A Big Day for the PCA

Today the case of the complaint regarding the Peter Leithart trial comes before the Standing Judicial Commission. Regardless of which side my readers think ought to win (and I’m sure there are those on both sides), it is a huge case with large ramifications for the denomination. Both sides ought to pray that God’s truth would triumph, and that His glory be made manifest, that God’s will (not MY will!) be done, and that the gospel would be paramount. Everyone, please pray about this. In my opinion, this is a far more important day than entire weeks of General Assembly have been for the past several years.

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136 Comments

  1. March 6, 2013 at 11:09 am

    The decision on the Meyers case will also be today (a final decision or at least one that will extend into the next year).

  2. John McNeely said,

    March 6, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    What does this mean? Is the SJC determining whether or not the trial was done properly? Are they determining whether or not Leithart will be removed from the PCA? If they are deciding on the trial does that mean there will be a second trial?

  3. Martin said,

    March 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I did not know the Meyers case was also being heard today. I think that means Meyers, Moon and Leithart are all on the SJC docket then? That’s a lot of work – they do need our prayers!

  4. greenbaggins said,

    March 6, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    John, not whether the trial was done properly, but whether they came to the correct conclusion in exonerating Leithart. It is not a second trial. it is a review of the record of the case, with a prosecutor and a person representing PNW Presbytery.

    Martin, I’m pretty sure it’s Lawrence, not Moon. I don’t know if that case is being heard today or not.

  5. Frank Aderholdt said,

    March 6, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    To say that this week is important to the future of the PCA is an understatement. “Humongous” comes to mind, and that’s not nearly strong enough.

    Less than forty years since the first General Assembly in 1973, and we’re at a critical crossroads.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    March 6, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    It looks like no decision will be rendered on this case tonight.

  7. romprakash said,

    March 7, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Wow! I had no idea were it not for the PuritanBoard. While I will probably be leaving the PCA for the RPCNA shortly – I have no interest in seeing the PCA slide away from Biblical Truth.

    A strong PCA is good for Christ’s Church and I pray that the decisions rendered will enable the PCA to grow stronger as a faithful witness to the world.

  8. Martin said,

    March 7, 2013 at 1:31 am

    Right, sorry – Lawrence. I also heard a decision is not likely until Thursday…

  9. David said,

    March 7, 2013 at 11:16 am

    What is different about this hearing is the fact all of the members of the SJC have been brought in to hear the appeal of the cases. It is not just a three member panel.

  10. John McNeely said,

    March 8, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Any idea on when the SJC will issue their report and when the ruling will be made public?

  11. Jane Roberts said,

    March 8, 2013 at 9:30 am

    It really doesn’t matter what the decision is. When the SJC didn’t ask questions and respond to the questions being asked from the defendant’s side, to give the complaintant’s side more of a chance to talk, spoke volumes. The silence was deafening and it revealed that they really didn’t want to open that can of worms facing them. It appeared, the procedural issues were more important than defending the purity of the church, which is really sad commentary.

  12. sean said,

    March 8, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Is it possible to disagree with the theology of FV, but almost hope for a ruling upholding a presbytery’s findings? I wonder if the issue of decentralized control and rule isn’t more important than a commission issuing a decision and finding that while maybe making us all feel better about our orthodox stance, obviously is failing to pierce the thinking at the local level and runs the risk of being nothing more than a band aid over what appears to be a real lack of orthodoxy and catechetical training both in the pulpit and the pew.

  13. Sean Gerety said,

    March 8, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Hoping and praying that the SJC reverses the decisions of the lower courts and both men are immediately defrocked.

    Apart from that outcome the only option for Christians will be to leave the PCA. There are no more lines to be drawn.

  14. shane o'neill said,

    March 9, 2013 at 9:56 am

    how does jason stellman know the results prior to it being published? sure, he was involved in the proceedings … but that was many developments ago.

  15. K Jentoft said,

    March 10, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    I was saddened to read comments like, “Hoping and praying that the SJC reverses the decisions of the lower courts and both men are immediately defrocked. Apart from that outcome the only option for Christians will be to leave the PCA. There are no more lines to be drawn.”

    Such polarizing comments are disturbing. The world is watching and God tells us they will know we are Christians by our love for one another, especially those we disagree with. The only way I can reconcile this ”unique Christian love” as being the distinguishing characteristic of some posts is if love is redefined. The “new orthodox love” no longer means what it did for the heretical Samaritan “neighbor” that loved his orthodox Jewish enemy and showed him kindness. In this light, perhaps the strongest analysis of the process/outcome of the trial now, oddly enough, is articulated by a recent Catholic, Jason Stellman. Jason is looking and hoping for love among brothers after the decision is rendered – on both sides regardless of who wins. He was very involved in the process itself and, perhaps it was even the lack of love that contributed to his exile from the PCA.

    While I obviously no longer have a dog in this fight, I will nonetheless be interested to see how people on both sides react to the ruling once it becomes public. Will one side focus on the first paragraph above, exclaiming victoriously that since Christ has appointed synods and councils to adjudicate doctrinal matters in the church, and since the court sided with them, that therefore they were in the right? And will the losing side appeal to the second paragraph cited, reminding the winners that ecclesiastical courts’ importance notwithstanding, that they still may err, and in this case have indeed done so? http://www.creedcodecult.com/and-the-verdict-is/

    When the chips are counted before the throne, deeds of love and not doctrinal purity will be the measure used to judge us. Ultimately, if doctrinal purity among the orthodox is not manifested in love it seems what is most important has somehow been overlooked. In closing, the final post of Wes White in his blog http://www.weswhite.net seems far closer to manifesting Christ’s love than some of the comments of the professing “orthodox” and I echo Jason Stellman’s hopes for Christian love being manifested as the decision is made public and both sides embrace the outcome.

  16. March 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Shane,

    Like Pedro’s cousins, I got the sweet hook-ups.

  17. Sean Gerety said,

    March 11, 2013 at 10:02 am

    @K Jentoft. Doctrinal purity? If a denomination calling itself Reformed and Presbyterian can’t get justification right, then it hardly can be said to be a Christian denomination. Frankly, if the FV doctrine consistently advanced by Leithart and Meyers is allowed to stand, it will be impossible to tell the PCA from Stellman’s abattoir.

  18. TurretinFan said,

    March 11, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Sean G.

    You’re oversimplifying the issue of our distinctions from the abominations of Rome. While FVism is in error, is contrary to our standards, and may be a stepping stone toward Rome, there are important differences between the FVists and those of the Roman communion – such as not worshiping bread as though it were God, not worshiping (with dulia or hyper-dulia) saints, angels, or Mary, not imposing a whole class of priestly mediators between God and man, and not purporting to head Christ’s church on earth.

    I don’t mean to make it sound like the FVism is a trivial issue, but it pales in comparison to the errors of Rome.

    -TurretinFan

  19. K Jentoft said,

    March 11, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Sean,

    If those in opposition to the decision of the court fail to manifest lovingkindness to their opponents, it is far worse than what you describe. All you are speaking about is words when you say,” if the FV doctrine consistently advanced by Leithart and Meyers is allowed to stand, it will be impossible to tell the PCA from Stellman’s abattoir.” We are not Christians or “righteous” because we cognitively ascribe to a “statement of faith.”

    The bar is far higher. Instead, Jesus claims that is will not only be impossible to tell these “defenders of orthodoxy” from the Catholics, but also from the pagans when he stated, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Doctrine is very important. What is more important, however, is the fruit of doctrine manifested in obedience by loving one’s neighbor, the heretical Samaritans. If those opposed to the court decision fail in this, it is evidence that their faith in their beloved doctrine is weak or even dead. James states, “Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” All good doctrine is built upon, “Love God and love your neighbor.”

  20. Sean Gerety said,

    March 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    @T-Fan. The FV is no less “another gospel” and shares the core belief with Rome that a men are justified through their faithful obedience. Both deny the finished work of Christ and both have no place within a purportedly “Protestant” denom.

    The issue is actually quite simple and it’s comparison with Romanism is obvious once you scrape away some of the popish accoutrements.

  21. Sean Gerety said,

    March 11, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    K Jentoft writes:

    We are not Christians or “righteous” because we cognitively ascribe to a “statement of faith.”

    Actually, we are. Paul said; “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” So the questions arises; which gospel? The one the PCA has historically preached or the one being advanced by Federal Visionists like Leithart and Meyers? They are mutually exclusive after all.

    Paul also said; “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” The gospel is a very specific and actually simple message and one that men like Leithart, Meyers and Stellman all deny, or, better, pervert. These men come directly under Paul’s anathema and if the PCA GA fails to adjudicate this manner correct, as the lower courts have, then shame on them.

    While there are some doctrinal issues that are certainly secondary and even extremely difficult, this isn’t one of them. We can’t all agree to disagree.

    The bar is far higher. Instead, Jesus claims that is will not only be impossible to tell these “defenders of orthodoxy” from the Catholics, but also from the pagans when he stated, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Doctrine is very important. What is more important, however, is the fruit of doctrine manifested in obedience by loving one’s neighbor, the heretical Samaritans.

    Allowing men like Leithart and Meyers to continue to teach and preach is to show contempt for the poor people under their care and those influenced by their aberrant teachings. What you seem to be advocating isn’t “love” at all, it is in fact hatred of God’s people and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    If those opposed to the court decision fail in this, it is evidence that their faith in their beloved doctrine is weak or even dead. James states, “Faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” All good doctrine is built upon, “Love God and love your neighbor.”

    I disagree. All good doctrine is built upon the truth found in Scripture alone and love of God and neighbor flows from it. If the SJC’s decision does not preserve the Gospel and they fail to hold those like Leithart and Meyers accountable for perverting the truth, then for men to remain in the PCA is indicative of those who have no true faith at all; i.e., those whose faith is dead.

  22. K Jentoft said,

    March 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Sean,

    A cognitive understanding of the truth does not save us. James states that the demons believe truth and they shudder. Faith in the truth does save us, but according to Reformed doctrine faith is far more than cognitive understanding, and true faith manifests itself in actions of love for our neighbors in the broadest sense. I am not at all claiming that the content of the gospel is not important. I am claiming that is those who take up the mantle of “defenders of orthodoxy” and are not themselves examples of the fruit of faith, loving their neighbors in something more than a doctrinal fight, then they weaken the very “orthodoxy” they claim to defend. Paul is correct that any and all who preach a different gospel are to be accursed – but it is God’s prerogative and responsibility to do the cursing and He certainly will curse all who do not show love to the least of these as seen in Matt 25:31-46.

    You state, “Allowing men like Leithart and Meyers to continue to teach and preach is to show contempt for the poor people under their care and those influenced by their aberrant teachings. What you seem to be advocating isn’t “love” at all, it is in fact hatred of God’s people and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” “The poor people under their care” remain there because they want to be. Your claim implies that even these people of the PCA are contemptible for agreeing to abide by the rules they have set for themselves regarding adjudication. I think that accusing these same people of hating the gospel simply because they are abiding by the judicial process that they have ascribed to is a weak position. God has not truncated love to only removing the speck from your brother’s eye. The Pharisee was commanded to love his neighbor and seeking to justify himself asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with a story about a heretical Samaritan that shamed the orthodox Jew with the meaning of “Love God and love your neighbor.”

  23. Sean Gerety said,

    March 11, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    A cognitive understanding of the truth does not save us. James states that the demons believe truth and they shudder. Faith in the truth does save us,

    That is simply false on a number of levels. First, James said that demons believe God is one and shudder. Have I said that salvation comes from believing in monotheism anywhere? Nope.

    Second, belief in the truth does save us. Jesus said; “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Salvation is by faith alone in the truth of the gospel alone and James didn’t say demons believe the gospel.

    but according to Reformed doctrine faith is far more than cognitive understanding, and true faith manifests itself in actions of love for our neighbors in the broadest sense.

    No doubt that believing the truth “manifests itself in actions” including loving our neighbors, but loving our neighbors doesn’t save anyone nor does it contribute one whit in our justification before the throne of God.

    “The poor people under their care” remain there because they want to be.

