It Comes Down to This

by Reed DePace

It seems to me that the results of the Meyers, Lawrence and Leithart matters have the effect of focusing the issues involved. In all three situations Presbyteries have concluded that teachings which appear consistent with FV teachings denounced by the PCA Study Report are in fact not out of accord with our doctrinal standards.

The common threads seem to be that each of these men:

1. Affirms the Westminster Standards (WS), and
2. Their teachings in question do not contradict the WS, and
3. [Therefore] their teachings do not conflict with the PCA FV Study Report.

The rationale that seems to logically support these conclusions centers is the claim that the teachings in question are only about the benefits of salvation which the reprobate church member receives. As this is not (supposedly) something addressed by the WS (which only addresses the benefits received by the decretally elect), therefore these teachings do not conflict with our standards. E.g., this is usually heard in the FV claim to be speaking about salvation (or any other ordo salutis benefit) in different way than the WS, but in a way that the Bible also speaks.

I’m thinking that this is pretty much the heart of the rationale rested upon by the presbyters in three presbyteries when they decided to find these men “not guilty” (in the case of Lawrence and Leithart explicitly, Meyers implicitly). That is, this argument for the defense sounds both reasonable and biblical to the men tasked with determining whether or not these men’s teachings are out of accord with the WS.

If I’m right, then it comes down to this,

Does the Bible teach a secondary way of salvation, a way of salvation that is experienced by the reprobate church member that is parallel but different in terms of duration than the way of salvation experienced by the decretally elect?

If yes, then the FV is not out of accord with the WS? If no, then it is.

It would seem to me that future efforts to demonstrate the biblical errors of these teachings must deal with this dual salvation scheme. It must deal with demonstrating that this is not the biblical teaching. It will not suffice to argue exclusively from the WS, as men teaching these things can simply respond, “amen, and also …” It must be shown that the Bible does not support the FV’ers parallel secondary way of salvation for the reprobate church member.

If this can be shown then the elders having to make the judgments in these matters will be greatly supported.

Well?

By Reed DePace

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65 Comments

  1. Peter Green said,

    October 10, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Rev. DePace,

    This post is very helpful–thank you. I think it clarifies the issues in a way that can give us an opportunity to move forward constructively.

    I only offer a minor question and comment.

    First, is it possible that the Presbyteries believe 1 and 2, but do not believe 3? That is, perhaps the presbyteries think that the FVSCR does not faithfully reflect the proper interpretation of the WS. Also, the FVSCR doesn’t have binding authority so they think the are within their rights to disagree. I don’t have an answer, I’m genuinely asking. The way to discover this would be to look at the official decisions rendered. do they refer to the FVSCR? Do they offer different interpretations of the WS than the FVSCR?

    Second, I strongly suspect that the FVists would object to the language of a “parallel way of salvation”. If it is the reprobate we are talking about, then it’s not a way of salvation. They’re not (decreetally) elect and so they are not finally saved. Thus, there is no parallel way of salvation. There is one way that both the decreetally elect and the reprobate walk–the decreetally elect persevere and the reprobate abandon the path sometime before death. I could be wrong and if someone who does represent the FVists wants to correct me, then so be it. Otherwise, I suspect they would want to express it the way I have.

    Thanks again,
    Peter

  2. Reed Here said,

    October 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Peter: thanks for your response.

    As to your first query. I guess that is possible. I suspect it would be a minority perspective though, and one that does not get much play. I.e., the PCA FV report was overwhelming approved. Following it the main FV proponents affirmed their agreement with it (albeit with clarifications that they did not think contradicted).

    Still, if this is the rationale, conflicting with the FV report but not conflicting with the Standards, then this raises the issue to a whole other level. One would expect some movement to at least formally qualify the report’s authority. I’m familiar with the take you’ve given on its binding nature. I don’t think it fits, at least in terms of how the report is being used, an accurate report on the FV to be used in guiding Presbyteries in judgments related to the FV.

    Given this, more than likely I expect the prosecutions would be saying that the FV report simply does not apply to the teachings in question. That, for practical purposes, is the same as my point no. 3.

  3. Reed Here said,

    October 10, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Peter, on your second point and the acceptability of the use of parallel system of salvation language, I’m more than willing to use terms FV men believe are more consistent with what they teach.

    As it stands now, this language was arrived at over a number of years of back and forth discussion by folks like myself, Lane, Wes White, Bob Mattes, and others discussing here, on other blogs, and in other venues. We arrived at that expression after careful qualification and a sincere effort to be reasonable and fair to our brothers.

    The idea of “parallel” is intended to protect them from the unfairness of an misunderstanding early in the discussion, to wit that they are saying that the reprobate get exactly the same ordo salutis benefits as the decretally elect. It is in response to their insistence that they are talking about redemptive benefits (e.g., an eleciton, a union, a justification, a adoption, etc.) that are similar but not the same as that which the decretally elect receive that the “parallel” language is used.

    As well, the word “salvation” is not intended to be understood as the same salvation the decretally elect get, but a type of salvation, again similar but not the same. After all, these men want to affirm that everyone baptized into the Church Historic is really and truly, in some sense, saved. “Parallel salvation” is intended to acknowledge their distinction fairly.

