The FV – Multiplying by Dividing

Posted by Andrew Webb

On 11/28/2007 Pastor Doug Wilson of the CREC, speculating on the possible outcomes of the SJC’s deliberations over the matter of Louisiana Presbytery’s failure to indict Steve Wilkins, opined on his blog that what the FV men were actually looking for was a trial, where they could finally hash everything out in public. Wilson wrote:

“Wilkins would then be tried in some venue, and he would have the full presumption of innocence in that trial. The prosecution would have to prove that he was not in conformity with the Confession, instead of doing it the Internet way, which is to baldly assert that someone is out of conformity with the Confession, leaving him to try to prove his way back into conformity.

So this would be a real debate, a real confrontation, requiring real arguments. The accused would have the advantage, instead the current slander system, where the prosecution has the advantage. At the same time, genuine theological experts from both sides would be called to testify. It would be the trial of the century. Finally we would have a setting in which we all could define our terms and settle the matter. It would be fantastic. Throw us into that briar patch.”

As most of you already know, on Saturday January 19th the Louisiana Presbytery gave Doug Wilson what he said they wanted when they voted to plead guilty to the SJC’s second indictment to whit that they: “failed to find a strong presumption of guilt that some of the views of TE Wilkins were out of conformity with the Constitution, and thus was derelict in its duty under BCO 13-9, 40-4, and 40-5, and has thereby caused much unresolved pastoral confusion and harm.

TE Wilkins’ views, as articulated in the Record of the Case in 2007-8 and in the following examples, clearly constitute a strong presumption of guilt that his views are out of accord with the Constitution and require a fair and impartial court to proceed to trial.”

They also voted to refer the matter of trying Steve Wilkins to the SJC. Thus they threw Brer Wilkins into the very briar patch Wilson had maintained the FV men wanted to be in all along.

This Monday, however, Doug Wilson reported the following on his blog:

“Yesterday the congregation of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church voted (without dissent) to leave the PCA. They also voted to have Steve Wilkins continue as their pastor, and to approach the CREC for membership. They have been adopted as a mission church of Grace Covenant Church in Nacogdoches, Texas, pastored by Randy Booth. Steve was a member in good standing of the Louisiana Presbytery and consequently may transfer his membership according to the PCA BCO (38-3a), with the presbytery simply recording the action. The Louisiana Presbytery has been formally notified of all this. We welcome Auburn Avenue into our fellowship of churches with an odd mixture of grief and joy.”

The Stated Clerk of the PCA was also informed of the decision and that AAPC was no longer part of the PCA on the day after the AAPC congregation voted. To say that these moves occurred at light-speed compared to the slow and deliberate pace of normal Presbyterian deliberation would be an understatement to say the least.

Within nine days of being informed that the very trial they said they wanted would take place, Wilkins and company decamped from the PCA claiming that he was leaving as a member in good standing, despite his Presbytery admitting that there was a strong presumption of guilt regarding his teachings and referring the matter for trial to the SJC (which indicates that proceedings were about to be initiated and charges drawn up against Wilkins himself.) Clearly, we would be extremely naive if we were to believe that plans for leaving in the eventuality of a trial being announced had not already been at least thought out.

The fact is that the FV has indicated once again that the last thing they want is for their theology to go to trial – at least not in any venue they don’t control.

Now they will no doubt protest that the SJC was somehow “stacked” against them, but such protests should be seen for the sham they are. The SJC was not “appointed” by a moderator, nor was it a commission created to deal with the FV problem. It is a body of elders drawn from all the Presbyteries of the PCA elected on the floor of the GA over many years. As almost every observer of the SJC has noted, this body is made up almost entirely of the moderates or broadly evangelical wing of the PCA, many of its members either supported or were also active in the PPLN movement which created “Good Faith Subscription” and struck down the “Full Subscription” that TRs favored. Additionally, the men on the SJC tend to be the “big names” in the history of the denomination rather than “small minded,” unpopular, non-mainstream, theological wonks. In fact a quick review of the actions of the men of the SJC will show that they were overwhelmingly in favor of the “non-TR” position in almost every PCA debate during the 90s and early 2000s.

