Leithart on Justification and Baptism

Posted by David Gadbois

An alert commenter on this blog has noted some unfortunate (but unsurprising) comments from Peter Leithart in a recent web article that he penned:

Does the New Testament teach that “baptism justifies you”? I think the answer is Yes.

This is from an article that was published on the Trinity House blog, less than 2 months ago. Now anyone who has been following the Leithart trial should have realized that this is the logical implication of Leithart’s theology, but it is useful that he would explicitly state this belief, even if at this late hour. In the balance of the article he nowhere attempts to explain how this doctrine is compatible with the historic Protestant doctrine of justification sola fide. That is, the biblical and orthodox belief that we receive the justifying righteousness of Christ solely by the instrument (i.e. the appropriating organ) of extrospective faith in Christ. In passing he admits that his “argument creates difficulties elsewhere in our understanding of both Paul and Protestant orthodoxy.” Well, no kidding. It is a marvel that so many learned men fail to grasp that “alone” means that everything besides faith, including the sacraments, are excluded in justification. But then, logic was never the strong suit for FV.

Additionally, he repeats in this article his error of defining justification as “deliverict”, combining the forensic declaration of justification with an inward delivery from sin. To top it off, he denies the perseverance of the saints when he states that “God regards [those who will apostatize] with favor, counts them as just, for a time” before they fall away.

Now it is certainly important to answer Leithart’s argument on biblical grounds. This has been done, in some cases more directly and in some cases less directly, in various FV-critical books, denominational reports, and perhaps most effectively in Lane’s written testimony in the Leithart case. And we, the blog authors, together with the many smart, gracious, and orthodox commenters, are prepared to continue a biblical critique of these errors in this forum.

However, it is worth pointing out that this article represents a doubling down of error on Leithart’s part, bringing his public teaching more explicitly at odds with the reformed standards (both the Westminster Standards and the 3 Forms of Unity) and, indeed, a fundamental reformational and Protestant understanding of justification. This ought to be sufficient reason for Leithart’s apologists to either find a more honorable line of work or simply admit that his doctrine is incompatible with basic Reformed and Protestant teaching, even if they consider it to be biblical and true. But let’s not continue to pretend that this teaching has any place in the PCA or any other church that claims the historic reformed creeds as their own. The intellectual case for such an idea is threadbare, even if some would hold up the fig leaf of ecclesiastical process as a cover for such foolishness.

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171 Comments

  1. January 30, 2014 at 7:42 am

    the historic Protestant doctrine of justification sola fide. That is, the biblical and orthodox belief that we receive the justifying righteousness of Christ solely by the instrument (i.e. the appropriating organ) of extrospective faith in Christ.

    Cheers, David. You are right, much good scholarly work had gone into analyzing FV for what it is-a re-defining of the classic reformed doctrine of Justification. Here also, for your readership, is an article I found helpful on this topic, when I took up understanding it, several years back.

    Thanks again for this, here.

  2. January 30, 2014 at 7:54 am

    PS one more link, for even more good analysis:

    http://www.opc.org/GA/justification.pdf

  3. January 30, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Does anyone know what Peter’s status is in the PCA since Evangel Presbytery did not grant him a transfer?

  4. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Only an assumption Chris: still under PNW?

  5. January 30, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Well, if presbyteries are allowed to “import” men to other parts of the country while remaining on their roles, that is a major breakdown of good order, cf. BCO 8-7. But I guess we could just ask Peter or PNW what the deal is. (I am assuming that he has moved to Birmingham.)

  6. January 30, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    This ought to be sufficient reason for Leithart’s apologists to either find a more honorable line of work or simply admit that his doctrine is incompatible with basic Reformed and Protestant teaching, even if they consider it to be biblical and true. But let’s not continue to pretend that this teaching has any place in the PCA or any other church that claims the historic reformed creeds as their own. The intellectual case for such an idea is threadbare, even if some would hold up the fig leaf of ecclesiastical process as a cover for such foolishness.

    Couldn’t agree more. For my part, I respected the PCA and my confessional brothers too much to insult them by remaining, given the change in my own views. So to see people who hold views similar to mine refuse to come clean and step down is pretty frustrating and hard to respect.

  7. Jack Bradley said,

    January 30, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    Jason, Leithart carefully distinguishes his view from the RC view in this article:
    This will be taken as a “Catholic” understanding of baptism, but that’s inaccurate. As I recently pointed out, [http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/leithart/2013/12/not-objective-enough/] Catholics don’t teach that baptism justifies. According to Catholics, the baptized come to a state of justification by cooperating with baptismal grace. That’s perfectly consistent with the Catholic understanding of justification, which is not a declaration about the person justified but a making-just. For Protestant theology, justification is declarative; while it is received in faith, it is not the product of a process that involves cooperation between God and man. My argument about baptism assumes not a Catholic but a Protestant definition of justification, though adjusted to incorporate Paul’s use of “justify” in Romans 6:7.

    Leithart, NWP trial documents:

    I have used the neologism “deliverdict” to designate the “liberating verdict” of justification. My reflections on Romans 6:7 are not original. Reformed theologians have recognized the oddity of Paul’s language, and some, like Sinclair Ferguson, have concluded that here dikaioo “cannot be limited to a forensic significance.”

    . . . The notion that justification is a “deliverdict” is implicit in the classic Reformed doctrine of justification. For most Western theologians after Augustine, the dominion of Sin over sinners was viewed as a punishment for Adam’s sin. Because Adam submitted to sin, God justly gave him over to be a slave to sin. I believe this is correct. And that means that, when sin is cancelled and the sinner justified, then the sentence of slavery to sin is also overturned. It would make no sense for the Father to declare “You are judged righteous” and then to add, “But you are will continue to suffer the consequences of your forgiven sins.” It would be absurd for a judge to say “You’re no longer reckoned guilty,” and then add “But you need to stay in prison awhile longer.” As Murray says in his exposition of
    Romans 6:7, because a sinner is forensically justified “sin has no further claim upon the person who is thus vindicated.”

    Murray commentary on Romans 6:7:

    “Justified from sin” will have to bear the forensic meaning in view of the forensic import of the word “justify”. But since the context deals with deliverance from the power of sin the thought is, no doubt, that of being “quit “of sin. The decisive breach with the reigning power of sin is viewed after the analogy of the kind of dismissal which a judge gives when an arraigned person is justified. Sin has no further claim upon the person who is thus vindicated. This judicial aspect from which deliverance from the power of sin is to be viewed needs to be appreciated. It shows that the forensic is present not only in justification but also in that which lies at the basis of sanctification. A judgment is executed upon the power of sin in the death of Christ (cf John 12:31) and deliverance from this power on the part of the believer arises from the efficacy of this judgment. This also prepares us for the interpretation of the forensic terms which Paul uses later in 8: 1, 3, namely, “condemnation” and “condemned”, and shows that these terms may likewise point to that which Christ once for all wrought in reference to the power of sin (8: 3) and to our deliverance from this power in virtue of the judgment executed upon it in Jesus’ cross (8:1).

    Murray: http://pnwp.org/images/resources/defense-ex-7-leithart-response-to-pnw-committee-oct-08.pdf

    Ferguson’s fuller treatment is here: http://pnwp.org/images/resources/defense-ex-4-justification-and-sanctification.pdf

    Finally, I think Leithart, as usual, makes the necessary qualifications in his First Things article:

    “[I]f a) Protestants are right that justification is a declaration and if b) we take seriously Paul’s instrumental linkage between baptism and justification, then it seems to follow that baptism is a ritual enactment of that declaration, made specifically to the baptized.”

    Read it carefully: “baptism is a ritual *enactment* of that *declaration*.” In fact, read the whole article again, carefully. The key qualifications are all in place, and the conclusion follows:

    “One might say that baptism has nothing whatever to do with justification; but then one would find himself at odds with Paul himself.”

  8. Jack Bradley said,

    January 30, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Jason,

    Just a bit more, to distinguish Leithart from RC:

    William Cunningham, Historical Theology, Vol. 2, p. 139:

    “Baptism, according the the Church of Rome, is the instrumental cause of justification, while faith is merely one of seven virtues, as they are called, which only prepare or dispose men to receive it; and a mere wish to receive the sacraments is represented as one of those six other virtues, each of which has just as much influence or efficacy as faith in procuring or obtaining justification,–the sacrament itself, of course, upon the principle of the opus operatum, having more influence or efficacy in producing the result than all these virtues put together.”

    Bavinck, Vol. 4, p. 515: “. . . a Protestant principle: those who attribute to baptism a communication of grace that cannot be obtained through the Word and by faith open the door to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the sacrament.”

    R. Scott Clark, A Contemporary Reformed Defense of Infant Baptism: “Protestants uniformly reject the Roman Catholic view of baptism as unbiblical and sub-Christian since it replaces faith as the instrument of justification.”

  9. Jack Bradley said,

    January 30, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Just a few more selections, to further justify Leithart’s views on justification and baptism: “My argument about baptism assumes not a Catholic but a Protestant definition of justification, though adjusted to incorporate Paul’s use of ‘justify’ in Romans 6:7.”

    Bavinck, Vol. 4, p. 497: “The work of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament, like that in the case of the Word, is not physical but spiritual. Baptism then consists of the benefits of justification, regeneration, and fellowship with the church.”

    Michael Horton, God of Promise, p. 152: “Romans 6 speaks straightforwardly of our baptism into Christ, apparently without any concern to distinguish it from water baptism.”

    Michael Horton, Infant Baptism, God’s Grandchildren:

    Throughout church history, “baptism” has always meant one and the same thing: The sign (water) and the thing signified (regeneration by the Holy Spirit). But in our day, many who otherwise insist on taking the Scriptures literally and “at face value” will argue that passages such as this one and others, like Titus 3:5 (“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously . . .”), refer merely to a spiritual baptism and not to water baptism. One must beware of a gnostic dualism that separates spirit from matter, as if it is somehow less than spiritual for God to bring people into his family through a common, everyday liquid. To be sure, there is a danger is attaching superstition to rituals and material signs, but God reveals himself and saves us through matter, not in spite of it. God “became flesh,” wrote a book with ink and paper, and confirms it with water, bread, and wine. He does communicate his heavenly grace through the earthly creations that he sets aside by Word and Spirit for sacred use.

    This is why the reformers refused to divide what God had joined together: the sign and the thing signified. Calvin wrote the following: “Seeing then that these two things [remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit] are accomplished in us by the grace of Jesus Christ, it follows, that the virtue and substance of baptism is included in him. And, in fact, we have no other laver than his blood, and no other renovation than his death and resurrection. But as he communicates his riches and blessings to us by his Word, so he distributes them to us by his sacraments.” The sacrament does not merely symbolize something that may or may not have taken place, but is truly a “means of grace,” a manner of distributing directly to us that which he promises generally.”

    Leithart, The Baptized Body, p. 31:

    The Westminster Shorter Catechism number 91 asks, “How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?” Clearly implying that in someway the sacraments do become such. Along similar lines, Calvin said that in a sermon on Acts 1 that “we are not so raw as not to know that the sacraments, in as much as they are helps of faith, also offer us righteousness in Christ. Nay, as we are perfectly agreed that the sacraments are to be ranked in the same place as the Word, so while the gospel is called the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believe it, we hesitate not to transfer the same title to the sacraments.”

    Robert Godfrey, transcript from Blue Ridge Bible Conference, 6/16/97, tape #9:

    . . . the wonderful phrase ‘to improve and make right use of our baptism.’ . . . What is the right use of our baptism? To remember that we are baptized people, that we are set apart from the world by the waters of baptism—that in the waters of baptism Jesus Christ has made a promise to wash away our sins.

    . . . when you read the NT, Paul, over and over again, makes appeal to baptism as a present reality in the Christian life and experience. I think that’s true in Romans 6, for example. When Paul wants Christians to mortify sin in their experience he reminds them that they’re a baptized people and that baptism speaks to them about sin being washed away. . . You see, water baptism, which certainly testifies to Spirit baptism—and we need Spirit baptism, every Christian is Spirit baptized, I believe all those things—but, you see, again, if you just begin introspectively to ask, ‘Have I really been Spirit baptized?’ you get right back in the morbid mess. And the water baptism, you see, is the way out, is the way to the objective statement of the glories of God’s grace and mercy to His people.

    . . . I think this is what Calvin is saying as well: God’s institution is to link the promise with the water so that if our confidence in the promise begins to waver we can look to the water, which we have seen, which we touched, and can be renewed in the promise. . . . . . Baptism is the sacrament that testifies to the definitive work that God has done in saving His people. . . Calvin, Institutes: “It is a sign of our spiritual regeneration, through which we are reborn as the children of God.” Does baptism relate to regeneration? Sure it does. When we look, in faith, to our baptism, we are sure we are regenerate. . . you see, when I worry about my regeneration, in faith, then baptism tells me I am regenerated. . . Baptism stands there as the great pledge, the great encouragement. Calvin says, “Baptism is a sure testimony to us that we are united to Christ Himself, that we become sharers in all His blessings. For He dedicated and sanctified baptism in His own body in order that He might have it in common with us as the firmest bond of the union and fellowship which He has deigned to form with us. Hence Paul proves that we are children of God from the fact that we put on Christ in baptism.”

    Calvin’s Strasbourg catechism:

    Q. Are you, my son, a Christian in fact as well as in name?
    A. Yes, my father.

    Q. How do you know yourself to be?
    A. Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

  10. Jack Bradley said,

    January 30, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    Okay, just one more, for now:

    Peter Leithart, The Baptized Body:

    p. 22: “Rites and ceremonies are not mere window-dressing added to an occasion that could take place without ritual and ceremony. Rites accomplish what they signify.”

    p. 23: “Rites do not recognize a status that already exists; they place a person in a new status.”

    p. 24: “To call the sacraments “rites,” therefore, is to emphasize that they actually accomplish and do things, changing status, altering personal identity, and expressing God’s favor.”

    p. 78: “Baptism delivers from one “culture,” the culture of Adam into a new “culture,” the culture of the last Adam. Baptism strips off the culture of flesh and inducts us into the culture of the Spirit.”

    Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way:

    p. 782: “Clearly, these covenantal actions are not merely illustrations. . . Rather, they are performative actions that do what they say.”

    p. 783: “Through the Word and the sacraments, we are dislocated from this present age of sin and death ‘in Adam’ and are relocated ‘in Christ,’ as citizens of the age to come. No longer under the dominion of the flesh, we are under the reign of the Spirit.”

    p. 785: “God’s fatherly goodness in Christ is uppermost in Calvin’s interpretation of the sacraments: through baptism God adopts us into his family, and through the Supper he continually feeds us.”

  11. January 30, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Jason,

    You wrote:

    Couldn’t agree more. For my part, I respected the PCA and my confessional brothers too much to insult them by remaining, given the change in my own views.

    Those of us whom you respx

  12. January 30, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. For my part, I respected the PCA and my confessional brothers too much to insult them by remaining, given the change in my own views.

    Sorry, my gun went off, by mistake. Jason, all I wanted to say, is that some of us aren’t as affected by what goes on in the PCA. RCism is always of course an option for anyone. Just don’t expect us not to go well, gosh darn, there goes another one.

    How nice of him to come hang with his former brethren. I say welcome him as a friend.

    My name link isn’t working. I’ve been posting some Machen, Hart, Golf, Christology.

    Shameless self promotion, on other words. Come visit, yo. Or not, whatev…

    Peace.

  13. Mark B said,

    January 30, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Jack B
    This should be blindingly obvious, but the fact the Leithart distinguishes himself in some respects from Catholicism doesn’t make him confessional.

  14. Jack Bradley said,

    January 30, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Mark B, You are entitled to your opinion, but his presbytery found him to be confessional.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    January 30, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Jack, since Leithart mentored half of the guys in the PNW Presbytery, that doesn’t say much. By this time, I am wondering if you would see any heresy whatsoever as being outside confessional bounds, which in your estimation, seem to have an infinite elasticity.

    His qualifications don’t qualify in the right way, or at the right points. His theology of baptism ties its efficacy to the moment of its administration in a blatantly anti-confessional way. He blurs justification and sanctification, and says that this occurs at the moment of baptism, not the moment of faith. Whatever this is (and I would say its actually fairly eclectic), it is far from confessional.

  16. Ron said,

    January 30, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Jack,

    There’s a difference between finding a man’s own interpretation of his writings consistent with the Confession and finding the actual writings consistent with the Confession. Unfortunately, Leithart was on trial and not his unambiguous writings. Once he was exonerated, Wilson and others confused that with the idea that Leithart’s writings were exonerated and by extension FV.

  17. Ron said,

    January 30, 2014 at 8:54 pm

    Lane,

    It might be a good exercise to dig out quotes from his testimony under oath and lay them side by side with these more recent findings.

  18. January 31, 2014 at 12:08 am

    […] This article first appeared on Green Baggins and is used with permission. […]

  19. January 31, 2014 at 2:29 am

    Jack B said Mark B, You are entitled to your opinion, but his presbytery found him to be confessional.

    Nice fig leaf you have there, Jack.

  20. Andrew McCallum said,

    January 31, 2014 at 6:59 am

    This discussion reflects some of the reason why I just gave up some years ago trying to understand the FV folks. Apparently what they wrote was not what they actually meant, or something like this.

    So Leithart writes this in a letter to his Presbytery:

    “Baptism expresses God’s eternal sovereign choice of an individual to be a member of the people of God; and those who are members of the church stand righteous before God, are holy, and are sons because they are members of the body inseparably joined to the Son of God, who is the righteous and holy Son (1 Cor 6:11; Gal 3:28-29)”

    To me this is clearly anti-confessional, but in discussions with FV in the past, such texts would get qualified and qualified until folks like me just gave up.

    One of the things I actually liked about Leithart when I first read his stuff on FY-related matters was that he did not sprinkle his writings with “in some sense” and other such qualifiers when speaking about the status of the those ultimately non-elect who had been baptized into the Church. I liked the fact that he was so straightforward, as per the quote above. But as it turns out no, I didn’t really understand Leithart and even his quite direct and unambiguous statements needed to be interpreted through some impossibly convoluted hermeneutical filter.

  21. tonyphelpsri said,

    January 31, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Obfuscation is not confession. Hearing FV guys and their defenders “qualify” their statements ad nauseam reminds me of trying to reason from Scripture with Mormons regarding the proposition, “Jesus is the Son of God.” Likewise, Leithart equivocates on statements such as “justification by faith alone.” If “alone” includes baptism and “covenant faithfulness,” then words mean nothing. Leithart affirms JBFA like a Mormon affirms that Jesus is the Son of God. The fact that PNWP exonerated Leithart, and the SJC avoided the issue by hiding behind the BCO, simply demonstrates that the PCA has drifted past any meaningful boundary of what it means to be confessional.

  22. Ron said,

    January 31, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Well, the subordinate standards of the PCA have something to say about “doubtful or equivocal” language. It can be found under Q145, “What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?”

    With that said, it is awfully hard to find a man guilty of doctrinal infidelity (let alone intentional equivocation) when his own explanation of his writings is given priority over what he has plainly written. Although as a general rule I think we need to make determinations based upon such explanations, I’m fully persuaded that Federal Visionists have drawn from the well too many times.

    But, at the very least, if while under fire a TE’s interpretation of his writings is at odds with the literal meaning of those writing, then on that bases alone his qualifications as a TE may be challenged; if for no other reason than it can be argued he is not apt to teach, 2 Timothy 2:24. That might be the only way to fight this battle. Reduce Federal Visionist pastors in the PCA to lay persons, giving them the judgment of charity that they are not evil but rather just muddled Christians who have less than a fragile handle of the gospel.

    However, I do not believe we need to resist any temptation to believe that something sinister is behind all this. What we must resist is any temptation to consider Federal Visionists as those who are calculating evil. We may happily rest in our finitude, and simply consider them pawns in the hands of that spirit of iniquity. Consider them “spooked” would be my counsel, Galatians 3:1.

  23. Hans said,

    January 31, 2014 at 9:30 am

    At least Leithart is in good company when people say that his strong view of baptism compromises sola fide: http://thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/sola_fide_compromised_martin_luther_and_the_doctrine_of_baptism.

    Luther: “It [baptism] works the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives all eternal salvation who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare” (Small Catechism).

    Augsburg: “Concerning baptism, our churches teach that baptism is necessary for salvation and that God’s grace is offered through baptism” (Article IX).

    I guess if Leithart is a heretic, so is Martin Luther. So much for Protestantism.

  24. Reed Here said,

    January 31, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Jack: what is the source of the Ferguson Rom 6 reference you made? I’d like to check out the context. This sounds so highly off what I’ve have heard Dr. Ferguson teach and preach over the years (including last week), that I struggle believing you’ve got this right.

    Source, page numbers, etc., please.

  25. Reed Here said,

    January 31, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Ron, amen!

  26. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Let me assume that you are right for the moment about this.

    is it then also true that Leithart is wrong when he says “baptism is God’s word to you that you are justified from sin”

    If yes, he is wrong, what is Baptism God’s word to you about? It is God’s word to the recipient in particular in standard reformed theology. So its a word on what topic?

    if he is still correct about his claim about what we can say to someone who is baptized, even though he is wrong about his claim that baptism justifies, on what basis is his claim correct? How can baptism say “you are justified” if baptism does not justify?

    Or is there some tertium quid I’m forgetting.

  27. Ron said,

    January 31, 2014 at 10:57 am

    p duggie,

    Aside from the question of whether baptism says “you are justified,” let’s take a closer look at this premise:

    How can baptism say “you are justified” if baptism does not justify?

    Would you ask “how can good works wrought in Christ by the Spirit say you are justified if good works wrought in Christ does not justify?”

  28. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 11:10 am

    No, because we generally don’t say they “say we are justified”. Do we? I can think of some particular ways that might work, but I don’t know if I can guess you’re meaning.

  29. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 11:14 am

    lets remind everyone what Bob Godfrey said

    “”. . . I read Luther’s large catechism, in which he has pages on baptism, and I kept waiting for that point at which I would see that he’d gone over the edge, gone too far-and was amazed to find out I agreed with every word of what he said in his statements on baptism in his large catechism, which made me worry, so I went back and read it again, and no, I really think he’s Reformed. [laughter] But listen to what he says: ‘Thus faith clings to the water and believes that in baptism is pure salvation and life.’” ”

    “if you just begin introspectively to ask, ‘Have I really been Spirit baptized?’ you get right back in the morbid mess. And the water baptism, you see, is the way out, is the way to the objective statement of the glories of God’s grace and mercy to His people.””