    And yes, a key distinguishing characteristic between these two ways of salvation is perseverance. The (supposed) absence of it in the reprobate’s experience of salvation is, according to the FV, what makes all the difference, why one way of salvation works and the other does not.

    Now, if an FV proponents wants to eschew this parallel distinction, then I fear it makes our objections all the more stronger. In effect then all the FV would truly be is a modified form of Arminianism. In this case it would be affirming Calvinism for the decretally elect and (fatal) Arminianism for the reprobate.

    Such a position is clearly outside our standards, no?

  4. Thomas Victoria said,

    October 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    A question for all of you anti-FVers: Why on earth do you think the FV guys want to believe what they do about the reprobate? What do you think they are trying to achieve by emphasizing that the reprobate “in some sense” receive all that Christ has to offer (give or take depending on who’s talking) except perseverance? What do you think the cash value could possibly be for continually stressing the value of this view in spite of strenuous (some might say vitriolic) opposition? It’s clear to me why they think it’s so important, but I’m curious if any of you men who are so opposed to this line of thinking have ever stopped to ask yourselves, “why do these guys keep pushing this point?” And I’m looking for real answers, not just the typical non-responses like, “because they’re crypto-Romanists” or “because they’re detestable schismatics” or some such blather :-)

  5. Reed Here said,

    October 10, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Thomas, the tone of your comment is unnecessarily antagonistic. Nevertheless (in spite of taking offense at the unfair characterization your tone imputes to one who responds to it) I will attempt a response.

    On the one hand, it is utterly wrong to respond to your question as it is framed. This is because your language calls for a responder to speculate on the motives and goals of these men. I assume this is just a weakness in your communication, and not intentional. Regardless, I will refrain from such speculation. (And I urge anyone else thinking of responding to be wary of this hopefully unintended trap).

    On the other, hopefully more reasonable, hand, I think all we need to do to answer your question is refer to what these men have said themselves. One underlying concern that the FV proponents have asserted is concern for how to speak about covenant children, baptized children of professing members of the local church. They put this forward as a decidedly pastoral concern, a desire motivating them to care for a real need of their sheep. Whether I agree or not that their formulations offer real biblical help to this need, I can appreciate their concern.

    On a more objective level, I think the FV proponents have made it abundantly clear that they put forward this parallel system of salvation scheme because they do in fact believe this is what the Bible teaches.

    Recognizing their sincerity in this conviction, I fail to see the value of your question. Maybe you have some other question underneath of this one? Feel free to ask it. Thanks!

  6. Peter Green said,

    October 10, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Rev DePace,

    Thanks for your response. As to my second comment and your response to it, I appreciate the care you have taken and the motivation behind your chose of language. I can certainly see the sense behind how you have framed your question. It is not for me to say further–if an FV proponent wants to take issue with the language, that is for them.

    As to the first, I have unsubstantiated reports that many from the PNWP voted against the FVSCR. I am not sure where or why I think that. Perhaps Rev. Stellmen made some comment to that effect sometime after the report was received? I would be interesting to see a record of who voted for the report in the three presbyteries in question, though I understand the votes were not recorded individually.

  7. Reed Here said,

    October 10, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Peter: well, in spite of our failings, Presbyterianism is consistent with the form of church governance God reveals in Scripture. Accordingly, if our brothers want to object to the PCA’s findings on the FV, there are valid ways they can do this. Practical (politcal) expediency should have nothing to do with their decision to do so or not. God’s promise to rule through His elders is inviolable.

    I too would be interested in hearing if there is any push back on the study report.

  8. Peter Green said,

    October 10, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Rev DePace,

    I should be clear, I was not defending what the PNWP has or has not done. Just noting a relevant fact (if it is a fact). :)

  9. Thomas Victoria said,

    October 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Ah, the lovely rhetorical art of præteritio…

    Of course, the obvious point is that the way you transparently framed your post, viz.”[does the] Bible support … the FV’ers parallel secondary way of salvation for the reprobate church member[?]” is the old, “have you stopped beating your wife?” question. No FVer claims to establish a “parallel secondary way of salvation.” I can’t see how it is fair (or ethical) to impute to them something which they expressly deny, can you?

    My post, of course (your special insight into my motives aside) was not antagonistic. Perhaps it’s just your weakness in old age (I can only assume of course, not having the honor of knowing you)? Saying someone is a detestable schismatic (as Sean Gerety did a couple of days ago over at Stellman’s) is technically “blather” – I couldn’t make that stuff up if I tried. Now, I do believe that you (Reed) would not stoop to such comments, but I was not accusing you of making them.

    So, the point again – and you seemed to have perhaps unintentionally touched upon it – what could be the cash value for the specific emphasis in assigning to the reprobate all that Christ has to offer (in some sense) except perseverance? Speaking about Covenant children is of course an important ancillary, but I think it goes deeper than that, and I want to talk about it, but I am curious to know what others think first.

    Reed, if you care to consider long enough to where you could see the value of my question, and if you have something substantive to add, please weigh in; but just saying that FV men value something because that’s what the Bible teaches is – while of course true – singularly unhelpful; this statement also happens to apply to every heresy that has ever been taught through the centuries (I do not say that to equate the FV with heresy). If you are uncomfortable (at least in this instance) with “guessing motives” as you call it, then I would be curious – as you seem to think there is some validity at least to the problem you think the FV men are trying to adress – what you yourself think would be a viable (alternate perhaps?) solution.