What we are in fact seeing, is the growth of the CREC as a specifically FV denomination via the division of existing Reformed denominations. Via conferences, books, blogs, and unfortunately in at least two of our seminaries, they mold future CREC pastors who then enter existing non-FV denominations and end up “crash-landing” the particular congregations they go on to Pastor in the CREC. Few, if any, denominations in history have had such a high percentage of pastors who have been deposed from such a wide variety of other orthodox denominations, or who left their original denomination under threat of trial. At this point, their church growth model seems to be almost entirely based on splitting or engulfing existing congregations via FV theology. (As such it might be interesting to compute how much money other denominations have spent to create congregations for the CREC!)

The only way orthodox denominations are going to be able to put an end to this multiplication by division process is by effectively shutting off the stream of FV leaning pastors into their denominations. This will only be accomplished by:

  • Removing FV candidates from coming under care of Presbytery and not taking on new ones
  • Removing existing FV pastors as quickly as possible, before they can affect new candidates for ministry in their denomination (this is especially critical in the churches around our seminaries) – call it filling in the poisoned wells.
  • Removing FV leaning seminary Profs from the Seminaries that feed our denominations

This may sound like strong medicine, but the illness it is designed to treat is extremely serious, if not fatal. If we don’t do these things, I can virtually guarantee you that both the high rate of Tiber swimming (moving to the Roman Catholic Church) by FV infected families and the CREC church growth plan will continue.

The Discussion Phase Is Clearly Over

Posted by Andy Webb

When we first commented on the Lampooning of the PCA discipline process at the most recent Auburn Avenue Pastors Conference in a post to the Warfield list, noting the obvious lack of respect it indicated, a few FV apologists were quick to say it was all in good fun. Then Mark Horne a PCA minister and signer of the “Joint Federal Vision Statement” blogged in response comparing the FV men to Jesus and those involved in the process against the FV to Pharisees on their way to hell. Apparently this is why the FV men were right in refusing “to take them and their judgments on him seriously” and for not showing “respect or the love for them.

Now James Jordan, one of the chief architects of the FV and another signer of the Joint FV Statement, in comments he made here has made very clear what the FV opinion of the “gaggle of fools” (the PCA) and its discipline process is, and indicated beyond all possible contradiction that the Rubber Nose treatment was not lighthearted Jovian pranksterism.

Here then are some lowlights from Federal Vision Joint Statement Signer, Recent Auburn Avenue Speaker, and the”godfather of the Federal Vision” Jim Jordan’s opinions of the PCA:

Blogger James Jordan said… The actions of the Star Judicial Chamber of the PCA are so openly wicked and evil, and so totally tyrannical, that is makes the Papacy look like small potatoes by comparison. All Christians in all kinds of churches should be appalled by this tyranny, and it is certainly fine for Armstrong, myself, and others to comment on it.
Blogger James Jordan said… If you men cannot recognize the actions of this Star Chamber as tyranny and evil, you are really beyond help. The presbytery has twice examined Wilkins and said he is not out of accord with the Confession. Since this was not the “verdict” desired by the antichrists of the Star Chamber, they threaten the presbytery! I stand by my words. These actions are nothing less than demonic, and evidence that the PCA is being given over. The very fact that the PCA would set up such a Star Chamber, which is beyond appeal, is more evidence. Not even the Papacy has such power, nor claims such power. And you men cannot see this? You are blind, and need to pray for salvation from bondage. Also, the fact that the ignorant PCA GA blindly voted to accept the distortions and downright lies of the FV Report is only evidence that these men are easily misled and are too busy to investigate matters for themselves. The PCA is now virtually a tyranny, and I’m overwhelmingly happy not to be part of it.
Blogger James Jordan said… This is a joke, right? The PCA committee, stacked from the start, produces a series of easily-provable lies, allows virtually no time for discussion so that not only FV person even gets to the mike, and you want to defend this? My language is not over the top. It is very mild. And if you are offended, good. Those of you who lie repeatedly about the beliefs of ordained ministers of Christ, and who rape and divide His church, are going to hear far worse in time to come.
Blogger James Jordan said… Whenever someone points out liars, he’s obnoxious. Goes with the territory. The PCA committee was a pack of liars. The discussion at GA was a joke. I’m not PCA. I wasn’t there. I saw it online. I saw that clown Sproul lie about the FV, and I saw the cowardly committee try and explain why they did not interview anyone, and I saw them lie and say they had actually read and studied the supposed FV material. All out there for the world to see. No fear of God before their eyes. What I gather bothers you is that people outside the PCA can see this abomination and the tyranny of your evil Star Chamber and can comment on it. Yes, we can. It’s appalling. Luther was treated far better. But I assure you, lying about God’s ministers and tearing up the bride of Christ is far more serious than being seen as obnoxious on some blog.
Blogger James Jordan said… Well, this is now just a joke. If you don’t think Sproul is a clown, you obviously did not watch his performance at GA. I don’t need to interview him. He clowned around quite clearly in front of everyone. For the rest, you chaps clearly are not interested in the Bible and the Reformed confessions, so there’s no point in continuing with you. And, you clearly despise Presbyterian church government, since the LA Presbytery has TWICE investigated Wilkins and found no ground for charges. You are not presbyterians at all. I wash my hands of you. Be offended as much as you want. If you wish to be treated with respect, cease your contemptable behavior.
Blogger James Jordan said… The idiocy continues. Justification by faith alone has nothing to do with the FV matter, since all FV exponents affirm completely and wholeheartedly the historic protestant and Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone. No matter how many times you men repeat your lies, we shall stand up and call you liars and rebuke your wickedness.
As for the Star Chamber, it’s true that the PCA, like a gaggle of fools, set this evil thing in place. It’s the opposite of any kind of Biblical and presbyterian government, as anyone can see, and it’s going to be pointed out as such by many more than Armstrong and myself. You have to be amazed at the morality of the gods of the PCA. Among normal decent people, if you said I was beating my wife, and I said, “No, I’m not,” that would be it. Innocent until proven guilty. Not in the PCA. No, there has to be an investigation. So, the investigation conducted by those nearest to me comes back and says, “Nope, he’s not beating his wife.” Among normal decent people that would be enough.
But not for the gods of the PCA. No, they demand another investigation. The second investigation, by people close to me who know me, comes back and says, “Nope, he’s not beating his wife.” Now among normal decent people that would be more than enough. But not for you evil men, and not for your gods. Your gods come back and say, “Either find this man guilty of beating his wife or we will cut you out of our denomination.” THAT’s the PCA. You regard your sect as a church of Jesus Christ? It is about like the church of Sardis, and EVERYONE CAN SEE IT! You should really step back and take a look at your collective appalling behavior — your misrepresentations, your character assassinations, your lies, and your tyrannies — and do something about it; because if you don’t, the Lord of the Church most certainly will do something about it.

As I’ve said before, the discussion phase is clearly over. These men have nothing but contempt and vitriol and incredibly offensive insults for any denomination or individual that opposes their will and ever-changing theological opinions. Why do they remain in a denomination they brand a Pharisaical “sect” of “antichrists” and a “gaggle of fools”? Still, they seem determined to do so, and to cast their envenomed barbs from within, so there isn’t going to be any other option other than to continue with the discipline process with as much patience and attention to doing things decently and order as possible.

Grace Not as Amazing as Once Thought or “I once was Lost, then I was Found, But Now I’m Lost Forever”

Posted By Andrew Webb

In a recent reply to me entitled “The Demands of the System” Doug Wilson once again shows the FV tendency to attempt to set the Reformed Confessions against scripture, alleging that those opposed to the ever-developing Federal Vision theology use them as a “Procrustean bed for Bible verses” where “Verses are stretched or lopped off in order to fit their idea of the system.

He then produces bible verses he believes prove that I and my crusty old confessions are wrong and that some reprobates are genuinely united to Christ and saved “in some sense” and then later cut off. Presumably Wilson believes that I, and the Confessions, were unaware of these verses or that I simply chose to “chop them off” in order to make them fit my preconceived notions about salvation. I want to assure Pastor Wilson that both I and the men who composed the Reformed Confessions I was referring to had encountered those verses before. In fact, I’ve even had them produced triumphantly to prove that I am wrong to believe that all who are genuinely united to Christ and Justified will persevere in the faith. The only difference being that in the past the people producing them to prove that the “perseverance of the saints” was baloney did not for a moment claim to be Reformed, they were either Arminians or Roman Catholics (not that Arminians have never claimed to be Reformed, Arminius did not call himself an Arminian, he called himself Reformed, and he pastored Reformed churches and taught in a Reformed seminary.) I should be grateful to Pastor Wilson in that he didn’t produce other verses I’m used to seeing like Ezekiel 18:24-29 and Hebrews 6:4-6.