  30. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Baptism does not say “you are justified.” As Ron just pointed out, good works (among a few other things) say that a person is justified. Baptism says that God keeps His promises. Baptism is like a sign on a road saying “Philadelphia 20 miles.” It means that if you continue on that road for 20 miles, you will reach Philadelphia. The sign is not the city, but is connected by a road (faith) to the city. Baptism says “for salvation, go to Jesus.” It acts like an engagement ring, to change the metaphor. If a young man were to propose with an engagement right, and another young man proposes without, is there a difference? Of course: the one with the engagement ring puts his money where his mouth is. That’s what baptism does. It is God saying that the infinitely valuable blood of Christ really does cleanse us from sin, and here is a visible sign that it does. But the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration. When the person has actually reached Philadelphia, the sign will have fulfilled its purpose. Similarly, when the engagement ends with a marriage ceremony, the engagement ring (while still kept) fulfills its purpose by saying that the young man keeps his promise. Of course, the difficulty with all these metaphors is the time factor. A person can come to faith before, during, or after the sacrament, whereas that doesn’t happen with the road sign or the engagement ring. But the metaphors work on most of the other levels.

  31. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Imagine one of those shape shifting deals that happen in sci-fi. The evil alien imitates the good guy, and the hero has to decide which of the two is the real one, and deal with the evil alien accordingly. The hero has a gun, to dispatch the evil alien.

    Eventually, the evil alien trips up and reveals that he’s the alien. The hero decides what is what. He says “ah, ha, you are the real human”.

    But then he also shoots the alien in the head. That’s a deliverdict. Its not really a good verdict if the hero just stands there and does nothing while the revealed alien eats the good guy. The verbal declaration is cold comfort in such a case.

  32. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Paul, this comment made me laugh. Of all the far-out illustrations of “deliverdict,” this has got to take the cake. Your stance indicates your view of the traditional verdict as completely unconnected with any other salvific benefit, which is not true. The deliverance from sin’s power starts at the same time as the verdict, but is not part of the verdict. It is rather part of sanctification. Why mix up justification and sanctification because of speech-act theory?

  33. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Would it be wrong to say that “the message of the gospel justifies” then, because its really the blood of Jesus that justifies?

  34. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 11:35 am

    I say it because the condemnation for sin was putting you under sin’s power.

    Condemnation = put under sins power
    justification= taken out from sins power.

    a justification that does not remove the condemnation is no justification. And there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

    God says things via concrete acts, as well as his words

    Dick Gaffin: “Pentecost, then, is the de facto justification of the church. Along with Christ’s resurrection and ascension…it is a declaration, in effect, of the church’s righteous standing before God. Pentecost is not only the efficacious empowering of the church for kingdom service (it is that, to be sure), but is also the effective demonstration that the church is no longer subject to God’s wrath. The eschatological life of the Spirit poured out on the church at Pentecost seals its acquittal and the definitive removal of it guilt…The Spirit of Pentecost is the Spirit of justification.”

  35. January 31, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Coming out of lurking here because my head is really starting to spin. I always feel like I have a solid grasp of the errors of FV until the orthodox-defenders start critiquing it. The more I hear the arguments, the more sympathetic i become (not to the FV doctrinal particulars, but rather sympathetic to their push against baptiterianism)

    For instance, (and pduggie, I don’t know anything about you, so forgive me for any misunderstanding or misrepresentation – perhaps you are baptist, I’m assuming you aren’t)

    It seems anti-confessional to question that a sign and seal of ingrafting, remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit; of adoption is speaking of justification to the recipient. Help me here, I’m probably misunderstanding.

  36. January 31, 2014 at 11:38 am

    ok a whole lot of comments went up while I was writing my post – I might not need to be answered

  37. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 11:40 am

    is there really a difference between god regarding me with favor (justification) and God stopping the punishment against me (being under sins power). They have to be simultaneous and equally ultimate. At the least two sides of one coin. So lets talk about the coin. Maybe “applying Christ”? is ‘applying Christ” a deliverdict taken as one coin?

    (Is Christ ‘divided” into the justifying Christ and the sanctifying Christ? )

  38. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Paul, you are equivocating on the phrase “sin’s power.” Sin’s power can mean its power to condemn, or it can mean its power to enslave. Justification removes us from the former, and sanctification from the latter.

    Brandon, the sacraments are means of grace, and they are part of assurance (not all of it). But they do not automatically convey the things they signify. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

  39. January 31, 2014 at 11:59 am

    If I am understanding you correctly then. Baptism doesn’t say “you are washed” rather it says “you need to be washed”

    Is that close?

  40. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    So, you disagree that the content of the condemnation God puts people under, in Romans 1 (and in Romans 8 we are no longer under), is to be under the enslaving power of sin. That is remarkable.

    Question: is it your position that baptism says “I offer you justification” but not “you are justified”? So that an infant without faith has an offer of justification tendered to him?

    if so, after the infant comes to faith, and reflects on his baptism, trying to improve (make use of it) does the baptism still say ‘I offered you justification” back then, or can it say to him now “you are justified”?

    Is “i offer you justification” the gospel? or is only “you are justified” the gospel?

    BTW, i agree that they do not automatically convey the things signified.

  41. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    Baptism says you are washed if you have faith in Jesus. Baptism doesn’t say you are washed if you are baptized. You see, the problem here is that people with overly strong sacramentalist tendencies are actually truncating the sacrament. The sacrament has two main parts to it plus a connecting rod, if you will. There is the sign, and there is the thing signified. And there is the connection between the sign and the thing signified. The full sacrament is all three things put together. The connecting rod is Spirit-given faith. When a person has Spirit-given faith, then the sign is connected to the thing signified, and person has the sign and the thing signified. Without Spirit-given faith, the person does not have the thing signified, but only the sign.

  42. January 31, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    ah sorry Lane, just clarify for me:
    “they do not automatically convey the things they signify”

    which sense of “convey”

    I can convey groceries in my car, and I can convey love to my wife.

    Or is the sacrament unable to convey in both senses?

  43. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Paul, we weren’t talking about a particular text, we were talking about justification and sanctification in relationship to sin’s power, which is an ambiguous phrase, as I pointed out. You weren’t before asking me about Romans 1 and Romans 8, which are fairly large chunks of text, and need careful exegesis.

  44. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Brandon, I’m not sure what your distinction in the word “convey” is intended to convey, if you’ll pardon the pun. What I mean is that just because a person receives the sign does not mean that they have the thing signified. There has to be faith in order to connect the sign and the thing signified.

  45. Ron said,

    January 31, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Paul,

    I think might be confusing the issue. We would all agree that God would have us regard those within the visible church as his children. However, Leithart goes much further than that. Leithart says that God regards non-elect hypocrites within the visible church as justified.

    How do you reconcile Leithart’s theology with these familiar words: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”?

    What does it mean to you that God “regards” one contrary to how He has always known him? Better yet, in what sense do you suppose God’s opinion changes toward such a person when he finally stands before Christ on the last day?

  46. January 31, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    “We would all agree that God would have us regard those within the visible church as his children. However, Leithart goes much further than that. Leithart says that God regards non-elect hypocrites within the visible church as justified.”

    Thanks. that makes sense with what I’ve been thinking the FV error to be.

    Lane, I’m still having a hard time. I think your roadsign illustration doesn’t work, because the sign signifies distance. A picture of Philadelphia would signify Philadelphia. Much like a picture of washing would signify washing. If it is a visible word, what is that word saying.

    i.e. I can scream from a street corner to passers-by that they are all going to hell. For some it will be true, for others it will not. But what I said seems to be the same no matter their ultimate destination.

  47. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Brandon, most metaphors don’t work on all levels. But I don’t see a problem actually with distance being a factor. After all, the distance between man and God is infinitely great, and only God can bridge that distance. Only God can give faith to a person.

    Think of it this way: if you were wandering around southern Pennsylvania lost, and you were trying to get to Philadelphia, and you ran across a sign that said “Philadelphia 20 miles” wouldn’t your reaction be relief that you now know where you are going? Of course, you need to believe that the sign is pointing you in the right direction, and that someone didn’t tamper with it. But you now know that if you continue on that road, you will reach your destination. Yes, a sign doesn’t look like the city. That is definitely a limitation of the metaphor. But the similarity of the sign to the thing signified is not the point of the sign metaphor. The sign metaphor is primarily designed to illustrate the relationship that faith has with the sign and the thing signified, just as a road connects the sign to the city.

  48. January 31, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    So 2 objections then

    1 why place that sign upon those who are unable to drive, walk, or crawl towards Philadelphia, or even express a desire to
    OR
    2 why not place that sign upon all people everywhere since the information contained does not say anything about them which is untrue. The sign only says – this way to Philadelphia ( no more no less)

  49. January 31, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    OR what is wrong with the saying that baptism should be an outward expression of inward faith

  50. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    1. The sign is one of the ways that God creates the desire. In this respect, the sacraments work in a way very similar to the word. The Word and the Sacraments both proclaim the gospel. The former does it aurally, and the latter does it through the other senses (though not excluding the hearing, since Word and Sacrament are always connected).

    2. Because God works through covenantal continuity. The sacraments are tied to the covenant.

  51. greenbaggins said,

    January 31, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Brandon, 48, that is a fairly baptistic way of speaking about the meaning of baptism. Baptism, as a sign, points to Christ, not to our faith.

  52. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    “We would all agree that God would have us regard those within the visible church as his children. However, Leithart goes much further than that. Leithart says that God regards non-elect hypocrites within the visible church as justified.”

    So…God would have us regard the baptized as his children, even though deep down we will doubt this to be the case? I don’t think you really ‘agree’ with what you say we all agreed to.

    Lane: The connecting rod of faith latches on to the sign though. And it CAN because what the sign ‘says’ is what is signified.

    We need the gospel to have assurance. everyone says we need to look at

    1. Jesus himself.
    2. the word about jesus being for us.
    2.a. we get this word from the preached gospel
    2.b. we get this word from the illocutionary intent of baptism.
    3. internal subjective experience of graces
    4. Our spirit wrought works.

    3-4 are evidentiary and IN US. We don’t look to the evidence like we look to the external message of the Gospel. 1 is the thing itself. 2a and b are the same thing, one in verbal sign form, the other in physical sign form.

    [lol, i just looked up illocutionary on wikipedia and found

    "Searle (1975) set up the following classification of illocutionary speech acts....
    declarations = speech acts that change the reality in accord with the proposition of the declaration, e.g. baptisms, pronouncing someone guilty or pronouncing someone husband and wife"]

    i thought, BTW, it was obvious that Romans 1, 6 and 8 are what we are discussing. 1): PL is arguing this based on the use of Diakaoo in Romans 6, and the reference to baptism 2) I specifically highlighted romans 8 in mentioning condemnation when i brought it up. 3) Romans is key anyway for justification. Its tells us what condemnation IS before it tells us what justification is (exactly equal to “no condemnation” like the evening start is the same referent as the morning star)

    I think i would respond to the question about fitting PL with ‘depart from me I never knew you” with what PL says

    “Paul is not dealing with exceptional cases – conscious hypocrites who seek baptism dishonestly, say – about which I think he would say something like what Peter said to Simon Magus. He is talking about sincere converts who believe the gospel, and I believe he is also talking about the children of those converts (and other members of their household). What does [Paul] say about baptism in that context? “

  53. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Lane can you offer me an answer to what I ask in 32 and 39?

  54. January 31, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Ok thanks. The word and the sacraments both proclaim the gospel (agreed)

    1. The word is to be delivered to all
    2. The sacraments belong only to the members of the covenant
    3. The word proclaims repent and believe (to all)
    4. Baptism proclaims ____________ (to members of the covenant)

    Sorry if I’m being tedious, I’m asking in sincerity.

  55. January 31, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    I would like to see 39 answered as well, I mean that not in an accusatory way at all. Particularly:

    “if so, after the infant comes to faith, and reflects on his baptism, trying to improve (make use of it) does the baptism still say ‘I offered you justification” back then, or can it say to him now “you are justified”?”

    It seems like we are dealing with a case of Schrödinger’s Baptism. Never at the time of administration do we know what baptism declares. It’s only at the time of profession of faith that we can know what word was being delivered to the recipient in history. And even then we are quick to tell the baptists that a profession of faith is no guarantee that the baptism recipient is regenerate.

    this is a deep rabbit hole

  56. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Littelfurry:

    3. The word COMMANDS that we repent and belived. The word proclaims that jesus has paid for our sins and we are accepted through his work.

    The difference is important, because what you can believe for salvation is the word proclaimed, not the word’s commands.

  57. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    This quote is too good

    “The degree of linguistic gymnastics Presbyterians admittedly engage in to avoid the charge of teaching baptismal regeneration is equally as necessary to exegete Scripture as it is to exegete the Confessional statements on baptism”

    guess who said it!

  58. Ron Henzel said,

    January 31, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    p duggie,

    You wrote:

    “guess who said it!”

    The same person who said, ” In order to avoid baptismal regeneration or sacramental transformation (consubstantiation, transubstantiation), the employment of an interpretive principle is essential.”

    Derek Thomas

  59. January 31, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Pduggie. I’m quite sure you have lost me. I’ll spend some time on it though.

    D Thomas also said there: “Few statements have occasioned more reaction, then as much as now. The Westminster Divines viewed baptism as the instrument and occasion of regeneration by the Spirit, of the remission of sins, of ingrafting into Christ (cf. 28:1)”

    So that was a really helpful article. I at least feel better that Dr. Thomas acknowledges that wiping antiseptic over the confessional and scriptural language won’t do.

    In other words, when I read the confession on sacraments my stomach gets tied up in knots having to parse, reparse, remember, and qualify exactly what they are indeed saying. Lane, in your description of baptism I feel no tension at all – other than “how on earth is it an appropriate sign to place on an infant”

  60. Ron Henzel said,

    January 31, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. And still other men publish theirs for years in books and blogs only to be exonerated by church courts.

    Likewise, some men swim the Tiber literally, other men swim the Tiber spiritually, and other men baptize with water from the Tiber while pretending to be Reformed.

  61. Ron said,

    January 31, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    So…God would have us regard the baptized as his children, even though deep down we will doubt this to be the case? I don’t think you really ‘agree’ with what you say we all agreed to.

    Paul,

    So, your only rejoinder to all I said is that you don’t think I agree with my own espoused position? Is that really how you want to defend Federal Vision?

    I think you know full well that your response was simply a diverting tactic, which suggests to me that you can’t explain an immediate implication of the very foundation of your own position. So, again, what does it mean to you that God regards the non-elect contrary to how He has always known them to be? How can Jesus one day say “I never knew you” to those whom He allegedly “regarded” as pardoned?

    And for the record, I do agree with my position as stated, which can be corroborated
    here,
    here and then, again, here.

  62. January 31, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    The spectrum of error and truth seem to me presently to be this.
    FV – Baptism places you in covenant with God (right now)
    Baptiterians – Baptism points the way to covenant with God (sometime)
    Westminster – Baptism proclaims you to be in covenant with God (already)

  63. January 31, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I have a post held up in the spam filter. It actually shows up from the pc I posted it from as #60.

  64. January 31, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I just realized I quoted D Thomas, when he was quoting David Wright – even though it wasn’t in quotes, it was word for word.

  65. Jack Bradley said,

    January 31, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Read, I will get back to your question shortly. I have been away from my computer all morning and for the next couple of hours.

  66. Jack Bradley said,

    January 31, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Make that “Reed”. I should not rely on my dictation feature!

  67. p duggie said,

    January 31, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Another thing. Circumcision rolled away the reproach of Egypt. God says as much. That’s how signs operated in the OT. It wasn’t an occasion of rolling away the reproach of Egypt that God did through some other means. It was an instrument of rolling away reproach wielded by God.

  68. January 31, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    reformed apologist, I read through 2 of the three links you posted. Those are very good thanks. working on the third.

  69. Jack Bradley said,

    January 31, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Reed, The selection from Ferguson was in the link I provided, and I double-checked by own copy: Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, 148-149

    I can’t imagine a much stronger support for Leithart’s “deliverdict”:

    “. . . there can be little doubt that Paul is teaching that the believer is delivered from the bondage as well as the penalty of sin.”

    Ferguson masterfully exegetes Romans 6:7 in its context.

  70. Jack Bradley said,

    January 31, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Lane, you wrote: “Brandon, the sacraments are means of grace. . . But they do not automatically convey the things they signify. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.”

    If only it were not more complicated than that  I do appreciate the brevity of that for the purpose of, say, distinguishing between Protestant and RC sacramentology. But it surely does not suffice as an adequate summation of Reformed sacramentology.

    “But they do not automatically convey the things they signify.” Yes, we must say that, in contrast to RC sacramentology. Bavinck, Vol. 4, p. 487: “There is not a single confession according to which the operation of grace always coincides with the sacrament.”

    And, as Bavinck admits (Vol. 4 p. 462): “. . . neither Calvin nor the later Reformed tradition were clear as to how God distributes grace in the sacraments.”

    The Reformers respected the mystery involved in the sacraments, recognizing that mystery transcends full explanation, yet explaining as much as possible in order to avoid error:

    Bavinck, 489: “The sacraments do not work faith but reinforce it, as a wedding ring reinforces love. They do not infuse a physical grace but confer the whole Christ, whom believers already possess by the Word. They bestow on them that same Christ in another way and by another road and so strengthen the faith.”

    Now, here is where it get complicated:

    Bavinck, 496-97: “While many of the Reformed initially maintained the unity of election and covenant, on account of decay in the church baptism gradually was totally separated from regeneration and deprived of its value.”

    “While many of the Reformed initially maintained the unity of election and covenant. . .”

    This is the issue that has risen its head again in these current controversies: what is the degree of unity between election and covenant?

    “. . . many of the Reformed *initially* maintained the unity of election and covenant. . .”

    This is exactly what Federal Visionists have said: “We are just trying to say what many of our forefathers in the reformed faith have said about election and covenant. Bavinck is further confirming this.

    His statement, “*unity* of election and covenant” should not, of course, be taken as ‘*equivalency* of election and covenant’ given his earlier qualifications. But let us not water down the import of this phrase. Bavinck is obviously saying that there was once, in Reformed sacramentology, a closer correspondence between election and covenant. And he attributes the descendancy of that correspondence to “decay in the church.”

    Have FV proponents made mistakes in phraseology about recovering this sacramentology? Without doubt. The subject matter is exceedingly “complicated.”

    And again, we all recognize that mystery transcends full explanation. But, unless we are content with saying simply, “the sacraments are means of grace”, we are going to continue to talk and write about it. It’s worth the time and effort, and misunderstandings and misstatements and clarifications—because, with Bavinck, I am convinced that our reformed sacramentology has been in the descendancy due to decay in the church.

    I appreciate the description of this means of grace by Michael Horton, God of Promise:

    p. 152: “. . . the two dangers that a covenantal view of baptism avoids are to collapse the sign into the thing signified, as if the ritual of baptism effected salvation even if one fails to receive the Savior through faith, and to separate the sign and the thing signified. . . Accordingly, one bends over backward to explain away passages in which baptism is explicitly linked to regeneration and forgiveness of sins. Paul speaks of Christ ‘having cleansed (the church) by the washing of water with the word’ (Eph. 5:26). God ‘saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness., but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit’ (Titus 3:6). Romans 6 speaks straightforwardly of our baptism into Christ, apparently without any concern to distinguish it from water baptism.”

    John Murray, Christian baptism:
    p. 86: “Baptism has one import, and it bears this same import whether it is dispensed to adults or to infants. It signifies union with Christ, purifying from the pollution of sin by regeneration of the spirit, and purifying from the guilt of send by the blood of Christ. It can have no other import for infants then this. As a sign and seal of such grace this sign and seal must have the same efficacy for infants as for adults.”

    p. 87: “And so in respect of efficacy, baptism is for infants precisely what it is for adults, namely the divine testimony to their union with Christ and the divine certification and authentication of this great truth. Though infants are not capable of the intelligent exercise of faith, they are, nevertheless, susceptible to God’s efficacious grace in uniting them to Christ, in regenerating them by his spirit, and in sprinkling them with the blood of his Son. This grace, in the bonds of an everlasting covenant, infants may fully possess. This is what baptism signifies and seals, and no warrant can be elicited for the assumption that in respect of efficacy this sign or seal has any other effect in the case of infants then in the case of adults. The efficacy of baptism in all cases is that it is God’s testimony to and seal upon the reality and security of the grace which he bestows in accordance with the provisions of the covenant of grace. And this grace is nothing less than union with the three persons of the Godhead.”

    Bavinck, pp. 527-28: “The covenant is distinct from election in that it shows how election is realized in an organic and historical way. It is never established only with an individual person, but in that person also immediately with that person’s descendents. There is a kind of communion of parents and children in sin and misery. But over against this, God has also been established a communion parents and children in grace and blessing. . . The covenant of God with its benefits and blessing perpetuates itself from child to child and from generation to generation (Ge. 9:12; 17:7, 9; Exod. 3:15; 12:17; 16:32; Deut. 7:9; Ps. 105:8; and so forth). While grace is not automatically inherited, as a rule it is bestowed along the line of generations.”

    The covenant is distinct from election, but there is a much closer correspondence between the two than the greater Reformed world has recognized for the last several centuries. That is why I am grateful for the renewed interest in (and not just from FV) Covenant Succession. Bavinck: “The covenant of God with its benefits and blessing perpetuates itself from child to child and from generation to generation.”

  71. Ron said,

    February 1, 2014 at 1:40 am

    Have FV proponents made mistakes in phraseology about recovering this sacramentology? Without doubt. The subject matter is exceedingly “complicated.”

    Jack,

    Reformed theology has an answer to the “mistakes in phraseology” as you put it. For instance, “there is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.”

  72. Jack Bradley said,

    February 1, 2014 at 2:17 am

    Yep, can’t beat the phraseology of the WCF.

  73. February 1, 2014 at 9:12 am

    p duggie~ You say that OT circumcision is tied to Egypt. How does that fit with circumcision being instituted with Abraham many generations earlier?