  10. Reed Here said,

    October 10, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Thomas: thanks for commenting. I don’t think it would be worth our while to converse further. Thanks anyway.

  11. Reed Here said,

    October 10, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Peter: no need to clarify. I understood. Thanks.

  12. Dean B said,

    October 10, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Pastor DePace.

    Great post!

    I believe the doctrine of assurance of salvation is where we begin and then work backward to election.

    I believe comparing the Reformed view of assurance and the FV view will immediately show kinks in their armor. They do not have a Reformed view of assurance at all! A biblical view of assurance is incompatible with their system of doctrine.

    The best they can say is that all the people in heaven are elect and the elect will persevere. However, there is great mystery if any person will persevere because only time will tell. They want the elect the reprobate to temporally smell, look, and taste exactly the same to God. This distortion of the Biblical truth and creates an environment in which nobody knows their eternal state because even God is confused right now in some sense. The last part of the last sentence may be over the top, but not as much as some would have it appear.

  13. Andrew McCallum said,

    October 10, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Thomas (re: 4 and 9),

    Like Reed, I think you might get a better response if you would not start your posts in such a confrontational manner. It also might be good if you just told us what you are thinking rather than leaving us to guess. But, I’ll bite because the driving force behind the FV concerns has interested me for some years – what in your opinion are these driving forces?

    I’ve had a number of conversations with the FV folks about their insistence on the objectivity of the covenants and their discomfort with what they perceive to be the subjectivity of the Christian experience as most Reformed folks typically frame the matter. The driving force seems to be at least partially a desire for an objective definition of “Christian.” I have had very similar sorts of conversations with the Roman Catholics and I think there are some similar driving forces at play here. But what do you think?

    And the answer to your first question in #4 is yes, we have probably all considered the matter of why the FV want to ascribe some sort of saving benefits to the reprobate. But whatever the answers are I don’t think they alter the points that Reed makes.

    Cheers for now….

  14. curate said,

    October 11, 2011 at 1:15 am

    Reed, another thing to consider is the alternative system of salvation held by many of the anti-Fvers. I say this objectively and without heat. In the Reformation as understood by the WCF, salvation begins with baptism in water, usually as a small child. The Christian life can then be summarised as improving that baptism.

    In this other alternative system, the sacraments have no saving power. They emphatically do not confer forgiveness and remission of sins, and the true body and blood are not communicated to the heart by faith. All comes down to the personal moment of faith, or decision, without reference to sacraments at all, which must be experienced by adults, or young teenagers. Sacraments have symbolical value, and that is all.

    Clearly this system, which is the dominant practical theology in North American Calvinism, is out of accord with the WCF. I personally believe that many of its adherents do not know this, or cannot bring themselves to believe it.

    In summary then, there is another, unacknowledged, alternative system at work here – yours.

  15. curate said,

    October 11, 2011 at 1:20 am

    As a post script, I believe that the decisions of these Presbyteries is showing that teaching elders are studying the scriptures and the standards, and seeing things that were previously not seen regarding the power of the sacraments, and their implications.

    Reading Lane’s testimony, I noticed that even he has moved in his understanding of baptism. Iron is sharpening iron, and minds.

    A problem, as I see it, is the power of strong emotions, which are driving too many things.

  16. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 11, 2011 at 2:54 am

    To believe that a person can have true communion with God in any sense without saving faith is to believe a lie. To believe that true communion with God can be lost is also to believe a lie.

    Federal Vision theology will always break apart upon the rock of WCF 3.6, and the Biblical truths behind it: “As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.”

    That sounds a lot more like “the dominant practical theology in North American Calvinism” than Curate’s sacramentalism. In fact, it sounds nothing like Curate’s sacramentalism.

    It’s high time that FV advocates stop misrepresenting the views of their opponents. The constant charge of American (and Baptistic) “individualsim” and “subjectivism” is, to be more charitable than is deserves, an inexcusable error. Everyone who takes the Confession seriously knows and believes that in baptism God confers grace — but only by and through saving faith (WCF 28.6): “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.”

    Consistently throught the Confession, those “that grace belongeth unto” are those, and those only, who are the elect of the Father, redeemed by Christ, effectually called by the Spirit, and who exercise saving faith in God’s “appointed time.”

  17. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 11, 2011 at 3:18 am

    Calvin’s commentary on Titus 3:5 is not often quoted but is very important in the FV debate. There are few clearer explanations of the efficacy of baptism. Here’s the passage that I remember most vividly when I was struggling in early 2002 with Federal Vision views (then known as “Auburn Avenue theology”):

    “The power and use of the sacraments are rightly understood, when we connect sign and thing signified in such a way that the sign is not made vain and unefficacious, and when we do not for the sake of exalting the sign take from the Holy Spirit what belongs to Him. Although ungodly men are neither washed nor renewed by baptism, yet it retains its efficacy as far as God is concerned, for althought they reject God’s grace, it is still offered to them. But here Paul is addressing believers in whom baptism is always efficacious and is therefore rightly spoken of in connexion with its reality and effect. By this way of speaking we are reminded that if we do not wish to make holy baptism null and void, we must prove its power by newness of life” (Eerdmans, Torrance edition, 1964).