    In some cases that may be true, but I suspect you are either ignorant of FV ecclesiology or you’re just being coy. Maybe you should spend some time studying the cultic methods of men like James Jordan, one of Meyer’s primary mentors, and his use of imprecatory prayers he levels at people with whom he disagrees and some of the bizarre lengths these men go to in order to lord over their congregants. I know people of who have left FV churches in the PCA and they tell horror stories of the spiritual bondage they have been subjected to by these false teachers.

    Your claim implies that even these people of the PCA are contemptible for agreeing to abide by the rules they have set for themselves regarding adjudication. I think that accusing these same people of hating the gospel simply because they are abiding by the judicial process that they have ascribed to is a weak position.

    I don’t know yet how the SJC ruled, but if they upheld the lower court’s decision in either case it will be a black day for the PCA.

  24. TurretinFan said,

    March 11, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    It is troubling that the traditional distinction between assent and faith is rejected by Gordon Clark and his disciples, but surely this is not the thread for that debate, is it?

  25. Sean Gerety said,

    March 12, 2013 at 10:55 am

    @TFan. You’re mistaken and Clark did not have any issue at all with the relationship of assent to faith. What he rejected, and what all Christians should reject (regardless of how they define the word “faith”), is that a man is justified by faith working through love. Man is justified by faith alone APART from works. I’d like to think that this is something that even those who who hold to the tautological and ambiguous traditional tri-fold definition would agree with. Perhaps not.

    Of course, if more Reformed men subscribed to Clark’s clear and unambiguous definition of saving faith, the FV men would never have been successful in fooling so many in the PCA into thinking they’re our Christian “brothers” in Christ even though they deny JBFA and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (something Leithart calls “redundant” given his theory of “union with Christ” via water baptism).

  26. Sean Gerety said,

    March 12, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    @TFan. Besides, I don’t even know why you would think that Clark was in view from my reply to K Jentoft? He said that a “cognitive understanding of the truth does not save us,” but that is clearly false as Christians are saved through believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, just not the “gospel” of Meyers, Leithart and the other Federal Visionist.

    Anyway, looking forward to learning of the SJC’s decision. Hopefully they’ll make it public soon. Although given the history I’m not optimistic.

  27. TurretinFan said,

    March 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Sean:

    Maybe I misread KJ, but I think KJ was just saying that mere theoretical assent to true doctrine is not enough.

    -TurretinFan

  28. Sean Gerety said,

    March 12, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    TFan. It seems to me that he was saying that believing the gospel is not enough, hence his appeal to James. For example in a recent post Stellman appeals to James in a similar manner asserting James 2 has soteriological import. Beyond that, I don’t even know what “mere theoretical assent” means? One either assents to the truth of a proposition or he doesn’t. But, then, I didn’t think you were interested in debating the nature and meaning of faith and I’m not either. The PCA has tolerated and even enabled the false gospel of the FV to spread under it’s nose for years. I would think that would be of much greater concern to even the most casual observer. Instead I lack “love” because I want to see false teachers defrocked and Christ’s name exalted in the PCA.

  29. jared said,

    March 12, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Sean Gerety,

    James 2 does have soteriological import unless you believe that faith is merely cognitive; but I suspect that’s what you’re actually being accused of in this vein. The other thing you’re being accused of is a result of your magnificently narrow definition of “neighbor”, at least that’s my guess.

  30. Sean Gerety said,

    March 13, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Assertion is not a substitute for an actual argument Jared. And, faith is an internal intellectual act. James is explaining the ways by which we can identify genuine belief from the feigned variety. James is not teaching that works done by faith is what makes faith “saving” or any such thing. James is teaching us not to be fooled. Sadly, many in the PCA have not learned that lesson.

  31. K Jentoft said,

    March 13, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Sean states,
    “James is explaining the ways by which we can identify genuine belief from the feigned variety.”

    Sean,
    That is exactly my point. Genuine belief is manifested in loving the brethren in the largest sense, even the heretical Samaritans. This “genuine belief identifier” as you call it, consists of more than removing the speck from your neighbor’s eye. Broad genuine love is the point of Jesus’ parable to the self-righteous and orthodox Pharisee who sought to justify himself by narrowing the definition of “neighbor” small enough so that he could claim he was obedient to God’s commands and had genuine belief. My first post underscored that this “identifier” is what even the exiled PCA prosecutor was looking for from both parties to this dispute, and so is the rest of the world. It is also the one that to often seems weak or lacking.

  32. jared said,

    March 13, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    Sean Gerety,

    I think you are mistaken to posit that faith is an internal intellectual act. The WCF defines “justifying faith” as a “saving grace wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and the word of God”. It would seem that the confessional (and biblical) definition of faith is quite different from your own and that you are actually advocating a completely different definition of faith than what the WCF (and, thus, Scripture) teaches. We must conclude, then, that you are positing a “different gospel” and that your peculiar understanding of what James is/is not teaching us is clearly tainted by this different gospel. I would kindly ask you to refrain from spreading your false teachings at this fine establishment, at least until such a time finds that you have repented of your erroneous ways and sought forgiveness from those you have wittingly, or unwittingly, led astray.

  33. Ron said,

    March 13, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Jared,

    I hate saying this but let’s be reasonable. I really don’t want to argue with you (nor will I) but certainly Sean agrees with you that justifying faith is an evangelical grace wrought by Word and Spirit. I would also like to think that you didn’t intend to reduce this discussion to a semantic nuance between the “heart” and the “intellect.” Moreover, to assert that Sean’s definition of faith differs from the Confession “and, thus, Scripture” and, therefore, entails another gospel is not very helpful. Even if you’re right, you didn’t seem to argue your conclusion. It seems to me that you merely defined it as such and then reasserted it. Lastly, your admonishment seemed, well, more than a bit uncalled for to me, especially given that nobody is adding works to faith and works aren’t being denied as necessary for the vindication of faith. So, legalism and antinomianism aren’t being promulgated. At the very least, maybe you might leave the admonishments to the moderators given that they’ve been around the block a bit more than you I gather. They’re not shy. I’m sure they’ll admonish if they think it’s called for. :) I do love your zeal though!

    For those interested in arguing against Sean – not me, Sean(!), there is a line of questioning I’d like to see interacted with as I go back to lurking. Most Calvinists that would disagree with Sean would agree that saints can know that Jesus died for their own sins. I think it’s safe to say that strict Scripturalists would not agree that such knowledge is available to saints, but most other Calvinists would accept that such knowledge is available to the saved; so it is to those I raise the following.

    Limited atonement is being assumed, of course. Secondly, one can only know that which is true. Now then…

    Given one’s personal knowledge that “Jesus died for me” must entail the justifying belief that “Jesus died for me,” how might those who oppose Sean’s view of belief argue that justifying belief must be substantially different from the passive belief that accompanies the knowledge that “David was King of Israel”? I’ll preempt the rejoinder that justifying faith is a gift of God by saying that although justifying faith is a gift of God, that truism does not seem terribly germane to the task of teasing out the distinguishing factor that would allow for the latter kind of belief to be passive but not the former belief that justifies. In other words, the gift part of justifying faith doesn’t seem to require the belief to be more than passive. No, what I’m looking for is a reason why this sort of passivity of belief that is entailed in the knowledge of King David, or knowledge of anything else for that matter, cannot be present in the knowledge that “Jesus died for me.” Note too that a commitment of life grounded upon a perpetual, faithful reliance upon Christ does not seem to preclude the passivity of faith of which Sean advances as justifying faith. Rather, it is part-and-parcel with it I would think. Accordingly, that faith without faithful works is dead does not undermine the thesis of a passive justifying belief.

    Back to my hole…

  34. Sean Gerety said,

    March 14, 2013 at 8:12 am

    I think you are mistaken to posit that faith is an internal intellectual act. The WCF defines “justifying faith” as a “saving grace wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and the word of God”.

    And where have I denied that saving faith is the gift of God? Further, that justifying faith is a work of God that is “wrought in the heart of a sinner” does nothing to alter what I’ve said and that saving faith is an internal intellectual act. I agree with Ron and that you didn’t argue your conclusion and instead simply reasserted it. You’re going to have to try harder.

  35. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 14, 2013 at 9:30 am

    Ron (or Sean(?)):

    No, what I’m looking for is a reason why this sort of passivity of belief that is entailed in the knowledge of King David, or knowledge of anything else for that matter, cannot be present in the knowledge that “Jesus died for me.”

    Does your question presume that we make a similar commitment of life grounded on a perpetual, faithful reliance on David’s kingship of Israel, as we do upon Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection?

    That is, is your life impacted by David’s kingship in the same way that it is impacted by Jesus’?

    It’s not a trick question, but I was struck by your wording and am trying to understand what you mean.

  36. Ron said,

    March 14, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    No, I do not think there is a similar commitment of life that corresponds to knowing David was king and knowing Jesus died for my sins. Although the commitment is greater with the latter knowledge, is the belief of a different order? Indeed, the commitment is different but obviously commitment is not the same thing as belief.

  37. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 15, 2013 at 11:44 am

    OK, good. So you asked,

    what I’m looking for is a reason why this sort of passivity of belief that is entailed in the knowledge of King David, or knowledge of anything else for that matter, cannot be present in the knowledge that “Jesus died for me.”

    So if “knowledge” or “assent” is taken to mean the same thing as WCoF 15 and WLC 72, then there’s not a problem.

    Historically, though, the term “assent” has meant something less robust than this. This is why WLC 72 says

    Q. 72. What is justifying faith?

    A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

    So the pushback against Clark has fundamentally to do with his definition of “assent.” He seems somehow to wrap the one word “assent” around the Catechisms “not only assent but also receive and rest.”

    Spilling out of that, we notice that “receive and rest” is not properly a verb that goes with knowledge. I don’t receive and rest in David’s kingship, or 2+2 = 4, or any other such knowledge.

    And from there, we begin to wonder what Clark is on about, as the Brits would say.

    What is he aiming at by criticizing “notitia, assens, fiducia”? How do we get a notion of receiving and resting from assenting? Is it legitimate to make “the heart” a subset of “the mind”?

    And then, if I may say so, the aggressive use of deductive reasoning and rejection of inductive reasoning, serves as a large warning flag that perhaps idiosyncracies are afoot.

  38. Sean Gerety said,

    March 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    @Jeff.

    This is like debating the cost of fire extinguishers while the whole house is burning.

    But, since you seem to think this discussion is relevant , and I know how people like you like to bash Clark every chance you get, I would answer the question slightly differently than Ron. The difference between believing that David was King of Israel and believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross as a propitiation for the sins for those He died, lies not in some psychological difference in the mind of the believer, but rather in the propositions believed.

    Believing that David was King of Israel saves no one, neither does believing that God is one with or without trembling.

    So if “knowledge” or “assent” is taken to mean the same thing as WCoF 15 and WLC 72, then there’s not a problem.

    Maybe not a problem for you, but it would be for me as people assent to any number of things which are demonstrably false whereas for something to rise to the level of knowledge it must also be true.

    A. Justifying faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.

    So the pushback against Clark has fundamentally to do with his definition of “assent.” He seems somehow to wrap the one word “assent” around the Catechisms “not only assent but also receive and rest.”

    And my pushback is that you fail to understand the Catechism and fail to recognize that the phrase “receiveth and resteth” is figurative language used in place of the literal word “assent.” You act as if “receiving and resting upon Christ” is somehow different than believing truths of the Gospel, but then you fail to explain what you mean?

    The way I understand your highlighted passages is far more simple and that it is not enough for a person to believe the promise of the Gospel in order to be justified, i.e, believe he will go to heaven, become a child of God, be blessed forever, etc, but he must also believe in Jesus Christ and his righteousness “for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.”

    The Divines were concerned with what it is a person believes in order to be justified and not with some psychological or existential addition to simple faith that magically and inexplicably makes faith saving.

    The Bible teaches that in order to be saved we must believe the Gospel plus nothing. Federal Visionists, Romanists and others disagree, but then they’re not Christians and have no gospel. So I’m not sure why this section of the Catechism causes you to stumble?

    Spilling out of that, we notice that “receive and rest” is not properly a verb that goes with knowledge. I don’t receive and rest in David’s kingship, or 2+2 = 4, or any other such knowledge.