  74. Jack Bradley said,

    February 1, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Lane,

    Sorry for the length of my recent posts. Please permit just one more—the longest yet. I think this is such an important matter that I want to recommend a book and give a few excerpts from it. The best book on the subject of Covenant Succession, seventy years later, is still The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant, by Lewis Beven Schenck. It is available at Amazon.

    Schenck’s conclusion, (p. 158): “The Presbyterian Church has a glorious doctrine received through the medium of John Calvin and the Westminster Standards. Yet the church as a whole does not know it.”

    Schenck states in the introduction: “. . . there has been within the church, though not generally realized, a divergent conception of this doctrine [infant baptism] . . . this divergent viewpoint. . . involves a different idea of the church, of the covenant, and of children in the covenant from that of the historic doctrine.”

    The great value of Schenck’s book is that it resurrects the historic Presbyterian view of the covenant—that God does not operate his covenant contrary to his created order; that the covenant does not sever the bond that God ordained between us and our children—it consecrates it. God’s normal means of salvation is in and through the family—primarily through faithful parental instruction—generation after generation.

    Schenck brings out the biblically inextricable tie between the covenant and familial/generational lines in Gen. 17: 7, the locus classicus: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”

    As Schenck puts it, if these familial/generational ties are ignored or minimized the question becomes, what then does the covenant mean? Specifically, what is left which is distinct from what any good Baptist would claim?

    p. 15: “. . . the grace of adoption is sealed by baptism. Otherwise, he [Calvin] said, the Anabaptists rightly deny infants this sacrament.” p. 81: “If our children are in precisely the same position as others, why baptize them?” p. 99: “Dr. Hodge himself believed that the child of Christian parents, no less than the adult who made a personal voluntary profession of faith, was a member of the church on the same basis of presumptive membership in the invisible church. Consequently, he said, ‘we see now how this principle can be denied, in its application to the Church, without giving up our whole doctrine, and abandoning the ground to the Independents and Anabaptists.’”

    This is really the burden of Schenck’s book: If this principle of “presumptive membership” based on presumptive (not asserted) regeneration is denied—we have abandoned the ground to the Baptists—even though we continue using “covenantal” terminology.

    Of course God obviously chooses to bring some covenant children to faith through conscious conversion. However, the paradigm we are clearly given in Scripture is non-conscious conversion—that our covenant children need never know a time when they were aliens and strangers from the covenant, without hope and without God in the world—that the normal experience of the children of believers should be that of David, who trusted in the Lord from his mother’s breast, never knowing a time when he did not know God. I submit that any fear of affirming that springs from our exposure to the pervasive individualistic culture baptistic church culture.

    On the flipside, should we have a fear of giving our children false assurance? Yes, if our children grow up in our home without the benefit of faithful parental instruction and admonition, we should have such a fear. If, however, they do receive the benefit of faithful parental instruction and admonition, such fear is misplaced. We cannot tell our children often enough, from birth, that they are children of God, loved by Him with an everlasting love. We cannot pray with them often enough: “Our Father, Who art in heaven. . .”

    This is how I read Leithart: assurance is of the essence of covenant nurture. Covenant baptism is of the essence of assurance. (See Calvin’s Catechism, posted earlier)

    Faithful parental nurture of course implies that the biblical admonitions about the consequences of not responding to that parental/pastoral nurture in submission and obedience are also carefully kept before the child from birth. Children are sinners, and need to be taught to continually repent and pray for forgiveness when they commit sins. Our children need to be reminded that if they do not respond faithfully to God’s covenant demands (repentance, faith, and obedience) they will eventually be cut off from the covenant as a branch that bears no fruit. But the emphasis is obviously on assurance.

    Just consider the converse: that we withhold assurance of salvation until. . . until what? Until they know enough catechism or can give a confession of faith that is comprehensive enough to satisfy us? In the meantime, we withhold assurances of divine favor and salvation for fear of presumption on their part? I submit that faithful parental nurture (hypothetically speaking—since in practice this would be an oxymoron) unaccompanied by assurance is much more dangerous to their eternal souls.

    Schenck clearly makes the case that we are, most emphatically, to presume (again, not “assert”) that our children are regenerate believers, until, as Hodge puts it, they “renounce their baptismal covenant.” Hodge’s Systematic, Vol III, p. 590: “. . . at the time of their baptism. . . What is to hinder the imputation to them of the righteousness of Christ, or their receiving the renewing of the Holy Ghost, so that their whole nature may be developed in a state of reconciliation with God? Doubtless this often occurs; but whether it does or not, their baptism stands good; it assures them of salvation if they do not renounce their baptismal covenant.”

    This is what truly distinguishes covenant baptism from “baby dedication.” I have to say that I have seen “covenant baptisms” that, in my view, were no more than “wet” dedications. The emphasis was all on what was not being claimed or said or done. I wanted to ask, then, what is being claimed and said and done?

    We are so afraid of appearing presumptuous. But what if it’s not really presumptuous to claim God’s covenant promises??

    p. 130: “‘All baptism is inevitably administered on the basis not of knowledge but of presumption,’ Dr. Warfield said, ‘and if we must baptize on presumption the whole principle is yielded. . . Assuredly a human profession is no more solid basis to build upon than a Divine promise. . . it is inevitable that we shall baptize all those for whom we may, on any grounds, fairly cherish a good presumption that they belong to God’s people—and this surely includes the infant children of believers.”

    p. 135: Charles Hodge: “The status, therefore, of baptized children is not a vague or uncertain one, according to the doctrine of the Reformed Churches. They are members of the Church; they are professing Christians; they belong presumptively to the number of the elect. These propositions are true of them in the same sense in which they are true of adult professing Christians—both are included in the general class of persons whom God requires his Church to regard and treat as within her pale, and under her watch and care.”

    What Schenck recognizes is that we inescapably deal with/treat our children day-to-day from either one perspective or the other–and these are the only two categories: believer or unbeliever. We, of course, do not know infallibly either way, just as we do not know infallibly anyone’s spiritual state. But we are wired—by God—to presume, consciously or unconsciously, one category or the other—in the way we treat our children—as parents and as pastors.

    p. 148: “As Calvin declared, ‘it is no small stimulus to our education of them in the serious fear of God, and the observance of his law, to reflect, that they are considered and acknowledged by him as his children as soon as they are born.’”

    I believe the Warfield quote sums it all up best: “Assuredly a human profession is no more solid basis to build upon than a Divine promise.”

    Deut. 29: 29: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of his law.”

    Our Father has clearly and repeatedly revealed the promise that He will be our God, and the God of our children. As such, God wants us to regard our children as Christians and deal with them accordingly. We treat them as Christians, unless and until they demonstrate otherwise.

    Rob Rayburn summed it up very well in some correspondence with me several years ago on this subject:

    “It is one thing to say that conditions must be met, as is certainly true of all the biblical gospel promises. It is another thing to say that when uttered to those who meet those conditions the promise may or may not come true. What other promise of the gospel do we treat that way? We certainly don’t take the view that if someone believes in Christ he may or may not be saved depending upon the sovereignty of God. It is an old problem this, of pitting divine sovereignty over against the revealed will of God. But we do not take our comfort from God’s secrets but from his Word. It is certainly true that many with whom the covenant was made in an outward way did not partake of its blessings (did and will of its curses, of course). But the question is not whether the promise is made to anyone irrespective of faithfulness — no one holds that. The question is whether God has made a promise to those who are faithful. Surely he has if words mean anything.

    He does not say to us that he will be our God and the God of some children of some people of the covenant. He says that he will be our God and the God of our children. If we are faithful to God’s covenant presumably we believe that the promises of that covenant will be fulfilled for us. One of those promises is that of the salvation of our children. In the case of children who are born to real believers but who live to rebel and die in unbelief it is precisely the unfaithfulness of the parent (as well as the child) that we allege in regard to that particular covenant responsibility. Such a situation is akin to those who build with wood, hay, and stubble and are saved themselves but their work is burned up. This is no stretch, for this is the situation the Bible itself directly contemplates (Eli; David; Psalm 78; etc.). If there is no covenantal connection between the faithfulness of parents and the expectation of their children’s salvation, how do we account for the Bible’s so often emphasizing that connection, both negatively and positively. Why, for example, must an elder have “believing” children (Titus 1).

    What is more, as I said, this is simply ordinary biblical theology. We don’t treat any other aspect of the gospel this way, as if its outcome is uncertain even if the conditions are met! It is the glory of the gospel that it extends to the generations. To reduce the promise to a general assurance that some children may be saved, though not necessarily yours, no matter whether you are a faithful Christian, not only violates the plain meaning of words, It mistakes the great revelation of the divine character that is made in that promise.”

    I encourage everyone to read Dr. Rayburn’s paper on Covenant Succession: http://www.faithtacoma.org/doctrine/covenant.aspx

    I do agree with Rayburn’s observation in his footnote 51: “Whether it is wise to speak of covenant infants as presumptively regenerate, as do Kuyper and Schenck, is a separate question. . . My own opinion is that to speak of a presumption of regeneration is not helpful. It is not the way the Scripture speaks and introduces unnecessary complications. Further, in current usage, ‘presumption’ may well imply to many minds an unwarranted assumption.”

    Schenck’s repeated use of “presumption” and its cognates can be a stumbling block in reading his book. However, once we grant him his prescribed use of that term, there is no need for worry. Schenck quotes Hodge and Warfield in such a way that he clearly understands presumption of regeneration as not synonymous with assertion of regeneration.

    Thank you, Lane, for making this discussion possible.

  75. Jack Bradley said,

    February 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    One correction, regarding p. 99: ‘we see *not* how this principle can be denied…”

  76. Jack Bradley said,

    February 1, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I think Schenck goes a long way toward remedying the “decay in the church [in which] baptism gradually was totally separated from regeneration and deprived of its value.”

  77. Ron said,

    February 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Jack,

    In twenty words or less, why is Reformed not enough?

  78. Todd said,

    February 1, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    For a good article pointing out Schenck’s errors, read Andy Webb here:

    http://biblebased.wordpress.com/2008/02/18/contra-schenck/

  79. Jack Bradley said,

    February 1, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks for the link, Todd. I’ll be away from my computer until late evening, but I will read this.

  80. Ron said,

    February 1, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    “decay in the church [in which] baptism gradually was totally separated from regeneration and deprived of its value.”

    If baptism is not a converting ordinance does that then “deprive it of its value?” Isn’t it enough that baptism, as a sign and seal, kindles the justifying faith of those who even receive it infancy? Is it not enough that baptism seals in God’s timing the covenantal promises of God to his elect? Indeed, there is a connection between baptism and regeneration; it’s a theological one in which the former testifies to the latter. It’s neither temporal nor automatic, but like the Word it will not return void of its divinely intended purpose.

    Is it water or the blood of Christ and the Holy Spirit that washes away our sins? The reason baptism can be referred to as the washing of regeneration is because as filthiness of the body is washed with water, our spiritual uncleanness is washed by Christ’s blood through the Holy Spirit. This is basic Reformed stuff. So, the names and effects of the one are to be attributed to the other; that’s part-and-Parcel to Reformed thought while blurred and overturned by FV theology. The minister only dispenses the sacrament whereas the Lord effects what it signifies. Most importantly maybe is that the connection between baptism and salvation is lifelong, showing that it is not a converting ordinance (!) but rather a means of grace that pertains to our sanctification and assurance of pardon unto final adoption (among other things).

    With that crash course summary serving as a backdrop, if FV affirms these things, then we must conclude that Reformed was enough and the FV leaders were not up to speed on their own confessions. But, if FV denies these things, then it’s outside the Reformed tradition. Consequently, they were either wrong about what was lacking in the Reformed tradition or else they had an agenda that was contra Reformed.

  81. Reed Here said,

    February 1, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Jack, for me FV’ist like yourself simply ignore the notion of sacramental union. Time and again you are offered a corrective response that you simply do not interact with.

    The sign IS NOT the thing signified.

    Yeah, I know you will affirm that. But your’s is an empty affirmation, You attribute to water so much that there is nothing left but a theoretical distinction between water and Spirit.

  82. Jack Bradley said,

    February 1, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Todd, I did find the time to read that, but my comments will have to wait until after the weekend. I would ask you and others to read the comments following Webb’s article. I think they are very instructive.

  83. DM said,

    February 2, 2014 at 12:27 am

    Yes, Andy Webb’s article is great, and the comments show that some people see no alternative to Kuyper’s presumptive regeneration– it is supposedly just part of being presbyterian. Free Reformed and Heritage Ref (Beeke), for example, both the regenerate and unregenerate are addressed in the preaching. Here is a link to a Banner of Truth article by Cornelis Pronk of the Free Reformed on the Great Neo-Calvinist Derailment.

    http://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2002/neo-calvinism/

  84. p duggie said,

    February 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    BTW, I’m actually saying that baptism is a sign of Jesus, and the thing signified is Jesus/Spirit. Jesus is not in the water. But the words of Jesus are not Jesus either.

    Since baptism is a word from jesus, or if you like, a token from jesus, there should not be any issue with the thing said by the token “your sins are forgiven” as much as words from a pastor saying them are distinct from the blood of jesus shed, the thing signified, that is signified by the words.

    I think Lane, your analogies for ‘sign’ are severely lacking, especially the “philadelphia in 20 miles one”. Baptism is a sign, but more like a token that communicates a message or state of affairs. I give flowers to my wife. I “say it with flowers” (the token) that “I love you”; Jesus says “you are justified” with both words and the token of water.

    Rachel Miller: I say that circumcision removes the reproach of Egypt because I’m thinking about what God says at gilgal. Maybe that moves circ into a new mode after entering the land, just as moving from John’s baptism to Jesus’ baptism moves the same “sign” into something with new significance. But there is probably a lot of complexity there./

  85. Ron Henzel said,

    February 3, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    From the Catechism of the Church of Geneva:

    “M[aster]. Is there no other medium, as it is called, than the Word by which God may communicate himself to us?

    “S[cholar]. To the preaching of the Word he has added the Sacraments.

    “M. What is a Sacrament?

    “S. An outward attestation of the divine benevolence towards us, which, by a visible sign, figures spiritual grace, to seal the promises of God on our hearts, and thereby better confirm their truth to us.

    “M. Is there such virtue in a visible sign that it can establish our consciences in a full assurance of salvation?

    “S. This virtue it has not of itself, but by the will of God, because it was instituted for this end.

    “M. Seeing it is the proper office of the Holy Spirit to seal the promises of God on our minds, how do you attribute this to the sacraments?

    “S. There is a wide difference between him and them. To move and affect the heart, to enlighten the mind, to render the conscience sure and tranquil, truly belongs to the Spirit alone; so that it ought to be regarded as wholly his work, and be ascribed to him alone, that no other may have the praise; but this does not at all prevent God from employing the sacraments as secondary instruments, and applying them to what use he deems proper, without derogating in any respect from the agency of the Spirit.

    “M. You think, then, that the power and efficacy of a sacrament is not contained in the outward element, but flows entirely from the Spirit of God?

    “S. I think so; viz., that the Lord hath been pleased to exert his energy by his instruments, this being the purpose to which he destined them: this he does without detracting in any respect from the virtue of his Spirit.

    “M. How many are the sacraments of the Christian Church?

    “S. There are only two, whose use is common among all believers.

    “M. What are they?

    “S. Baptism and the Holy Supper.

    “M. What likeness or difference is there between them?

    “S. Baptism is a kind of entrance into the Church; for we have in it a testimony that we who are otherwise strangers and aliens, are received into the family of God, so as to be counted of his household; on the other hand, the Supper attests that God exhibits himself to us by nourishing our souls.

    “M. That the meaning of both may be more clear to us, let us treat of them separately. First, what is the meaning of Baptism?

    “S. It consists of two parts. For, first, Forgiveness of sins; and, secondly, Spiritual regeneration, is figured by it. (Eph. v. 26; Rom. vi. 4.)

    “M. What resemblance has water with these things, so as to represent them?

    “S. Forgiveness of sins is a kind of washing, by which our souls are cleansed from their defilements, just as bodily stains are washed away by water.

    “M. What do you say of Regeneration?

    “S. Since the mortification of our nature is its beginning, and our becoming new creatures its end, a figure of death is set before us when the water is poured upon the head, and the figure of a new life when instead of remaining immersed under water, we only enter it for a moment as a kind of grave, out of which we instantly emerge.

    “M. Do you think that the water is a washing of the soul?

    “S. By no means; for it were impious to snatch away this honour from the blood of Christ, which was shed in order to wipe away all our stains, and render us pure and unpolluted in the sight of God. (1 Pet. i. 19; 1 John i. 7.) And we receive the fruit of this cleansing when the Holy Spirit sprinkles our consciences with that sacred blood. Of this we have a seal in the Sacrament.

    “M. But do you attribute nothing more to the water than that it is a figure of ablution?

    “S. I understand it to be a figure, but still so that the reality is annexed to it; for God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts. Accordingly, it is certain that both pardon of sins and newness of life are offered to us in baptism, and received by us.

    “M. Is this grace bestowed on all indiscriminately?

    “S. Many precluding its entrance by their depravity, make it void to themselves. Hence the benefit extends to believers only, and yet the Sacrament loses nothing of its nature.

    “M. Whence is Regeneration derived?

    “S. From the Death and Resurrection of Christ taken together. His death hath this efficacy, that by means of it our old man is crucified, and the vitiosity of our nature in a manner buried, so as no more to be in vigour in us Our reformation to a new life, so as to obey the righteousness of God, is the result of the resurrection.

    “M. How are these blessings bestowed upon us by Baptism?

    “S. If we do not render the promises there offered unfruitful by rejecting them, we are clothed with Christ, and presented with his Spirit.

    “M. What must we do in order to use Baptism duly?

    “S. The right use of Baptism consists in faith and repentance; that is, we must first hold with a firm heartfelt reliance that, being purified from all stains by the blood of Christ, we are pleasing to God: secondly, we must feel his Spirit dwelling in us, and declare this to others by our actions, and we must constantly exercise ourselves in aiming at the mortification of our flesh, and obedience to the righteousness of God.

    “M. If these things are requisite to the legitimate use of Baptism, how comes it that we baptize Infants?

    “S. It is not necessary that faith and repentance should always precede baptism. They are only required from those whose age makes them capable of both. It will be sufficient, then, if, after infants have grown up, they exhibit the power of their baptism.”

    Calvin’s Tracts, Volume 2, Henry Beveridge, translator, (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK: Calvin Translation Society, 1849), 83-84, 86-87. Cp. Calvin: Theological Treatises, J.K.S. Reid, ed., (Louisville, KY, USA: Westminster John Knox Press, 1954; 2006). 131, 133.

  86. Ron Henzel said,

    February 3, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    “the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other”

    This is the definition of the figure of speech known as metonymy.

    Thus WCF 27.2 is saying that the nature of sacramental union involves us and the Scriptures in the use of figures of speech, rather than concrete statements, when we use wording that attributes to the sacraments things that the Spirit alone does.

  87. Jack Bradley said,

    February 3, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Todd, I’m sorry to say that Webb’s article, despite some redeeming qualities, clearly illustrates Bavinck’s concern: “While many of the Reformed initially maintained the unity of election and covenant, on account of decay in the church baptism gradually was totally separated from regeneration and deprived of its value.”

    And Hodge’s concern: (Schenck, p. 99): “Dr. Hodge himself believed that the child of Christian parents, no less than the adult who made a personal voluntary profession of faith, was a member of the church on the same basis of presumptive membership in the invisible church. Consequently, he said, ‘we see now how this principle can be denied, in its application to the Church, without giving up our whole doctrine, and abandoning the ground to the Independents and Anabaptists.’”

    As I said before, this is really the burden of Schenck’s book: If this principle of “presumptive membership” based on presumptive (not asserted) regeneration is denied—we have abandoned the ground to the Baptists. Even though we continue using “covenantal” terminology, it has been emptied of its biblical/historical meaning.

    I find it significant that Webb takes on Schenck, but he says not a word about the reformed heavyweights Schenck cites repeatedly and foundationally:

    p. 130: “‘All baptism is inevitably administered on the basis not of knowledge but of presumption,’ Dr. Warfield said, ‘and if we must baptize on presumption the whole principle is yielded.”

    p. 135: Charles Hodge: “The status, therefore, of baptized children is not a vague or uncertain one, according to the doctrine of the Reformed Churches. They are members of the Church; they are professing Christians; they belong presumptively to the number of the elect.”

    Webb might not like the word “presumption/presumptive”, but it didn’t seem to bother the likes of Warfield and Hodge. It helps to remember Rob Rayburn’s observation, that “in current usage, ‘presumption’ may well imply to many minds an unwarranted assumption.”

    But we need not cater to this current usage. We must not, if we are going to recover our Reformed Covenantal heritage. Such presumption, far from an “unwarranted assumption” should be once again seen as a fully warranted *faith* in the promises of God.

    I know that there has been, and will continue to be, truly unwarranted presumption in reformed circles. I can’t help but think of some Dutch circles, (I said “some”!): almost a ‘bloodline’ fallacy. I reprobate that as strongly as anyone. That is obviously not the issue such as Hodge, Warfield, Bavinck. As Bavinck said, “While grace is not automatically inherited, as a rule it is bestowed along the line of generations.”

    Warfield: “Assuredly a human profession is no more solid basis to build upon than a Divine promise. . . it is inevitable that we shall baptize all those for whom we may, on any grounds, fairly cherish a good presumption that they belong to God’s people—and this surely includes the infant children of believers.” (The Polemics of Infant Baptism)

    Rayburn (http://www.faithtacoma.org/doctrine/covenant.aspx) says it so well in his crucial paper:

    “Our doctrine has not been well taught in seminaries, in pulpits, or in books, whether written for ministers or laymen. Consequently, many ministers and congregations have only a vague notion of the theological substructure of the practice of paedobaptism, of the underlying method by which God’s grace is appointed to run in the lines of generations.

