To go alont with Joel Beeke’s new book on adoption, there is going to be a conference this fall on the doctrine. I have long felt that adoption is an under-studied doctrine in Reformed circles. The privilege of being called God’s family is inestimable. So, check out the book and the conference, which has such speakers as Rick Phillips and Carl Robbins speaking.
Posted by Bob Mattes
Many of the various blog discussions on the Federal Visionists’ so-called “Non-Elect Covenant Members”, which orthodox Reformed folk have called simply “reprobates” for almost 500 years, concern the benefits that these reprobates receive while members of the visible church. One Federal Visionist was honest enough to admit that they haven’t worked out the detail on this yet. On the other hand, Steve Wilkins said of the reprobate in the visible church:
They may enjoy for a season the blessings of the covenant, including the forgiveness of sins, adoption, possession of the kingdom, sanctification, etc., and yet apostatize and fall short of the grace of God. (The Federal Vision (Monroe, Louisiana: Athanasius Press, 2004), “Covenant, Baptism, and Salvation” on page 62)
I thought that I would help out by covering what orthodox Reformed theologians have garnered from the Scriptures over the last almost 500 years, and even way before that.
For the purposes of clarity and accuracy, I will join my orthodox brothers by referring to the Federal Visionists’ “Non-Elect Covenant Members” or NECMs by what they really are: “Reprobate Covenant Members” or RCMs. This makes it clear that they were never, are not, and never will be saved, nor share in pseudo-saving benefits that Wilkins offers them. Their eternal destiny was, is, and ever shall be hell.
Thomas Goodwin, in his Ephesians sermons, makes this point about salvation: that there are two kinds of benefits: benefits of reputation (consisting of God’s actions upon us and towards us), and benefits of real change (the working of God in us). See volume 2 (of his complete works), pp. 314-316 for this distinction. He argues against the Roman Catholic understanding of adoption in a way that is unique to theology, I believe. Maybe others who know more can correct me on this. Here is what he says:
They (the Roman Catholics, LK), to maintain that we are justified, not by being accounted righteous, but by being inherently righteous, say that our adoption doth not consist in a relation to God as a Father, but in the image of God wrought in us. Why, if that adoption did imply a real change in the person that is made a son, it must make a real change in the father, for father and son are relatives; and so when God becomes a Father to us, you must make a real change in him, for always for things that are relata there is the same reason, as we use to say.
A very interesting argument, I think. What say you?