    The contrast that you miss is that if you were to “receive and rest” on David’s kingship you’d be just as lost as if you were to “receive and rest” on the promise of the Gospel but fail to assent to the truth of Christ and his righteousness for the pardon of your sin and to be accounted as righteous before God.

    And from there, we begin to wonder what Clark is on about, as the Brits would say.

    Clark seems very clear to me, so I don’t know what your problem is, or the Brits for that matter. ;)

    What is he aiming at by criticizing “notitia, assens, fiducia”?

    Clark was aiming to avoid any ambiguity surrounding the word “faith,” something I would think all Protestants would cheer given that we’re supposed to believe in salvation by “faith” alone.

    Clark was also aiming to avoid defining a word by itself. The addition of “fiducia” renders the traditional definition tautological and this idea of “fiducia” as the “sine qua non” of saving faith is the very point the FV men have exploited with enormous success and where they smuggle in the idea of that our “covenantal faithfulness” and obedience is a necessary and definitional component of saving faith.

    This is also the reason that if people like you listened to Clark the FV of men like Meyers and Leithart would never have been able to make foothold in the PCA. Instead, I fear these men will remain safe in the PCA because of the blindness of some men who ought to know better.

    How do we get a notion of receiving and resting from assenting?

    We get that notion because the one is figurative language describing a literal word.

    Is it legitimate to make “the heart” a subset of “the mind”?

    Why would the heart be a “subset” of the mind?

    And then, if I may say so, the aggressive use of deductive reasoning and rejection of inductive reasoning, serves as a large warning flag that perhaps idiosyncracies are afoot.

    Oh brother. What is idiosyncratic, and just plain stupid, is the failure to recognize that an induction (with the exception of a complete induction) cannot demonstrate the truth of its conclusion. To put it another way; inductions are always fallacious. Same cannot be said for deductions which are valid or invalid, sound or unsound.

  39. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 15, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Sean,

    My final appeal to you is to pay attention to the language of WLC 72. “Not only assenting but also resting and receiving” is without a doubt marking a difference between the two.

    It is not possible to posit that the one is figurative language for the other.

    Peace,

  40. Ron said,

    March 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Jeff,

    In your response to me, I think you’re getting far afield from what I’m asking. Let me try this again, so please walk with me a moment.

    You might say “I know there is a cat in the room.” That supposed knowledge presupposes a belief that requires no commitment of life (sorry cat lovers!). It also presupposes an authority that validates the truth of the claim, namely that what you think you see corresponds to reality etc. What I’m focusing on is that belief is passive in such instances of knowledge, like it is passive in knowing David was king. In other words, it requires no commitment per se. Now then, when a Christian knows Jesus died for him, the same necessary components of knowledge are being present: belief, truth and warrant. Nothing controversial there I trust, just building blocks to what’s ahead.

    So, moving on, if one really does know that Jesus died for him then of course it is true that Jesus died for him (because one can only know what is true). Added to that, given limited atonement is a biblical doctrine, then to truly know Jesus died for you would imply that you are justified by grace through this belief. Now then, when belief unto justification is present so is commitment of life. And although commitment of life, along with peace and rest in Christ, is in some measure a necessary condition for the state of affairs that entails belief unto justification, I want to hear why commitment of life along with rest and peace are a necessarily a component of belief in the Savior as opposed to merely a necessary byproduct of belief – yet distinguishable from belief. In other words, although commitment of life and restful bliss in the Savior belongs to the Christian who believes in Christ (and can be expected to be present at least in small measure when saving faith is present), why can’t those things be distinguished from what belief unto justification as opposed to collapsed into what defines saving belief in Christ?

    It might be helpful not to quote back to me the Confession but rather maybe interact with the philosophical question? We can take this off line if you prefer rather than discussign matters here.

    Best,

    Ron

  41. Ron said,

    March 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Jeff, you could probably work through the typos, but if not let me try to do a better job here…

    Jeff,

    In your response to me, I think you’re getting far afield from what I’m asking. Let me try this again, so please walk with me a moment.

    You might say “I know there is a cat in the room.” That supposed knowledge presupposes a belief that requires no commitment of life (sorry cat lovers!). It also presupposes an authority that validates the truth of the claim, namely that what you think you see corresponds to reality etc. What I’m focusing on is that belief is passive in such instances of knowledge, like it is passive in knowing David was king. In other words, it requires no commitment per se. Now then, when a Christian knows Jesus died for him, the same necessary components of knowledge are present: belief, truth and warrant. Nothing controversial there I trust, just building blocks to what’s ahead.

    So, moving on, if one really does know that Jesus died for him then of course it is true that Jesus died for him (because one can only know what is true). Added to that, given limited atonement is a biblical doctrine, then to truly know Jesus died for you would imply that you are justified by grace through this belief. Now then, when belief unto justification is present so is commitment of life. And although commitment of life, along with peace and rest in Christ, is in some measure a necessary condition for the state of affairs that entails belief unto justification, I want to hear why commitment of life along with rest and peace are necessarily a components of belief in the Savior as opposed to merely necessary byproducts of belief – yet distinguishable from belief. In other words, although commitment of life and restful bliss in the Savior belongs to the Christian who believes in Christ (and can be expected to be present at least in small measure when saving faith is present), why can’t those things be distinguished from what belief unto justification is as opposed to collapsed into what defines saving belief in Christ?

    It might be helpful not to quote back to me the Confession but rather maybe interact with the philosophical question? We can take this off line if you prefer rather than discussign matters here.

    Best,

    Ron

  42. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Ron,

    If I understand, you are asking whether we can distinguish an active “commitment of life” from “justifying faith”, which is passive and receptive? The latter implies the former, but is not the same as the former?

    If so, then Absolutely Yes. “Commitment of life” is a result of having been justified, not an instrument of it.

    In fact, “commitment of life” is really what WCoF 15.2 is describing under Repentance Unto Life. It is an effect of the indwelling Spirit.

    But separately, is saving faith is assent only rather than notitia, assens, fiducia? No, I’m not there, for the reasons mentioned to Sean.

    Faith is passive only, but not assent only.

    Your e-mails are always welcome, Ron.

    Jeff

  43. Ron said,

    March 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Jeff,

    I agree with what you said. I, also, with the Confession, distinguish acts of faith from faith itself, but that’s for another day. I do think there might be a redundancy in the “classic” formulation of faith and that assent actually means more than what is commonly understood as assent. In any case, if one truly believes on the authority of Scripture he’s a sinner; hell bound; Christ is God, the person’s substitute being God’s propitiatory sacrfice for sinners etc. etc. etc. then justification obtains.

    My point in all of this is that it seems to me that rather than encouraging people to simply “believe” all Scripture teaches, in particular Christ’s sufficiency as he’s offered in the gospel, people all too often focus on calling people to rest in Christ or even “transfer trust”, which I would call some of the consequences of simply believing. I think sometimes we’re so afraid of easy-believism that we eclipse the instrumental cause of justfication, the means by which man can find peace and rest in Christ.

    Blessings,

    Ron

  44. Sean Gerety said,

    March 16, 2013 at 11:27 am

    @Jeff

    My final appeal to you is to pay attention to the language of WLC 72. “Not only assenting but also resting and receiving” is without a doubt marking a difference between the two.

    My final appeal to you is to learn to read the Confession in the context in which it was written (good practice when reading anything really).

    A great example of your failure to read correctly is your truncating WLC 72 making it read: “Not only assenting but also resting and receiving.” By doing this you make it appear as if “resting and receiving” is something in *addition* to assenting, but that’s not what the Confession says.

    Concerning the saving grace of justifying faith the clause reads that justifying faith “not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel, but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.” Therefore, the contrast being drawn in the Confession is not between assent and assent plus something else called “resting and receiving,” but between the propositions believed.

    As I already explained, and I hope you would agree, no one is saved by believing in the promise of the Gospel, promises like that their sins are forgiven, that they are children of God, etc., To be saved a person must also believe in Christ as their righteousness. They believe in the doctrine if imputation as there is no justification without it.

    For example, it’s not enough to believe that Jesus forgives your sins, after all Roman Catholics, Federal Visionists like Meyers and Leithart, and other sub-Christian heretics and cults affirm that. To be saved you must also believe that Christ’s life and death, His active and passive obedience, is the only basis by which you can be accounted as righteous before God.

    It is not possible to posit that the one is figurative language for the other.

    Is that an argument or have you simply joined Jared in confusing assertions with arguments? 8-) And, let me just add this is no small thing, because this is the very heart of the Gospel. If you can’t get this right you can’t claim to even understand the Gospel.

    So, as I already mentioned, if you think “resting and receiving” is something that is in *addition* to assent, something other than or in addition to believing the truths of the Gospel, then you need to explain exactly what “resting and receiving” means.

    Until you do you are a prime example why the Federal Vision has found what I suspect is a permanent home in the PCA.

  45. Roger said,

    March 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    “not only assents to the truth of the promise of the gospel…”

    Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world. Is that proposition not a “truth of the promise of the gospel”? Of course it is. Yet one is not saved by merely “believing” or “assenting” to that proposition alone. All sorts of heretics who add “works” to the gospel message believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world.

    “…but receives and rests upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.”

    We must not only “believe” or “assent” to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world, but also to the truth that His active and passive righteousness is the sole ground of our justification in God’s sight. Our good works or “covenantal faithfulness” has no part in our justification before the bar of God’s justice.

    That’s the distinction the Confession is getting at. It isn’t positing a psychological distinction between “assenting” and “receiving and resting,” as if one is intellectual and the other is deeper — from the heart or some such nonsense. The different terms mean the same thing. The distinction is simply between the propositions believed. Only genuine Christians “believe” or “assent” to the truth that Christ’s active and passive righteousness is the sole ground of our justification in God’s sight. Heretics believe otherwise.

  46. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 16, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Heidelberg Catechism:

    Question 21. What is true faith?

    Answer: True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, (a) but also an assured confidence, (b) which the Holy Ghost (c) works by the gospel in my heart; (d) that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, (e) are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. (f)

    — HC Qn 21

    Charles Hodge commenting on faith:

    It has already been seen, —

    That faith, the act of believing, cannot properly be defined as the assent of the understanding determined by the will….On the other hand Protestants with one voice maintain that the faith which is connected with salvation, is not a mere intellectual exercise…That saving faith is not a mere speculative assent of the understanding, is the uniform doctrine of the Protestant symbols.

    — C Hodge, Systematic Theology III.16.1,2,4.

    The interested reader is directed to Hodge’s fuller discussion in III.16.4, in which he takes up assent as the “essence” of faith while also affirming that saving faith requires more than assent. And he quotes HC 21 on this point.

    Sean, the Confession in its historical context is clearly distinguishing between assens, intellectual assent to the truth of the Gospel (which includes the doctrine of Christ and His righteousness), and fiducia, or trust therein.

    Do you have any historical reason to believe otherwise?

  47. Ron said,

    March 17, 2013 at 1:14 am

    Jeff,

    Protestants standards are not supposed to be philosophical treatises and to make them out to be such can be hazardous. At the very least, if you wish to maintain that understanding, assent and reliance are necessary and sufficient conditions that define saving faith, then “assured confidence” cannot enter into the mix, at least in that regard, unless it is to be equated to one of the other three components. So, if you wish to assert that assured confidence is a component of faith then you deny the formulation I thought you were arguing for – assensus, notitia, fiducia, unless of course you are saying that assured confidence equates to relying upon Christ. So, let’s entertain that one.

    First, nobody is disputing that one must understand what the gospel means in order to exercise saving faith. Also, one must believe the gospel is true. Whether that is sufficient depends on how we’re defining the gospel. If that which is believed and known to be true is the gospel in this form: “Jesus did for you” (which I’ll call a personal gospel) then knowledge of that proposition is enough for justifying faith to obtain since to know that gospel message means it’s true. But, if we’re talking about what I’d call an objective gospel like this: “Jesus died for his people” then of course one must “rely” on that proposition personally, which is merely to believe the gospel message in its personal form. In short, we don’t want to equivocate on the gospel proposition in view lest we do not do justice to this question of “belief.”