In any event, because Wilson isn’t impressed with Reformed Confessions which are supposed to express the agreement of Reformed believers regarding the teaching of scripture, nor is he impressed much with what Reformed theologians like Calvin and Owen have to say about the verses he brings out, I’m forced to go the same route one does when defending the the teaching of the scriptures to those outside the Reformed faith, i.e. a re-exegeting and explanation of the scriptures. I don’t mind doing that even though I don’t really have the time because I love the Word of God, but the sad fact is that nothing is likely to be gained from this, as I have no doubt Wilson will be no more likely to agree with my exegesis of the main scripture he refers to (John 15:1-2, 6) than that of Owen, Calvin, or the Westminster divines. Incidentally, I didn’t originally come to the conclusion that those truly united to Christ persevere from reading the Westminster Confession or from Calvin, I got it from reading the bible where I rejoiced in the assurance given by scriptures like Romans 8:29-39, John 10:27-30, and Phil. 1:6 For that matter I wasn’t raised in the Reformed faith, or the church at all, nor was I nurtured under the teachings of the Confession, but can honestly answer that although it was Sproul who first pointed out to me that what I was coming to believe about the teaching of the bible was Reformed, like Whitefield I got my Calvinism not from Calvin but from the Bible.

JOHN 15:1-6

This parable gives us the last of Christ’s many “I am” statements which include “the bread of life”, “the light of the world”, “the door”, “the good shepherd”, “the resurrection and the life”, “the way the truth and the life,” and finally here “the true vine.” Not to be forgotten in this list however, is Christ’s definitive statement from John 8:58 that He is the I AM (ego eimi), a clear statement of His Divinity hearkening back to God’s self-revelation of Himself to Moses in Exodus 3. Each of these statements couples Christ’s declaration of His divinity with a great truth about Himself and His mission. There is always a great danger of forgetting, however, that these statements are allegories and usually couched in parables, so in interpreting them we must ever keep his central point in view and not try to squeeze teachings out of the lesser details that Christ did not intend and which would contradict His teachings elsewhere. The great rule we must always apply is that scripture interprets scripture, and where a doctrine is uncertain in one portion of scripture, we should go to other areas where it that doctrine is more clearly taught on. Above all, we should strive not to atomistically interpret a verse so that it contradicts other clearer verses.

In these verses Christ declares that He is the True Vine, the emphasis on “true” almost certainly pointing us back to the fact that Israel in the Old Testament was frequently pictured as a Vine (Is. 5:1-7, etc.) and the father as the Vinedresser. A quick review of the vine texts in the OT however, reveals that the vine God planted and had hoped would be fruitful usually turned out to be faithless and fruitless, but now Christ the true Vine that Israel foreshadowed has come, and those truly in Him will never prove to be fruitless for they are vitally united to Him and He is the source of their fruitfulness. [Interestingly, the source of this union with Christ, is nowhere identified in the parable as baptism, rather if any explanation is to be had for its inauguration we would find it identified by Christ in verse 3 as being “because of the word which I have spoken to you.” And indeed in the gospel of John, union with Christ (being in Him) is always effected via regeneration (being born again from above) and faith, not baptism.] However, some of the branches in the parable are devoid of this power and therefore fruitless, there is no vital union between them and Christ, they are only externally in the vine but not part of it, they are “dead branches” that the Divine Vinedresser removes.

At this point, no doubt Pastor Wilson and the other FV men will insist that I cannot assert that these branches that were cut off never had a vital, or living union with Christ, because he says they were “in me.” After perusing no less than 12 Reformed commentaries on the passage dating from the 16th century to the 21st, I have found that they all essentially answer the objection by stating what should be obvious; namely that this is a parable, that it is clearly addressing the issue from the “man’s eye perspective,” that all true believers bear good fruit (John 15:16, Luke 6:43, etc.), that this would contradict clearer passages, and so on. But since it clearly isn’t obvious to Doug Wilson, I’ll go ahead and quote one of the many able commentators, D.A. Carson, on the subject:

“But the latter view, that these dead branches are apostate Christians, must confront the strong evidence within John that true disciples are preserved to the end (e.g. notes on 6:37-40; 10:28). It is more satisfactory to recognize that asking the in me language to settle such disputes is to push the vine imagery too far. The transparent purpose of the verse is to insist that there are no true Christians without some measure of fruit. Fruitfulness is an infallible mark of true Christianity; the alternative is dead wood, and the exigencies of the vine metaphor make it necessary that such wood be connected to the vine.”

