

    > the traditional justification by faith alone (monergistic as to the individual not doing anything to secure the result)

    from

    > the FV justification by faithfulness formula (which appears to introduce a synergistic element, an element of what the individual does to secure the result).

    I could be wrong, but haven’t you read/discussed the FV here before? This is the first time you’ve looked at these things, is it? I ask because your post about “convincing” folks makes it sound like you’re brand new to the discussion. If I’m wrong, let me know. Nevertheless, this objection seems quite sophisticated for someone new to the discussion.

    You sure you haven’t studied the FV before? If not, at least give yourself some credit. You might not be a Bible “scholar” but your apparent conundrum is rather a well conceived objection on the face of it. Hopefully you’ll agree that it amounts to not much with this clarification.

  52. Tim Prussic said,

    February 25, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    “What is confusing? God regenerates us without our invitation or cooperation. We do nothing but lie there dead. We bring nothing but our need. Thus regeneration is monergistic. The work of Christ, his atonement, however, comes to us when we believe. Though no one believes unless or until God regenerates him, and though all He regenerates will believe and thus we have no room to boast, nevertheless God does not believe for us, and we are not justified by regeneration, but by faith. Make sense?”

    rcjr, BOOYAH!

  53. Tim Prussic said,

    February 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Theoph: You wrote, “I would like to say very simply that if you FV critics are trying to persuade people through reasoning there are serious problems with FV theology, this is NOT a way to do it!”

    In your view, what is the way in which FV critics are misfiring? That is, what is NOT a way to do it?

  54. jared said,

    February 25, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I originally wrote most of the following for Wes’s blog but it seems they aren’t so willing to discuss things over there as we are here. So what happens when you have faith but not faithfulness? Oh, that’s right, you don’t really have faith then because if you really had faith then you would have remained faithful. So, faith nets you justification and faithfulness which, in turn, nets you (ultimately) salvation. The initial faith has nothing to do with you besides being yours; it’s all of grace, a gift from the Father brought about by the work of the Spirit. The FV does not monolithically deny this (I haven’t seen any advocates deny this, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any). Unlike justification, assurance is not based on faith alone (WCF 18.3). If you don’t have works you cannot have assurance, this is one of the take-aways of James (and Paul, and Peter, and John, and Jesus). The mark of authentic faith is faithfulness, without it there is no reason for you (or the church) to think your faith is authentic. Doubt is healthy only in this context, only to the extent that it drives you to the cross, to recognition of your utter dependence on the completed work of Jesus.

    There is not a measure of faithfulness (or assurance) that one must attain in order to obtain salvation. If you are being faithful then you have salvation because faithfulness is the result of having authentic faith (the possession of which is necessary for justification, and which is necessary for salvation). It should be kept in mind that one is faithful in proportion to the measure of faith one is given (e.g. Calvin as compared with myself). Salvation is not based on faithfulness, it’s based on faith. But one must also persevere to the end in order for that salvation to be realized. So faithfulness is required for salvation (this is confessional, WCF 16.2) but it is not the basis of salvation. And faithfulness is not required for justification. How could it be? Faithfulness is the result of justification, so how could it be a requirement of justification?

    As far as I can tell this is what the FV is saying. Faithfulness and faith (and, hence, justification) are inseparably tied together but faith/justification necessarily precedes faithfulness. Shepherd is right in saying that faith and faithfulness are not opposed in the justification of the believer, they are intimately and necessarily tied together. You can’t have justification without results (faithfulness) and you can’t have results without justification (faith). Meyers is right, it’s that initial faith/trust that results in clinging/faithfulness. The clinging is nothing less than the result of faith/justification which promises, and delivers through perseverance, salvation. In the quotes on Wes’s post it seems clear to me that faith does not equal faithfulness, but it does (or should) entail faithfulness.

  55. David Reece said,

    February 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Theophilus (Re: # 50),

    Thanks, I’m sorry I didn’t catch the connection at first. My fault.