    Given how I think you’re taking the HC, indeed one must believe the gospel as it applies to him personally. The HC is presupposing an objective gospel so of course it’s not sufficient merely to believe (that Jesus died for his people.) But please be mindful that if person A is saying that all one must do is believe that Jesus died for him then it doesn’t help matters to bring in a catechism question that presupposes a gospel that is not personal but objective. I certainly wouldn’t say that all one needs to know for salvation is that Jesus died for sinners. But if one knows that Jesus died for him, then that person is justified.

    Again, to cut and paste Reformed standards in a philosphical matter of theology may not be as helpful as you might think.

    In His grace,

    Ron

  48. Roger said,

    March 17, 2013 at 1:15 am

    Faith and trust are synonyms. Trust is simply belief of propositions in the future tense. If you believe what Jesus says about Himself and His redemptive work on behalf His people, then you trust Him. If you trust Him, then you believe what He says. If you have faith in Him, you believe what he says and trust his words. None of this is difficult to understand…unless, perhaps, you’ve been to seminary!

  49. Roger said,

    March 17, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Believing that Jesus died for you personally is an inference drawn from believing the objective propositions of the gospel. That is, if you believe the propositions of the gospel, then you are warranted to infer that Jesus died for you personally. Why? Because He died for His elect people, and only the elect will believe the gospel. “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37).

  50. Roger said,

    March 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Just to be clear, “accepting,” “receiving,” “resting,” and “embracing” the promises of the gospel are figures of speech that literally mean “believing” or having “faith” in the promises of the gospel. Let’s not corrupt the gospel by redefining “faith” and making it more than what it truly is…

  51. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Thanks Ron,

    I am equating “fiducia” with assured confidence. My reason for doing so has to do with Ursinus’ discussion of Qn 21 in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism. I refer you to that for a fuller discussion, but here’s the teaser: Ursinus accepts that in general, faith means assent. But in specific, he rejects utterly the idea that justifying faith can be equated to knowledge alone. He puts knowledge alone in the category of Historical faith, or “to know and believe that every word of God is true which is divinely delivered and revealed.”

    This, he says, was the faith of Simon Magus, and it was not justifying.

    What is additionally needed, he says, is assured confidence of the truth of those things.

    Now, you would distinguish between “objective faith”, belief in the general truth of the promises of God, and “subjective faith”, belief that those promises apply particularly to me. And this is a good and proper distinction; but that distinction is not what HC 21 has in view.

    Rather, it has in view the difference between believing propositions in the mind, from believing them in the mind and having an assured confidence in them.

    Everything I’ve read on the history of the term “faith” in the Reformed tradition has distinguished knowledge from faith in this way, and has distinguished assent simpliciter from faith as well.

    You issue a valid warning about taking the Confessions and Catechisms as philosophical treatises. And certainly, the discussions of “faith” do not use words with exactness. In the HC, faith is “assured confidence.” In the WSC, it “embraces” Christ. In the WLC, it is “not only assenting, but also resting and receiving.”

    So your point is taken.

    My point in response is that the standards ought to constrain our philosophizing. It is clear that the faith referred to in the standards is notitia, assens, fiducia. To argue that this historical meaning is “a prime example of why the Federal Vision has a foothold in the PCA”, as Sean does above, is to speak ill of the standards for the sake of philosophy.

    I would like for us to agree not to do that.

  52. Ron said,

    March 17, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    “Now, you would distinguish between “objective faith”, belief in the general truth of the promises of God, and “subjective faith”, belief that those promises apply particularly to me. And this is a good and proper distinction; but that distinction is not what HC 21 has in view.”

    Hi Jeff,

    The HC is not drawing that distinction rather it’s presupposing one of the horns of that distinction. It goes on in the next two questions to flesh out what must be believed, which it discloses as the objective gospel. So, of course, for salvation to obtain those articles of faith must be made subjective. For to believe such “general” truths, even know them, is not sufficient for salvation.

    Finally, lurkers could confuse the way you are using knowledge and the way I am. You, rightly so, when referring to knowledge are referring to the knowledge of the what the propositions mean. This sort of knowledge can also apply to the knowledge of Unicorns. Whereas when I have employed the term knowledge, salvation must obtain for to “know” the personal gospel requires salvation ipso facto. That leads me full circle. Since belief that obtains unto knowlede doesn’t require commitment (I know I see an image of a cat), then why must commitment of life that is part-and-parcel with such knowledge (and hence belief of the truth) that Jesus died for me be included in the definition of belief and not merely a result and necessary bydproduct of such belief? That’s my point all along. I haven’t seen that challenge taken up. I know many things that don’t require commitment of life; so when commitment of life is a logical condition for when such knowledge obtains I would feel more comfortable calling it a result and vindictation of true belief rather than an essential property of it.

  53. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks, Ron.

    I agree with you about “commitment of life.” I hope I haven’t conveyed anything at all that attempts to connect fiducia to “commitment of life.”

    With regard to knowledge, I’m happy to allow for a broader definition. I’ve suspected on the grounds of a charitable reading that the “assenting” that you and Sean refer to is a kind of “super-assenting” that encompasses in concept both the idea of “assent simpliciter” and “fiducia.” Am I correct?

  54. Joshua Butcher said,

    March 17, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Two examples, which I hope will highlight Ron’s point.

    First, most people have a “commitment of life” or a “trust” in their eyesight based upon the natural function of the eyes (to apprehend visual objects) and the sound functioning of the eyes (when I name what I apprehend, there is an identity between what I name and what is apprehended).

    Second, the claim “I see the image of a cat” presupposes trust that my eyes are a reliable organ of apprehension and that they are functioning properly as such, but the claim in itself does not impose or entail any “commitment of life,” or “trust” based upon the claim itself.

    Ron’s point is that not all knowledge claims require the weight or obligation upon the one who assents. That conclusion should lead us to be more careful in claiming a definition of faith that requires more than is basic, or required for the most basic example. To acknowledge such is not to quibble with the Confession or any creed, since all they have in view is one application of faith (that is, to the objective gospel), as opposed to a philosophical treatise, which would seek a definition of faith applicable to every possible application.

  55. Roger said,

    March 17, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Jeff, what’s the “difference between believing propositions in the mind, from believing them in the mind and having an assured confidence in them“? This seems to be a distinction without a difference. How can one “believe” a proposition to be true without having “assured confidence” that it is true?

    It makes no sense to say “I believe that I’m justified on the basis of Christ’s imputed righteousness alone, but I have no confidence that I’m justified on the basis of Christ’s imputed righteousness alone.” Anyone spouting such nonsense simply wouldn’t be telling the truth about “believing” that they are justified on the basis of Christ’s imputed righteousness alone. It wouldn’t be that their “faith” is lacking some additional (indefinable) quality of “trust,” but rather that their claim of “faith” is phony from the start.

  56. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Joshua or Ron,

    What is the occasion for being worried about “commitment of life”? That clearly seems to be a concern, but it has no relation to my description above.

  57. Joshua Butcher said,

    March 17, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    I’ll let Ron answer for his reasons. My purpose was simply to add some examples for clarity to what he was expressing.

  58. Ron said,

    March 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    What is the occasion for being worried about “commitment of life”? That clearly seems to be a concern, but it has no relation to my description above.

    Jeff,

    I see how I might have left you that impression. I wrote earlier: “No, what I’m looking for is a reason why this sort of passivity of belief that is entailed in the knowledge of King David, or knowledge of anything else for that matter, cannot be present in the knowledge that “Jesus died for me.” To which you responded: “Does your question presume that we make a similar commitment of life grounded on a perpetual, faithful reliance on David’s kingship of Israel, as we do upon Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection?” So, I wasn’t sure whether you thought that fiducia implied commitment of life. Just trying to leave no stone unturned. :)

    With regard to knowledge, I’m happy to allow for a broader definition. I’ve suspected on the grounds of a charitable reading that the “assenting” that you and Sean refer to is a kind of “super-assenting” that encompasses in concept both the idea of “assent simpliciter” and “fiducia.” Am I correct?

    I think that could apply to Sean and possibly to me depending on whether fiducia is understood as trust or rest. Let’s take it from the top, shall we?

    If notitia refers to the content of what is believed, then I would call notitia a precondition of belief and would not include it in the definition of belief. If we define assensus as the conviction that the content of a proposition is true, then I would call assensus , without remainder, belief. If fiducia refers to “trust” then I would find that a bit tautological to add it to the mix; for to trust something is true and to believe it is true seems the same to me. If, however, fiducia refers to “resting in Christ” then I would call that a post-condition for saving belief and, therefore, not a component of belief narrowly considered. (Post, because it’s logically after belief (not necessarily temporally after belief). By being a “condition” for saving-belief what I’m saying is that whenever one believes unto salvation some degree of rest is present.) Why I would break “rest” out of the mix is for one thing Jesus in John 6 equates coming with believing and that coming to Christ, as we find in Matthew 11:28, results in rest and is not part of the essence of believing. Rest is what we find as a result of believing. If we come to Christ we will find rest.

    You can find this on Ligonier’s website: “knowing and believing the content of the Christian faith is not enough, for even demons can do that (James 2:19). Faith is only effectual if, knowing about and assenting to the claims of Jesus, one personally trusts in Him alone for salvation.” That is an example of presupposing the general gospel, with which I don’t find fault. They are correct that “knowing” the claims of the general gospel is not sufficient for salvation. However, if one “knows” that “Jesus died for me personally” then that person is saved. That knowledge presupposes the assensus-conviction that the proposition “Jesus died for me” is true. Such knowledge would result in rest, but if rest is not an essential property of knowledge, then why must it be part of saving knowledge? Again though, and so I’m not misunderstood, rest would indeed be present in such a state of affairs. So, as Joshua said: “Ron’s point is that not all knowledge claims require the weight or obligation upon the one who assents. That conclusion should lead us to be more careful in claiming a definition of faith that requires more than is basic, or required for the most basic example.” {emphasis mine} Rather than “weight or obligation” we can substitute “rest” in Joshua’s observation.

    What’s the point in all of this?

    Well, very simply, I like you want to exhort people to do what they can do by grace, which is come to Jesus. Believe in him; trust him, which is to believe everything his word teaches. I don’t want to encourage the unsaved to rest, but rather I’ll continue to tell them that if they believe they will find rest.

    So, in the end, I either find fiducia redundant or else I see it as a byproduct of saving belief. It all depends on what is meant by it.

  59. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 17, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    Ron, thanks. I can see why my question led to confusion. I was probing for cause/effect there, but my wording left the door open to “fiducia” = “commitment”, which we both agree is out of court.

    OK, so I have a couple of questions:

    (1) Historically, what is the meaning of “fiducia” as you understand it?
    (2) In your view, why are the various confessions and also the systematic theologians unanimous in rejecting “faith” = “assent” simpliciter?

  60. Ron said,

    March 18, 2013 at 1:15 am

    Jeff,

    I deny that the Confessions speak to this issue in the manner that we are. A confession is not a philosophical discourse. Notwithstanding, I believe you’ve misread the Confession.

    The Westminster standards teach that the gift of faith enables belief. “The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls…” Accordingly, faith is not belief and, therefore, must be distinguished from belief (lest we’re left with faith enabling faith, or belief enabling belief). This is underscored when the Confession goes on to say that “by this faith, a Christian believes…” again distinguishing faith from belief. Not only does the Confession distinguish faith from belief, it also distinguishes faith from the actsof faith that proceed from faith, which cannot be the same thing as faith lest faith proceeds from faith. The Standards state: “By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word… and acts differently, upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principle acts of saving faith are, accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”

    As you just read, the Confession distinguishes faith from the acts of faith, and within the set of all “acts of faith” the standards delineate a subset of “acts of faith” it calls “the principle acts of faith,” which are accepting, receiving and resting upon Christ alone…” Now then, you would not call obedience and trembling “faith” but rather “acts of faith.” Me too. In the like manner, I would not only distinguish those “acts of faith” from faith itself, but I would also maintain the consistency of the Confession and distinguish the “principle acts of faith” (namely accepting, receiving and resting) from faith itself, just as you would distinguish the non-principle “acts of faith” from faith. My brother, we can’t have the Confession both ways. If resting is “faith” then so is obedience (as far as the Confession is concerned). And if obedience is not faith, then neither is resting – so implies the Confession. So, although the Confession is not a philosophical treatise, it does draw some fine theological distinctions.