    . . . Schenck accounts for the modern eclipse of the Reformed doctrine of covenant succession by the dramatic impact of the Great Awakening and the resultant revivalism, with its exclusive emphasis on a conscious experience of conviction and conversion as the essential evidence of genuine salvation. . . powerful voices were raised within the church in defense of the new thinking. Especially among southern men, notably J.H. Thornwell and R. L Dabney, it was held decidedly that baptized covenant children were to be presumed unsaved until they gave evidence of the new birth. This altered conception of covenant children was given theological justification by constructions of the doctrines of the covenant of grace and infant baptism which introduced a clear distinction between the status of covenant children and professing Christians. . . Covenant children and adult professors were thus related to the church in an entirely different way and according to fundamentally different principles.

    . . . A.W. Miller, a prominent southern Presbyterian, opposed Thornwell at this point precisely on the ground that his views were not those of the Reformed Church. Addressing the General Assembly of 1866, Miller argued: ‘This principle should ever be kept in mind, that baptism is not conferred on children in order that they may become sons and heirs of God, but because they are already considered by God as occupying that place and rank, the grace of adoption is sealed in their flesh by the rite of baptism.’ This, Miller argued, was Calvin’s doctrine and that of the Reformed Church historically. [Schenck, p. 96] . . . As Schenck argues, Hodge was surely correct in insisting that the historic doctrine of the Presbyterian church was ‘that the child of Christian parents, no less than the adult who made a personal and voluntary profession of faith, was a member of the church on the same basis of presumptive membership in the invisible church.’ Consequently, Hodge argued, ‘we see not how this principle can be denied, in its application to the Church, without giving up our whole doctrine, and abandoning the ground to the Independents and Anabaptists.’ [Schenck, p. 99]

    . . . The always judicious Bavinck preferred to say that Reformed theologians always held that such regeneration in infancy can occur, often does occur, and that the church is to consider and treat her children, according to the judgment of love, not as heathen children but as true children of the covenant until they prove the contrary. . . Warfield speaks of a ‘fair presumption of inclusion in Christ’s body” built upon a divine promise. ['The Polemics of Infant Baptism'] J. Murray says that ‘Baptized infants are to be received as children of God and treated accordingly.’ [Christian Baptism p. 59] Any of these constructions is greatly to be preferred to the view of Archibald Alexander who held, as did Thornwell subsequently, that ‘The education of children should proceed on the principle that they are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear.’ [Thoughts on Religious Experience, p. 1113]

    Rayburn concludes:

    Though not impossible, it is clearly not the normal expectation in Scripture that a covenant child should experience a conscious conversion or endure a period in which he or she has a sense of standing outside the covenant community, without God and without hope in the world. Rather, the normal experience of the children of believers should be that of David, who trusted in the Lord from his mother’s breasts. . . By virtue of their sacramental initiation, of the requirement of their presence at renewals of the covenant (Deut 29:9¬15; Joel 2:16), of their being addressed as among the saints and as part of the church with corresponding obligations (Eph 1:1; 6:1¬3), of their holiness (1 Cor 7:14), of the kingdom of God being theirs (Matt 18:13¬15), they are members of the church.

    . . . the recognition that covenant children are church members from their infancy furnishes the simplest resolution of certain practical objections commonly raised against the doctrine of covenant succession. If, for example, it be objected that it cannot be known that a very little child is or will eventually become a faithful follower of Christ, it needs only be pointed out that, so far as human judgment is concerned, that uncertainty applies equally to those who enter the church from the world by profession of faith. [Warfield, 'Polemics of Infant Baptism,' p. 390; C. Hodge, The Church and its Polity, p. 216.]

    Bavinck: “. . . election is realized in an organic and historical way. It is never established only with an individual person, but in that person also immediately with that person’s descendents. . . The covenant of God with its benefits and blessing perpetuates itself from child to child and from generation to generation (Ge. 9:12; 17:7, 9; Exod. 3:15; 12:17; 16:32; Deut. 7:9; Ps. 105:8; and so forth). While grace is not automatically inherited, as a rule it is bestowed along the line of generations.”

    So, in the final analysis, we have two competing principles, two competing conceptions of the Church:

    1. “True children of the covenant until they prove the contrary.”

    2. “They are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear.”

    Which principle did Calvin subscribe to?

    Q. Are you, my son, a Christian in fact as well as in name?
    A. Yes, my father.
    Q. How do you know yourself to be?
    A. Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    I’ll have more on Bushnell, as well as the Puritans, tomorrow.

  88. Jack Bradley said,

    February 3, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    I see that I again duplicated “now how” instead of “not how”.

  89. Ron Henzel said,

    February 4, 2014 at 4:10 am

    Jack,

    A couple of your Bavinck citations are not Bavinck’s actual words, but are from the editorial summaries. As it says in the Editor’s Introduction, “The latter [i.e., subdivision headings] along with the chapter synopses, have been supplied by the editor,” (4:25; cf. 1:21, 2:22, 3:20). Specifically, your citations from 4:462 and 4:496-497 come from the italicized text of the editorial synopses, and not from Bavinck himself. I avoid quoting them, not because they are inaccurate, but because of what they leave out.

    Your quote from 4:462 is an editorial summary of the text beginning in the second paragraph of 4:470:

    “Just how God employs the sacraments to distribute his grace does not become clear either in Calvin or in the works of the later Reformed. So there is room left for a wide assortment of questions. Is grace always bound up with the sign so that the sacrament always remains the same objectively? Or does God unite grace with the sign only when the sacrament is received by believers? Or does God offer his grace in union with the sign also to unbelieving partakers so that it is their own fault if they only accept and receive the sign? In what way is sacramental grace distinguished from the grace that believers already received earlier? And in what way does it differ from the subjective working of the Holy Spirit, who opens the eyes of believers to the sacrament and their hearts to its substance? Does the distribution of grace accompany the administration or the reception of the sign? Does it occur simultaneously with the administration and reception of the sign, or can it also occur before or later? And can the sacrament’s benefit therefore be received before, during, and after the reception of the sacrament?”

    Now, frankly, some of these questions on which Bavinck says that Calvin and the later Reformed were unclear I find sufficiently answered in places such as the Geneva catechism I quoted above and the Westminster Standards. And Bavinck himself seems to hedge on this point later, which brings us to your citation from 4:496-497, which is actually the first sentence in a two-sentence-paragraph editorial synopsis of 4:511-513.

    “The moment people began to reflect on the implications of this inclusion of children in the covenant of grace, however, they parted company. There were those who sought as long and as closely as possible to maintain the unity of election and covenant. They asserted, accordingly, that all children born of believing parents had to be regarded—according to the judgment of charity—as regenerate until in their witness or walk they clearly manifested the contrary, or that at least the elect children were usually regenerated by the Spirit of God before baptism or even before birth (à Lasco, Ursinus, Acronius, Voetius, Witsius, et al.). But others, noting the problems of experience, which so often tells us that baptized children grow up without showing any sign of spiritual life, did not dare to construe this regeneration before baptism as being the rule. They all without exception acknowledged that God’s grace is not bound to means and can also work regeneration in the heart of very young children, but they left open the question whether in the case of elect infants that regeneration occurred before, during, or also, sometimes even a great many years, after baptism (Calvin, Beza, Zanchius, Bucanus, Walaeus, Ames, Heidegger, Turretin, et al.). This view won the day when the church, by its neglect of discipline, fell into decay. Election and church, the internal and external side of the covenant, concepts formerly held together as much as possible but increasingly differentiated since the days of Gomarus, moved even further apart. In the church (ecclesia) one saw the formation of the conventicle (ecclesiola). Gradually, therefore, baptism was totally separated from regeneration, and, since people nevertheless wanted to continue this sacrament for their children, it was understood in one of the following ways: (1) conceived and justified as a sacrament of the church and a pledge of the children of believers in general; (2) as a confirmation of the objective conditional promise of the gospel; (3) as proof of participation in the external covenant of grace; (4) as a guarantee of an amissible {i.e., capable of being lost} rebirth—not one that was inseparable from salvation but one that was later to be confirmed by a personal faith; (5) as a pedagogical device that at a later age spurs the baptized on toward genuine repentance.

    “Controversy repeatedly erupted in this connection over the wording of the [Reformed] liturgical form for the baptism of infants. In hearing the expression “sanctified in Christ” [in a first question put to the presenting parents] and associating it with internal renewal by the Holy Spirit, some people objected to having this question put to parents who, though they still presented their child for baptism, were otherwise religiously indifferent. Under pietistic influence they increasingly attached less value to the external act of baptism, insisted on personal conversion, and withdrew into the narrow circle of the conventicles. Others, interpreting the expression in an objective covenant sense, regarded baptism as nothing more than a sign of the external covenant, to which a historical faith and an inoffensive lifestyle sufficiently entitled them.

    “Thus, in the Reformed churches themselves, baptism was almost completely deprived of its value. Introduced here, in fact, was the doctrine of baptism that in the age of the Reformation was already held by Socinians and Anabaptists and later by Remonstrants and Rationalists. For all the differences among them, these groups agreed that baptism has its value, not as a seal of grace on God’s part, but in the first place as an act of confession on man’s part. Baptism. …

    “…In the Netherlands, Dr. A. Kuyper attempted to maintain the objective character of baptism by ascribing a special grace to it. This grace consists, not in regeneration—which is presupposed in baptism and therefore no longer needs to be conferred—but in a special and otherwise unobtainable benefit, namely, in incorporation into the body of Christ, or rather, in the implantation in our faith of the disposition or tendency not to exist by oneself but in our feeling one with the entire body of Christ.”

    Notice two things in this extended quote:

    (1) Calvin is included among those who “without exception acknowledged that God’s grace is not bound to means and can also work regeneration in the heart of very young children, but…left open the question whether in the case of elect infants that regeneration occurred before, during, or also, sometimes even a great many years, after baptism.” So it would seem that even Bavinck would find that Calvin was not quite as unclear on some of the questions he raised earlier on page 470 as that prior page might suggest.

    (2) Notice both the referent and ambiguity of Bavinck’s sentence: “This view won the day when the church, by its neglect of discipline, fell into decay.” “This view” clearly refers back to the aforementioned view held by Calvin, and Calvin’s view clearly separates the timing of regeneration from the moment of baptism’s administration. And depending on how one understands the word “when” here, it could be construed either as saying that the neglect of discipline facilitated the adoption of Calvin’s view, or that the general adoption of Calvin’s view simply coincided with the neglect of discipline and subsequent decay. I think it should be obvious that, rather than connecting the decay of the church to Calvin’s view of baptism, Bavinck had the former idea in mind.

    Now I would make two additional observations:

    (1) None the early Reformed views that Bavinck describes as, in one way or another, maintaining the unity of election and covenant, also maintained the simultaneity of regeneration and baptism. While Bavinck clearly affirms the early Reformed connection between regeneration and baptism as a corollary to the unity of election and covenant, that connection has been held by men who placed regeneration either prior to or subsequent to the act of baptism; he mentions no position in the above citation where the two were concurrent.

    (2) At the heart of Peter Leithart’s baptismal doctrine is the view that the Holy Spirit is “present and active at the water of baptism,” and that (as he favorably quotes G. R. Beasley-Murray), “baptism is the supreme moment of the impartation of the Spirit and of the work of the Spirit in the believer.” (“Baptism and the Spirit,” by Peter J. Leithart, Biblical Horizons Newsletter, No. 85: May, 1996. http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/biblical-horizons/no-85-baptism-and-the-spirit/). Leithart not only posits the simultaneity of baptism and regeneration he insists upon it, and he slams the explanation of metonymous language in WCF 27.2 (and by extension Calvin’s understanding of the sacraments) by declaring “how arbitrary the whole procedure is.” (“Baptism and the Church,” by Peter Leithart. http://www.hornes.org/theologia/peter-leithart/baptism-and-the-church.) Leithart’s view of baptism is an emphatic rejection of the Reformed view of the sacraments in general and baptism in particular.

    So, no, by no means do I believe that, “This is exactly what Federal Visionists have said,” specifically, “We are just trying to say what many of our forefathers in the reformed faith have said about election and covenant,” and that “Bavinck is further confirming this.” Far from it, in fact!

  90. Ron Henzel said,

    February 4, 2014 at 5:07 am

    Oops! When I wrote:

    “I think it should be obvious that, rather than connecting the decay of the church to Calvin’s view of baptism, Bavinck had the former idea in mind.”

    I should have written,

    “…Bavinck had the latter idea in mind.”

    That is, that “the general adoption of Calvin’s view simply coincided with the neglect of discipline and subsequent decay.”

  91. Ron Henzel said,

    February 4, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Jack,

    You wrote:

    “My reflections on Romans 6:7 are not original. Reformed theologians have recognized the oddity of Paul’s language, and some, like Sinclair Ferguson, have concluded that here dikaioo ‘cannot be limited to a forensic significance.’”

    You appear to be dependent for your Sinclair Ferguson reference on Jeffrey Meyers’ 2007 paper, “30 Reasons Why It Would be Unwise for the PCA General Assembly to Adopt the Federal Vision Study Report
    and Its Recommendations” (http://www.auburnavenue.org/documents/30ReasonsFinal.pdf). I have a problem with it: Meyers references that statement from pages 138-139 of Ferguson’s The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction, (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK and Carlisle, PA, USA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989). Ferguson actually begins discussing Romans 6:6-7 on page 137. My problem is that nowhere on pages 137-139 do I find any of the quotes that Meyers attributes to Ferguson.

    Here is the relevant section of Meyers’ paper:

    ‘Sinclair Ferguson says in The Christian Life (pp. 138-39) that while some “commentators limit Paul’s words [in Rom. 6:7] to the idea of justification,” Ferguson believes that “Paul’s words cannot be limited to a forensic significance here.” He gives three reasons: First, “In the context, he is explaining why we are no longer slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6).” Second, “as Paul applies his teaching, he states more directly that the believer is free from sin in the sense of deliverance from bondage to its authority: “you used to be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:17) implies that they are so no longer.”

    ‘Finally, Ferguson notes that “throughout this section of Romans, Paul seems to envisage sin as an alien power and virtually personifies it as ‘The Sin.’” In sum, “Throughout the passage, then, Paul’s focus is on the dominion or reign of sin, rather than on the guilt it brings. That reign has been broken for those who have been baptized into Christ, and who through the Spirit have come to share in Christ’s death to sin and resurrection to new life.” Yet, he describes this liberation from the reign of sin as “justification.” What Leithart has articulated is not new. It certainly is not heretical or un-Reformed.’

    I cannot find any of the verbiage that Meyers attributes to Ferguson on the pages in question. To be sure, many of the thoughts are the same. For example, where Meyers has Ferguson writing, “Paul seems to envisage sin as an alien power and virtually personifies it as ‘The Sin,’” the actual text of Ferguson’s book has, “That is why i the original Greek text he constantly uses the expression The Sin, personifying its power as he speaks of its reign in the lives of people and of their slavery and thraldom to it” (139).

    Did Meyers paraphrase Ferguson and mistakenly put it in quotes? Or did he take his citation from a completely different work and given an erroneous reference?

    In any case, there is a problem of authentication here, especially concerning the notion that Ferguson holds that δικαιόω (dikaioō) “cannot be limited to a forensic significance.”

    (1) Ferguson does not use the word “forensic” on pages 137-139 of The Christian Life.

    (2) He does, on the other hand, write, “But there are reasons for believing that Paul means more than that Christians are ‘declared righteous’ in connection with sin,” and argues that it is the equivalent of the word Paul uses for “set free.”

    (3) However, it should be noted that “set free” is also a forensic sense, inasmuch as in a forensic (i.e., judicial) setting, the verdict of “righteous” is followed by the opposite of a sentence—i.e., a release from bondage. As Charles Hodge put it: “To be justified from sin means to be delivered from sin by justification. And that deliverance is twofold; judicial deliverance from its penalty, and subjective deliverance from its power. Both are secured by justification; the former directly, the other consequentially, as a necessary sequence.” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, [Grand Rapids, MI, USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1947; 1993], 199.)

    (4) Not even Meyers has the audacity to quote Ferguson as saying that “Paul’s words cannot be limited to a forensic significance anywhere,” but only that “Paul’s words cannot be limited to a forensic significance here,” i.e., in Rom. 6:7. In chapter 9 of his book (“Justification,” pages 80-92), Ferguson makes it clear that “justify” and “justification” can be limited to a forensic sense when Paul is discussing the actual doctrine of justification. It is debatable as to whether

    So the quote from Ferguson is misleading at best, and inauthentic at worst.

  92. Ron Henzel said,

    February 4, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Just scratch the incomplete sentence, “It is debatable as to whether” in my previous comment. It was going to take me down a bunny trail anyway.

  93. pastor tony phelps said,

    February 4, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Good stuff, Ron.

  94. Todd said,

    February 4, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Jack,

    What Ron wrote. Your quotes are spurious. Providing references for your quotes would help. But the issue in regard to the Leithart article was not presumptive regeneration. It was baptism.

  95. Jack Bradley said,

    February 4, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for the interaction, Ron. I will get back to you after I get back to my computer this evening. I would like to see you interact specifically with Hodge and Warfield. Please don’t avoid them, like Webb.

  96. Ron Henzel said,

    February 4, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Jack,

    I’ll be glad to examine the contexts of the Hodge and Warfield quotes when I get an opportunity, although that will not be at least until I get home after work today. But as I look them over in the form you have provided, I do not see how any of them come anywhere to affirming Leithart’s view that regeneration is simultaneous with baptism.

    The quote from Hodge’s Systematic Theology (which, of course, has been cited by Douglas Wilson in “Reformed” Is Not Enough) simply asks, rhetorically, regarding infants, “What is to hinder the imputation to them of the righteousness of Christ, or their receiving the renewing of the Holy Ghost, so that their whole nature may be developed in a state of reconciliation with God?” But it is clear that Hodge is not at all insisting that the infants of Christian parents are actually regenerate in all cases, since he immediately adds, “Doubtless this often occurs; but whether it does or not, their baptism stands good; it assures them of salvation if they do not renounce their baptismal covenant.” If it merely “often occurs,” then it falls very far short of Leithart’s view that the Holy Spirit promises to be “present and active at the water of baptism.” Hodge is saying nothing here that any advocate of presumptive regeneration in infant baptism could not say, and presumptive regeneration, by definition, assumes (as it has been often defined) that the the children of believers are to be presumed to be regenerate until the contrary appears—not because they’ve been baptized, but because they are the children of believers.

    And Hodge’s quote also makes it abundantly clear that for him, as for Calvin, the efficacy of baptism lay primarily in its ability to provide assurance (“it assures them of salvation”), and not at all in any ability to effect regeneration (i.e., not that “it ensures salvation”).

    It is ironic that right after you cite a portion of Hodge that Wilson cited approvingly, you also cited from Warfield, whom Wilson—from his lofty perch atop the Mt. Olympus of Reformed theology in Idaho—accused of something akin to “refried gnosticism” for having written the following:

    “…[I]t has yet been taught in a large portion of the Church (up to to-day in the larger portion of the Church), that God in working salvation does not operate upon the human soul directly but indirectly; that is to say, through instrumentalities which he has established as the means by which his saving grace is communicated to men. As these instrumentalities are committed are committed to human hands for their administration, a human factor is thus intruded between saving grace of God and its effective operation in the souls of men; and this human factor indeed, is made the determining factor in salvation. Against this Sacerdotal system, as it is appropriately called, the whole Protestant Church, in all its parts, Lutheran and Reformed, Calvinistic and Arminian, raises its passionate protest. In the interests of the pure supernaturalism of salvation it insists that God the Lord himself works by his grace immediately on the souls of men, and has not suspended any man’s salvation upon the faithless or caprice of his fellows.”

    [Warfield, The Plan of Salvation, cited by Wilson, "Reformed Is Not Enough, 85-86.]

    Despite Wilson’s atrocious mishandling of these words from Warfield, even a Federal Vision advocate can readily see how this helps us to understand exactly how Warfield could entertain “a good presumption that [infants] belong to God’s people”: because he held that it must be presumed that they were first regenerated by a direct operation of the Spirit upon their souls, apart from baptism.

  97. Dan MacDonald said,

    February 4, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Been trying to keep up with this thread. Wanted to say a quick word of appreciation to Lane for #41. Possibly the cleanest, clearest, most concise delineation of the relationship between sign and thing signified I have seen. If only this debate were infused with more of that kind of clarity of expression.

  98. Jack Bradley said,

    February 5, 2014 at 3:33 am

    Reed, I haven’t forgotten your observation. Yes, I do agree with you, sincerely, that the sign is not the thing signified. But Michael Horton has a great article (Horton, Modern Reformation, 1997) expressing a burden that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of separating the sign from the thing signified:

    “From the mid-sixteenth-century confessions to the Westminster Confession of 1647, the entire confessional testimony of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches defends the objective character of the Sacraments as means of grace. The Scots Confession of 1560 declares, “And so we utterly condemn the vanity of those who affirm the sacraments to be nothing else than naked and bare signs. No, we assuredly believe that by Baptism we are engrafted into Christ Jesus, to be made partakers of his righteousness, by which our sins are covered.

    . . . The Second Helvetic Confession reminds us that what is given in the Sacraments is not merely “a bare and naked sign,” but Christ himself, with all of his saving benefits. . . The sacraments become effectual means of salvation,” according to the Westminster Larger Catechism. . .

    . . . The sign is not the thing signified, but is so united by God’s Word and Spirit that the waters of Baptism can be said to be the washing of regeneration. . . ”

    . . . In many conservative Reformed and Presbyterian circles, it is as if the prescribed forms for Baptism and the Supper were too high in their sacramental theology, so the minister feels compelled to counter its strong ‘means of grace’ emphasis. In this way, the Sacraments die the death of a thousand qualifications. . . Why must we apologize for these passages and attempt to explain them away? Our confessions do not do this.”

    http://tinyurl.com/3dqy3rm

    Ron, I will get back to you tomorrow. Thanks for your patience.

  99. Reed Here said,

    February 5, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Jack: uh! Of course not bare signs. AND the sign IS NOT the thing signified. The FV construction blurs the latter. Arguing against the opposing precipice is no proof that one is not dangling off the other precipice.

    And Sacremental Union maintains the distinction. It does not blue it. Mere affirmation of SU does not demonstrate one actually understands SU.

  100. Reed Here said,

    February 5, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Horton’s “thousand qualifications” does not deny the biblical ones found in the confessional standards in view. He agrees with them AND disagrees with the FV.