  56. David Reece said,

    February 26, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Jared (RE: #55),

    You said, “Unlike justification, assurance is not based on faith alone (WCF 18.3). If you don’t have works you cannot have assurance, this is one of the take-aways of James (and Paul, and Peter, and John, and Jesus). The mark of authentic faith is faithfulness, without it there is no reason for you (or the church) to think your faith is authentic.”

    I think you have missed the point of WFC 18.3 and of James, Paul, Peter, John, and Jesus. Christians are obligated to believe that another professor of the faith is a Christian until unrepentant sin is committed. The Bible and the confession do not teach assurance by works. Look at WFC 18.3:

    “And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness.”

    It does not say that assurance is a fruit of obedience. It says that obedience is a fruit of assurance. You have the entire doctrine upside down and backwards if you think assurance is a fruit of obedience.

    You said, “Doubt is healthy only in this context, only to the extent that it drives you to the cross, to recognition of your utter dependence on the completed work of Jesus.” These are pious sounding words, but I tell you that one should always doubt one’s works, and always look to the news declared in scripture for assurance, and not look to internal subjective fruit for assurance. Introspection is no place to find assurance.

    You also said, “So faithfulness is required for salvation (this is confessional, WCF 16.2) but it is not the basis of salvation.”

    I wonder, if faithfulness is required for salvation, then would you please tell me exactly how faithful one is required to be for salvation?

    Justification is by mercy alone through belief alone. Salvation is by mercy alone through belief alone.

    You finally said, “In the quotes on Wes’s post it seems clear to me that faith does not equal faithfulness, but it does (or should) entail faithfulness.”

    So you are claiming that faith entails faithfulness?

  57. Reed Here said,

    February 26, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Jared, no. 55: appreciate your posting this. The more we talk the more I think I see where the critical nuance/distinction lies.

    I think it comes down to what one means in terms of the causal relationships between the various component parts of our redemption, the elements of the ordo salutis. I think what is troublesome to us FV critics is that it at least appears that the FV brothers are constructing theological arguments that end up with synergistic causal formula. That is, FV formulas sound like God’s work + man’s work = salvation (in the end).

    To remove one unintended offense, let me end with the recognition that the FV’ers do say that ALL the components of salvation are rooted in the necessary work of the Spirit. That is recognized. Still, their formulations end up presenting a synergistic result.

  58. Reed Here said,

    February 26, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Jared, no 55: maybe one example to illustrate. You said: “So, faith nets you justification and faithfulness which, in turn, nets you (ultimately) salvation.”

    Here I’m assuming you mean bodily glorification at Christ’s 2nd coming, as I think that is the more generous reading of what you said. (I want to be as generous as I can in my assumptions as to exactly what you mean in this. Please let me know where I’ve filled in a blank inappropriately.)

    Whether in your use of the term “salvation” you are referring to the composite whole of all the benefits of our redemption, or merely to its end point in the 2nd coming glorification, the point I want to make here still applies. In effect you’ve set up a formula:

    Faith NETS justification and assurance NETS salvation (2nd coming glorification)

    The problem I have with the FV occurs in how the middle set, justification and assurance, is related to the net result, salvation (2nd coming glorification). Is this relationship merely familial, as in the middle set is nothing more than siblings or cousins of the net result? Or is this relationship parental, as in the middle set is in some manner part of the causal effect of the net result?

    This is the problem I have with the kinds of FV statements listed on Wes’ blog post. Such formulations invariably present a problematic parental relationship between individual benefits in the family of redemption. They argue for causal effects that import the work of man into salvation.

    E.g., I agree faithfulness is a necessary sibling in the family of redemption. It is a necessary component. If I get redemption, I get the whole family of benefits, including faithfulness.

    Yet the FV quotes at Wes’ blog do not seem to be arguing for a mere sibling relationship between faithfulness and justification. They seem to be arguing for a parental relationship, one in which faithfulness is a material cause in the result of justification. Thus you end up with a formula for justification that boils down to:

    Christ’s work + man’s faithfulness = justification

    I ran into this first when reading Norman Shepherd. It seems to me that the critical point of failure in Shepherd’s arguments rest in a faulty relationship between “initial” justification and “final” justification. The terms themselves infer the seriousness of the error.