    As I said before, to believe that Jesus died for his people and rose again is not sufficient to save. One must believe the gospel as it applies to him. Certainly believing the general gospel that Jesus died for all men is not sufficient to save. Something else is needed. The gospel must be believed personally. That could very well be the impetus for fiducia in this regard; for something more is needed. But if that which notitia contemplates is the personal gospel and not the general gospel then God given assensus-conviction is sufficient to save, for it is sufficent to know that “Jesus died for me.” But for some reason you haven’t wanted to deal with that one. Rather than simply modifying the proposition of notitia to a personal gospel that must be believed – “Jesus died for you,” you in turn look to fiducia.

    As I’ve pointed out to you on this site before, I take the grace of faith to mean just as the Westminster Confession teaches; it is the work of the Holy Spirit whereby men are enabled to believe. In a word, this faith, which the Confession refers to as the enabling of belief, is nothing other than the Holy Spirit working the propensity to believe God’s word through regeneration. That is why you have justifying faith when sleeping, though yet not believing (i.e. exercising faith). Or should you fall into a coma, you would remain justified by grace through faith, though not believing or exercising unto the principle acts of faith. An infant with the grace of that seed of faith will exercise saving faith in time etc. etc. etc.

    Not sure what more I can say, Jeff.

  61. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 18, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Ron, thank you for saying it. I will say that this is the first time I’ve encountered the notion that “faith” is that which enables “belief.” I understand why you make this distinction, but it is new to me.

    But thank you, and I will consider your words, together with continued study of the issue.

    Are you sure that the meaning is not that “grace” enables belief, rather than that “faith” enables belief?

  62. Ron said,

    March 18, 2013 at 11:19 am

    ”Are you sure that the meaning is not that “grace” enables belief, rather than that “faith” enables belief?”

    Hey Jeff,

    I would say it’s the “grace of faith” that enables belief. It’s interesting that the Confession does not index the enabling of belief to the grace of prayer, or the grace of the sacraments, or to some general grace but specifically to the grace of faith. It’s the unmerited gift of faith that enables one to believe the gospel. Even more, this gift of faith enables the sinner to believe all sorts of things that are not yet believed upon first receiving the grace of faith. So, although all saved men have saving faith. Not all have the same sanctifying beliefs.

    I think the Confession handles repentance unto life in the same manner. “Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ…. By it [the grace of repentance] a sinner… grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments.” So, when God subdues a sinner’s heart and recreates them in Christ, the sinner in union with Christ is endowed with the grace of faith and repentance, which must and will be exercised in the sinner’s progressive sanctification. As with faith, all saved men have received the grace of repentance, but not all men repent equally.

    I too will reflect on these things more. I appreciate the exchange.

  63. Joshua Butcher said,

    March 18, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    In the words of an old Irish hymn, “Thou my best thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping thy presence my light.”

  64. Cris Dickason said,

    March 18, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    So, as I was schooled today at this very web site, on a different topic…

    What’s the answer with respect to the OP – the original post?

    Has the Standing Judicial Committee made any announcements?

  65. March 18, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Some of us know the decision, but until the Report is issued we’ve been asked to not say anything.

  66. Ron said,

    March 18, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    “Some of us know the decision, but until the Report is issued we’ve been asked to not say anything.”

    Yes, we’ve heard. :)

  67. David said,

    March 20, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    This outcome is one of the worst kept secrets ever.

  68. Jared Nelson said,

    March 22, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Why does a public court take so long to make public their decisions, that somehow from the comments, the public seems to already know about, but must be pretended to be private until that official moment?

  69. Julie said,

    March 23, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Does anyone have any idea how much longer we must wait?

  70. greenbaggins said,

    March 23, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    I believe sometime at the end of the month or early next month, we will have the official announcement.

  71. Ron said,

    March 25, 2013 at 12:45 am

    Beloved,

    If the prosecution did a lousy job in not digging up the right evidence to win the case, then the SJC must uphold for Peter. This would not be an indictment against the PCA as we are Presbyterian after all. Jason was not up for the task, which his apostasy showed.

  72. Ron said,

    March 25, 2013 at 2:00 am

    I’m a bit curious why so many, Lane included, think that so much hangs in the balance. The SJC can think that Peter denied the faith, or like Kinnaird was an equivocal communicator at best. It’s irrelevant to their commission either way. Their job was to judge the trial, not Peter. When I first saw the evidence I immediately knew the Presbytery blew it but not because Peter was Reformed and innocent but rather because the Presbytery cited the wrong statements as concerns.

  73. Sean Gerety said,

    March 25, 2013 at 10:12 am

    @Ron. I agree that Stellman was not the right man for the job, but I don’t think anyone really thought Leithart would be found guilty by the PNW regardless of who lead the prosecution. To many observers the PNW is a step down from the LAP which previously exonerated Wilkins.

    The SJC back in 2010 said: “The views of TE Leithart touching fundamentals of the system of doctrine….set out in the Record suggest a strong presumption of guilt that these views represent offenses that could properly be the subject of judicial process.”

    Did the record change? Well, no, in fact it only was solidified. During his trial Leithart said:

    “Yes we do have the same obligations that Adam and Abraham and Moses and David and Jesus had namely the obedience of faith. And yes, covenant faithfulness is the way to salvation for the doers of the law will be justified at the final judgment. But this is all done in union with Christ so that our covenant faithfulness is dependent on the work of the spirit of Christ in us and our covenant faithfulness is about faith trusting the spirit to – – to will and to do of his good pleasure.” – Leithart Trial Transcript (p. 195)

    How can the SJC let the exoneration of such a man stand? It’s hard to imagine even the new Jesuit pope doing a better job explaining justification by faith plus works. If the SJC allows the decision of the lower court stand then precedent is set and one does not have to be an Evangelical in order to be a teacher and preacher in the PCA.

    Leithart would have succeeded in making the PCA and FV friendly denomination.

    The only question will be are those who claim to believe the Gospel and oppose the FV be willing to remain in an FV friendly denomination? I suspect many will. It’s only the Gospel after all, who cares if pastors in the PCA don’t believe it and can teach and preach warmed over Romanism with impunity. As you point out the OPC survived after clearing Shepardite Kinnaird on all counts.

  74. Sean Gerety said,

    March 25, 2013 at 10:13 am

    should be: “Leithart would have succeeded in making the PCA an FV friendly denomination.”

  75. Ron said,

    March 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    How can the SJC let the exoneration of such a man stand?

    Sean,

    To your question, because the entirety of the man is not before the committee, just select excerpts. They may only deal with what is before them. The real incriminating stuff never surfaced. Maybe that should be a matter of investigation.

  76. March 25, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    It should be rembebered that Lane’s testimony itself consisted of 40+ pages, interacting with virtually everything Peter has written. The SJC had all the information it needed to make an informed decision.

  77. Ron said,

    March 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    They can’t try the case. Accordingly, equivocal, even slippery statements can’t be fleshed out at this juncture. The opportunity has been lost.

  78. Sean Gerety said,

    March 25, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Of course they can’t try the case Ron, but they can and should overturn the decision of the presbyteries. There is nothing equivocal about Leithart or Meyers conditional view of the covenant or their rejection of justification by faith alone and imputation (something Leithart calls “redundant” in light of his false belief in union with Christ via water baptism).

    Besides, both Leithart and Meyers were signers of the FV Joint Profession, what more does the SJC need given the GA adopted the FV report which repudiates these men and their false doctrines. If they let the verdict of these two men stand the PCA is over.

  79. Ron said,

    March 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Sean,

    PL did not step in it as you suggest. The conclusions you want must be derived by means of interrogation. But as you realize SJC doesn’t have the luxury to examine the witness. Because one could chalk up PL’s writings to pure buffoonery a conviction by the SJC is not in order. It was presbytery’s job to flesh out the implications of PL’s writings and they failed. Note though that they failed.

  80. michael said,

    March 25, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Sean G.

    “… If they let the verdict of these two men stand the PCA is over.”.

    Huh?

    You must hold a dim view of Christ and what He has been doing in the PCA the last 40 years then?

    You mean to say one decision that is adverse in outcome can bring this work of Christ to an end as in “the PCA is over”?

    This body must be held together with used bubble gum and rusty chicken wire then!

  81. Matt said,

    March 28, 2013 at 12:11 am

    I have a case before the same SJC meeting and as of today I have not heard from the SJC/Dr. Taylor’s office. The PCA seem to love cases like the Leithart case. Yet an abusive TE gets no attention. My case is even worse as it was previously before the SJC (CASE 2009-28) read here: http://theaquilareport.com/pca-standing-judicial-commission-sends-complaint-against-nashville-presbytery-back-for-further-investigation/

    I know doctrine is important, but a wolf in sheep clothing is bad, a wolf in shepherd clothing is much much worse!

    I have left the PCA and will never return not because of the sin of a TE but because the Nashville Presbytery is just a ‘bunch of good old boys’ and PCA stands for Protect Clergy Always

  82. PDuggie said,

    March 28, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Sean, could you, say line up one one the declarations of the report and one of the FV joint profession items and identify where they are in conflict?

  83. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    PDuggie, there are two items in the FV joint profession that I cannot see as confessional.

    1. FVJS:

    We deny
    that continuance in this covenant
    in the Garden was in any way a
    payment for work rendered. Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by
    disobedience, but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to
    Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions
    or achievements.

    Confession (and WLC):

    II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works,[2] wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity,[3] upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.[4]

    The only way to reconcile these is to deny that obedience is a moral exertion.

    2. FVJS:

    We affirm
    that there is only one true Church,
    and that this Church can legitimately
    be considered under various descriptions, incl
    uding the aspects of visible and invisible.
    We further affirm that the visible Church
    is the true Church of Christ, and not an
    “approximate” Church.

    Confession:

    I. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all.[1]

    II. The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion;[2] and of their children:[3] and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ,[4] the house and family of God,[5] out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.[6]

    WLC:

    Question 61: Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church?

    Answer: All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible.

    Question 62: What is the visible church?

    Answer: The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children.

    Question 63: What are the special privileges of the visible church?

    Answer: The visible church has the privilege of being under God’s special care and government; of being protected and preserved in all ages, not withstanding the opposition of all enemies; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation, and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved, and excluding none that will come unto him.

    Question 64: What is the invisible church?

    Answer: The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.

    Question 65: What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?

    Answer: The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

    The claim that the visible Church is the true Church is irreconcilable with the claim that the catholic or universal church is invisible, and that union with Christ is enjoyed by members of the invisible church.

    It’s not my job to pass judgment on the nature of these conflicts, but they are real.

  84. Ron said,

    March 29, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Jeff,

    Regarding 1, the point of disagreement among FV and many Reformed people is whether there was merit in the prelapsarian era. Both sides agree that obedience was a logical condition for fellowship. The question is whether this condition was merit. So when an FV person denies the conditional aspect of works he is denying merit, not necessity. We must read moral exertion and achievement in a context that recognizes that obedience was logically necessary for unbroken communion with God. Also, that the Confession affirms “condition” does not imply merit, as Letham and others have shown. It has also been shown that merit is even denied by the Standards.

    Regarding 2, this is one of the most troubling statements of the FV. The statement communicates that there is only one church, which can be described in terms of its being visible and invisible. The implication of such a construct is that the invisible church and the visible church are the same church with a numerical identity. From that false premise comes much confusion and outright error. To make the point more clearly, consider the following modification of the statement: We affirm that there is only one true God, and that this God can legitimately be considered under various descriptions, including the aspects of transcendence and immanence. The modified statement, which uses the same construct of the FV statement, clearly communicates that the one transcendent God is the same God as the immanent God. No problem there. Transcendence and immanence are simply two aspects of the one God. Is the FV statement true in this way? Is the visible church the same church as the invisible church? In other words, are the persons the same?

    As you note, within Reformed theology the invisible and visible churches are not the same church. The invisible church consists of the elect who will all possess Christ, whereas the visible church consists of those who profess Christ. On that basis alone, the FV may not be considered “Reformed” in any sense of the word. The FV is comprised of a bunch of muddled thinking men if not men who are intentional in undermining Reformed congregations. In either case, there’s no room for FV pastors in a Reformed denomination. The PCA, my own denomination, has failed to extricate these teachers from their pulpits.