    You have a nasty tendency of blithly quoting folks who are opposed to the FV as if they were supporters of it. It is almost a form of bearing false witness. Might you not at least admit, as you quote someone, that they would not agree with your usage?

    Truly Jack, abusive behavior.

  101. greenbaggins said,

    February 5, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Thank you, Dan, for your kind words.

  102. Jack Bradley said,

    February 5, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Truly Reed, quite a charge. We all know Horton opposes FV. The point is that his writings often lend support to Leithart’s view, as I have demonstrated time and again, whether you want to recognize it or not.

  103. Jack Bradley said,

    February 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Ron, thank you for pointing out to me that the italicized sections at the beginning of the chapters are the editor’s summations. I should have known that, but I didn’t. That said, the actual words of Bavinck have been faithfully summarized, as for example, when Bavinck himself writes:

    “This view won the day when the church, by its neglect of discipline, fell into decay. Election and church, the internal and external side of the covenant, concepts formerly held together as much as possible but increasingly differentiated since the days of Gomarus, moved even further apart . . Gradually, therefore, baptism was totally separated from regeneration. . . . . Thus, in the Reformed churches themselves, baptism was almost completely deprived of its value.”

    As I put it previously: This is the issue that has risen its head again in these current controversies: what is the degree of unity between election and covenant? “. . . many of the Reformed *initially* maintained the unity of election and covenant. . .”

    Ron wrote: “None the early Reformed views that Bavinck describes as, in one way or another, maintaining the unity of election and covenant, also maintained the simultaneity of regeneration and baptism.”

    Agreed. As I previously wrote: “his statement, ‘*unity* of election and covenant’ should not, of course, be taken as *equivalency* of election and covenant, given his earlier qualifications. But Bavinck is obviously saying that there was once, in Reformed sacramentology, a closer correspondence between election and covenant, between baptism and regeneration. And he attributes the descendancy of that correspondence to ‘decay in the church.’”

    Bavinck, Vol. 4, p. 58: “And when the church increasingly fell into decline and conformity to the world, many sought to rescue themselves by making a sharp distinction between an “internal” and an “external” covenant of grace and by reducing the sacraments to signs and seals of the latter. Baptism neither secured nor presupposed regeneration but only included children in the covenant of grace to the extent that they received through it and assurance of God’s universal love and goodwill and were invited and obligated to accept the Gospel and to turn to God in repentance. In that way, just as in Methodism, pietism, and rationalism, the relationship between regeneration and faith was again reversed.… By that faith a person was then regenerated and amended his or her life.”

    I think Godfrey is correct:

    “Baptism is the sacrament that testifies to the definitive work that God has done in saving His people. . . Calvin, Institutes: ‘It is a sign of our spiritual regeneration, through which we are reborn as the children of God.” Does baptism relate to regeneration? Sure it does. When we look, in faith, to our baptism, we are sure we are regenerate. . . you see, when I worry about my regeneration, in faith, then baptism tells me I am regenerated. . . Baptism stands there as the great pledge, the great encouragement. Calvin says, “Baptism is a sure testimony to us that we are united to Christ Himself, that we become sharers in all His blessings. For He dedicated and sanctified baptism in His own body in order that He might have it in common with us as the firmest bond of the union and fellowship which He has deigned to form with us. Hence Paul proves that we are children of God from the fact that we put on Christ in baptism.’”

    Calvin:
    Q. Are you, my son, a Christian in fact as well as in name?
    A. Yes, my father.
    Q. How do you know yourself to be?
    A. Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    Again, in the final analysis, we have two competing principles, two competing conceptions of the Church:

    1. “True children of the covenant until they prove the contrary.”

    2. “They are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear.”

    Which principle did Calvin subscribe to?

    More later today.

  104. Jack Bradley said,

    February 5, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Ron wrote: “Meyers references that statement from pages 138-139 of Ferguson’s The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction. Ferguson actually begins discussing Romans 6:6-7 on page 137. My problem is that nowhere on pages 137-139 do I find any of the quotes that Meyers attributes to Ferguson. . . .Did Meyers paraphrase Ferguson and mistakenly put it in quotes? Or did he take his citation from a completely different work and given an erroneous reference?”

    Ron, I was not relying on Meyers’ paper, but rather on the link I provided, http://pnwp.org/images/resources/defense-ex-4-justification-and-sanctification.pdf, as well as my own copy of Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, 148-149.

    I can see why you are puzzled about the Meyers’ source, since he cites a different Ferguson book in his paper. But the actual, exact quotes do come from the source I referenced. I can only assume, as you make allowance for, that he took his citation from a completely different work and gave an erroneous reference, albeit unintentional.

    But again, I can’t imagine a much stronger support for Leithart’s “deliverdict”:

    p. 149: “. . . there can be little doubt that Paul is teaching that the believer is delivered from the bondage as well as the penalty of sin.”

    p. 148: “. . . Paul’s words cannot be limited to a forensic significance here.”

    You wrote: “Not even Meyers has the audacity to quote Ferguson as saying that ‘Paul’s words cannot be limited to a forensic significance anywhere,’ but only that ‘Paul’s words cannot be limited to a forensic significance here,’ i.e., in Rom. 6:7. In chapter 9 of his book (‘Justification,’ pages 80-92), Ferguson makes it clear that ‘justify’ and ‘justification’ can be limited to a forensic sense when Paul is discussing the actual doctrine of justification.”

    Ron, who is questioning this? Of course neither Meyers, Leithart, nor I would say that “Paul’s words cannot be limited to a forensic significance anywhere.”

  105. Jack Bradley said,

    February 5, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    Ron, regarding Bushnell, I completely agree that he had very defective views on the atonement. I said the same to John Robbins several years ago in another online discussion when he also was attempting to nullify Bushnell as an acceptable source. As the introduction to Bushnell’s book itself says:

    “His theology was in several respects wholly unacceptable to the conservative Presbyterians, which makes only the more noteworthy the general pleasure with which they welcomed his book. . . They all agreed with Bushnell’s general thesis that Christian nurture in a godly home, beginning in infancy, is the divine instrumentality of the salvation of the church’s children and that this nurture was the primary method appointed for the propagating of the church.”

    Bushnell’s book, Christian Nurture, is all-time classic. One of the reasons I hadn’t read it before about 15 years ago, even though I read everything about covenant succession that I can get my hands on, is that it has received what I now consider much unfair criticism, the gist of which is that the saving operations of the Spirit of God are confined to natural laws of parental influence.

    But I do not get that impression from Bushnell, who states at one point:

    “Perhaps it may be necessary to add, that, in the strong language I have used concerning the organic connection of character between the parent and the child, it is not designed to assert a power in the parent to renew the child, or that the child can be renewed by any agency of the Spirit less immediate than that which renews the parent himself.”

    He has similar statements throughout this book:

    “The Spirit of God is nowhere so dove-like as he is in his gentle visitations and hoverings of mercy over little children. What is wanted is, to train them by a corresponding gentleness, and keep them in the molds of the Spirit.. . a most tender and wise attention, watching always for them, and, at every turn or stage of advance, contributing what is wanted. . . Under such kind of keeping and teaching, God, who is faithful to all his opportunities, as men are not, will be putting his laws into the mind and writing them in the heart.”

    “. . . and this fulfills that primal desire of the world’s Creator and Father, of which the prophet speaks—‘That he might have a godly seed.’ And let no one be offended by this, as if it supposed a possible in-growth and propagation of piety, by mere natural laws and conditions. What higher ground of supernaturalism can be taken, than that which supposes a capacity in the Incarnate Word, and Sanctifying Spirit, to penetrate our fallen nature, at a point so deep as to cover the whole spread of the fall, and be a grace of life, traveling outward from the earliest, most latent germs of our human development. . . If then we suppose the heavenly grace to have such power, in the long continuing process of ages, as to finally work the general stock of parenting into its own heavenly mold, far enough to prepare a sanctified offspring for the world, what higher, grander fact of Christian supernaturalism could be asserted? Nor is it any thing more of a novelty than to say, that ‘where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’”

    I think this book fully merits Luther Weigle’s introduction: “With the possible exception of some of Jonathan Edwards’ writings, no American book can with better right be deemed a religious and educational classic.”

    One remaining stumbling block may be Bushnell’s repeated use of “presumption”. However, as with Schenck, once we grant him his prescribed use of that term, there is no need for concern. He clearly understands presumption of regeneration as not synonymous with assertion of regeneration.

    Again, it is well to remember Warfield’s words (The Polemics of Infant Baptism):

    “‘All baptism is inevitably administered on the basis not of knowledge but of presumption, and if we must baptize on presumption the whole principle is yielded. . . Assuredly a human profession is no more solid basis to build upon than a Divine promise. . . it is inevitable that we shall baptize all those for whom we may, on any grounds, fairly cherish a good presumption that they belong to God’s people—and this surely includes the infant children of believers.”

    As I said before, this is really the burden of Schenck’s book: If this principle of “presumptive membership” based on presumptive (not asserted) regeneration is denied—we have abandoned the ground to the Baptists—even though we continue using “covenantal” terminology.

  106. Jack Bradley said,

    February 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Lane, please permit another series of excerpts. I think it is one of the most accurate and helpful sources for understanding the covenantal decay in the reformed church described by Bavinck.

    Peter Y. De Jong, The Covenant Idea in New England Theology. Eerdman’s, 1945.

    Speaking of the Puritans:

    “The churches were still interested in upholding as normative the intense spiritual experience of the first fathers of the colony. In so strongly emphasizing the experiential, the Congregational churches in New England departed from the traditional Reformed conception of the qualifications for Church membership. If could be predicted that on such a basis the position of children in the church was purely formal. New England had never held out a large measure of hope for the little ones on the basis of God’s covenant promises. These were constantly overshadowed by an emphasis on inherent sinfulness as the result of their relationship to Adam. . . Without the presence of something akin to adult experience and insight, the child was hardly ever regarded as being in a hopeful way. . . the only channel of the new birth which was recognized was a conscious experience of conviction and conversion.”

    Speaking of Jonathan Edwards:

    “The name of this religious leader has been connected most commonly with the rise of that new religious phenomenon known as revivalism. It emphasized conscious conversion as the only true method of approaching God. When this became the standard for entered the fellowship of the church, the covenant conception which gave children of believers an organic place in Christ’s church was neglected. Thus beginning with Edwards the covenant idea, which was never too firmly grasped by the New England churches, was gradually forgotten.”

    “Edwards nowhere touches upon the subject of the position of children of believing parents in the churches. . . Because of his strong stress on the will and emotions, which for him belonged properly to the activity of the will, he expected even of children a definite and conscious conversion to God before cherishing any hopes concerning their spiritual state. . . All unregenerate persons were placed on one level, and the same conscious experience of God’s converting Spirit was demanded in the form of a conscious surrender to the divine will.”

    “In championing revivals and their technique Edwards at one and the same time upheld and broke down the Puritan tradition. This is evident, if we remember that at the outset this tradition contained two incompatible elements. The Reformed emphasis on organic relations, which was weak at its best in their theories, was wholly discarded by him. The Anabaptist individualistic piety and church polity triumphed. Thus in spite of his heroic defense of certain Calvinistic positions, he overthrew the Calvinistic heritage of the churches by championing revivals as the true method of church reformation.”

    “In spite of his [Edwards] strong defense of characteristic Calvinistic doctrines such as election and original sin, he had no eye for organic relations. . . Though not denying the presence of natural and spiritual laws, these were virtually obscured. . . To this Horace Bushnell reacted so strongly nearly a century later. All this demonstrates that the Puritans never gave whole-hearted allegiance to the Calvinistic construction of the relation between nature and grace, creation and redemption. There was always a tendency toward Anabaptist dualism.”

    “Such a consistent and thoroughgoing application of the theory that only consciously regenerate people constituted the church of Christ led necessarily to the denial of the Scripturalness of infant baptism. This happened in several cases. Thus the covenant relationship everywhere was neglected. . . The net result was a tremendous increase of Baptist churches during the Second Awakening some decades later.”

    “One reason why the Baptists were making such tremendous gains in the Congregational churches lay in the fact that these latter had reduced infant baptism to a ‘mere ceremony.’”

    “The Baptists refused to administer the sacrament on the ground that they could not be in covenant with God, since the covenant was a mutual compact. . . The child, in spite of all his religious education, would still have to pass through the deeply emotional experience of conversion as championed by the revivalists. The net result was a gradual neglect of the training of children.”

    “Not until the evidences of regeneration were present did the Puritan divines dare to assert that the children of the church were really in the Covenant of Grace. . . Although they wrote voluminously about the covenant, they never allowed the concept to control their theory. Their individualism and experientialism precluded any deep and lasting appreciation of this idea on the part of the leaders.”

    “Every child was regarded as a child of wrath and an heir of hell unless and until he could point to the required change in his life. It was against this theory that Horace Bushnell militated. . . In his day he stood very much alone.”

    DeJong does have a serious (and well-deserved) critique of Bushnell:

    “Although he called back the church to her duty towards the young, he did not base his theories respecting the religious education of the children of believers on the covenant idea. . . Although he made some use of the old terminology and thus spoke of the covenant, he virtually rejected the old position entirely. He openly refused to base his ideas of child nurture on the covenant made with Abraham.”

    [Bushnell] “rejected the Episcopalian theory of baptismal regeneration, but held that children should receive baptism as a seal of their relation to God, since ‘they are to grow up as Christians, or spiritually renewed persons.’”

  107. Jack Bradley said,

    February 5, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    I meant to add Van Til’s endorsement of DeJong:

    “The author has undoubtedly performed a good and useful piece of work. The reading of his work is well calculated to lead us to a ‘deeper reflection on the covenant idea’ for the churches of our day. For this purpose it provides excellent stimulation.”

  108. Jack Bradley said,

    February 6, 2014 at 1:44 am

    It occurred to me that my placement of the last excerpt could easily be read as one of DeJong’s critiques of Bushnell. It is not.

  109. Ron Henzel said,

    February 6, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I’m not sure what your point is in rehashing the Bavinck quotes I discussed earlier, since my point was neither (a) to dispute the importance of the unity of covenant and election, (b) to dispute the sacramental/metonymic union of baptism with regeneration, (c) to challenge the idea that these doctrines languished due to decay in the Post-Reformation (“the days of Gomarus”) church, nor (d) to charge you with making baptism and regeneration simultaneous, but was instead (e) to point out that Leithart departs from the Reformed faith when he makes baptism and regeneration necessarily simultaneous, and therefore it is very wide of the mark to say (as you have declared) that all the Federal Visionists have actually said is that they “are just trying to say what many of our forefathers in the reformed faith have said about election and covenant”—a point you left very conspicuously unanswered. No: at least one Federal Visionist, former resident theologian in the Jerusalem of the Federal Vision, is saying that baptism both regenerates and justifies. In fact, he has been saying both for several years now. Why don’t you acknowledge that this is a significant departure from Reformed theology?

    Meanwhile, all I see Godfrey saying in the quote you supplied is that baptism is the instrument of the Spirit to assure us of our regeneration, thus echoing Calvin—but again, saying something quite different from what Leithart has said, highlighting Leithart’s outright contradiction of “what many of our forefathers in the reformed faith have said.”

    And your citation of Calvin’s Strasbourg Catechism (“Q. How do you know yourself to be [a Christian in fact]?”/ “A. Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”) apart from the context of Calvin’s entire theology of the sacraments, seems designed to lead people into thinking, quite erroneously, that Calvin conceived of baptism as something that makes one a Christian rather than something that assures that one is a Christian. Perhaps that’s not what you intended, but when you keep raining down quotations like this in the context of your defense of the Federal Vision (which you’ve been carrying on for years on this blog) is difficult to interpret otherwise.

    So let’s stop dancing around the main question, which is: Exactly what is the link or connection between baptism and regeneration? In what does it consist? How can we describe it? To provide Calvin’s answer, we need to begin with the specific function, or office, he ascribes to the sacraments generally. For that I will quote the whole of Institutes 4.14.17, bolding the most relevant portions:

    Therefore, let it be regarded as a settled principle that the sacraments have the same office as the Word of God: to offer and set forth Christ to us, and in him the treasures of heavenly grace. But they avail and profit nothing unless received in faith. As with wine or oil or some other liquid, no matter how much you pour out, it will flow away and disappear unless the mouth of the vessel to receive it is open; moreover, the vessel will be splashed over on the outside, but will still remain void and empty.

    Moreover, we must beware lest we be led into a similar error through what was written a little too extravagantly by the ancients to enhance the dignity of the sacraments. That is, to think that a hidden power is joined and fastened to the sacraments by which they of themselves confer the graces of the Holy Spirit upon us, as wine is given in a cup; while the only function divinely imparted to them is to attest and ratify for us God’s good will toward us. And they are of no further benefit unless the Holy Spirit accompanies them. For he it is who opens our minds and hearts and makes us receptive to this testimony. In this also, varied and distinct graces of God brightly appear. For the sacraments (as we have suggested above) are for us the same thing from God, as messengers of glad tidings or guarantees of the ratification of covenants are from men. They do not bestow any grace of themselves, but announce and tell us, and (as they are guarantees and tokens) ratify among us, those things given us by divine bounty. The Holy Spirit (whom the sacraments do not bring indiscriminately to all men but whom the Lord exclusively bestows on his own people) is he who brings the graces of God with him, gives a place for the sacraments among us, and makes them bear fruit.

    We do not deny that God himself is present in his institution by the very present power of his Spirit. Nevertheless, that the administration of the sacraments which he has ordained may not be unfruitful and void, we declare that the inner grace of the Spirit, as distinct from the outward ministry, ought to be considered and pondered separately, God therefore truly executes whatever he promises and represents in signs; nor do the signs lack their own effect in proving their Author truthful and faithful. The only question here is whether God acts by his own intrinsic power (as they say) or resigns his office to outward symbols. But we contend that, whatever instruments he uses, these detract nothing from his original activity.

    When this doctrine is taught concerning the sacraments, their worth is duly commended, their use clearly indicated, their value abundantly proclaimed, and the best mean in all these things retained, so that nothing is given to them which should not be given, and conversely nothing taken away which belongs to them. In the meantime, that false doctrine is removed by which the cause of justification and the power of the Holy Spirit are enclosed in elements, just as in vessels or vehicles, and that chief force which has been overlooked by some is clearly set forth.

    We must also note this: that God accomplishes within what the minister represents and attests by outward action, lest what God claims for himself alone should be turned over to a mortal man. Augustine also wisely admonishes this. “How,” he says, “do both Moses and God sanctify? Not Moses on God’s behalf; but Moses by the visible sacraments through his ministry, God by invisible grace through the Holy Spirit. There, also, is the whole fruit of the visible sacraments. For without this sanctification of invisible grace, what is gained from these visible sacraments?”

    [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.14.17, Ford Lewis Battles, translator, (Philadelphia, PA, USA: The Westminster Press, 1960), 2:1292-1294.]

    For Calvin, the connection between the sacraments and God’s saving acts (regeneration, justification, etc.) is the connection between a messenger or a herald and the King Who sends him. The King has performed the work; the messenger comes to tell us about it for the confirmation of our faith.

    Thus baptism is not the cleansing of regeneration itself, but the token or proof of it. The word of God sets forth Christ to us for salvation; the sacraments set forth Christ to us for assurance of salvation. The same faith that embraces Christ when the Holy Spirit imparts it through regeneration also looks back to baptism as a reminder of the Spirit’s once-for-all regeneration, just as the Lord’s Supper it looks back to the cross as a reminder of Christ’s once-for-all atonement.

    This is the first thing that should occur to us when we contemplate our baptism, as Calvin wrote:

    The first thing that the Lord sets out for us is that baptism should be a token and proof of our cleansing; or (the better to explain what I mean) it is like a sealed document to confirm to us that all our sins are so abolished, remitted, and effaced that they can never come to his sight, be recalled, or charged against us.

    [Institutes 4.15.1, Battles trans. 2:1304.]

    On this basis, and thus contrary to Leithart, Calvin explicitly disavows the notion that baptism accomplishes regeneration:

    For Paul did not mean to signify that our cleansing and salvation are accomplished by water, or that water contains in itself the power to cleanse, regenerate, and renew; nor that here is the cause of salvation, but only that in this sacrament are received the knowledge and certainty of such gifts.

    [Institutes 4.15.2, Battles trans. 2:1304.]

    You wrote:

    ‘Again, in the final analysis, we have two competing principles, two competing conceptions of the Church:

    ’1. “True children of the covenant until they prove the contrary.”
    ’2. “They are in an unregenerate state, until evidences of piety clearly appear.”

    ‘Which principle did Calvin subscribe to?’

    But I can’t help but notice how you slide between terms without defining them. Are you saying that all “true children of the covenant” are necessarily to be considered as being in a regenerate state at the moment of baptism? You will not find such an equation in Calvin, for he wrote:

    We therefore confess that for that time baptism benefited us not at all, inasmuch as the promise offered us in it—without which baptism is nothing—lay neglected.

    [Institutes 4.15.17, Battles trans. 2:1317.]

    Presumptive regeneration has always been a judgment of charity, not of necessity. So, again contra Leithart, Calvin clearly taught that, “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered,” (WCF 28:6).

    Moving along: thank you for clearing up the matter of the source of your quotation from Ferguson. It was quite a mystery to me, since you supplied no bibliographical reference and it did not occur to me to reach for my copy of his The Holy Spirit. That left me searching the web, which took me to Meyers’ erroneous reference, which in turn led me to question your use of sources. I see that you’ve gotten a little better at providing your bibliographic sources, but you still don’t consistently supply page numbers (or perhaps URLs when your source is web-based), as seen in your most recent citations from DeJong. Please help us all avoid similar misunderstandings in the future by granting us the courtesy of adequate bibliographical citation.

    As for Leithart’s “deliverdict” concept: if all that were involved in it was the notion that God’s forensic act of justification also serves as the legal basis for liberating us from the bondage of sin (i.e., as the legal basis for progressive sanctification), I don’t think there would be anything to object to. But let’s look at how Leithart actually explains this “deliverdict” idea, which, of course, he makes the product of baptism:

    This deliverance from sin (what I’ve called a “deliverdict”—an effective, liberating verdict) happens to those who die, and in the context the “death” is effective by baptism into the death of Christ: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” (v. 3). Paul’s thought is: We have died to sin by baptismal union with Christ’s death; anyone who has died is delivered from sin. Baptismal death is the instrument for delivering the emancipating verdict of justification, which opens up the possibility of new life for the baptized. In baptism, God judges sin, declares the baptized person righteous, and delivers the baptized from death into the new life of the Spirit-filled body of God’s Son.