[D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Eerdmans, 1991, p.515]

Now, while I was unable to find any Reformed commentators who agreed with Doug Wilson’s take on these verses, that is not to say that there aren’t any commentators who don’t agree with him. For instance, this commentator appears to track perfectly with Wilson’s exegesis:

“Every branch in Me, &c., i.e., every Christian who by faith and baptism has been as it were a vine-branch grafted into Me, if he bear not the fruit of good works, God the Father will take him away, i.e., will cut off from the Vine the unfruitful and worthless branch. This He does both by secretly severing him from the communication of the Spirit and grace of Christ, and also by publicly separating him from Christ by means of excommunication, or by permitting him to fall into heresy. And thus in death He separates him from the company of Christ and His saints.” – CORNELIUS À LAPIDE

Even Arminian commentators like Wesley, while agreeing that the branches were once truly united to Christ, do not point to the sacrament of baptism as the means by which they were truly united to Him. To find that kind of agreement one must go back to the Roman Catholic commentators.

Apart from being able to counter the notion that John 15:1-2, 6 teaches that those truly united to Christ and enjoying the benefits of his redemption may be cut off with verses like the much clearer John 6:37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” or John 10:27-29 one can also appeal to Christ’s own words from Matthew 7:23 to church members who although they did many works in his name never bore good fruits (and that would be precisely those branches that are cut off in the parable) And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Is Pastor Wilson really ready to support the notion although they were supposedly “really united to Christ” and thus “His Sheep” via their baptism and membership in the church, they were none-the-less NEVER KNOWN BY HIM? What then do we make of John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”

I could go on to note all the problems inherent in assuming that those for whom Christ died might someday be lost, for as John Owen reminds us “No person, therefore, whatever, who hath not been made partaker of the washing of regeneration and the renovation of the Holy Ghost, can possibly have any union with Christ.” and how those united and cut off would have a right to cry out “For what are we condemned? Was not the blood of Christ that cleansed us sufficient to atone for all our sins?” But I’ll leave that for another post.

Instead, let me leave with a comment from a genuinely Reformed commentator on the subject of apostates who makes a simple point that anyone who understands and affirms the true nature of Union with Christ can probably immediately grasp:

“There are myriads of professing Christians in every Church whose union with Christ is only outward and formal. Some of them are joined to Christ by baptism and Church-membership. Some of them go even further than this, and are regular communicants and loud talkers about religion. But they all lack the one thing needful. Notwithstanding services, and sermons, and sacrament, they have no grace in their hearts, no faith, no inward work of the Holy Spirit. They are not one with Christ, and Christ in them. Their union with Him is only nominal, and not real. They have “a name to live,” but in the sight of God they are dead.” – J.C. Ryle

None of this is New Under the Sun

Posted by Andrew Webb

“Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.”
(Eccles. 1:10)

Although the FV is sometimes presented by its advocates as something of a “new Reformation” a quick review of the history of the church will quickly indicate that movements emphasizing reliance on membership in the corporate church, ritual, and sacraments rather than personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ are nothing particularly new. We see it in Israel just prior to going into exile and again at the time of Christ’s birth. We see it abundantly manifested in the medieval church and we see it cropping up again and again in the Reformed Churches since the 16th century.

Read the rest of this entry »

United to Christ But Not Going to Heaven?

Posted by Andrew Webb

There are so many non-Reformed doctrines floating around in the FV that one hardly knows where to begin addressing them. But the idea that everyone in the covenant is “saved in some sense” regardless of whether they are elect or not is a good place to start discussing their departure from the Standards.

To sum up the FV viewpoint, on this subject let me use Minich’s synopsis “Within the Bounds of Orthodoxy?” because all the FV men seem to be happy with it:

“Wilkins writes, “Covenant is a real relationship, consisting of real communion with the triune God through union with Christ. The covenant is not some thing that exists apart from Christ or in addition to him…rather, the covenant is union with Christ.” [28] Alluding to the way the Apostle Paul addresses the weak Corinthian congregations, (sanctified in Christ, baptized in the name of Christ, brothers, etc) Wilkins continues, “He was not able to speak like this because he had some special insight into the secret decrees of God. He was speaking about what was true of these objectively by virtue of their union with Christ in covenant.” [29] In sum, “All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ.” [30] Thus, according to Wilkins and others, all covenant members are “saved” in some sense. They are Christians. John Barach factors in the doctrine of election, explaining, “God does not make His covenant exclusively with those who have been predestined to eternal salvation. Rather, he establishes His covenant with all who have been baptized, with professing believers and their children. The whole church, head for head, is in covenant with God.” [31] Modifying the way the doctrine of election is traditionally employed, Barach continues, “But what if we tell the church, ‘God chose you and Jesus died for you’ and then some of those people fall away and end up in Hell? Have we lied to them? No! We have spoken to them in a faithful and trustworthy manner in terms of their true covenantal relationship to God.” [32] In short, God “has decreed that some of those whom he has chosen to bring into a covenant relationship with him will enjoy that relationship only for a time. God brings those people into His covenant and unites them to Christ for a time…they really experience His love, but they do not respond with repentance and faith and love.” [33]”

Contra the statements above, the Standards (and scripture) do not teach that the non-elect are ever united to Christ or saved in any sense because the only way we can be united to Christ is via FAITH and faith is the result of Effectual Calling and Regeneration. For instance, Wilkins and Barach above are not just irreconcilable with David Dickson in his commentary on the Confession, Truth’s Victory Over Error he identifies their view as either RC, Arminian, or Lutheran:

ARE all those whom God has predestinated to life, and those only, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually called by his word and Spirit, out of the estate of sin and death, in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation, through Jesus Christ?”
Yes; Rom. 8.30. Rom. 11.7. Eph. 1.10,11. 2 Thes. 2.13,14. Rom. 8.2. Eph. 2.1-5, 2 Cor. 3.3,6.

Well then, do not the Papists, Arminians, and Lutherans err, who maintain, That men not elected are sometimes effectually called?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because faith belongs to the elect only, Titus 1.1.
2d, Because whom he did predestinate, those only, and no other hath he called, Rom. 8.30.
3d, Because though many hear the gospel, yet none believe, but such as are ordained to everlasting life, Acts 13.48.
4th, Because the apostle testifies, that the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded, Rom. 11.7.
5th, Because Christ manifested his Father’s name, to those only whom he choose out of the world, and gave to him, John 17.6.”

A.A. Hodge Builds on this point in expositing a later portion of the same chapter:

“Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved

Where he states:

1. That the non–elect will certainly fail of salvation, not because a free salvation is not made available to them if they accept Christ, but because they never accept Christ; and they all refuse to accept him, because, although they may be persuaded by some of the common influences of the Holy Ghost, their radical aversion to God is never overcome by effectual calling. This builds upon the teaching that the grace of effectual calling extends to all the elect, and only the elect.”

If I might also point out, the critical section of the Confession, which is intimately related to the above, and which the FV seem to ignore entirely is WCF 14.1 which explicitly states that the ordinary means of conversion is the Preaching of the Word, and which denies that the sacraments are converting ordinances stating that they serve to build up the faith, not initiate it. Scottish Presbyterian commentator Robert Shaw has an excellent exposition of this that is at one with the Standards and Scripture in his commentary as does Hodge, but again, both are totally at odds with the non-reformed doctrine of Wilkins and Barach above which wants to create “some sort” of salvation, faith, and union with Christ which everyone in the Covenant objectively has. The fact that this means that some who come to Him are not the elect whom the father has given Him and that He will lose some who come to Him (contra John 6:37 and 6:44) doesn’t seem to worry them. They seem more concerned to deny the truth that the church will always consist of a mixed multitude on this side of glory, both people who are real wheat and always will be and people who are real tares and who always will be.

“None of them were of us”

Posted by Andrew Webb

Per Lane’s request, I am moving three of my posts from the comments section to the main page, this will be the first. I should apologize to Greenbaggins readers in advance that while I will make an honest effort to answer questions I’m probably not going to be able to engage in nearly as much debate as some of the other posters here. I have never been able to write concisely and quickly, and with pastoral ministry and my own blog (plus another blog for deployed soldiers, sailors, & airmen I hope to start this week) to look after I just don’t have enough time.

Regarding the parable of the soils, and indeed John 15, and everyone else who appeared to “believe” for a while, the consensus amongst the Reformed has ever been that the belief expressed by those that fall away was never true saving faith but only a mere belief involving knowledge and assent, but not love and trust. The fact that Jesus does not consent to be united to these unregenerated “fair-weather believers” is clear from the scripture:

John 2:23-25 “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.”