    But wait, it gets worse. Because Federal Vision blurs the visible-invisible church distinction it also has a faulty view of the Covenant of Grace and cannot ground the Reformed doctrine of assurance. They imagine that through water baptism one is united to the very life of Christ. Consequently, if one who was baptized with water were to deny the faith, he would in Federal Vision terms truly fall from grace and lose the life he had in Christ.

    Federal Vision theology does affirm that all who have been justified will be glorified. Notwithstanding, how can one who has been justified be assured of his final state of salvation, glorification, if he can in fact fall from grace and lose the life in Christ he supposedly had? It is no wonder that assurance of salvation in the Federal Vision is limited only to the objective truth that those God has justified will be glorified. Federal Vision theology makes no room for personal, subjective assurance of one’s final salvation; indeed how can it if one can truly fall from grace and lose his life in Christ that is alleged to be given to all in the church?

    The Federal Vision is correct that the “the decretally elect cannot apostatize”. But by blurring the visible-invisible church distinction and attributing a former life in Christ to those who outwardly deny the faith, the truly justified that will one day prove themselves elected unto glory is left no place to ground his assurance of his justification. After all, both those elected unto glory and those who deny the faith allegedly share in the same life in Christ and consequently must have the same grounds for assurance of perseverance, which becomes no grounds at all since some with life will not persevere.

    Federal Vision proponents would do well to learn that the Covenant of Grace was established only with Christ as the Second Adam and in Him, with the elect. Consequently, the promises the covenant contemplates are restricted to the same, the elect – the invisible church, which comes from a systematic theology the Federal Vision abhors.

  85. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Ron,

    On the second point, I agree entirely.

    On the first point, I agree with the charitable intent of your reading. Several FV advocates have boiled it down to a denial of strict merit (in which case, merit pactum is available as the appropriate position).

    Nevertheless, the wording stands, so that it behooves FV advocates to either clarify or retract.

  86. michael said,

    March 29, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Ron,

    Would you kindly reword more sharply and illustrate succinctly your distinction between possess and profess?

  87. michael said,

    March 29, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Jeff,

    I see you posted too, most likely as I was pecking away on my IPhone. I see you say you fully understand Ron’s point 1. Would you also address my question as well?

  88. Ron said,

    March 29, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Jeff,

    The quote you provided states the denial of payment for good works rendered, which is the denial of merit. It goes on to affirm disobedience as resulting in demerit. It then revisits and expands upon the first premise,
    saying that there is no *achievement* (i.e. merit). As for “moral exertion” indeed that’s not the happiest of terms, but in the context what else can it mean? Certainly you don’t mean to suggest that FV entails that good works were not necessary to remain in covenant, especially after stating that disobedience results in demerit. What more do you suppose the quote implies other than no merit for good works and demerit for disobedience?

  89. Ron said,

    March 29, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Michael,

    To posses something is to actually have it. To profess something is to make a claim. The elect will posses Christ whereas the professors of Christ might not yet claim to.

  90. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Ron: What more do you suppose the quote implies other than no merit for good works and demerit for disobedience?

    I don’t know. The answer is probably different for different FVers. But given that this is previously trodden ground, I would expect language that is more tight.

    As I said, I’m perfectly willing to accept that the intent is X instead of Y. But I would want to explicitly hear that, since the words actually say Y, in the context of a confessional document.

  91. Ron said,

    March 29, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Jeff,

    Hi Jeff,

    Well at the very least then, maybe you should not say that FV denies the Confession on that point. It seems to me though that you must have imported some interpretation into that statement of theirs since you found it not just vague but contrary to the Confession. That premise leads me to think that you either think that the Confession affirms meritorious reward or else were willing to impugn FV with the notion that good works of any sort were not necessary to remain in covenant. The latter is not tenable and the former presupposes a wrong interpretation of the Confession.

  92. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Ron,

    I mean what I said at first: “Was not conditioned on moral exertion” and “Was conditioned on obedience” are incompatible UNLESS obedience is not moral exertion.

    As a logician, you can appreciate this, no?

    And further, it seems to me unreasonable to claim that obedience is either not moral or not exertion.

    Your plea is that the wording is unfortunate but the meaning is orthodox: in fact, “moral exertion” has reference to strict merit.

    That’s fine. I don’t to impute heterodoxy to any brother unnecessarily. I’m just pointing out that the actual wording of the FVJS and the actual wording of the confession are at odds here.

    It would be better if the document were revised to reflect the true intent.

  93. Ron said,

    March 29, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I mean what I said at first: “Was not conditioned on moral exertion” and “Was conditioned on obedience” are incompatible UNLESS obedience is not moral exertion.

    As a logician, you can appreciate this, no?

    Yup, I do get it Jeff. That’s precisely why I don’t interpret the statement as contradictory when there is a reasonable interpretation that comports rather nicely.

    Your plea is that the wording is unfortunate but the meaning is orthodox: in fact, “moral exertion” has reference to strict merit.

    That is not my plea, Jeff. But I wouldn’t expect one to interpret me any more charitably than they’ve interpreted FV. In any case, I wonder if you could find a card carrying FV person to disagree with what I’ve said on point 1.

    I don’t to impute heterodoxy to any brother unnecessarily. I’m just pointing out that the actual wording of the FVJS and the actual wording of the confession are at odds here.

    Jesus couldn’t survive such scrutiny. In fact, in some sense he didn’t.

    Happy Easter,

    Ron

  94. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Ron,

    I’m not sure what the underlying issue is here. Clearly something is bothering you.

    I’m scrutinizing the document, not the people. It’s reasonable to expect a confessional document to be clear.

    It’s also reasonable to expect that people are not always clear when they write.

    So I extend charity towards the writers, and scrutiny towards the document. I assume that they might have had orthodox intent; I observe that they use wording that conflicts with orthodoxy, context notwithstanding.

    If you have concerns about this, shoot me an e-mail.

  95. Ron said,

    March 29, 2013 at 10:12 pm

    We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered.

    (a) FV denies meritorious works as a precondition for remaining in covenant.

    Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience…

    (b) FV affirms that that works of disobedience would result in demerit and forfeit of glory.

    but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements.

    (c) FV denies that continued fellowship was conditioned upon effort or (d) achievement.

    The problem you have is not with a, b, or d but with c. Is there a way you can interpret “effort” in a way that is consistent with a, b, and d? One way is to consider effort as meritorious (i.e. self-effort). Another way is to consider “condition” as causal, either by effectual grace or metaphysical contingency, as opposed to contemplating a “state of affairs.” Moreover, if c is contradictory, then the clarity of “a” must be denied.

    All that to say, there is no reason to find the statement contra-confessional.

  96. Ron said,

    March 29, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    slightly better formatting

    We deny that continuance in this covenant in the Garden was in any way a payment for work rendered.

    (a) FV denies meritorious works as a precondition for remaining in covenant.

    Adam could forfeit or demerit the gift of glorification by disobedience…

    (b) FV affirms that that works of disobedience would result in demerit and forfeit of glory.

    but the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements.

    (c) FV denies that continued fellowship was conditioned upon effort or (d) achievement.

    The problem you have is not with a, b, or d but with c. Is there a way you can interpret “effort” in a way that is consistent with a, b, and d? One way is to consider effort as meritorious (i.e. self-effort). Another way is to consider “condition” as causal, either by effectual grace or metaphysical contingency, as opposed to contemplating a “state of affairs.” Moreover, if c is contradictory, then the clarity of “a” must be denied.

    All that to say, there is no reason to find the statement contra-confessional.

  97. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Ron,

    Thanks. The problem isn’t quite so easily solved. Let’s say that (c) is simply intended to mean “Adam’s continuation in the gift was not grounded meritoriously on moral exertion or moral effort”, which is the interpretation you seem to indicate.

    This would move in the direction that Tim Gallant argues: obedience was a necessary but not causal condition. Obedience was not the ground for continuance.

    The problem is that this now attaches a particular meaning to the phrase “conditioned on” == “grounded in.”

    We now look at the Confession and read it as “conditioned on” == “grounded in” obedience. Life was “grounded in” obedience. Oops. That was the opposite of what we (FVers) wanted to say.

    OK, let’s try different approach. Start with the Confession and read “conditioned on obedience” as “obedience was a necessary condition.” This attaches a different meaning to “conditioned upon”

    But now the FVJS statement reads as “the gift was not offered by God to Adam with moral achievment or moral exertion as a necessary condition.”

    And this brings us back to “obedience” is not “moral exertion”, which is unreasonable.

    In other words, by choosing to use the Confessional phrase “conditioned upon”, the FVJS places itself into a double-bind. If it uses the phrase in the same sense as the Confession, it ends up contradicting the Confession. If on the other hand it is using the phrase differently from the Confession, it creates the prima facie appearance of contradiction to the Confession. Lose-lose.

    Again: I think the real problem here is likely with the wording. For example, Jeff Meyers was pretty clear in affirming the bicovenantal structure (albeit in an antiKlinean, antiHodgian, antiTurretinian way).

    But given the historical context of this document, which was controversy over Auburn Ave theology, it would have made sense to use language that was crystal clear. For example, it would have made sense to affirm the Confessional language while denying its particular Klinean interpretation:

    “The gift or continuation in that gift was offered to Adam conditioned upon his obedience, but not upon moral achievement.”

    That wouldn’t have been so hard!

    I think the signatories were genuinely surprised to find not only hard-core Klineans, but many others raising concerns about the FVJS. The lesson here is to not “roll your own” theological language when speaking formally to a Confessional body.

  98. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Jeff,

    All I see in your post is pure sophistry.

    “The problem isn’t quite so easily solved.”

    Indeed it is if you would draw the elementary distinction between cause and state of affairs, allowing the confession to use condition one way and the FV author(s) another. But that would require you to admit that your initial observation was hasty.

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Ron,

    I’m puzzled by the personal attacks in #98 (“sophistry”) and #93 (comparison to the Pharisees). I see a genuine problem in the wording of the document, while conceding that the signatories may not have intended all that the wording implies. You’re free to disagree.

    I hardly call six years of patiently teasing out these issues as “hasty.”

    What’s up with this aggressiveness? I don’t treat you like this!

  100. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Unless, of course, I do. :) Either way, I would rather not interact in this manner, so please: get the real issue on the table here.

  101. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Jeff,

    You have not allowed a perfectly intelligible reading of the statement that would comport with the Confession. Instead, you have imported an unnecessary interpretation, which in turn fabricates a contradiction within the statement itself that is not demanded by the statement. Yet even when asked earlier what you suppose the quote implies you answered “I don’t know” admitting vagueness. Yet an ambiguous statement would not necessarily contradict the Confession (let alone itself).

    As for your other allegations I’ll let the thread speak for itself.

  102. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Ron,

    I genuinely stand by what I say in reference to the document, but I don’t understand why this causes you difficulty apart from the fact that you think I’m wrong. I could be wrong. So could you.

    Part of the issue seems to be our differing approach to statements of faith. From your perspective, if I understand, we should read statements of faith with charity, allowing vagueness to possibly be compatible with orthodoxy.

    From my perspective, we should read statements of faith with strict scrutiny *because* they form the basis of teaching from the pulpit and *because* they lay the groundwork for the next generation. If a phrase could reasonably be misunderstood, it should be amended. If a phrase is vague or causes confusion, it should be clarified.

    In this case, the phrase “conditioned on” causes clear confusion because, as you point out, it is likely being used in a different way from the Confessional material on the same topic.

    I don’t know what else to say. It grieves me to see division arising over this.

  103. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks, Jeff.

  104. andrew said,

    March 30, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I was shocked, to put it mildly, to see the FV attacked for teaching that there is one church, viewed from visible and invisible viewpoints, and to read statements like:

    “As you note, within Reformed theology the invisible and visible churches are not the same church”.

    Are we sure that Reformed theology really teaches this? I know there are lots of learned chaps here – this is a genuine historical question.

    The reason I ask is that I grew up in a conservative Dutch Reformed church, and in Catechism classes it was always emphasized that there is only one church viewed from two perspectives. In fact, the idea that there was actually two churches was given as a common example of evangelical misunderstanding. (This was long before FV and wasn’t a particularily polemical point).