  59. Reed Here said,

    February 26, 2011 at 9:14 am

    Theophilus: please identify yourself with your next post. For further explanation of this blog rule, please email me at reed here at gmail dot com.

  60. rcjr said,

    February 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Well said Reed.

  61. jared said,

    February 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    David Reece,

    RE: 56,

    You said, “Christians are obligated to believe that another professor of the faith is a Christian until unrepentant sin is committed.” Yes, I quite agree. Unrepentant sin is evidence of unfaithfulness but not necessarily evidence of a lack of genuine faith. One can be an unrepentant sinner and yet still have genuine faith; such a one will always come back in repentance and continue on striving in their faith. In other words, we should (to a certain extent) extend our charity of judgement even to those believers who are unrepentant. We honor the professed believer’s baptism until they are excommunicated.

    Commenting on WCF 18.3 you said,

    It does not say that assurance is a fruit of obedience. It says that obedience is a fruit of assurance. You have the entire doctrine upside down and backwards if you think assurance is a fruit of obedience.

    It’s actually a circle starting with “the right use of ordinary means”. So assurance comes first by faithfulness and then continues on in obedience. I’m guessing you don’t want to argue that assurance is required for obedience, but that seems like the logical extension of your statement. If obedience is a fruit of assurance then assurance is necessary for obedience and I think it’s abundantly clear from other places in the Confession (and Scripture) that this isn’t the case. Most Christians begin obeying and being faithful long before obtaining assurance; and even then some never obtain it (or they do and aren’t aware of it). You continue,

    These are pious sounding words, but I tell you that one should always doubt one’s works, and always look to the news declared in scripture for assurance, and not look to internal subjective fruit for assurance. Introspection is no place to find assurance.

    Assurance is like salvation, in some sense, in that it has it’s basis in faith (i.e. in the completed work of Jesus) but it has a practical manifestation in faithfulness. My assurance comes from knowing that my faithfulness is the result of genuine faith. The true seat of assurance is in the throne room of heaven and it is mediated to me through faith manifesting itself in faithfulness. I neither doubt nor trust my works, rather I trust in Jesus and look at my works through His imputed righteousness. Faithfulness confirms assurance just as it confirms justification but the basis of both is the work of Jesus (alone).

    You asked, “if faithfulness is required for salvation, then would you please tell me exactly how faithful one is required to be for salvation?” but I have already answered that question. Faithfulness is required only in as much as it is mediated through genuine faith. That is, only to the extent that it is the outworking of genuine faith. There isn’t a minimum amount of faithfulness one must have in order to obtain salvation; think of the thief on the cross. This is because salvation isn’t based on faithfulness. Faithfulness is the result of salvation, not the cause. It is in this sense that faithfulness is required for salvation, just as it is required for justification. If they are genuinely possessed then they result in faithfulness. Lack of faithfulness is evidence (but not necessarily confirmation) of a lack of faith and salvation. This is why church discipline is so important. These ideas are all over the middle chapters of the WCF (on saving faith, on good works, on perseverance and on assurance).

    Finally, you ask “So you are claiming that faith entails faithfulness?” Yes. John tells us that if we claim fellowship with the light but walk in darkness then we are liars who do not “live out the truth”. This is one of the primary emphases of 1 John. Believing gospel fundamentally changes who you are and, thus, how you live. If it doesn’t then it isn’t belief in the gospel.

    Reed,

    RE: 57 – You say,

    I think what is troublesome to us FV critics is that it at least appears that the FV brothers are constructing theological arguments that end up with synergistic causal formula. That is, FV formulas sound like God’s work + man’s work = salvation (in the end).

    It seems to me that the FV formula is God’s work = salvation + man’s work. And, best I can figure, this is the formula the WCF uses.