Regarding these “believers” Calvin comments: “And, therefore, when we speak generally about faith, let us know that there is a kind of faith which is perceived by the understanding only, and afterwards quickly disappears, because it is not fixed in the heart; and that is the faith which James calls dead; but true faith always depends on the Spirit of regeneration, (James 2:17, 20, 26.) … The Evangelist rather means, in my opinion, that Christ did not reckon them to be genuine disciples, but despised them as volatile and unsteady. It is a passage which ought to be carefully observed, that not all who profess to be Christ’s followers are such in his estimation.

While the FV men describe apostates as people who have been genuinely united to Christ who do not persevere but fall away Calvin counters that they were never truly united to Christ because this cannot occur without effectual calling and regeneration and the regenerate, always persevere:

“By saying, They went out from us, he means that they had previously occupied a place in the Church, and were counted among the number of the godly. He, however, denies that they were of them, though they had assumed the name of believers, as chaff though mixed with wheat on the same floor cannot yet be deemed wheat. For if they had been of us. He plainly declares that those who fell away had never been members of the Church. And doubtless the seal of God, under which he keeps his own, remains sure, as Paul says, (2 Timothy 2:19.) But here arises a difficulty, for it happens that many who seemed to have embraced Christ, often fall away. To this I answer, that there are three sorts of those who profess the Gospel; there are those who feign piety, while a bad conscience reproves them within; the hypocrisy of others is more deceptive, who not only seek to disguise themselves before men, but also dazzle their own eyes, so that they seem to themselves to worship God aright; the third are those who have the living root of faith, and carry a testimony of their own adoption firmly fixed in their hearts. The two first have no stability; of the last John speaks, when he says, that it is impossible that they should be separated from the Church, for the seal which God’s Spirit engraves on their hearts cannot be obliterated; the incorruptible seed, which has struck roots, cannot be pulled up or destroyed. He does not speak here of the constancy of men, but of God, whose election must be ratified. He does not then, without reason declare, that where the calling of God is effectual, perseverance would be certain. He, in short, means that they who fall away had never been thoroughly imbued with the knowledge of Christ, but had only a light and a transient taste of it.

The FV problem isn’t semantic, it is fundamental and strikes at the heart of the Reformed concept of the Ordo. In Reformed theology, no one genuinely united to Christ can be cut off, in Arminianism they can, and in the FV they can. Let’s not forget that Jacobus Arminius and his followers called themselves Reformed as well. Arminius and his disciple Episcopus were both teachers at the Reformed seminary at Leyden. They always saw themselves as bringing further reformation to the Reformed Church in Holland by bringing them to a more perfect understanding of Scripture. They also argued for their liberty to teach the “truth”, while making it quite clear that once their views became the majority the old views would have to go, in other words “tolerate us until we are strong enough to force you out.” Generally speaking, all of the movements that have introduced error into Reformed denominations have taken the same tack saying that they were arguing for greater fidelity to scripture, greater love to the brethren, a broader and more catholic Christianity, and anti-sectarianism (sound familiar?)

For instance, the gradual introduction of Arminianism, Neo-Nomianism, and eventually Arianism were the forces that destroyed the English Presbyterians (who after the Restoration were all known as Dissenters) in the 17th century. The introduction of those elements was opposed by what would have been called the “TRs” of their own day who argued for fidelity to the confessions and the discipline of those introducing error. Those advocating “tolerance” for the errorists of their own time argued in the manner of the following quote by John Taylor of Norwhich. It could have been lifted from any one of the modern pleas to tolerate the FV all one has to do is replace “Dissenter” with “PCA”:

“If the Dissenters stand firm on liberty and love… if they refuse all party schemes and stand upon the basis of universal Christianity; if they allow the free study of the Bible and encourage the labors of their honest and learned men; if they are steadfastly determined to establish their faith, practice, and worship on the Word of God alone, as it shall from time to time be made known to them… then they will act to their own true principles… But if ever they abandon liberty and love; they stiffly adhere to party names and schemes; if they discourage the honest and learned men that would throw in more light and truth among them, they will become weak and dwindle into nothing.”

Errorists always make out they are doing the Reformed world a service and bringing us greater reformation. You’d think after over 300 years of the same approach we’d learn to say “No thanks” to old errors in new clothes.

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