    I undertand, of course, that the membership of the two are not the same.

  105. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Andrew, the difficulty is not “one church viewed from two perspectives.” Murray and Calvin taught this, and it is commonly taught in the Reformed world (as you point out).

    The problem is the “THE true church and not an approximate church” language of the FV statement.

    As Leithart says in the preface to “Baptized Body”, this is the driving force that makes FV distinctive.

  106. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    This is reminiscent of an exchange I had with R.S. Clark.

    Clark wrote:

    Murray explicitly rejected the visible/invisible distinction. Check it out. It’s in his collected writings. I don’t know what Dick thinks about it. We’ve never discussed it, but Murray’s criticism of it helped create the pre-conditions for the FV nonsense.

    I responded:

    Murray understood the theological distinction all too well, which is why he made the practical observations he did. My Brother – did you actually read Murray’s article in Volume One, or did you just read the title of chapter 31 and assume his meaning in haste?

    With respect to Murray, he was merely jealous to guard against the abuses that readily come with the view toward an invisible church, such as what he called the overlooking and suppression of corporate responsibility, noting that “[Invisible] is a term that is liable to be loaded with misconceptions… and tends to support the abuses incident thereto…” Indeed, Murray noted that “there are those aspects pertaining to the church that may be characterized as invisible. But it is to ‘the church’ those aspects pertain…” Accordingly, Murray recognized the term “invisible” – he just was careful to regulate the term within the context of the Christian’s responsibility to, and the grace found within, the institutional visible-church. In a word, Murray was guarding against the putting asunder of that which God had joined in his word, the invisible aspects of the church to Christ’s visible institution. Murray was merely dealing with a problem of his day, which is only more evident in ours.

    Brothers,

    What do you guys think you mean by one church viewed from two perspectives, invisible and visible? When we speak of the invisible church we speaking only of the elect, but when we speak of the visible church we are including non-elect persons. Accordingly, we are not speaking of “one church viewed from two perspectives.

  107. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Ron,

    I mean something specific. If are thinking about sets of people, there are two such sets: Those who are elect (and come into membership by regeneration leading to faith), and those are profess faith.

    If were are thinking about institutions, there is one such institution. The members of the visible church are to be considered as members of the invisible. The officers of that church are to be treated as God’s appointed leaders. Outside of the visible church, there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. The visible church is to be considered the institution in which the invisible church is to be nourished and fed.

    In short:

    The judgment which ought to be formed concerning the visible Church which comes under our observation, must, I think, be sufficiently clear from what has been said. I have observed that the Scriptures speak of the Church in two ways. Sometimes when they speak of the Church they mean the Church as it really is before God—the Church into which none are admitted but those who by the gift of adoption are sons of God, and by the sanctification of the Spirit true members of Christ. In this case it not only comprehends the saints who dwell on the earth, but all the elect who have existed from the beginning of the world. Often, too, by the name of Church is designated the whole body of mankind scattered throughout the world, who profess to worship one God and Christ, who by baptism are initiated into the faith; by partaking of the Lord’s Supper profess unity in true doctrine and charity, agree in holding the word of the Lord, and observe the ministry which Christ has appointed for the preaching of it. In this Church there is a very large mixture of hypocrites, who have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance: of ambitious, avaricious, envious, evil-speaking men, some also of impurer lives, who are tolerated for a time, either because their guilt cannot be legally established, or because due strictness of discipline is not always observed. Hence, as it is necessary to believe the invisible Church, which is manifest to the eye of God only, so we are also enjoined to regard this Church which is so called with reference to man, and to cultivate its communion.

    — Calv Inst 4.1.7

    So I would expand: Murray was addressing the problem of his day, but that problem (dispensationalism) was a problem of every age (anabaptism): the tendency to put too much daylight between visible and invisible.

  108. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    If were are thinking about institutions, there is one such institution. The members of the visible church are to be considered as members of the invisible. The officers of that church are to be treated as God’s appointed leaders. Outside of the visible church, there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. The visible church is to be considered the institution in which the invisible church is to be nourished and fed.

    Perfect, Jeff.

    As I was going to add prior to reading your follow-up: We are to look for the invisible church, the elect, only among the baptized, the visible church. But the visible and invisible churches are not the same church merely viewed from different perspectives. After all, how can non-elect persons (that are included in the visible church) be part of the set of all elect persons (the invisible church)?

    What FV does is conflate soteriology with ecclesiology and in doing so implies that the institutional church is the only theological church, therefore, to fall from the visible church is to actually lose salvation.

  109. andrew said,

    March 30, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Ron,

    It seems to me you are defining church simply in terms of members, which leads you to see see two different churches, because not all members of the church are elect.

    I think many, if not most (i.e. not just John Murray, but confessions, magisterial reformers, etc) Reformed folks think of church in terms of an institution, which can be viewed in different ways.

    I don’t mind much whether you agree with this or not (though I do think it important). But is important to be more precise when attacking the FV.

    Suggesting that a traditional Reformed approach- one church, two perspectives – is a distinctive FV statement weakens your overall critique. PDuggie or someone just has to give a list of quotations – Calvin, Hodge, Berkhof, etc – teaching just this, and thus bolsters the FV line that it represents a recovery of Reformed thought.

    Safer I think to say that the illegitmately posist attributes of the whole to individual members (ie. the church is a justified body so all baptized members are justified, or something along those lines.

  110. andrew said,

    March 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Jeff,

    Thanks for that response. I would be quite happy to call the visible church ‘true’ (or perhaps ‘real’).

    Do you think Calvin, etc, would quibble on that? I understood the traditional three marks of the true church were to made in reference to the church visible.

  111. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    Right. I would be happy to call the visible Church “real” also. Here, though, is where the FV goes with it:

    “Being united to the Elect One, all who are baptized may be truthfully addressed as the ‘elect of God.’ … They are sanctified in Christ Jesus. They share in his wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption … They have been “born” through the gospel … Christ has been sacrificed for them … All that in covenant have been given all that is true in Christ. If they persevere in faith to the end, they enjoy these mercies eternally. If they fall away in unbelief, they lose these blessings and receive a greater condemnation…They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc. and yet apostasize and fall short of the grace of God.” (Steve Wilkins, The Federal Vision, pp. 56, 59 – 60, 62).

    This is the lens through which one may legitimately read “the true church” in the FVJS.

    This is not what Calvin does.

  112. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    It seems to me you are defining church simply in terms of members, which leads you to see see two different churches, because not all members of the church are elect.

    Andrew,

    What I’m doing is explaining the meaning of invisible of church and visible church. Both definitions pertain to members. The former pertains to elect alone and the latter pertains to an external status. If these are aspects of the same church then you’ve equivocated yourself into utter contradition.

    I think many, if not most (i.e. not just John Murray, but confessions, magisterial reformers, etc) Reformed folks think of church in terms of an institution, which can be viewed in different ways.

    And that is where you are theologically imprecise and historically inaccurate. In what sense is the visible church invisible and the invisible church and institution? You’re blurring that which the Confession has defined in precise theological terms.

    I don’t mind much whether you agree with this or not (though I do think it important). But is important to be more precise when attacking the FV.

    Oh, I’m very precise when dealing with FV. It’s basic and it’s not Reformed.

    Suggesting that a traditional Reformed approach- one church, two perspectives – is a distinctive FV statement weakens your overall critique.

    Andrew, you’d get a lot further if you dealt with what is actually being stated and not try to hide behind clichés.

  113. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    all who are baptized may be truthfully addressed as the ‘elect of God.’ … They are sanctified in Christ Jesus. They share in his wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption …

    Here is where one can see why FV should be hated with a holy hatred. They equivocate between how one is to be “addressed” (which is a matter of external status) to what one actually is (which is a matter of ontology.)

    They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc. and yet apostasize and fall short of the grace of God.”

    They argue that one may lose his salvation, plain and simple – another outright denial of the Confession they claim to uphold.

  114. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    Ron,

    You don’t confess that you “believe in the holy, catholic, and apostolic churches”, do you? Which church is it that you are confessing in the creed?

  115. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    The institutional church, which has the apostolic teaching and a proper administration of the sacraments, out of which there is no ordinary way of salvation. Which church are you confessing?

  116. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    I’m happy with that answer. But it was a trick question. Compare these two answers:

    When in the Creed we profess to believe the Church, reference is made not only to the visible Church of which we are now treating, but also to all the elect of God, including in the number even those who have departed this life.

    The Catechism in answer to the Question under consideration, defines the church to be that assembly, or congregation of men, chosen of God from everlasting to eternal life, which the Son of G-od, from the beginning to the end of the ivorld, gathers, defends and preserves to himself, by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, agreeing in true faith, and which he will at length glorify with eternal life and glory. Such is the definition of the true church of God of which the Creed properly speaks…All the particular churches are parts of the universal church ; and the different parts of the visible, belong to the universal visible church ; as also the invisible, are parts of the universal invisible church. And it is of this universal invisible church of which this article of the Creed properly speaks, saying, I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.

    Two different answers, both with impeccable Reformed history (bonus question: Who?), both different from yours.

    This demonstrates the fluidity of the categories in Reformed thought.

    For my part, I don’t agree that it’s equivocating to speak of one object (the Church) from two perspectives (two ways of measuring or enumerating). We can clearly set out the properties of the Church as measured in one way or the other, and be clear in our minds about each.

    Then, when we affirm “the holy catholic Church”, we are affirming the one institution, with the understanding that the Church as man sees it and the Church as God sees it look different and have different properties.

    Ursinus, indeed, speaks of the invisible Church as a subset of the visible. Calvin, as previously noted, speaks of “the Church as God sees it” and “the Church as man sees it.” That seems very clear to me.

  117. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Jeff,

    We might say that God is just and God is holy. These would be two descriptions that pertain to the the one God. The reason being is because God is both separate from sin (holy) and impartial (just). Accordingly, holiness and justness are two perspectives of the same, one God.

    Yet when we speak of the visible church (elect and non-elect who profess the true religion and their children) and the invisible church (the elect alone), it is logically impossible to be accurately defining two descriptions (or perspectives) of the one church for what is it to define something with mutually exclusive terms? God’s justice and holiness are compatible with the definition of God because justice and holiness do not contradict. However, non-elect and elect-alone are contradictory. Consequently, it is simply false to say that visible and invisible are two perspectives on the one church, simply because what the two contemplate are mutually exclusive and, therefore, cannot logically apply to the same thing.

    Not to worry though. We may, quite correctly, say that visible and invisible are two ways in which people define “church”, but once we’ve defined which idea of church we’re speaking of (whether invisible church or invisible church) we are no longer speaking of a quality that pertains to the one church that is allegedly both invisible (elect alone) and visible (inclusive of non-elect and, therefore, not elect alone).

    I am not engaging in mere semantics here. Unless we maintain such precision we run the risk of ending up with FV confusion. Indeed, we are to look for the invisible church within the institutional church and not apart from it, but that doesn’t mean that visible and invisible are two perspectives of “the same church.” That is to equivocate on the definition of the church in such a way as to define it with contradictory terms.

  118. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Ron,

    I think we’re using a similar mental map but different terminology. I would not call “holiness” and “justness” as perspectives, but attributes.

    A perspective is a particular way of looking at, measuring, evaluating an object. If I measure the wealth of banks with just cash, that’s one perspective: M0. If I measure the same wealth with cash + checking accounts, that’s a different perspective: M1. Those two answers are different but not incompatible because they are not held in the same sense. If held to be in the same sense, they would of course be contradictory unless checking accounts were all empty.

    You would say, “We’re defining wealth differently there.” Yes: that’s where the perspective comes in. But the banks are the same; their accounts are the same; we’re just measuring them differently.

    So you ask, “it is logically impossible to be accurately defining two descriptions (or perspectives) of the one church for what is it to define something with mutually exclusive terms?”

    And the answer is now clear: It is logically possible to do so given that we are defining the one thing in two different senses.

    You are worried about FV-like confusion, and I agree that this is possible, if we do not insist that the properties of each perspective only apply to that perspective.

    In turn, I worry about dispensational-like confusion. If we speak entirely of two different churches, we run the risk of communicating that one is “the real church” and the other is not. This was the issue in the Thornwell-Hodge debate.