    Hardly a week has gone by in the past nine years that I haven’t recalled Calvin’s phrase, “Although ungodly men are neither washed nor renewed by baptism . . .”

  18. David Gray said,

    October 11, 2011 at 7:19 am

    >Everyone who takes the Confession seriously knows and believes that in baptism God confers grace

    But we’ve even seen on this website how the word “confer” is redefined to the point where it is unrecognizable.

    Westminster, properly understood, doesnt’ teach that baptism does anything, it teaches that the Holy Spirit does things in baptism.

  19. curate said,

    October 11, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Frank and David, “Yes, and …”

  20. Reed Here said,

    October 11, 2011 at 7:55 am

    Roger: appreciate you offered that with no heat. From an across the pond view (a forest perspective if you will) North American Calvinism may indeed look like what you described. In effect, you described the memorialist only understanding the sacraments. This is the dominant position in the Church in America. As well, given that many in our congregations start out in evangelical churches (not reformed ones), this is a common misunderstanding in the reformed pew.

    Yet is is never what I’ve taught. It is not what our elders believe. In my admittedly limited experience it is never what the other teaching and ruling elders believe. Wat you describe is decidedly neither what I was taught, nor affirmed when I took my vows in the PCA. I can say that this is the same for Lane and many others.

    You posit two options, your FV-like position (no heat intended) vs. our (supposedly) meaningless-sacraments system. You think you’ve seen movement in Lane’s toward more what you think is more biblical.

    The reality is that I don’t truly think you’ve ever really grasped our position in the first place. It is neither the meaningless-sacramentalism you believe it to be nor the FV-like sacramentalism you believe is biblical. Accordingly, you will at times hear things that ring true in your ears, and other times things that do not. The problem is not with what we’re saying, but in your hearing. You’ve got some filters on brother that force you to hear us in one of two ways, never the third we are actually speaking.

    I kind of hate these comments where we declare nothing more than wear things lie between us. Yet given the extended amount of discussion we’ve had on these subjects, I see no value in re-hashing old offenses. FWIW.

  21. curate said,

    October 11, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Reed, what is the middle ground between my view, which you know, and the anti-sacramental view, which we agree is wrong? Do the sacraments convey forgiveness or do they not? Isn’t this not a yes or no answer?

  22. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 11, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Not to preempt Reed’s reply, but the answer to the inquiry, “Do the sacraments convey forgiveness or do they not? Isn’t this not a yes or no answer?” is “Yes, but only by and through the exercise of saving faith.”

    Whenever the necessity of saving faith is ignored or pushed into the background, the theology that results, whatever it may be called, is not Reformed.

  23. October 11, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Frank,

    I believe that you hit the real core of FV in #16 and 17, especially 17. Baptism is where FV started and where it leaves the rails before it leaves the station. Wilson years ago said that it was all about the children. That soppy sentimentality greases the wheels’ exit from the track.

    I’ve read quite a number of Reformed works concerning being united with Christ, or being in Christ. I wrote blog posts analyzing that concept. Every singe orthodox Reformed author made the same distinction that Calvin does on Titus 3:5. The reprobate “appear” to be united to Christ, but in fact Christ unites only with the elect and only they share in the benefits thereof. That was also covered well in the PCA FV report. John Brown of Haddington wrote directly on this subject, which you can read in one of my old posts.

    Once the train leaves the rails on baptism, it’s just one long plunge off the theological cliff.

  24. David Gray said,

    October 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

    >>Once the train leaves the rails on baptism, it’s just one long plunge off the theological cliff.

    So did Luther betray the Reformation? Or is the theological cliff just a Reformed affair?

  25. Sean Gerety said,

    October 11, 2011 at 10:10 am

    The problem with your question Reed is that it is way too narrow. Frankly, I could care less what benefits the reprobate church member receive as they are not members of the CoG at all. God made no covenant with any reprobate, in the church or outside of it. That’s why they’re called reprobate.

    The real problem is the tenuous nature of what the so-called “decretally elect” church member receives and how do they are supposed to hold on to and maintain it.

    To a man these FV men hold to a conditional view of the covenant that you get in via the magic waters of baptism and stay in through works which are endlessly qualified as non-meritorious while they confuse faithfulness with mere belief alone (an idea they despise as “baptistic”). This is why they contort the parable of the vine and the branches to fit their aberrations and why men like Leithart think doctrines central to the Christian faith (notice I didn’t say Reformed faith) like imputation are “redundancies.” Even the fact that Reformed men are now prefacing the word “elect” with “decretally” illustrates just how successful these false teachers have been in dictating and framing the terms of the debate.

  26. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 11, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Referring to my post #22: Luther, though a great, godly man and one of God’s most wonderful blessings to the church, is on the doctrine of baptism — well, Lutheran and not Reformed.

  27. David Gray said,

    October 11, 2011 at 10:26 am

    >Referring to my post #22: Luther, though a great, godly man and one of God’s most wonderful blessings to the church, is on the doctrine of baptism — well, Lutheran and not Reformed.

    Absolutely. But did he “plunge off the theological cliff”?