    RE: 58 – You’ve interpreted me as saying “Faith NETS justification and assurance NETS salvation (2nd coming glorification)” but I wouldn’t want to equate assurance and faithfulness. Hopefully my interaction with Mr. Reece has helped clarify that a bit. Sorry for the misunderstanding (though your points are still applicable). You continue,

    Such formulations invariably present a problematic parental relationship between individual benefits in the family of redemption. They argue for causal effects that import the work of man into salvation.

    I do think that the work of man is imported into salvation, but this import is not a contribution, rather it’s a confirmation. Man’s work is necessary for salvation but not in the sense of adding to, or helping, Christ’s work. Christ’s work is complete, it cannot be added to or supplemented in any way. And His work is the foundation of salvation. Maybe an illustration can help. Think of salvation as Jesus walking around holding up an umbrella that shields from the raining storm of God’s wrath against sin. So how do I get under there? This is where we can see the ordo working. Jesus calls us out of the storm, the Spirit quickens us and we recognize the reality of our situation. We go to Jesus repenting of ourselves and believing He is able to save us from the rain. We embrace Him and He picks us up and carries us. Eventually the rain will stop and those under the umbrella will get to enjoy the sunshine. With me so far? Now there are two places where activity is required on our part. The first is in going to Jesus. This activity cannot be meritorious because it was the Spirit that quickened us and Jesus who called us to Himself. Us going is God’s work, not ours. Then there is the embracing of Jesus. This cannot be meritorious either because at this point we are already out of the rain. But if we don’t embrace Jesus then He is going to move on and we will be left in the rain (this would be an example of a reprobate covenant member, they get out of the rain for a little bit but they don’t get picked up and carried by Jesus). Our embracing of Jesus is necessary to, but not causal of, our getting out of the rain. You continue,

    Yet the FV quotes at Wes’ blog do not seem to be arguing for a mere sibling relationship between faithfulness and justification. They seem to be arguing for a parental relationship, one in which faithfulness is a material cause in the result of justification.

    I think this is an uncharitable reading of the FV authors. I’ll grant that the Leithart quote is muddled and what I think he means by “faith” is “faithfulness”. If you replace “faith” with “faithfulness” in his quote then it makes more sense. I also think if you read much of his other material you’ll discover that he distinguishes faith and faithfulness (which is what makes this quote muddled but not problematic in my estimation). The first Shepherd quote seems right on. Faith and faithfulness are not opposed or antithetical when talking about justification. I would say that justification is what ties faith and faithfulness together. It goes: faith justification faithfulness. The second Shepherd quote is just a biblical example of the first. Abraham’s faith and obedience are tied together by righteousness. James says that works perfect faith. Faith is the first step and works are the logical next step, salvation is always a two-step process. This, I think, is the heart of the FV criticism of what Reformed theology has become. We’re so caught up in getting the first step right that the second step is a foregone conclusion. Obviously if we take the first step then we’ll take the second, is the reasoning but it just doesn’t work that way. When your theology centers on one step instead of centering equally on both then you get what Reformed theology has largely become today (“baptistic” I think is the term used most frequently). You conclude,

    I ran into this first when reading Norman Shepherd. It seems to me that the critical point of failure in Shepherd’s arguments rest in a faulty relationship between “initial” justification and “final” justification. The terms themselves infer the seriousness of the error.

    I haven’t read any of Shepherd’s stuff so I can’t contribute anything substantial in that vein (not that I make substantial contributions in any vein). I do think the terms “initial justification” and “final justification” aren’t as helpful as the other side has made them out to be, so at least we can agree on that.

  62. Reed Here said,

    February 26, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Jared: thanks for your response. You may have missed the issue of causal effect in my explanation.

    You are saying that man’s work is nothing more than an, “oh yeah, along with all these other benefits, there is also man’s work.” I know that is what you think the FV is saying. Yet you yourself acknowledge that at least one quote is muddled and has to have a material correction (faith for faithfulness) to be o.k.

    It is wonderful to be generous in reading other’s words. Yet such generosity does not stretch to the point of credulity. I find it rather incredible that someone as intelligent and well versed as Leithart would mistake faithfulness for faith. Similarly the rest of the statements stretch credulity.