    [Peter J. Leithart, The Baptized Body, (Moscow, ID, USA: Canon Press, 2007), 75-76. Bolding of text is mine.]

    So, for Leithart, we have not died to sin by our spiritual union with Christ’s death; we have died to sin by our baptismal union with it. This is because, for him, both our state of being declared righteous and our deliverance from sin are effected by baptism. Furthermore, he declares that the concept of justification is not only forensic, but also transformational. If anyone cannot see how this is a major leap in the direction of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox soteriology, they are either seriously uninformed or duplicitous!

    Your objection that neither Meyers nor Leithart actually said in so many words, “Paul’s words cannot be limited to a forensic significance anywhere,” rings hollow. While I find it doubtful that either of those two would concede that Paul occasionally uses “justified” or “justification” in a purely forensic sense, the issue here is not the biblical terminology per se, but the theological. Meyers and Leithart are explicitly reasoning from a particular use of “justified” (in Rom. 6:7) to a general doctrine of justification in which sanctification is included in justificaiton, as Meyers has so clearly explained:

    Leithart argues that justification and “definitive sanctification” are two ways of describing the same act, rather than distinct acts, and he suggests that Reformed theology has too rigidly separated justification and sanctification.

    [Jeffrey J. Meyers, "30 Reasons Why It Would be Unwise for the PCA General Assembly to Adopt the Federal Vision Study Report and Its Recommendations," http://www.auburnavenue.org/documents/30ReasonsFinal.pdf, accessed 02/06/14]

    Your discussion of Jonathan Edwards and Horace Bushnell (à la Peter Y. DeJong’s classic work) is interesting, but it utterly avoids the key question here: does returning to a more solidly Reformed view of baptism lead us to conflating justification and sanctification, or does that approach actually run past Reformed theology, leap over the Tiber, and land straight in the arms of Rome? Sorry, and this is not a slam on any other Presbyterian minister’s wardrobe choices here, but I can’t help but think that Leithart sports a Roman collar for a reason similar to but opposite of why Francis Schaeffer wore knickers and knee-socks: it’s meant to tell us something about the trajectory of his theology, and it’s not headed toward Geneva!

  110. Ron Henzel said,

    February 6, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Note: my citation of Meyers from his “30 Reasons” paper is from page 28, although it can easily be found using a text search. I realize that he begins the paragraph by limiting his reference to “definitive sanctification,” but then he turns right around and uses it without that qualifying adjective, which changes the referent to progressive sanctification in any reasonable reading of it.

  111. Reed Here said,

    February 6, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Jack,no. 102: well, the degree to which mine is a charge vs.’a fair observation’ depends on the truthfulness of what I said.

    I’m comfortable with what I said being observably verifiable. You rarely (I wont say never, as that would assume an omniscience only One has) make mention of the fact that many you quote in support of your support of Leithart (and the FV more broadly) are in direct opposition to what the quoted person actually believes. Thus, you make an ‘appeal to authority’ argument that leaves the less informed reader with the impression that the quoted person actually agrees with the FV. That IS bearing false witness. Whether you do it in carelessness or not does not matter.

    This is quite aside from whether or not you quote these folks accurately in support of your position. It is a simple matter of respect and integrity in a debate where not everyone knows the positions of the quoted person.

    It could be that the person you quote is inconsistent in his own argumentation. Or, as was pointed out to me by someone reading along, it could also be that you are using the person’s writings inconsistently.

    E.g., here, it might just be that your quotes of Ferguson and Horton appear to support Leithart not because they are inconsistent, but because Leithart himself is inconsistent in his arguments. Given that equivocation is the stock and trade of the FV, I’m inclined to give Ferguson and Horton credit for more consistency that Leithart or you.

    I do not care to spend the time to prove against each of your quotes. I think you are incorrigible. (Yes, another “quite” charge.) Yet, since I asked, I did check on the context of your Ferguson quote. As I have experienced whenever I check on a quote from you (yes, another “quite” charge) you are making an extrapolation of what Ferguson said, an extrapolation which he would say is inconsistent with his position and the point he was making.

    Whether you fairly make the extrapolation is a subject for debate. But the fact that you quote Ferguson AS IF he was actually particularly writing to the point you were making is what is offensive. And you do this kind of thing regularly.

    For me a simple solution is at hand. All you have to to is acknowledge up front you are appealing to a source who would disagree with your usage. I.e., let people know up front that either you or the person quoted is inconsistent in their position.

    And yes, I recognize that the context is relevant here. If this were a private conversation between yourself and someone you rightly believed was informed on Ferguson’s and Horton’s opposition to the FV then you could easily dispense with the caveat. But that is not the setting of a public blog.

    I urge you to consider my “quite” charges quite seriously.

  112. Phil D. said,

    February 6, 2014 at 10:40 am

    “Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself…[I am writing this treatise] lest, therefore, through my neglect, some should be carried off, even as sheep are by wolves, while they perceive not the true character of these men—because they outwardly are covered with sheep’s clothing (against whom the Lord has enjoined us to be on our guard), and because their language resembles ours, while their sentiments are very different,” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Preface, 2.)

    Ecclesiastes 1:9

  113. Jack Bradley said,

    February 6, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Ron, I think these excerpts will help answer your questions and concern. Unless, of course, you are, like me, incorrigible :-)

    http://pnwp.org/images/resources/defense-ex-7-leithart-response-to-pnw-committee-oct-08.pdf :

    Leithart: My dissertation attempted to work through questions of baptismal efficacy using the model of the ordination rite of priests (Exodus 29; Leviticus 8-9). Baptism, I argued, is efficacious in the way that the ordination rite is efficacious. That is still my position. This analogy opens up a way of thinking about baptismal efficacy that avoids two extremes: It avoids the view that baptism has little or no effect, and it avoids the view that baptism invariably and permanently confers grace.

    . . . Baptism is the rite of entry into the visible church; since the visible church is the body of Christ, baptism engrafts the baptized into Christ and His body, and sharing in the body of the incarnate and glorified Son brings benefits of various sorts; but this engrafting is no
    guarantee of final salvation, since some who are baptized into Christ and His body fall away.

    Baptism is a gift of grace that bestows other gifts, but it is effective to salvation only for those who have persevering faith. . . My basic affirmation about baptismal efficacy is the affirmation of the Confession itself: “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ. . . for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church” (28.1).

    I also agree with the Confession’s description of the “visible church,” though I believe it has limitations: “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; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation” (25.2). When we put these statements together, we conclude that a baptized becomes a subject of the kingdom of Christ, a member of God’s household and family, and is put on the way of salvation. Since a baptized infant becomes a member of God’s household, he is a child of God. That is saying quite a lot.

    . . . And we can push this further. If God is God to our children, does that not imply that God has forgiven and accepted them? Does it make any sense to say that God is God of our children, and yet also to say that they are children of wrath, piling up sins until they exercise personal faith? Do we say to our children, “God is your God, but He holds all your sins against you”? Do we say, “God is your God, but you are also a child of wrath”? The PCA constitution does not support this kind of double-speak. BOCO 56-4, alluding to 1 Corinthians 7, says that children of believers are “federally holy before Baptism, and therefore are they baptized” (BOCO 56-4, h). This federal holiness mentioned in 56-4, doesn’t depend on baptism; it is the gift to the children of believers, and according to the BOCO is the basis not the result of baptism.

    . . . What are we allowed to say to our children? May we tell them that their sins are forgiven? May we tell them that God accepts them and counts them righteous? Should we assure them that they are beloved? Can we tell them they belong to Jesus and are united to Him? On the Minority Report’s position, it appears that we are not allowed to say any of these things with assurance. Union with Christ, justification and forgiveness are special benefits of the invisible church, and we have no way of knowing that our children are members of that community. But the promise is to us and to our children. They are covenant children, and God is their God.

    http://pnwp.org/images/resources/final-leithart-trial-transcript.pdf :

    I think it’s fair to say that the PCA is generally less sacramental than our standards are. And any strong affirmation of sacramental efficacy is seen as a departure from the standards.

    Michael Horton: How Do we Receive Christ?, MAY/JUN 1997 http://tinyurl.com/3dqy3rm

    (Disclaimer: Michael Horton is not now, nor has he ever been, FV. Although, he might be “inconsistent in his own argumentation.” Or, I might be “making an extrapolation of what [he] said, an extrapolation which he would say is inconsistent with his position and the point he was making.” And, I MIGHT BE “appealing to a source who would disagree with [my] usage.”)

    Louis Berkhof. . . points out the Belgic Confession’s comment: “Neither does this baptism avail us only at the time when water is poured upon us, and received by us, but also through the whole course of our life” (Art. 34). Berkhof appeals to the Conclusions of Utrecht in 1908: “…Synod declares that, according to the confession of our Churches, the seed of the covenant must, in virtue of the promise of God, be presumed to be regenerated and sanctified in Christ, until, as they grow up, the contrary appears from their life or doctrine….”

    The Reformed tradition veers away from ex opere operato (again, the view that the application of water in Baptism necessarily effects regeneration) on the one hand and a mere symbolism on the other. In Baptism, God does confer grace special grace, not merely common grace, but its effect is often that of planting a seed that will grow, not creating a full-grown plant.

    . . . A subtle Docetism (the ancient gnostic heresy that denied Christ’s true humanity) lurks behind our reticence to see these common earthly elements as signs that are linked to the things they signify. Surely the Sacraments can remind us of grace, help us to appreciate grace, and exhort us to walk in grace, but do they actually give us the grace promised in the Gospel? The Reformed and Presbyterian confessions answer “yes” without hesitation: A Sacrament not only consists of the signs (water, bread and wine), but of the things signified (new birth, forgiveness, life everlasting). And yet, the experience of Reformed and Presbyterian churches in the odd world of American revivalism has challenged the confessional perspective. In The Presbyterian Doctrine of Children in the Covenant (Yale, 1940), L. B. Schenck noted, “The disproportionate reliance upon revivals as the only hope of the church…amounted to a practical subversion of Presbyterian doctrine, an overshadowing of God’s covenantal promise.”

    A. A. Hodge writes, “Men were exhorted to be baptized in order to wash away their sins. It is declared that men must be born of water and of the Spirit, and that baptism as well as faith is an essential condition of salvation.” (Horton does not provide the source)

    Richard Pratt http://tinyurl.com/43urhgu

    (Please see above disclaimer)

    In the language of the Bible, spiritual realities such as rebirth, renewal, forgiveness, salvation, and union with Christ are intimately associated with the rite of baptism. . . They also retained the idea that the sacraments are “means of grace,” vehicles through which God is pleased to apply grace to believers (WCF 14.1).

    . . . Unlike Baptists and Anabaptists who tend to speak of baptism only as an “ordinance” or a “memorial,” Calvinists have characteristically spoken of baptism not only as an ordinance but also as a sacrament or a mystery, a rite through which God applies grace. . . When the Scriptures attribute “the names and effects” of God’s saving mercy to the rite of baptism, they speak in a sort of theological shorthand leaving the precise relationship mysterious or unexplained. Reformed theology concurs with Scripture that there is more than meets the eye in the rite of baptism. Spiritual realities occur in conjunction with baptism, but the Scriptures do not explain in detail how baptism and divine grace are connected. So, Reformed theology speaks of the connection as a “sacramental (i.e. mysterious) union.” It is in this sense that Reformed theology rightly calls baptism a sacrament.

    . . . The language of “sacrament” was sustained by Reformed churches precisely because the New Testament ties baptism so closely to the bestowal of divine grace. For example, Paul spoke of baptism as “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). He also wrote that, through baptism, believers are united to Christ and die to sin (Rom. 6:3-7). Peter, in turn, when asked what was required for salvation, replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Elsewhere, Peter boldly declared, “Baptism … now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21). These and many other New Testament passages at least seem to indicate that baptism is much more than a symbol. In the language of the Bible, spiritual realities such as rebirth, renewal, forgiveness, salvation, and union with Christ are intimately associated with the rite of baptism.

    . . . In The Westminster Confession 28:6 we read: “The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, not withstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such … as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time.”

    In the Reformed view, baptism is efficacious; divine grace is “really…conferred, by the Holy Ghost” through baptism. In Calvin’s Catechism of the Church of Geneva (1545) he puts it like this:

    Master: But do you attribute nothing more to the water than to be a mere symbol of ablution?

    Child: I think it to be such a symbol that reality is attached to it. For God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts. Hence both pardon of sins and newness of life are certainly offered to us and received by us in Baptism.” (The Catechism of the Church of Geneva, in J. K. S. Read, ed. and trans., Calvin: Theological Treatises, vol. 22 of Library of Christian Classic [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1954], p. 131).

    Ron, I’ll come back to any remaining issues from your last post as soon as I can.

  114. Jack Bradley said,

    February 6, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Ron, regarding your questions and concerns about Leithart and Meyers, I hope this is helpful:

    Leithart

    http://pnwp.org/images/resources/defense-ex-7-leithart-response-to-pnw-committee-oct-08.pdf

    Union with Christ and Justification.

    Another issue is the relationship between union with Christ and the blessings of justification and sanctification. The Minority Report admits that “union with Christ is often understood by the Reformed tradition to be the rubric under which the various blessings of the covenant of grace come to us,” but then claims that “there is no confessional warrant for using union as an means to collapse these blessings together, or to allow the line distinguishing justification and sanctification to be blurred.” The Minority Report claims that I have blurred these realities, citing my article on justification in The Federal Vision. Several points to begin: I have not argued for what I’ve called a “deliverdict” by appeal to union with Christ, but rather by exegetical study of a number of passages of Scripture. I agree with the Minority Report that union with Christ does not blur justification and sanctification in its emphasis on union with Christ. Second, I was mistaken to suggest that the Reformed tradition has “separated” justification and sanctification. At its heart, Reformed theology unites justification and sanctification as deeply as they can be united, since they are regarded (emphatically in Calvin) as the duplex gratia that flows from participation in Christ. I should instead have used the word “distinguished.”

    Third, my arguments do not entail the conclusion that there is no distinction to be made between justification and sanctification. In biblical categories, justification is the language of the law court, while sanctification is the language of the sanctuary. Justification is about our legal standing before God, while sanctification is about our access to God’s presence in His house. Finally, I don’t believe that we have a right standing before God because of infused righteousness, or our works, or our progress in sanctification. We have a right standing before God because we have been graciously united to Christ, and because the Father regards us as righteous (imputation) in His Son.

    Jeff Meyers:

    http://www.weswhite.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/FINAL-REPORT-OF-THE-CRC-4-13-11.pdf

    “I also wholeheartedly agree with these two affirmations from the Missouri Presbytery Report (p. 7):

    ”We affirm that in justification, God the Father imputes the righteousness of Christ to believing sinners, a righteousness that is premised upon Christ’s lifelong obedience and his obedience unto
    death; we deny that anyone is justified by God apart from this imputation.

    We affirm that God justifies sinners by imputing Christ’s righteousness to them rather than counting their sins against them; we deny that justification is grounded in any infusion of grace or that faith
    itself, as an act of obedience, is imputed as the ground of justification.”

    . . . “I affirm the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers. (WSC). I have always affirmed this Reformation truth. Apart from the judicial imputation of Christ’s work to us there is no hope of salvation for sinful humans. We are justified by God’s “imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ” (WCF XI.1) to us when we believe the Gospel. I have explained my objections to conceptions of imputation based on the “merit system” of some Reformed theologians, but I have tried to be crystal clear that this does not mean I reject the truth of the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ, to use Luther’s language. I affirm the imputation of the perfectly obedient, vindicated, risen, glorified righteousness of Christ to believers.”

  115. Ron Henzel said,

    February 6, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Jack,

    So then you’re saying that you agree with Leithart when he insists that the Holy Spirit is “present and active at the water of baptism,” and that “baptism is the supreme moment of the impartation of the Spirit and of the work of the Spirit in the believer”?

  116. Jack Bradley said,

    February 6, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Ron, in light of confessional statements like this – which could be multiplied – I really have no problem with Leithart’s words.

    Heidelberg Catechism, 74:
    Should infants, too, be baptized?

    Yes. Infants as well as adults belong to God’s covenant and congregation. Through Christ’s blood the redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to adults.

  117. Ron Henzel said,

    February 6, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Jack,

    If you have no problem with Leithart’s words, then you are an opponent of Reformed theology, not a friend of it. We may presume that our children are elect, but that does not mean they are. And even if they are, if they neglect the promise of salvation until later in life, then while their baptism is still an advantage during that time, it is one that provides no benefits to them whatsoever until they believe, since baptism is nothing without faith in the promise it represents. As Calvin clearly wrote when his opponents noted that his faith did not come until years after his baptism, “We therefore confess that for that time baptism benefited us not at all, inasmuch as the promise offered us in it—without which baptism is nothing—lay neglected. [Institutes 4.15.17, Battles trans. 2:1317].

    None of the confessional statements you have cited mean what you say they mean. And it is disingenuous in the extreme to cite authors, whom you know quite well oppose your position, as if they support it! Do you really think you are fooling anyone with all these extended quotations?

    Leithart, Meyers, and apparently you, believe in a justification that is merged with sanctification, and can be lost. How is this even remotely Reformed? It is not!

  118. Jack Bradley said,

    February 6, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    Ron, We obviously are not going to come to a meeting of the minds on these things. But thank you for the interaction.

  119. Ron Henzel said,

    February 7, 2014 at 6:18 am

    Michael Horton wrote:

    One vigorous endorsement of The Escondido Theology comes from a theonomist and Federal Visionist who denies the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in justification. It is this neonomian paradigm that conflicts with the Reformed confession. Reformed critics, however, are dismissed as “Lutherans” or “Machen’s warrior children.”

    This is ironic. Sadly, I’m not surprised that he appreciates their blurring of the distinction of law and gospel or of justification and sanctification. What does surprise me is that someone who is so adamant against anything that smacks of similarity to a “Lutheran” scheme is so sympathetic to a movement that embraces baptismal regeneration and the possibility of losing one’s justification/regeneration.

    ["A Response to John Frame’s The Escondido Theology." February 10, 2012.]

  120. Ron Henzel said,

    February 7, 2014 at 6:47 am

    Jack,

    What ever made you think that I was seeking “a meeting of the minds on these things” with you?

  121. Ron Henzel said,

    February 7, 2014 at 7:04 am

    “The new perspective on Paul and the federal vision are not really new, but a reiteration of medieval theological errors.”

    [W. Robert Godfrey, "Faith Formed by Love or Faith Alone?: The Instrument of Justification," in R. Scott Clark, ed., Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, (Phillipsburg, NJ, US: P&R Publishing, 2007), 284.]

  122. Reformed Apologist said,

    February 7, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Ron,

    I remember reading in Modern Reformation many years ago – beside a swimming pool it was that vivid, Dr. Horoton’s pretty strong Baptismal comments that if lifted out of context could possibly be used by FV sorts. (I still use a phrase of from the article to this very day, that baptism “kindles” our faith, which I believe was stated in contrast to the Reformed teaching that faith is the instrumental cause of our justification. It was said in an “if then” sort of way if memory serves.) He also mentioned in the piece that when dealing with his baptistic friends he would emphasize baptism with strong sacramental language as opposed to when dealing with say his Church of Christ friends who misunderstand baptism in the other direction.

    I’m going on memory here and am sure we don’t have the issue any longer, but the article was quite good as I remember and in no way may be properly used to bolster FV anymore than it can be used to affirm Rome or the CoC. It at least implicitly denied the theology of FV, even though written before it became a movement. I’m just not sure if it’s the same article that Jack references above, but I might doubt that it is because I don’t remember all those references. On the other hand those specific references don’t undermine the basic thesis so why would I remember them if they even are from the same piece?

    Lastly, we too often hear at baptismal services what the sacrament is not. That is likely to continue given the error of FV. Unfortunately, the error of FV was probably in part due to the minimalist baptistic tendencies within Reformed churches. But, let’s be of good cheer. If history shows us anything it reminds us that these sorts of errors are – in God’s wisdom and providence – going to make the church keener and even more united. So, in a very qualified sort of sense, I am thankful for FV in the same way I’m thankful for Trent. That is, I can thank God for what has and will come out of bad theology, even heresies.

  123. Lee said,

    February 7, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Jack #116,
    You cannot seriously be using the Heidelberg to support FV.
    HC #72 “Is then, the out ward washing with water itself the washing away of sins?” A: “No, for only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Hoy Spirit cleanse us from all sin.”
    That is about as far away from Leithart’s comments as you can get.
    The FV thrives better in the Westminster than it does in the Three Forms for a reason. But in the end both documents condemn the FV.

  124. Levi said,

    February 23, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Lane,

    May I discuss these matters with you privately, either by email or phone? I’m a recent transplant to the PNW, am concerned about these issues, and don’t know who to talk to about it.

    Thanks.

  125. Howie Donahoe said,

    February 25, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Levi @124. Welcome to the Northwest. I’d be more than willing to buy you coffee or a beer and answer any questions you might have. Lane has my contact information. I live in Kirkland.