  28. October 11, 2011 at 10:43 am

    DG, RE #24,

    So did Luther betray the Reformation? Or is the theological cliff just a Reformed affair?

    I don’t recall Luther being ordained in the PCA. As I’ve said before, outside the PCA one can worship ferrets and sacrifice raisinettes to them. As a PCA officer, however, that would be unacceptable, at least in most presbyteries.

  29. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 11, 2011 at 10:50 am

    David #27,

    That’s not my phrase, and I prefer not to use it. There are little cliffs and big cliffs, injurious falls and fatal falls. It’s best not to engage in theological analysis by metaphor.

  30. David Gray said,

    October 11, 2011 at 10:57 am

    >. It’s best not to engage in theological analysis by metaphor.

    Well said.

  31. October 11, 2011 at 11:51 am

    But Frank, what else are metas for?

  32. Frank Aderholdt said,

    October 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Right, Bob, you’ve put the icing on the cake by hitting the nail on the head.

  33. Hugh McCann said,

    October 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Reed et. al.,

    Does the Bible teach a secondary way of salvation, a way of salvation that is experienced by the reprobate church member that is parallel but different in terms of duration than the way of salvation experienced by the decretally elect?

    Acc. to your presbyteries, apparently, the Bible teaches not a ‘secondary way of salvation,’ but a way of faux salvation, a non-salvation, or a temporary (‘Gotcha!’) salvation that is not another…

    This is experienced by the reprobate church member who
    was fooled into trusting that his baptism united him to Christ, but really didn’t;
    was gulled into believing that Christ had died effectually and savingly for his sins, when in fact, he hadn’t;
    was lured into thinking that profession of faith and church membership was sufficient to save, when they truly weren’t.

    Thus, the bogus ‘Way’ proves to be washed out,
    the would-be ‘Truth’ turns out to be false,
    and the ‘Life’ is actually death.

    What a funny joke!
    Not.

  34. Hugh McCann said,

    October 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Sean @25 ~ While ‘God made no covenant with any reprobate, in the church or outside of it,’ those within do fool themselves in covenanting with death:

    14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem!
    15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement, when the overwhelming whip passes through it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter”…
    18 Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it.
    19 As often as it passes through it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass through, by day and by night; and it will be sheer terror to understand the message.

    (from Isaiah 28)

  35. JD Linton said,

    October 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Reed, I appreciate this piece and your dialogue with Peter Green. My initial reaction to your piece was your use of the parallel salvation language. I now understand where you were going. However, my impression of the debate is that the two sides of the arguement are talking about two sides of a covenantal relationship. I would prefer to consider a recognition that the FV folks are talking about our side of the relationship. Here are my musings on the difference: http://jdlinton.blogspot.com/2010/05/my-take-on-federal-vision-controversy.html.

  36. Kurt A. Scharping said,

    October 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Pastor Reed,

    You wrote:

    >Does the Bible teach a secondary way of salvation, a way of salvation that is experienced by the reprobate church member that is parallel but different in terms of duration than the way of salvation experienced by the decretally elect?
    If yes, then the FV is not out of accord with the WS? If no, then it is.

    Since all elders take vows to uphold the system of doctrine in the confession, and since you seem to grant that this is an extraconfessional matter (perhaps you are doing so just for the sake of argument) it seems that it would be irrelevant to show that their teaching is not in the Scripture. For example, if one believes in premillenialism and no one in that presbytery believes that there is one verse in the Bible that teaches premillenialism, it should not be the case that he is rejected on that basis. It is a scriptural issue that does not rise to confessional status. The question is, does this “secondary way of salvation” contradict the standards to which they have taken vows. If it amounts to a salvation by means of perseverance, then there seem to be problems contradicting the confession.

  37. Cris Dickason said,

    October 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Curate @ 14 – I think you need to read the Westminster Standards with more care, minus your current filters.

    In the Reformation as understood by the WCF, salvation begins with baptism in water, usually as a small child. The Christian life can then be summarised as improving that baptism.

    The Westminster Standards do have a “high” view of the two sacraments, Baptism and supper, as means of grace, in the carrying out of God’s decree by the work of the Spirit. But note it is the work of the Spirit, and not the function of water, bread or wine.

    WCF 27.3 (On Sacraments) The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it: but upon the work of the Spirit, and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers.

    WCF 28.6 (On Baptism) The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, not withstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.

    WLC 167 How is our baptism to be improved by us?
    A. The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavouring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

    WCF 10.2 This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man; who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

    WLC 67 What is effectual calling? A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he doth, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

    We should indeed “improve on our baptism,” but that is in living by faith, lining in, or out of, the resurrection life of Christ, walking in the Spirit as those baptized by the Spirit (and not just the water).

    -=Cris=-

  38. Roy Kerns said,

    October 11, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    A side note that I hope will prompt a separate thread: while reading all the discussion above, I reflected on when I have (ever) heard clear teaching about *either* of the sacraments, but especially (in the context of the present thread) baptism. As a kid growing up in a antipaedobaptist arminian church, I regularly heard sermons at baptisms. It grieves me deeply that in nearly all the baptisms I’ve witnessed in (errr, uh, decades) of membership in a reformed and presbyterian church, I’ve heard only brief comments at baptisms. And nearly none of these spoke to the children, telling them what baptism meant, warning them, for instance, of the curse aspect of their baptism should the persist in unbelieving rebellion. Never, not once, ever did I hear at a baptism of adult or child how baptism proclaims in signs the message of the Gospel, urging the observer to flee the coming baptism with fire.