    In the end I think these brothers want to say something that is biblically accurate and helpful. Yet starting from at least one flawed premise, they can’t help but write things that makes it very difficult to read them generously.

    BTW, I think you’r reading WCF 18 a tad skewed. You offer a material causal role to the ordinary use of the means. Sounds more like a passive means, similar to the passivity faith plays in receiving justification. Assurance is solely the work of the Spirit. You’re arguing for a material role for man. Don’t think so.

  63. jared said,

    February 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Reed,

    RE: 62

    Thanks for continuing to be patient with me. You said,

    You are saying that man’s work is nothing more than an, “oh yeah, along with all these other benefits, there is also man’s work.” I know that is what you think the FV is saying. Yet you yourself acknowledge that at least one quote is muddled and has to have a material correction (faith for faithfulness) to be o.k.

    I’m saying man’s work is nothing less than a requirement for salvation in as much as they are a necessary result of a saving faith. It’s not that it adds to salvation, rather, like with justification, it functions as a confirmation (or validation, if you will) of true possession. It certainly isn’t the only item that serves in this role but it is one of those items. I think there’s an important, but maybe subtle, difference between saying works are the meritorious cause of salvation (or that they are a meritorious contribution) and saying they are a caused requirement of salvation. Works function in this way for justification as well, so I don’t see the problem here at all. You continue,

    It is wonderful to be generous in reading other’s words. Yet such generosity does not stretch to the point of credulity. I find it rather incredible that someone as intelligent and well versed as Leithart would mistake faithfulness for faith. Similarly the rest of the statements stretch credulity.

    I agree with you about Leithart, which is one of the reasons I give him the benefit of the doubt. I haven’t read the book the quote is taken from but it’s entirely possible Wes is implying something that Leithart is not intending readers to glean from this particular quote. I think the same is true for the second Shepherd quote and the first Meyers quote. While I’ve read a fair amount of Leithart (from his blog and other online articles) I’m not as familiar with Shepherd and Meyers. On the face of things the first Shepherd quote, as I’ve already said, seems fairly legitimate to me and the second simply seems to be an example of the first. I’m less convinced by the answer from Meyers in his first quote because I don’t think “trust” and “loyalty” can (or should) be equated the way he seems to be equating them. However, I do think loyalty is implied in the sort of trust we traditionally ascribe to faith so he’s not completely off the wall. He is getting at that FV criticism I noted above, that traditional Reformed theology is too narrowly focused on the first step of salvation (being in the light) almost to the exclusion of the second step (walking in the light). In my recent journey to learn about the historical and theological development what’s called the covenant of works, it is that doctrine that has most contributed to the narrowing of Reformed theology’s focus. This is why, I think, that particular doctrine has come under some of the most ardent criticism from FV advocates. You continue,

    BTW, I think you’r reading WCF 18 a tad skewed. You offer a material causal role to the ordinary use of the means. Sounds more like a passive means, similar to the passivity faith plays in receiving justification. Assurance is solely the work of the Spirit. You’re arguing for a material role for man. Don’t think so.

    The phrase “ordinary use” (emphasis mine) sounds less passive to me. If the “means” aren’t getting used then assurance isn’t going to be attained. According to this section, assurance is not solely the work of the Spirit; otherwise one could make the argument that assurance does belong to the essence of faith, which the Confession expressly denies. It is the Spirit that enables us to know, but it’s our duty to attain that knowledge.

  64. Reed Here said,

    February 28, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Jared,no. 63: ahh, I think I’m beginning to see where our critical difference lies.

    Rather than spend a lot of time interacting on all you’ve responded (all very helpful), let me zero in on one thing I think might surface the issue.

    You say, in effect, our faithfulness is necessary for salvation, but not in a meritorious manner. O.k.

    Yet you describe it as something we must do or else we won’t be saved. Again, you’re insisting this is not a meritorious must. O.k., get it.