    The best way to handle both concerns at once is to insist that there is one institution, the church, and it can be measured in two different ways: As man sees it, and as God sees it. These two ways cannot be mixed and matched, but they both refer to the same institution.

    Hence we can agree with Calvin: When in the Creed we profess to believe the Church, reference is made not only to the visible Church of which we are now treating, but also to all the elect of God

    This would be nonsense if we insisted that “visible Church” and “invisible Church” cannot apply to the same Church. But it makes perfect sense if we admit that those terms can be applied in different senses to the same Church.

    Put this another way: You are defining sets of people. I am enumerating the members of an institution. Your approach ends up with two objects; mine gives two enumerations of the same object.

  119. andrew said,

    March 30, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Ron,

    I understand why you see this as a difficulty, but that is because you are operating on a ‘two church’ model. It doesn’t, perhaps, make a lot of sense to talk about the invisible aspect of the visible church or the visible aspects of the invisible church (though you surely would not deny the work of the spirit in the ‘visible church’ or deny the role of Scripture or confessions in the ‘invisible church’. Or you might note WCOF 25:3 where the church is’ sometimes more, sometimes less visible’)

    But if you accept the conventional model of one church from different aspects, there is no contradiction, since the church is not visible and invisible in the same respect.

    I am a little surprised that you think this some sort of novel view. To give an example from the nearest book, A.A Hodge on the Confession:

    “The universal visible church is therefore not a different Church from that which has just been described as invisible. It is the same body, as its successive generations pass in their order and are imperfectly discriminated from the rest of mankind by the eye of man” (Ch25.2)
    invisible

    Or, if you have access to James Bannerman’s treatise The Church of Christ, he starts his discsussion on chapter 3 on the visible/invisible distinction by saying:

    “when we speak of the Church invisible and the church visible, we are not be understood as if we referrred in these designations to two seperate and distinct churches, but rather to the same Chrurch under two different characters. We do not assert that Christ has founded two Churches on earth, but only one; and we affirm that that one Church is to be regarded under two distinct aspects”

    Berkhof is very clear:

    “This distinction has not always been properly understood. The opponents of the Reformers often accused them of teaching that there are two seperate churches. Luther perhaps gave occassion for this charge by speaking of an invisible ecclesiola within the visible ecclesia. But both he and Calvin stress the fact that, when they speak of a visible and an invisible church, they do not refer to different Churches but to two aspects of the one Church of Jesus Christ” (ST:5:2:b)

    I will be away over Easter, but I sure better read folk here can provide more examples if you wish, or I can do so in a few days.

    And to be clear Hodge, Bannerman, and Berkhof would not argue that all members of the church visible are elect, justified, etc.

  120. andrew said,

    March 30, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Jeff,

    Re 111.

    Spot on. Agree that this stuff is out of order. I just don’t wont the baby thrown out with the bathwater.

    In my part of the church world, no one has heard of FV. But we do have major problems with committment to the church (as in being baptized, never mind attendance), church divisions, lack of respect for confessions, elders, etc.

    It is often justified by ‘the invisible church is the real church’ sort of approach.

  121. Ron said,

    March 30, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Jeff,

    To distinguish perspective from attribute as you have is to draw a distinction without a difference. The point has to do with defining x not in different terms but in contradictory terms.

    And the answer is now clear: It is logically possible to do so given that we are defining the one thing in two different senses.

    To define x in two different ways can be harmonious. If I define God as love and then define him as holy I am speaking from two perspectives that are not at odds. Yet to define the true church as elect alone (by the name “invisible”) which by definition excludes non-elect, and then turn around to define true church as elect and non-elect (by the name visible), is to define the one term “church” as including elect and not including elect. That is equivocation.

    The best way to handle both concerns at once is to insist that there is one institution, the church, and it can be measured in two different ways: As man sees it, and as God sees it.

    Jeff, the institutional church is by definition the visible church. Given that definition of institutional church, God sees it – the institutional church as the visible covenant community that includes the non-elect. God does not see the visible, institutional church as the invisible church. In the like manner God saw visible Israel as both elect and non-elect; he knew full well that all Israel was not Israel and he also knew who comprised the true Israel of God, invisible Israel. Notwithstanding, in knowing that all Israel (visible Israel) was not invisible Israel (“the Israel of God”) he did not somehow see institutional Israel differently than we could. He saw institutional Israel and also the remnant (invisible Israel) within.

  122. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    Ron, I think I will retire and let you interact with Hodge and Berkhof above.

    For clarity,

    attribute : perspective :: color : photometer

    I’ve appreciated your interactions today, and hope you and yours have a blessed Lord’s Day tomorrow.

  123. andrew said,

    March 31, 2013 at 4:34 am

    Re121,

    Ron,

    I might add that I am not defending the traditional view as correct – I think there are some tensions, which you have begun to highlight.

    My point is just historical – what you are attacing as FV is a fairly standard posistion in Reformed thought.

  124. Ron said,

    March 31, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Andrew,

    I appreciate the clarification and happy to hear that you aren’t swept away by the cliche.

    Note though that the Westminster standards don’t take this view of “perspective.” It is to speak in catchy phrases to say things like “two perspectives on the same church.” The literal meaning isn’t Reformed though and what FV means by it isn’t either. What’s unfortunate is people that aren’t FV and are Reformed can’t navigate through the matter, which is why I’ve now blogged on it.

    Best wishes,

    Ron

  125. Ron said,

    March 31, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Jeff,

    Yes, happy Easter Sunday to you and yours too!

    Ron

  126. CD-Host said,

    March 31, 2013 at 11:06 am

    @Jeff and Ron

    Happy Easter to you both. I have to admit this discussion seems to me like hair splitting without a difference.

    Let’s assume we have to parallel worlds.

    On world A we have the Reformed church invisible and visible, one institution but described from two vantage points.

    On world B we have the Evangelical church invisible and visible, two institutions one earthly and one heavenly with some properties only applying to the heavenly church and some properties only applying to the earthly church.

    Everything else is exactly the same.

    Ha is a human living on A, Hb is a human living on B. What does Ha see that Hb does not and visa versa? Xa is an angel living on A, Xb is an angel living on B. What does Xa see that Xb does not and visa versa?

  127. Bob S said,

    March 31, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    126 CD
    And your point is?

    Rather one party only admits that the church is visible, the other that it is both visible and invisible.
    Best I can tell, Doug and company only admit the first. Or that the invisible church is the visible church.

    But you believe in neither. So what difference does it make/why do you ask?
    (Briefly/in 25 words or less, please.)

    Thank you.

  128. CD-Host said,

    March 31, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    @Bob #127

    Best I can tell, Doug and company only admit the first. Or that the invisible church is the visible church.

    Doug and Co. admit the 2nd. I did an on the record interview with Mike Lawyer regarding CREC on membership philosophy. I didn’t particularly care about the issue in this post during that interview; but they unequivocally made statements which separated the visible church from election and salvation. Steve Schlissel’s (another inventer of FV) daughter and son-in-law had a discussion with me at his views and they rejected the notion that Steve diverged in any way from the typical Reformed view. Their claim was that anti-FV people were misrepresenting FV.

    Heck, Catholics don’t equate formal membership with salvation that is they admit the 2nd, though not the language.

  129. Tim Harris said,

    March 31, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Ron, to your point about identity of reference, just a quick point of clarification — even if the visible church contained only and all regenerate persons, the set of persons would still be different between the visible and invisible church as defined by chap. 25. Then, the visible church would be a proper subset of the invisible church, but still not identical to it as to membership. (Leave aside the “and their children” clause for simplicity.)

  130. Ron said,

    March 31, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Hi Tim,

    I’m not sure I’m tracking. Are you pointing out that in chapter 25 the snapshot of the visible church could be considered the institutional church at any slice of time? If I am understanding you correctly then I agree with your point. Yet I believe the WLC extends the visible church to all ages.

  131. Tim Harris said,

    March 31, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    It would be hard for me to read the grammar of 25.2 to include “all those that ever have, do, or will profess the true religion.” This would lead to conundrums — then are people like our friend CD-Host, who once “made profession” but no longer does, a member or not? Conversely, someone that is now a militant atheist, but in 10 years will make profession — does he count as part of the visible church NOW? (Leaving aside John Doe, born 2149.) It seems like this would destroy the very distinction the visible/invisible distinction is making.

    In addition, it seems like the definition of the invisible church in 25.1 incorporating past, present and future is unfortunate. It means, for example, that the invisible church (taken as the entire set) doesn’t even exist at all now — since only some members exist now. Thus, it only exists as an idea, or perhaps one could say that it WILL exist eschatologically. I think this goes far beyond what Luther intended by the distinction. Probably better would simply have been to observe a genuine/counterfeit distinction within the one visible church.

  132. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 1, 2013 at 12:45 am

    CD: So are you the author of the Pooh’s Think blog?

    Anyways, I would answer that in option B, the relationship between the two churches is left undefined. If we posit a connection between them (which I assume is a hidden premise in Ron’s mind), then B approaches A. If not, the door is open for anything from Reformed to Anabaptist views of the visible church.

    WRT Wilson and Schlissel, you said they hold B, but I would have thought A?

  133. CD-Host said,

    April 1, 2013 at 11:08 am

    @Jeff #133

    CD: So are you the author of the Pooh’s Think blog?

    Nope.

    I would answer that in option B, the relationship between the two churches is left undefined.

    How is it undefined more in B than in A? I’m not following. That’s why I was trying to use the human and the angel and what they see different between them.

    WRT Wilson and Schlissel, you said they hold B, but I would have thought A?

    There are 3 different theories rolling around:

    A) The idea that the visible and invisible church are two ways of seeing the same thing (Jeff Cage theory)

    B) The idea that the visible and invisible church are two distinct entities with overlap (the evangelical theory)

    C) The idea that there is only a visible church, that salvation and church were a single unified concept (BobS characterization).

    What I was saying to Bob is that FV don’t subscribe to (C) and do subscribe to A/B. The A vs. B distinction didn’t come up in either conversation and I’d rather not put words in their mouth.

    That being said if we assume I’m wrong that there is no distinction between A and B Steve characterized himself directly as agreeing fully with the PCA on ecclesiology and thus by implication must either believe

    i) In A
    b) Believe that A is not the standard Reformed position.

    With Mike Lawyer (CREC) I think it would be fairer to characterize him as distinguishing election from salvation. I think he is a clear cut B, but that’s me characterizing him, not him characterizing himself so YMMV. For Mike, the church has no effect on election but does influence the timing of salvation. So the church most certainly does in this theory contain both the currently unsaved but elected and the unelected.

    Moreover the church (visible) is quite broad
    a) Eastern Rite Catholic (Orthodox)
    b) The local Lutheran Church (liberal)
    c) The local Lutheran Church (conservative)
    d) Local PCUSA church
    e) Local OPC church
    f) Local CREC church

    He did reject a member of a local Mormon church as “in the church”

  134. Jeff Cagle said,

    April 2, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    CD: How is it undefined more in B than in A? I’m not following. That’s why I was trying to use the human and the angel and what they see different between them.

    So we can talk about what they see and about what they perceive.

    In both options, as you have outlined them, the human will *see* a single set of people, the visible church.

    In option A, he will perceive or interpret the visible church as an imperfect proxy for the invisible church.

    In option B, because the relationship between visible and invisible is undefined, he might have any one of a wide range of perceptions. He might perceive the visible as a proxy for the invisible, in which case he’s really thinking A but not copping to it (I think this might be what Ron is doing). Or he might perceive the visible church as a “merely human institution”, and set it at naught. That’s the anabaptist option.

    Or he might stake out some middle ground.

  135. CD-Host said,

    April 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    @Jeff 135

    Your making A vs. B subjective I’m trying to make it objective. The idea is not that the person is different but that the universe is different. In other words in universe A reformed doctrine is true and evangelical doctrine is false. In universe B evangelical doctrine is true and reformed doctrine is false. I’m trying to get to the actual in the actual invisible church as an entity. What experiment E can an angel in universe A conduct that has a different result in universe B?

    I’m trying to get away from the issue of tone. I get that there is a difference in how people linguistically think about the invisible church. I’m trying to determine what is the actual difference, if any, underlying the difference in language.


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