    How about a thread which aids pastors in doing that task? It would go a long way to stopping the FV error speading, methinks.

  39. bsuden said,

    October 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    21 curate,
    Do the sacraments convey forgiveness or do they not? Isn’t this not a yes or no answer?

    1.For the nth time, yes they do to the elect by the way of saving faith at God’s appointed time.
    2. No, it’s a yes answer with qualifications that avoid the trap/presuppositions of a “simple” yes or no question.

  40. curate said,

    October 12, 2011 at 1:39 am

    “The Westminster Standards do have a “high” view of the two sacraments, Baptism and supper, as means of grace, in the carrying out of God’s decree by the work of the Spirit. But note it is the work of the Spirit, and not the function of water, bread or wine.”

    This reply crops up time and time again as a well-intentioned rebuttal of an assumed mechanistic error. It is exactly what Lane said in the trial, as if it is the real position of anyone at all.

    When has anybody said anything different? Of course it is the work of God, through by and with the appointed means, the elements of the sacrament. No-one, but none, thinks anything different. The Bible itself says that baptism saves, without feeling the need to add every qualification every time. The bigger picture is always assumed when attributing power to the sacraments.

    Positively, it is good news that people are starting to take WCF sacramentology on board.

  41. curate said,

    October 12, 2011 at 1:51 am

    bsuden

    Yes, the sacraments are only effective to such as mix them with a living faith. That is standard Reformation teaching which all subscribe to. What made you think that anyone thought otherwise?

    People have to speak using shortcuts, assuming the intelligence and good faith of their hearers, or speech becomes impossible. The Bible does it all the time, and so do we.

    Concerning the appointed time, the Bible usually assumes that the time is the moment of administration. How can baptism be a seal and a guarantee of forgiveness if it is not already given?

    I agree that many of the baptised come to a living faith later in life. I am one. However, that is not the regular pattern of the Bible, but an exception. Forgiveness at a later date is not the norm.

    Of course, the assumption is that the baptised infant will be raised in a Christian home, being properly catechised, and having the faith modelled to him as he matures.

  42. Anne Ivy said,

    October 12, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I truly don’t see how the FV can be reasonably viewed as being compatible with the WCF, particularly 3.6: “As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.”

    Here “the elect” are clearly identified and defined as those predestined for glorification, plus it specifically says that no-one other than the elect are redeemed, effectually called, etc.

    Yet the FV splits “the elect” into two subsets, i.e. the “decretally elect” and the “non-decretally elect,” which is surely a violation of the law of the excluded middle. The wording of the WCF in Chapter 3 does not leave room for an additional category of people in whom the LORD works to a lesser extent than in the “decretally elect.”

    Simply because something is not specifically denied does not automatically allow room for that something to exist. The WCF quite clearly states there are two – and only two – classes of people with regard to God’s favor: the elect and everyone else. There is no logical way to argue for THIS sort of elect, and THAT sort of elect, and everyone else.

  43. Reed Here said,

    October 12, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Fixed Anne.

  44. bsuden said,

    October 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Curate,

    You still don’t get it.
    Who denies what the WCF teaches regarding the sacraments? – why, the FV, that’s who.
    Baptism saves all the recipients of baptism until some fall away.
    THEY DENY THE HISTORIC REFORMED BIBLICAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE ELECT AND THE REPROBATE.

    Like how simple/fundamental does this have to get?

  45. Roy Kerns said,

    October 12, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    One of the reasons I plead for pastors at baptisms to preach explaining (read applying) baptism: baptism never, ever fails, regardless of faith, regardless of unbelief. As is the case for the Gospel, it brings life, or it brings death. Baptism does not return void.

  46. curate said,

    October 13, 2011 at 1:33 am

    bsuden

    No, they do not deny the difference between the elect and the reprobate. The FV does indeed affirm the necessity of a living faith. You are mistaken.

    What you are not getting are the covenantal implications for a baptised unbeliever. The have been enrolled into the kingdom, and that must not be denied. In one sense they are Christians, the covenantal sense.

    Israel in the wilderness were still Israel, albeit faithless. They were still the redeemed of the LORD, albeit faithless. And so they perished in the wilderness.

    Were they heathen? No, they were circumcised members of the covenants of promise. That is the issue.

  47. bsuden said,

    October 13, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    You’re playing the same bait and switch game that the FV is playing, curate.
    Did circumcision in the OT really unite Esau and unbelieving Israel to Christ or not?
    The FV essentially says yes.
    And your answer?

  48. curate said,

    October 14, 2011 at 6:26 am

    You have accused me of fraud. This conversation is over.

  49. Tom said,

    October 14, 2011 at 10:23 am

    #48

    In some sense, the answer would have to be “yes.” Christ’s body is united to Christ. Circumcision, like baptism. was that visible identification of a person with the body of Christ. So in some sense, circumcision (baptism) unites a person to Christ.