    This is where I think there is a break down for one of us. I would re-write what you said as follows:

    > Faithfulness is necessary from salvation, as a consequence of it (I think we’d agree this far),

    YET

    > Faithfulness is not a required work of man.

    INSTEAD

    > It is is a guaranteed fruit of the Spirit – if you get salvation you necessarily get faithfulness .

    The list in Gal 5:22-23 demonstrate this. If I’m truly saved, of course I will experience faithfulness in my life, as an evangelical work of the Spirit.

    A subtle shift in meaning has occurred from your’s to mine. You place a necessity on man, whereas I assume a guarantee from the Spirit. This makes a whole world of difference. Saved-Man’s faithfulness is never to be described as a necessary work because its source is the Spirit.

    Bringing in the notion of necessity and works introduces, whether we like it or not, a meritorious notion. A secondary definition of non-meritorious works may logically remove the onus, yet it does not argue in the same manner the Scriptures seem to do.

  65. Stuart said,

    February 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    Reed,

    Since you brought up the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5, I have a question that is somewhat tangential, but still connected.

    What do you make of Paul’s exhortations that frame the discussion of the Spirit’s fruit?

    We must grant that the Spirit produces the fruit of faithfulness (among other fruit), but Paul sets up this idea with an exhortation in Gal 5:16 (we could go back to an even earlier exhortation, but this one will do) to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” After explaining the fruit of the Spirit in contrast with the works of the flesh, he then circles back to his first exhortation by saying in Gal 5:25 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”

    One possible interpretation of this passage is to see Paul saying that while such fruit can only come from the Spirit, that fruit is not automatic in its expression in daily life here and now. Thus one must “walk by the Spirit.”

    In your understanding of this passage, is there a better explanation of the text?

  66. Reed Here said,

    February 28, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Stuart: it comes down to the function of gospel-warnings in sanctification.

    In the regenerated such warnings are used by the Spirit to move one away from self-reliance to greater Christ-reliance. If by “must” we’re bringing in a requirement of man, I would want to qualify this in the way Philippians 2:12-13 does. We must, but can’t. The Spirit warns to drive us out of self and into Christ reliance. Thus we who can’t, end up doing.

  67. Stuart said,

    February 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Thanks for your reply, Reed.

    Does the following lay out your understanding of this matter correctly?

    - Faithfulness is not a required work for us to attain salvation; it is the fruit of the Spirit which comes to all who have been graciously given salvation in Christ.

    - Yet this fruit of faithfulness does not necessarily come automatically for us in this present age; instead, we are exhorted by Scripture to walk by the Spirit, which at the very least means that we rely not upon ourselves but upon Christ, in order to grow in faithfulness.

    - Those of us who have been regenerated by the Spirit hear this exhortation and act accordingly because it is God himself who works in us and enables us to rely on Christ more and more by the Spirit.

    - Thus we grow in faithfulness as we are exhorted by the Scriptures and empowered by the Spirit to rely on Christ and not on ourselves.

  68. Reed Here said,

    March 3, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Aside from what I think a minor word-smithing tweaks, yes Stuart, that is a fair summary.

  69. stuart said,

    March 3, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    OK. Thanks.

    I guess the next question would be . . . what is happening if the person who believes himself to be regenerate hears the exhortation of Scripture and yet does nothing in response to it?

    One answer would be to say the person is not truly regenerate, which is possible.

    But there seems to be another category of person . . . one who is truly regenerate and yet fails to respond correctly to the Word in some way due to “the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in (him), and the neglect of the means of (his) preservation” (WCF 17.3). Granted, this kind of thing should only happen “for a time” but still it would seem that if we hold the view you’ve expressed here, we also have to admit there is something very mysterious going on in the case of the regenerate guy whose heart is hardened, whose conscience is wounded, and who fails to respond to Scriptural exhortations with faith and repentance.

  70. Reed Here said,

    March 3, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Stuart, finishing reading this chapter in the Confession and the next (they actually go together). You’ll note that true faith always – in the end – receives the intended result. Your hardened believer only exists in snapshot form. At some point in his life he will, by the Spirit’s work, receive the intended result. This is a guarantee based on God’s character.