  126. Ron Henzel said,

    February 27, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Jack,

    Following the suggestion of Ron at Reformed Apologist, I am relocating this comment to the post where you originally supplied the Charles Hodge quote that you asked me to respond to. I am responding with the following extended citation from one of his helpful books:

    Charles Hodge:

    “As the efficacy of the sacraments is a subject of great practical importance, it is necessary to examine more particularly what the Scriptures teach on this subject. Baptism is called the washing of regeneration; it is said to unite us to Christ, to make us partakers of his death and life, to wash away our sins, to save the soul. The bread and wine, in the Lord’s supper, are said to be the body and blood of Christ; to partake of these emblems, is said to secure union with Christ and a participation of the merits of his death. These and similar passages must be understood either with or without limitation. If they are to be limited, the limitation must not be arbitrarily imposed, but supplied by the Scriptures themselves. We have no right to say that the sacraments confer these benefits in every case in which no moral impediment is interposed, because no such limitation is expressed in the passages themselves, nor elsewhere taught in the Scriptures. The limitation which the Scriptures do impose on these passages is the necessity of faith. They teach that the sacraments are thus efficacious, not to every recipient, but to the believer; to those who already have the grace which these ordinances represent. If it be asked how they can be said to confer the grace which is already possessed? let it be remembered that he who has been sprinkled with the blood of Christ, needs the application to be often repeated; he who has received the Holy Spirit needs to receive him again; he who has received Christ needs to receive him day by day that he may live upon him. That the Scriptures teach that the passages in question are to be understood with the qualification just stated, is clear because otherwise they would teach that every one who is baptized is a child of God, renewed by the Holy Spirit, united to Christ and made a partaker of the saving benefits of his death. But this cannot be true, first, because the Bible abundantly teaches that those who are renewed and receive the Holy Spirit, have the fruits of the spirit, love, gentleness, goodness, and faith. Where these are not, there the Spirit is not. But these fruits do not uniformly, nor even generally attend the reception of the outward ordinance. We know that although Simon Magus was baptized, he remained in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. We know, from Paul’s epistles, that many of the baptized Galatians and Corinthians were the enemies of the cross of Christ. We know from our own daily observation that multitudes of those who are baptized and received to the Lord’s supper, do not differ in temper or life from the world around them. God, therefore, in the actual administration of his kingdom, contradicts that interpretation of his word which makes it teach that the sacraments always confer the benefits which they represent. It is to degrade the renewing of the heart and the gift of the Holy Ghost, into things of no account, to represent them as the portion of the unholy multitudes who in every age and church have been admitted to baptism and the Lord’s supper.

    “In the second place this interpretation is opposed to what the Scriptures elsewhere teach of the nature of sacraments. The opinion that such ordinances uniformly convey grace and introduce the recipient into favour with God, was one of those false doctrines of the Jews which Paul so earnestly combatted. Great is the virtue of circumcision for no circumcised person enters hell, was the confident and destructive persuasion of the formalists of that age. In opposition to this doctrine, the apostle assured them that circumcision would, indeed, profit them, if they kept the law; but if they broke the law, their circumcision became uncircumcision. For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter. We have here a very explicit statement of the nature and efficacy of a sacrament. It has no efficacy in itself considered; its value depends on the presence or performance of the condition of the covenant to which it is attached. If the Jews kept the law, their circumcision secured to them all the blessings of the covenant under which they lived. But if they broke the law, their circumcision was of no avail. It was, therefore, not external circumcision that made a man a Jew; but the circumcision of the heart, of which the external rite was the sign. In like manner it is not external baptism that makes a man a Christian, but the baptism of the Spirit, of which the washing with water is the appointed symbol. The two are not necessarily connected, and where the latter is wanting, the former can be of no avail. And, lest it should be supposed that we have no right to apply what is said of the sacraments of the old dispensation to those of the new, the very same doctrine is taught in reference to the New Testament sacraments themselves. The apostle Peter says, We are saved by water; not ordinary water, but by baptism; not mere external baptism, however, but by the sincere turning of the heart to God, that is, by the inward change of which baptism is the outward sign. This passage, in its doctrinal import, is precisely parallel to that referring to circumcision just quoted. Neither rite, therefore, necessarily conveyed the grace of which they were the signs, and to neither is any value ascribed apart from the spiritual change which they are appointed to represent. In like manner, in reference to the Lord’s supper, the apostle teaches that, so far from the mere external act being necessarily connected with the reception of the benefits of Christ’s death, those who ate and drank unworthily, ate and drank judgment to themselves. Nothing, indeed, can be more opposed to the whole spirit of the religion of the Bible, than the doctrine that external rites are necessarily connected with spiritual blessings; that the favour of God is to be obtained by mere unresisting submission to religious ceremonies. A man may be baptized, or circumcised on the eighth day, he may belong to the purest and most apostolic church, he may be blameless as touching all the external prescriptions of the Gospel, and still be destitute of the grace of God and unprepared for his presence. It is not by works of righteousness, much less by ceremonial observances, that we are to be saved, but by the righteousness of Christ and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. He is not a Christian who is one outwardly, nor is that baptism which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Christian who is one inwardly, and the baptism which is unto salvation, is of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter.

    In the third place, that the sacraments are not designed to convey grace to those who have it not, is plain because the Scriptures require those who are admitted to these ordinances to make a profession of their faith and repentance. When the apostles began to preach, we are told that, Those that gladly received the word were baptized. When the eunuch desired to be baptized, Philip said to him, if thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest Cornelius did not receive the Holy Spirit, in the first instance by baptism, but when Peter had evidence that he had already received the Spirit, he asked, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? Paul was a penitent believer before his baptism; and thus in all other cases when men were baptized, they professed to be Christians. They were not made Christians by their admission to the sacraments; but their Christian character or standing was thereby acknowledged. It has accordingly been the custom in all ages to require a profession of faith on the part of those who are received to sealing ordinances. But faith is an exercise of a renewed heart; and if faith supposes regeneration, and baptism supposes faith, then by the voice of the church as well as of Scripture, baptism also supposes the renovation of the heart.

    Finally, God bears his testimony against the doctrine which teaches an inseparable connexion between these ordinances and spiritual blessings, by granting these blessings to those who have not received any sacramental rite. Abraham was justified before he was circumcised; Cornelius was a just man, and accepted of God, and a recipient of the Holy Ghost, before he was baptized; the penitent thief was assured of his admission into paradise though he was never born of water. If then the Scriptures require the evidence of regeneration in those who would acceptably attend upon the sacraments; if they teach that many who receive the outward sign do not receive the inward grace; and on the other hand, that many receive the inward grace, who have not received the outward sign, then do they also teach that these ordinances are not appointed to convey, in the first instance, pardon and sanctification, but to be signs and seals of these blessings to the penitent believer, and that to him, and to him only are they efficacious means of grace.

    It is, therefore, obvious that those passages in Scripture which refer our salvation to baptism and the Lord’s supper cannot, consistently with the plain teaching of the Bible, be understood strictly according to the letter. At the same time it must not be supposed that they are to be perverted, or taken in any other than their natural sense; that is, in any other sense than that which the universally received rules of interpretation justify and require. It is agreeable to the common language of men and to the usage of the Scriptures, that when any declaration or service is the appointed means of professing faith and obedience, making such declaration or performing such service is said to secure the blessings which are promised to the faith thereby professed. It is said, whosoever confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is born of God; and again, with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. This is said because confession implies faith; and no one supposes that an insincere, careless, heartless confession will secure the salvation of any man. Thus also we are said to be saved by calling on the Lord, because invocation implies trust. In like manner we are said to be saved by baptism, because baptism implies faith. If this faith be wanting, baptism can do us no more good than a heartless confession. There is no more difficulty in understanding why the Scriptures should connect salvation with the use of the sacraments, than in understanding why they should connect the same blessing with invocation or confession. There is no difficulty in either case, if we allow the Scriptures to explain themselves, and interpret them as we explain all other writings.

    Again, it is according to scriptural usage to ascribe to a sign the name and attributes of the thing signified. Thus circumcision is called the covenant of God, because it was the sign of that covenant. Christ called the cup the new covenant; the wine he called his blood and the bread his body. Those who partake of the wine are, therefore, said to receive his blood, and of course the benefits which it purchased.

    “It is to be remembered, also, that the sacraments are seals, and that it is common to attribute to any ceremony, by which an engagement is ratified, the efficacy which belongs not to the ceremony, but to the engagement itself. The ceremonial of inauguration is said to induct a man into the office, the right to which it merely publicly declares and confirms. Even in the strict language of the law, a deed, with its signature and seal, is said to convey a right of property, although it is simply the evidence of the purpose of the original possessor. It is that purpose which conveys the right, and if it can be shown that the man who holds the deed was not the man intended by the grantor, the deed would be regarded as worthless. If a man deeds an estate to A, on the assumption that he is the son of B, should it be proved that A was not the son of B, the deed would convey to him no valid title. But the blessings of the Gospel are declared to be intended for penitent believers; the sacraments are the external means of recognising the conveyance of these blessings; to those who are really what they profess to be, they do in fact convey and secure these blessings; to others they confer no such benefits. When an unbeliever receives these ordinances, he no more obtains a title to the blessings which they represent, than a man obtains a title to an estate by falsely assuming the name of the person for whom it is intended.

    There is nothing, therefore, in the language of the Scriptures on this subject which is not perfectly consistent with the common Protestant doctrine that the sacraments have no inherent efficacy of their own, but become efficacious means of grace to those who believe; the Holy Spirit thereby communicating to believers the blessings of which those ordinances are the significant representations.”

    [Charles Hodge, The Way of Life, (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, and Carlisle, PA, USA: The Banner of Truth Trust, reprinted 1978), 184-192.]

  127. Jack Bradley said,

    February 27, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Ron, I appreciate and affirm everything you posted from Hodge. But he also wrote this statement. Can you appreciate and affirm it?

    Charles Hodge: “The status, therefore, of baptized children is not a vague or uncertain one, according to the doctrine of the Reformed Churches. They are members of the Church; they are professing Christians; they belong presumptively to the number of the elect.”

    This does not mean that Hodge was asserting their regeneration. Schenck makes that clear:

    p. 137: “In the opinion of Dr. Hodge, one could be of the number of the elect, and still not be regenerated, but on the basis of God’s promise in the covenant, the child of believing parents was presumably the child of God… Whether those presumptively the children of God were already regenerated, or were not as yet regenerated, the truth signified in their baptism remained the same. They were assured of salvation, if they did ‘not renounce their baptismal covenant.’ They were to be regarded and treated as Christians.”

    As I posted yesterday, Schenck also clearly distinguishes this view from baptismal regeneration, as does Hodge in the excerpts you just posted.

    Schenck, 14-15: “From what has preceded, it may be clearly seen that Calvin certainly did not believe in baptismal regeneration; namely, that the sacraments in themselves conferred the grace of regeneration in some mysterious way… He held that baptism confirmed and sealed to us what was already true in the promise of God.”

    So, when Hodge writes that covenant children “belong presumptively to the number of the elect”, I hope you can appreciate and affirm the truth of that—with these qualifications in mind. And with the Westminster Directory for Public Worship in mind:

    “That children, by baptism, are solemnly received into the bosom of the visible church, distinguished from the world, and them that are without, and united with believers; and that all who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce, and by their baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh: That they are Christians, and federally holy before baptism, and therefore are they baptized: That the inward grace and virtue of baptism is not tied to that very moment of time wherein it is administered; and that the fruit and power thereof reacheth to the whole course of our life.”

  128. Jack Bradley said,

    February 27, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Ron, I should have given the reference for “not renounce their baptismal covenant.”

    Hodge’s Systematic, Vol III, p. 590:

    “. . . at the time of their baptism. . . What is to hinder the imputation to them of the righteousness of Christ, or their receiving the renewing of the Holy Ghost, so that their whole nature may be developed in a state of reconciliation with God? Doubtless this often occurs; but whether it does or not, their baptism stands good; it assures them of salvation if they do not renounce their baptismal covenant.”

  129. Ron Henzel said,

    February 27, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Jack,

    I supplied my extended citation from Hodge because it explains his view on the efficacy of baptism much more extensively than your much briefer citation. Therefore, my citation takes hermeneutical precedence over yours, and yours must be read in light of mine. So I affirm your citation from Hodge, but only insofar as it is clarified by mine.

    Now, to interpret Hodge as asserting anything at all about the regeneration of baptized infants in what you quoted from page 135 of Schenck’s text, as Schenck apparently does, is a major interpretive blunder. One does not even need my citation to see that. First of all, Hodge does not even use the word “regeneration.” Furthermore, he makes no statements about regeneration, even by using other terms for it. Thus Hodge said nothing whatsoever that would lead one to conclude that he believed “one could be of the number of the elect, and still not be regenerated.” Nor did he even assert that baptized individuals automatically are among the elect. How either Schenck or you can draw such a conclusion from the citation you supplied is inexplicable. Rather Hodge merely says “they belong presumptively to the number of the elect.” As I believe you full-well know, the word “presumptively” here means “presumed in the absence of further information,” and the word “presume,” in turn, means “to think that (something) is true without knowing that it is true.” You yourself explicated: “presumption of regeneration as not synonymous with assertion of regeneration.” Why, then, would assertion of presumption of election be synonymous with the assertion of election?

    Meanwhile, Hodge’s defense of the possibility of infant regeneration in volume 3 of his Systematic Theology is both well-known and beside the point. And when the Westminster Directory of Public Worship refers to the unbaptized children of believing parents as Christians, and are received formally into the visible church by baptism on that basis, it is clear that both before and after baptism we can only say with certainty that they are members of the visible church. It will not become known whether or not they members of the invisible church until they make a credible profession of faith.

  130. Jack Bradley said,

    February 27, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Ron wrote: “You yourself explicated: ‘presumption of regeneration as not synonymous with assertion of regeneration.’ Why, then, would assertion of presumption of election be synonymous with the assertion of election?”

    Ron, please read the Hodge quote carefully. Neither Hodge nor I assert their election: “baptized children. . . belong *presumptively* to the number of the elect.”

    Ron wrote: “Nor did he even assert that baptized individuals automatically are among the elect.”

    Who ever said that he did? Again: “baptized children. . . belong *presumptively* to the number of the elect.”

    Ron wrote: “As I believe you full-well know, the word ‘presumptively’ here means ‘presumed in the absence of further information,’ and the word ‘presume,’ in turn, means ‘to think that (something) is true without knowing that it is true.’”

    Yes, I do know it full well: to think it is true (and treat them accordingly) that our covenant children are among the elect—without, of course, knowing it as a certainty. That is exactly what I mean, Hodge means, Schenck means, Rayburn means, et al.

    Ron wrote: “It will not become known whether or not they members of the invisible church until they make a credible profession of faith.”

    But of course we do not know it with certainty even then. As Warfield noted, even then the profession will be based on presumption:

    “No man can read the heart. As a consequence, it follows that no one, however rich his manifestation of Christian graces, is baptized on the basis of infallible knowledge of his relation to Christ. All baptism is inevitably administered on the basis not of knowledge but of presumption. And if we must baptize on presumption the whole principle is yielded. . . Assuredly a human profession is no more solid basis to build upon than a Divine promise.” Works, Vol. 9, p. 390.

    This is what Hodge says as well, in the sentence immediately following the one we are debating:

    Schenck, p. 135: “The status, therefore, of baptized children is not a vague or uncertain one, according to the doctrine of the Reformed Churches. They are members of the Church; they are professing Christians; they belong presumptively to the number of the elect. These propositions are true of them in the same sense in which they are true of adult professing Christians—both are included in the general class of persons whom God requires his Church to regard and treat as within her pale, and under her watch and care.”

    In other words, Ron, we will never know with complete certainty in this life, whether any baptized, or baptized & professing, is a member of the invisible church. That is why presumption is the principle for both.

    Ron wrote: “So I affirm your citation from Hodge, but only insofar as it is clarified by mine.”

    Okay. I’m glad you didn’t say: “only insofar as it is clarified by my interpretation of my citation from Hodge.”

    I will be away for a few hours, but look forward to continuing the discussion.

  131. Ron Henzel said,

    February 27, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    Jack,

    Thank you for encouraging me to go back and reread your citations. It was not rereading Hodge, though, that I think cleared things up for me, but going back and rereading Schenck. I believe I was reacting against what was probably my own misunderstanding of your citation of him page 137 of his book, where he said, “In the opinion of Dr. Hodge, one could be of the number of the elect, and still not be regenerated…” In the context of all that you’ve cited from others about baptism in this comment thread, at first glance I thought he was representing Hodge as saying that baptism confirmed one as one of the elect completely apart from regeneration—which, I admit, would be an extremely odd position to take. I now think that by “still” Schenck probably meant something like “as of yet,” and was correctly representing Hodge as saying that an infant being baptized may very well be one of the elect, even though not regenerate at the moment of baptism. I apologize for my misstatement.

    But all this seems beside the point of other citations that you made from Leithart, which are therefore more germane to the original post. Consider the following side-by-side comparison of quotes from Leithart and Hodge:

    Leithart: “Rites accomplish what they signify.”

    Hodge: “God, therefore, in the actual administration of his kingdom, contradicts that interpretation of his word which makes it teach that the sacraments always confer the benefits which they represent. … Nothing, indeed, can be more opposed to the whole spirit of the religion of the Bible, than the doctrine that external rites are necessarily connected with spiritual blessings; that the favour of God is to be obtained by mere unresisting submission to religious ceremonies.”

  132. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 1:15 am

    Ron, thanks for your thoughtful response. And I do think it is clear that Hodge is talking about ritualism, which Leithart also deplores. Leithart helps us understand the difference between ritual and ritualism:

    “Ritualism is at work when adherence to the rubrics becomes the main purpose of worship, when we gather to do things simply to make sure we do things. Ritualism is indeed evil, and ritualists will someday find that the Lord they claim to worship never knew them. Yet, the evangelical attack often broadens into an attack on ritual per se, and this wider attack is unjustified. Ritual cannot be inherently bad or dangerous, since God prescribed an elaborate set of sacrificial rituals for Israel’s worship. An Israelite worshiper had to go through the same series of actions every time he offered a purification offering, every morning and evening the priests offered burnt offerings, and one Day of Atonement looked a lot like all the others. Though we no longer perform these rites, the New Testament does not jettison ritual. As Augustine said, our rituals are simpler, fewer, easier to grasp—but they are still rituals.”

    http://www.credenda.org/archive/issues/13-5liturgia.php

    Michael Horton picks it up from there:

    “Especially important in the Augustinian tradition was the relation between “sign” and “thing signified.” Analogous to the relation between Christ’s human and divine natures united in one person, the earthly signs of water, bread and wine are united with the things signified: regeneration, forgiveness, and adoption. This ‘sacramental relation’ is central to the Reformed understanding of these passages. It helps us to avoid either a ritualism that places the efficacy in the signs themselves and a spiritualism or rationalism that deprives the signs of their efficacy. So when we read that Baptism is ‘the remission of sins,’ we embrace neither baptismal regeneration nor spiritualization. The sign is not the thing signified, but is so united by God’s Word and Spirit that the waters of Baptism can be said to be the washing of regeneration and the bread and wine can be said to be the body and blood of Christ.”

    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/mysteries.html

    So, there is nothing wrong with ritual so long as it does not degenerate into ritualism. Ritual can beautifully create and preserve meaning for us, or it can rob us of meaning and experience—when it turns into ritualism. Ilion T. Jones says it well:

    “When the meticulous observance of liturgical procedures becomes the chief end and aim of worship, when the worship is thought of as consisting primarily of the performance of traditional movements, then in effect the rules are worshiped instead of God. They have become idols.”

    http://tinyurl.com/kc8l5xa

    We need to remember that the Protestant reformer’s central concern was corrupt worship: Ritualism/ceremonialism. But we also need to remember that the ritualism of the Roman Catholic Church was only one side of the issue at the time of the Reformation. The Reformers also contended with the other extreme: the Anabaptists and their “free-for-all” view of worship.

    That is the swing of the pendulum that we’re still riding today in the evangelical church—the “free-for-all” view. Many who have tired of that ride have opted to get off and hitchhike back on to the “Canterbury Trail” of more ritualism and ceremonialism. Horton and Leithart have the more balanced, scriptural view.

    And regarding Hodge’s concern with the view that “sacraments always confer the benefits which they represent”, Leithart specifically disavowed that view at his trial:

    PCA v. Leithart – Trial Transcript – Page 154

    Q: So, we’ve heard several times today that you hold to a view that baptism works ex opere operato by the work worked. Is that your view?

    A (Leithart): With regard to entry into the church, yes. I think that a person who is baptized is by virtue of that right [sic] because this is Christ’s right [sic] of entry into the Church, a member of the church and has certain privileges as a result of that entry. As far as being eternally saved, regeneration in the classic confessional sense, no I don’t believe that.

    http://www.weswhite.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/final-leithart-trial-transcript.pdf

    Leithart’s ex opera operato view of entry into the visible church is what he is getting at in the quote you posted: “Rites accomplish what they signify.”

    I previously posted the following, but it’s worth comparing Leithart and Horton on this subject. They are both obviously referring to entry into the visible church.

    Leithart, The Baptized Body:

    p. 22: “Rites and ceremonies are not mere window-dressing added to an occasion that could take place without ritual and ceremony. Rites accomplish what they signify.”
    Horton, The Christian Faith:
    p. 782: “Clearly, these covenantal actions are not merely illustrations. . . Rather, they are performative actions that do what they say.”
    Leithart:
    p. 23: “Rites do not recognize a status that already exists; they place a person in a new status.”
    p. 24: “To call the sacraments “rites,” therefore, is to emphasize that they actually accomplish and do things, changing status, altering personal identity, and expressing God’s favor.”
    p. 78: “Baptism delivers from one “culture,” the culture of Adam into a new “culture,” the culture of the last Adam. Baptism strips off the culture of flesh and inducts us into the culture of the Spirit.”

    Horton, p. 783: “Through the Word and the sacraments, we are dislocated from this present age of sin and death ‘in Adam’ and are relocated ‘in Christ,’ as citizens of the age to come. No longer under the dominion of the flesh, we are under the reign of the Spirit.”

  133. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 1:22 am

    I’m not happy with the formatting of that last bit. Let me try it again:

    Leithart, The Baptized Body:

    p. 22: “Rites and ceremonies are not mere window-dressing added to an occasion that could take place without ritual and ceremony. Rites accomplish what they signify.”

    Horton, The Christian Faith:

    p. 782: “Clearly, these covenantal actions are not merely illustrations. . . Rather, they are performative actions that do what they say.”

    Leithart:

    p. 23: “Rites do not recognize a status that already exists; they place a person in a new status.”

    p. 24: “To call the sacraments “rites,” therefore, is to emphasize that they actually accomplish and do things, changing status, altering personal identity, and expressing God’s favor.”

    p. 78: “Baptism delivers from one “culture,” the culture of Adam into a new “culture,” the culture of the last Adam. Baptism strips off the culture of flesh and inducts us into the culture of the Spirit.”

    Horton, p. 783: “Through the Word and the sacraments, we are dislocated from this present age of sin and death ‘in Adam’ and are relocated ‘in Christ,’ as citizens of the age to come. No longer under the dominion of the flesh, we are under the reign of the Spirit.”