  50. Tom said,

    October 14, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Re: the OP

    “It comes downs to this,” in the case of the Leithart trial what the prosecution failed to realize was that there was no person named “Federal Vision” on trial. I.e., there was no one on trial who would affirm your claim that these folks believe in a “parallel secondary way of salvation for the reprobate church member.”

    Accordingly, it’s case was doomed to failure. There was a flesh and blood person on the stand, not a theological construction, real or imaginary.

  51. Dean B said,

    October 14, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Good afternoon Tom.

    “In some sense, the answer would have to be “yes.” Christ’s body is united to Christ. Circumcision, like baptism. was that visible identification of a person with the body of Christ. So in some sense, circumcision (baptism) unites a person to Christ.”

    Please help me understand what you mean when you say “in some sense” and “united to Christ” in the above paragraph. Specifically, if a reprobate who never had saving faith how does baptism unite Him to Christ? What qualitative difference would you say is there between your union to Christ and a reprobates union to Christ? Does baptism unite us to Christ from the work done in the act without faith? Do you believe a person who hears the preaching of the word one time when he is two years old is “in some sense united to Christ”? If a reprobate Baptist sits under the preaching for 18 years and is never baptized is he less of a covenant breaker than an reprobate infant who is baptized and dies at age four?

  52. dougsowers said,

    October 14, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    @Dean B. You should read Douglas Wilson’s “Reformed is not enough”, where he goes over that exact point. (Believer’s children and their covenantal connection to Christ) Lane interacted with Wilson over *RINE* chapter by chapter, and wound up admitting that Wilson was NOT a heretic. Sadly, Lane later recanted, and claimed that Wilson denied justification by faith, (huh?!) but only after he first exonerated Wilson! Go figure! Just reading their back and forth proves this isn’t the slam dunk issue some have insinuated it is.

    Wilson more than held his own, (imho) and never once called Lane a heretic. Sadly the same can’t be said by the other side :( Especially, some of Lanes over zealous friends, but I won’t mention any names ;-)

    I have read Wilson’s RINE carefully, and I didn’t see any red flags. Lane couldn’t lay a glove on Wilson throughout they’re whole interchange, in this *supposedly* evil heretical book. And if Lane couldn’t find anything sinister or wrong in Douglas Wilson, then maybe *we* should tone our rhetoric down a few notches, and try to hear the other side. I have been amazed at the propensity of good Godly men talking past each other, and not really interacting with the other side.

  53. Hugh McCann said,

    October 14, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Doug @53,

    I’ve read neither RINE, nor it’s reply, Reformed Not at All(NR@A) by Messrs Gerety & Robbins. Can you review the latter? Any red flags there?

  54. Reed Here said,

    October 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Doug: if you’re not going to aim at anyone, then don’t pull out the gun and randomly spray bullets.

    “You know who” insinuations are a form of slander in that they have the consequence of smearing anyone even tangentially related to the supposed “offense.”

    Please, no more drive by “anonymous” accusations.

  55. Dean B said,

    October 14, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Good afternoon Doug.

    I am trying to have a conversation with someone who knows the answers to these questions. If you have read the book carefully and these questions are sufficiently answered then please interact with the substance of my questions.

    “then maybe *we* should tone our rhetoric down a few notches, and try to hear the other side.”

    Since your post was directed to me please show me where I need to tone down my rhetoric or were you simply referring to yourself when you used the word “we”?

  56. dougsowers said,

    October 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    @Reed, too many men to name have stated that Douglas Wilson is a heretic on Green Baggins. Sean Gerrity being one example of many. (I stll love you Sean :) And in doing so, they don’t consider him they’re brother in Christ. This is what I mean by toning down our rhetoric. For example, after Lane carefully goes over “Reformed Is Not Enough” for over a year, and exonerates Douglas Wilson, for him to suddenly do an about face, and say Wilson denies justification by faith, is very troubling.

    It shows how fickle *we* can be, in condemning another brother in Christ. And by *we* I’m including all of us in the reformed camp. I think we’ve become over technical, to the exclusion of too many brothers in Christ. Missing the forest through the trees, if you will. Don’t get me wrong, theology is important, but I see the H word being flung around all too often. Reed, most who disagree are like you, and talk with temperance and respect, but using the *H* bomb (on true Christians like Douglas Wilson) is not good.

  57. dougsowers said,

    October 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    @Dean, you’ve been a perfect gentleman, and very respectful, and I in not way was implying otherwise. When I mentioned some over zealous posters, I was referring to people who call Douglas Wilson a heretic. Lane has come very close, in saying that Douglas Wilson has denied justification by faith alone. But I will let Lane explain if one can be saved, denying justification by faith.

    I would highly suggest reading “Reformed Is Not Enough”, it’s a terrific read, and will answer all your questions.

    Rest in his completed work,

    Doug

  58. Reed Here said,

    October 14, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Doug: if you want to call Sean G a name (e.g., schismatic), go right a head. He is a big boy, he is willing to defend his contentions concerning the FV. However, do not do it here. Go to his website and do it there.

    More importantly, do no make general accusations. That was the point of my comment to you.

    The rule here is argue against the position, not the person. You are wrong that men are (indiscriminantly) accused of being a heretic here at GB. The occassional comment might slip by. But it does so at the express requirement that such comments not be made here.

    Sean G. is more than welcome to argue against the FV position here. You are welcome to argue against his position. Cease general accusations against unnamed others.