  71. stuart said,

    March 3, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Reed,

    Right. I’m not denying what you’ve said at all. I’m there with the Confession!

    What I’m saying is this: You and I are both regenerate. Say we both are tempted by the same sins at the same time. We both hear the exhortation of Scripture. And yet you respond with faith and repentance and I harden my heart to the exhortation (even if it is only for a time). What gives? Why would the regenerate person who has the Spirit and is guaranteed the fruit of the Spirit not respond correctly to the exhortation of Scripture when another regnerate person does? Seems mysterious to me.

    I guess we can always say there is something in God’s secret decree that makes the difference, but that doesn’t take away the mysterious nature of why one regenerate person responds correctly to the Word and another does not.

  72. Reed Here said,

    March 3, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Stuart: I get what you’re saying. I just don’t think it is a mystery. The Bible does not say that each believer’s response to each warning will be exactly the same. That’s one of the emphases of these chapters I was pointing out to you.

    You’re considering these things from the moment by moment perspective (i.e., the snapshot view). Scripture is not directed at this perspective. So, if you or I find ourselves hardened in some manner (I’ve experienced this), the promise is not void, or even suspended for that moment. The promise is still valid and active, and the child of God is still being kept by the Spirit – even if outwardly he appears to be ignoring the warning. In time, according to Providence’s plan, the child will crumble and be restored.

    All regenerate people will, from the perspective of eternity, be shown to be those who responded correctly to the warnings. At any given moment in their lives they may appear to not be at that moment. Yet this reality does not deny the assurance that another moment will follow, one in which the child responds correctly.

    Make sense?

  73. Stuart said,

    March 4, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Reed,

    As I said, I’m in tune with what the Confession states. I know it and have no problem with it (in fact, I teach through our Standards at least once a year for our church).

    The point I was raising was more philosophical . . . and if you don’t think the scenario I presented is mysterious in some way, then don’t worry about it. I’m ok with being puzzled at how God’s plans work themselves out, even if no one else is.

  74. Reed Here said,

    March 4, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Stuart: my point is that I don’t find it mysterious simply because the Bible explains it. That does not mean I fully understand it. It only means God gives me enough explanation to trust him with it.

  75. Stuart said,

    March 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Glad to know a Presbyterian can admit he doesn’t fully understand something. ;-)

  76. Reed Here said,

    March 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    That’s one of the reasons why I’m a Presbyterian – I actually can let lie all the “I don’t know”s that litter our lives. :)

    I’ve enjoyed the conversation Stuart. Thanks!

  77. Cris Dickason said,

    March 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    #71 -76 Reed & Stuart, nice little edifying exchange. I would answer the mystery ( why A hardens his heart, yields to sin X while B avoids that same texptation) thus: it’s because we are in fact individuals, individual members of the one body. God does not engage in creating “Stepford Believers,” a bunch of automatons stamped out via cookie cutter.

    While not endorsing or encouraging sin as a way to be individuals, it’s an aspect of the diversity in unity amongst God’s people. Another benefit of being sideline (confessional) Presbyterians: We do in fact recognize diversity. While outwardly our congregations might be said to be pretty homogenous or monochromatic, get below the service (get to know one another, serve one another in love) and you find we’re a delightful mixture.

  78. Cris Dickason said,

    March 4, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Um, while I’m here, moderators, this site is still displaying in a tiny font. Can that be retroactively fixed?

    Thanks!

  79. paigebritton said,

    March 4, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Hey, Cris –
    The comments have never been bigger than they are, just the posts, which Reed has fixed. My tech-savvy husband says, press Control and Plus to make screen text bigger (the more you do this, the more it will increase in size for you). (Press Control and Dash to make it reduce again.) Open Apple and Plus works for Macs.
    Hope that helps!! :)

  80. March 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    [...] I had with Dr. Strange over at Lane Keister’s Greenbaggins blog.   I had commented on a repost of Wes White’s insightful piece, “Sola Fide or Sola Fidelity?,” and made the [...]


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