  134. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 1:42 am

    Ron, one other source is helpful here: Robert Letham, in his book, The Westminster Assembly, which was referenced by Leithart at his trial. Letham states things even more strongly:

    334: “The Reformed confessions are clear on the connection between baptism and regeneration. While they consistently oppose the Roman Catholic doctrine of ex opere operato, which asserts that the sacraments are efficacious by the fact of their use, they are equally severe on those who would reduce baptism and the Lord’s Supper to mere symbols.”

    344: “For the [Westminster] Assembly, baptism admits the person baptized into the visible church, whether the one baptized is an adult professing faith or an infant. . . However, baptism is more than an admission into the visible church. It is also a sign and seal of the covenant of grace. It is a sign because it is a sacrament, and so points to what is signified. It seals because it is a mark of ownership, for Christ as taken the one baptized as his own. The covenant of grace, of which baptism is a sign and seal, consists of ingrafting into Christ; the one baptized is a member of Christ and thus of his body, the church. This ingrafting into Christ includes regeneration, remission of sins, and sanctification. Thus, at the very start, in WCF 28.1 (and also in LC 165), baptism is brought directly into connection with the whole of salvation, from regeneration to sanctification. It signifies these things and it seals them. It is more than admission to the visible church. It is certainly more than a symbolic representation.”

    346-47: “This latter point [Rome’s ex opera operato] is challenged more directly in WCF 28.6. Baptism is efficacious for salvation, the Confession insists. However, this needs qualification. It is not to be understood in a temporal sense, as if at the moment of baptism the person baptized is regenerated and saved; there is no such temporal connection. Baptism is efficacious in uniting a person with Christ, regenerating and sanctifying him ‘in [God’s] appointed time.’ Moreover, baptism is not efficacious for everyone who receives it. It is not automatic. It is effective for God’s elect, ‘to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto.’ Since the Holy Spirit makes baptism efficacious as a means of grace, it is beyond the power of the church or its ministry to do this, nor does it happen automatically. It is in this same section [28.6] that the heart of the Assembly’s view of baptism appears most clearly. Allowing for the above caveats, ‘the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost.’ It is not the case that baptism simply offers or demonstrates the grace of God, which is then received by the one baptized. Nor is it merely the fact that baptism is a visible demonstration of the gospel, setting forth washing from sins, death, and resurrection to newness of life. It is, of course, both of these things. However, it is something more. In baptism, the promised grace –regeneration, remission of sins, sanctification, and above all union with Christ – is conferred by the Holy Spirit. We have seen how this differs from the doctrine of the Church of Rome. Union with Christ, regeneration, cleansing from sin, and sanctification of the elect people of God is achieved through baptism by the Holy Spirit ‘in God’s own time.’ This is not by any power of the sacrament itself; the Holy Spirit confers grace; the efficacy is entirely his. Moreover, the Spirit can work as and how he pleases, so baptism is not absolutely indispensable for salvation. However, anomalous situations aside, God’s promises of grace in Christ are dispensed by the Holy Spirit through baptism, as long as we bear in mind the divines caveat that this is so in inseparable conjunction with the Word. The connection is neither automatic nor temporal, but theological.”

    [Letham’s closing footnote]: “This is not the theology of baptism commonly held today in conservative Protestant circles, or even in many Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Yet so integral to Reformed theology is its sacramentalism that claims to being Reformed must be challenged that lack this vital element.”

  135. Ron Henzel said,

    February 28, 2014 at 7:03 am

    Jack,

    Regardless of how Leithart is willing to separate the moment of regeneration from the moment of baptism’s administration, over and over again he makes baptism the instrument of regeneration, forgiveness, and sanctification—and now he also makes it the instrument of justification. It doesn’t matter that he is willing to concede that the regeneration happens in God’s own time, he still clearly espouses a form of baptismal regeneration.

    This is not what the Westminster Standards teach. It is not what the Three Forms of Unity teach. It is not what Hodge teaches or Calvin teaches. It is not what historic, confessional Reformed theology has ever taught. Baptism is only an instrument of the grace of salvation in the sense that it brings confirmation and assurance to the person who believes with a faith that is the sole instrument of justification that comes from a regeneration that is solely the product of regeneration by the Spirit—not the product of baptism.

    The unity between the sign and the thing signified is not a causal unity. This is the great error of the Federal Vision: it posits a causal relationship between baptism and what it signifies. For them, baptism is an instrumental cause, usurping the place of faith. The fact that this can by no means be done with the Lord’s Supper does not seem to dawn on them—unless I’m missing something and they also believe that Communion causes Christ to die for us, or causes the benefits of His death to be applied to us! They clearly distort the meaning of sacramental union, but for some reason primarily with respect to baptism.

    You can’t sneak baptismal regeneration in through the backdoor of Reformed theology by simply separating baptism and regeneration on the ordo salutis timeline while still maintaining a cause-and-effect relationship between them. And yet all of Leithart’s talk about the work of the Holy Spirit and his empty denials of ex opere operato are simply smokescreens for doing just that. His is a very devious and sinister procedure and he stands condemned by the whole consensus of Reformed theology for the past five centuries for claiming it as a vital element in Reformed sacramentalism.

    May God undo the horrific damage he is doing in our midst, and upbraid to repentance those who follow his teachings.

  136. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Ron, not much time for me to interact this morning, but I’d like to see some documentation from you when you make such charges. And it is difficult for me not to see your charges applying to such as Letham and Horton, by the criteria you seem to be using.

  137. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I realized that I neglected to add that my previous disclaimer about Horton regarding FV also applies to Letham :)

  138. Ron Henzel said,

    February 28, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Jack,

    It seems more than a little odd that you should ask me to document my charge that Leithart teaches that baptism instrumentally causes what it signifies when you yourself have already provided that documentation in such quotations as, “Rites accomplish what they signify…they are performative actions that do what they say….they place a person in a new status…they actually accomplish and do things, changing status, altering personal identity…Baptism delivers from one ‘culture,’ … into a new ‘culture,’” and so on. Leithart is abundantly clear. Baptism makes things happen. Specifically: it causes the things it signifies to be realities. And since the things it signifies are union with Christ and regeneration, Leithart teaches that baptism in the instrumental means that God uses to accomplish those things. What could be clearer?

    Horton affirms that there is a link between the sign and the thing signified, but he never makes it a causal link as Leithart does. And Letham makes it clear that baptism signs and seals things that happen apart from the act of baptism itself. Why would either of these two men affirm a primary tenet of a movement they have publicly rejected?

  139. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Ron, Leithart has made the same qualifications as Letham. BTW, keep in mind that Letham was a witness for Leithart at his trial. And if you’re going to impugn Leithart for the quotes about ritual, be consistent and the apply the same charge Horton.

  140. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    … same charge to Horton.

  141. Ron Henzel said,

    February 28, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Jack,

    Now it’s time for you to document your statements. I contend they are false.

  142. Ron said,

    February 28, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    BTW, keep in mind that Letham was a witness for Leithart at his trial.

    Careful here, Jack. I detect some slight of hand. Letham is an expert on the theology of the Divines and for that reason he was called – to answer specific questions. He was not a witness for anybody in the way you suggest.

  143. Ron said,

    February 28, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    That means that God regards them with favor, counts them as just, for a time. When Paul contemplates how apostasy can happen, he turns to the sovereign authority and inscrutable purposes of the God who shows mercy to whom He will and hardens whom He will (Romans 9-11).

    That is false. Romans 9 comes on the heels of Romans 8! Because nothing can separate God’s people from the His love which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8), it should come as no surprise that Paul goes on to explain the grave misunderstanding that God’s ancient people could have somehow lost their salvation.

    Paul explains that the promise was always made only to the elect. Accordingly, apostasy is not a falling away from salvation (as FV would have us believe!) but rather it’s a public manifestation of what was once covert hypocrisy. (1 John 2:19)

    Finally, that Leithart would say in the same breath that God regards reprobates as “just, for a time” and that their falling away is according to “sovereign authority…” is to say that men can lose their pardon in Christ because of God’s sovereign prerogative in election. That is a wicked perversion of Scripture. Moreover, since pardon is never apart from the internal witness of the Spirit, the possibility of losing pardon would eliminate any possibility of full assurance of everlasting life, which is just another implication of the wicked theology of Federal Vision.

  144. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    Ron, can you give me a reference for that quote so that I could see it in context? Regarding Letham, I would only say that it was the defense that called him as an expert witness, not the prosecution.

  145. Ron said,

    February 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Jack,

    That’s because the defense was under the delusion that the Confession was on Leithart’s side.

    The quote comes from the link provided in Lane’s post.

  146. Ron said,

    February 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    David’s post, not Lane’s…

  147. Ron Henzel said,

    February 28, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    Jack,

    The quotes I provided in comment 138 were taken directly from your own citations of Leithart in comment 10.

  148. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    Ron, thank you for reminding me of that reference. I do think there is a satisfactory answer to your concern – but I won’t be back to my computer for a few hours.

  149. Jack Bradley said,

    February 28, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    And yes, I was aware of where your comments in #138 came from. I already responded to those.

  150. Ron said,

    February 28, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Jack,

    Re: 148, I think it’s possible, even probable, that your post was addressed to me (Ron – not Ron Henzel) regarding my use of a PL quote. It, also, pertained to my point that Letham was not “for” any particular person. Your 149 is clearly intended for Ron Henzel, which makes me a bit more certain you were addressing me in 148.

    If that’s true, then I await your response regarding the Leithart quote. Please though, keep it brief. These long responses are I think unnecessary.

  151. Ron Henzel said,

    February 28, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Here is where Horton’s position is shown to be incompatible with Leithart’s (take special note of where he says “the former did not cause the latter”):

    “Nevertheless, the reality that baptism communicates must be embraced by faith. Otherwise, it is not that there is no effect; on the contrary, the effect is a total cutting off from Christ and his blessings, the assuming in one’s own person of the curses of the covenant of works without a mediator. We know from covenantal history that while circumcision in the flesh was the sign and seal of the circumcision in the heart, the former did not cause the latter. The two are distinguished in the old covenant (Dt 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 31:32-34), even before we reach the Pauline contrast between outward and inward circumcision (Ro 2:28-29; 3:30; 4:10; 1Co 7:19; Gal 5:2-6; Php 3:3; Col 2:11). Apart from faith, outward circumcision (and baptism in the new covenant) is the sign and seal of judgment leading to death: a final cutting off of the whole person (excommunication). Hence, the severe warnings about falling away, especially in Hebrews 4, 6, and 10.”

    [Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Zondervan, 2011), 791.]

  152. Ron Henzel said,

    February 28, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    The italics in the above quote are original with Horton.

  153. Jack Bradley said,

    March 1, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Ron, as to Leithart’s provocative phraseology regarding the reprobate, “God regards them with favor, counts them as just, for a time” I can obviously see how that causes concern—taken in isolation. And I think Leithart should have further qualified such a phrase in the body of that article, given its provocative nature. However, I hope that in the larger context I provide now, it will be read more charitably.

    Leithart, The Baptized Body, 97-99:

    “What’s at stake here is not, it must be emphasized, the doctrine of eternal election or the Reformed insistence that God not only elects but reprobates, all before the foundation of the world. I fully agree with the Reformed tradition on that point.

    . . . Some Reformed theologians formulate the doctrine of election without due consideration to time. Election effectively means that God has ordained the end of every man’s life, his final destiny. Of course, it is always said that God ordains the means as well as the ends, but this still doesn’t give sufficient emphasis to the fact that what God ordains is the whole life-story of each and every human being, not merely the final act or the means of reaching that final act.

    . . . Once we recognize that God ordains time with all its changes, all its up-and-downs, we can get a better grasp of how election fits with the various apostasy texts in the New Testament.

    . . . God’s relation to His eternally elect people is like a marriage, and like any marriage, it has moments of bliss and moments of tension and strife. Likewise, God’s relation to the reprobate changes in time. For a time, a reprobate might come into His favor and respond with faith. Later, they will fall away, cease abiding, and fall out of His favor.

    . . . God is not bound by time. He created time, oversees time, controls it, and enfolds it as Alpha and Omega. Yet, He is immanent in time, moves by the rhythms of creation He has made, and responds to human beings in time. In one sense, conversion or apostasy is entirely a change in man; God has plotted it all from the beginning, and his change of course doesn’t change God’s course. In another sense, however, God changes His view of and attitude toward the convert and the apostate, moving in one case from wrath to favor and in the other from favor to wrath.”

    http://www.leithart.com/pdf/Response-to-Presbytery-Committee-Reports.pdf :

    “I am drawing on the Reformed notion of temporary benefits and temporary faith. The Confession alludes to this reality only in passing, speaking of the “common operations of the Spirit” enjoyed by some of the nonelect (WCF 10.4). The Confession hastens to add that the reprobate who share in these works of the Spirit “never truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved” (10.4). I agree that reprobates cannot be saved. If, however, the phrase “never truly come” implies that no reprobate has ever had any real connection or communion with Christ, I disagree. Is that what “never truly come to Christ” means? My reading of the history of Reformed theology suggests differently. Reformed views on temporary benefits are more complex than this Confessional statement indicates, and Reformed theologians have regularly debated and discussed the nature and extent of the temporary benefits enjoyed by some of the reprobate. Given that history, I do not believe that the WCF intended to dismiss the notions of temporary faith and temporary benefits.

    . . . Reformed theologians have long recognized the phenomenon of temporary faith, and have frequently distinguished temporary faith not only from saving faith but from mere historical faith. Calvin distinguished the faith and experience of the reprobate from the elect in various ways, but he made it clear that some of the reprobate enjoy what he calls the “inferior operation of the Spirit.”

    Institutes 3.2.11:

    “I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption. Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate.

    . . . Were it not true that many fall away from the common faith (I call it common, because there is a great resemblance between temporary and living, enduring faith), Christ would not have said to his disciples, ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,’ (John 8:31, 32). He is addressing those who had embraced his doctrine, and urging them to progress in the faith, lest by their sluggishness they extinguish the light which they have received.”

    Ron, I will say again that I think there have been instances of incautious phraseology on the part of FV writers, and I think “just, for a time” is clearly one of them. Phraseology is deficient here, but Leithart’s theology is sound.

  154. Tim Harris said,

    March 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Leithart’s new method: Theology by exhaustion.

  155. Jack Bradley said,

    March 1, 2014 at 10:47 am

    Tim, yes, it is exhausting. And that’s what I appreciate about the Northwest Presbytery. They gave due diligence to thoroughly examining Leithart’s views. So did Lane. He gave exhaustive diligence before coming to his differing conclusions.

  156. Ron said,

    March 1, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Jack,

    I don’t find that quote of Leithart’s provocative any more than I find the Counsel of Trent provocative. These are just statements of theology. What I find provocative is the insistence that such statements are Christian, even Reformed. Also, that you think Leithart needs to be read more charitably is remarkable. FV has been given every benefit of the doubt for years, which has only resulted in their proponents digging their heels in further and celebrating their non-Reformed views (while even passing them off as Reformed). Shameful!

    In any case, casting Leithart in this light as you have is simply to double down. These quotes don’t cast FV theology in a Reformed light; they simply corroborate a defection from Reformed theology.

    Likewise, God’s relation to the reprobate changes in time. For a time, a reprobate might come into His favor and respond with faith. Later, they will fall away, cease abiding, and fall out of His favor.

    You think this should be palatable to anyone who is Reformed?

    God changes His view of and attitude toward the convert and the apostate, moving in one case from wrath to favor and in the other from favor to wrath. The Confession alludes to this reality only in passing, speaking of the “common operations of the Spirit” enjoyed by some of the nonelect (WCF 10.4).

    Yes, they exploit the theology of the common operations of the Spirit, which I allude to here and deal more fully with here . This is nothing new to me.

    You say that the reprobate can fall away. Well then answer, fall away from what, salvation? You say that God’s favor visits those who do not persevere. You even suggest that such respond in faith, presumably the faith that is the gift of God – justifying faith! Accordingly, you have no place to ground assurance of salvation since those who experience God’s favor and gift of faith might not be elected unto final salvation by your calculations. The result is that there is no perseverance of the saints.There is only perseverance of some of the regenerate-pardoned. Election pertains only to final adoption, which need not follow from one’s state of grace or existential union with Christ.Consequently, there is no golden chain of redemption as taught in Romans 8:30. It’s time to stop trying to reconcile FV with Reformed theology.

    Not sure what more I can say.

  157. Reed Here said,

    March 1, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Well Ron, if this was FaceBook I’d be banging on the like-button. (Sorry Jack.)

  158. Jack Bradley said,

    March 1, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Ron & Reed, you need to read the Calvin excerpt more carefully. Before I head out for the day, I would also ask you to read this article by Thomas Schreiner, whose exegesis and conclusion are similar to Leithart’s.

    Thomas Schreiner, Perseverance and assurance

    http://www.sbts.edu/documents/tschreiner/2.1_article.pdf

    “. . . the promises of God are unbreakable. Those whom he has elected, predestined, called, and justified will certainly be glorified. No genuine believer will ever apostatize, not because of his own strength, but because of God’s sustaining grace.

    . . . I believe that those who are elected, called, and justified will certainly be glorified. No genuine believer will ever apostatize. Nonetheless, the warning passages in the scriptures are addressed to believers, and they are threatened with eternal destruction (not loss of rewards) if they commit apostasy. . . Contrary to the hypothetical view. . . the warnings in the text are real and serious. We must pay heed to the warnings in order to be saved on the day of the Lord.

    . . . They provoke a healthy fear (Heb 4:1!), so that we are not casual and relaxed about entering the heavenly rest. Of course, this fear is not the same thing as the paralyzing fear which suppresses all activity (1 Jn 4:18). It is the same kind of fear which causes us to put on our seat belts when we drive and which causes us to place railings where a fall would be deadly. Fear in these instances does not paralyze us but actually contributes to our confidence when driving or climbing. Similarly, hearing and obeying the warnings in scriptures does not sap us of confidence and assurance. It is the pathway for full assurance in the faith.

    . . . Human faith is the necessary means or instrument of salvation, but for the Calvinist such faith is certain in the lives of the elect, for God has chosen whom will have such faith before the foundation of the world. Nonetheless, God’s unconditional election does not bypass human means but employs them. That is, God’s decision to elect some unconditionally becomes a reality in history through human faith.

    . . . God’s electing grace always uses the means of human faith to secure salvation. So, too, the perseverance of the saints is sure because of God’s preserving grace. It will not fail in a single instance. And the warnings and admonitions of the scriptures are one of the means by which this preserving grace becomes a reality in the lives of believers. To say that the warnings are besides the point and artificial if no one can commit apostasy is like saying the call to belief is a charade if all the elect will certainly believe.

    . . . I conclude that the warnings are the means by which the future preservation of the elect is accomplished. Taking the warnings with the utmost seriousness is the pathway to eternal life. No philosophical a priori should cast away the warnings on the basis that the future salvation of the elect is certain. Those who say that the warnings are superfluous if believers cannot apostatize will have a hard time squaring this text with such a theory, for Jesus himself teaches that deceiving the elect is impossible, and he urgently warns believers to be on guard against falling away.

    . . . Our Father is so loving that he has admonished us about many false pathways on our journey to the heavenly city. We will be saved on the day of the Lord, not by ignoring these threats but by taking them with the utmost seriousness.”

  159. Ron said,

    March 1, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Jack,

    I actually typed out and then deleted it from the post something along these lines: ” A suitable response to this post should not take the form of more quotes from theologians.”

    Reed,

    I appreciate your “like”. :)

  160. Jack Bradley said,

    March 1, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Well, Ron, if you aren’t going to take these quotes from theological giants like Calvin seriously, there really is no more point in posting them.

    Signing off for now, with the hope that less biased minds will ponder these things.

  161. Reed Here said,

    March 1, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Jack: I’ll not waste time reviewing Schreiner or Calvin quotes. I have found you to be a serial “take it out of context” abuser. Frankly, you are untrustworthy.

  162. Ron said,

    March 1, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Jack,

    To argue that the saints persevere through the means of warnings is not the same thing as reconciling (i) the doctrine of assurance with (ii) the possibility of losing one’s regeneration and salvation. That you would offer such a discourse as a rejoinder simply indicates an avoidance of the issue or worse, a want of understanding.

  163. Jack Bradley said,

    March 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Reed, such intellectual laziness and ad hominem is really unworthy of you.

  164. Ron said,

    March 1, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Jack,

    Reed’s comment is not *fallaciously* ad hominem. He does not reject your post because of some irrelevant fact about you. To put it plainly, it is not fallacious to draw attention to your defects. Your track record now precedes your quoting of theologians, making your use of quotes less than credible.

  165. Ron said,

    March 1, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    intellectual laziness

    Now that, Jack, given Reed’s track record is fallaciously ad hominem.

  166. Jack Bradley said,

    March 1, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Ron, I’m aware of Reed’s track record. That’s why his intellectual opt out on this is disappointing. As far as my track record, I consider your assessment more than a bit biased.

  167. Ron Henzel said,

    March 1, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Jack,

    Two things:

    1) Where does Schreiner say anything even remotely similar to Leithart’s “God’s relation to the reprobate changes in time. For a time, a reprobate might come into His favor…God changes His view of and attitude toward the convert and the apostate…”?

    2) When do you plan on responding to my comment 151?

  168. Reed Here said,

    March 1, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Jack: I’m erasing this comment believing although it may be true in content, I cannot offer it in this setting with your best interests at heart. Suffice to say I find myself believing it is best to follow the Scriptures now and not answer someone such as yourself. As such decisions are personal almost always, I’ll not think less of others who find it valuable for them to respond to you.

  169. Jack Bradley said,

    March 1, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Ron, I don’t think there is much point in pursuing it further. See #160

  170. Ron Henzel said,

    March 1, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    Jack,

    So if you can’t defend your position, the problem lies with our bias?

  171. Ron said,

    March 1, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    I’ll not think less of others who find it valuable for them to respond to you.

    Reed et al.,

    I too have nothing more to say. As a matter of personal conscience, I think for me to argue more would be to deny the Calvinism I embrace.God must give the increase and I believe what has been said is sufficient enough to give Jack (and any FV lurkers) pause – should, of course, God be pleased to grant even a moment’s reflection.


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