    No more complaints about Lane’s label of the FV as heresy. He’s explained that before. Look it up in the archives if you are interested.

    Further comments of either type will be deleted.

  59. dougsowers said,

    October 14, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks Reed, I’ll take your admonition to heart. I think my main point is really very simple. If Lane could read Wilson’s “Reformed Is Not Enough” page by page, chapter by chapter and finally wind up saying, “Douglas Wilson is not a heretic”, then perhaps we should all take pause.

    Sure, no two people will agree on all points, within covenantal theology, BUT Lane reads the big bad controversial book written by Douglas Wilson, where Wilson goes on in detail, regarding the Scriptural warrant for being connected to Christ, *in some sense*, and comes out (not heretical), by Lane’s own admission! That should be pointed out and emphasized. In fact, I don’t know how to jump on this any more, than I have.

    Blessings,

    Doug

  60. Reed Here said,

    October 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Doug: RINE was not the end of conversation between Doug and Lane. Further reflection led Lane to further observations.

    We appreciate you’re hope for movement towards reconciliation between sides. It may be helpful to note that doctrinal opposition does not necessarily mean personal opposition. Let me suggest that it might be best to read most folks expressing (strongly) doctrinal opposition, and leave it at that.

    I suggest you ignore the few you think are making it personal. This is advice learned the hard way myself, advice I keep giving to myself as well. ;-)

  61. Tom said,

    October 14, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    #52

    Dean,

    Is Christ the head of the visible Church or not? Do the members of the visible Church constitute the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God? (Hint, see WCF 25:2,3.) Are there reprobate within the visible Church, i.e., the kingdom of Christ. So, it’s quite plain that “in some sense” the reprobate within the visible Church are united to Christ.

  62. Dean B said,

    October 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Tom

    Thank you very much for responding.

    In your mind does this “union with Christ” in a visible sense ever not include the baptism? Specifically, through the primary means of grace exclusively does one ever receive the enter into the benefits of the visible church?

  63. David Gadbois said,

    October 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Are there reprobate within the visible Church, i.e., the kingdom of Christ. So, it’s quite plain that “in some sense” the reprobate within the visible Church are united to Christ.

    I keep hearing variations of this argument but, no, it is not “plain” that they are “united” to Christ in any sense. There are logical steps and arguments that are missing to get from the premise that since some reprobate men are in the covenantal community of Christ and outward administration of the covenant of grace to the conclusion that they must be “in some sense” united with Christ. To speak of having unity with Christ – being one with Christ- is a profound thing, and it certainly must mean more than simply they have a relation or connection to Christ. Even unbelievers outside of the covenant have a relation to Christ, in some sense.

    First, it is a disingenuous move on the FV part to have the qualifier “in some sense” operate as a blanket over their formulation to cover their hides, so that it might mean almost anything and they don’t have to actually define what sense that is. For this and other reason FV has earned its reputation for being very weak on systematic theology.

    We normally mean several things when we talk about being united with Christ, the union is legal, that is it is federal where Christ is our head as the second Adam, as well as existential (“mystical union”), the subjective sharing in the life of Christ by the operation of the Holy Spirit, wherein Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19). The reprobate clearly do not share in this union.

    It is assumed that since the reprobate can be members of the covenant of grace and, indeed can be marked by the seal of the covenant, that this would imply a unity with Christ. But that would only be true if covenant membership in and of itself conveyed the blessing of union with Christ and other salvific blessings, that the covenant was unconditional. But Reformed theology and the WCF clearly see the CoG as conditional, the terms of the covenant state that true faith in Christ is required for the blessings promised. FVers always lose sight of the issue of conditional vs. unconditional promises in their conception of the covenant.

    All of this reasoning also seems to ignore the fact that the Scriptures paint an adversarial picture of all those who are unregenerate, whether inside or outside of the covenant. In what sense can someone who is at enmity with God, with minds set on the flesh, not things of the Spirit, and that cannot please God (Romans 8) be said to be one with Christ? Indeed, “anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

    Old Saint Berkhof steers us right when he remarks:

    Another error to be avoided is that of the sacramentarians, represented by the Roman Catholic Church and by some Lutheran and High Church Episcopalians….It makes the grace of God something substantial, of which the Church is the depositary, and which can be passed on in the sacraments; and completely loses sight of the fact that the sacraments cannot effect this union, because they already presuppose it.

  64. bsuden said,

    October 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    49 You have accused me of fraud. This conversation is over.

    Not so fast, curate.
    It ain’t over till reply is made to yours. Or is this conversation and little bywater in the combox a one way affair?

    True, I consider the FV to be a fraudulent version of the gospel and those who defend it to be at the very least seriously confused. IOW while some individuals may be guilty of fraud, not all are.

    That is to say, your previous remarks are not false per se, but immaterial/irrelevant to what is really going on in this controversy. For the FV, baptism, head for head, truly unites every recipient with Christ.

    Yet the fine print says that later on those who are so really united with Christ can fall away.
    Huh?

    While in the past you have made some cogent remarks when the Roman lemmings have shown up at GB, this is a P&R site, not an Anglican one. That the FV and Leithart have Anglican leanings is one thing. That the WS and the P&R do, is quite another.

    cordially


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