Hebrews and Real Warnings

by Reed DePace

This evening a friend sent me a link to an excellent article on the warning passages of Hebrews (found here). In the article Colin Hansen of the Gospel Coalition Q&A’s Dr. Peter O’Brien (Professor Emeritus, Moore College, Sydney, Australia). Dr. O’Brien provides an exceptional explanation, demonstrating that the key issue is between real faith and spurious faith.

Real faith is described at that which perseveres in adherence to and reliance on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Spurious faith is described as that which knowingly rejects sole reliance on Christ and returns to some form of self-reliance (in the case of Hebrews, expressed via the Mosaic system).

O’Brien’s description of spurious faith is consistent with the idea of temporary faith discussed here in the past at length.

This article deserves your attention.

Posted by Reed DePace (H/T: Dr. R. Fowler White)

Justifying Faith distiguished from Temporary Faith (part 1)

It is a reasonable question, especially of those engaging in theological novelty and innovation:

“So, I ask the question again: what benefits do reprobates members of the visible church receive, and what do they lose when they apostatize, and how are these benefits the same and different from those received by the elect?”

The FV proposes that the reprobate Church member (RCM) possess a real experience of Christ and his salvific benefits. To be fair, they propose:

  • An experience of Christ and his benefits that is real, originating in the work of the Spirit, and
  • An experience of Christ and his benefits that parallels those benefits experienced by elect Church members (ECM), but
  • An experience of Christ and his benefits that is not the same as that experienced by ECM, in that,
  • The experience of the RCM is temporary, whereas the experience of the ECM is permanent.

Admittedly there are additional differences noted by different FV advocates (the spectrum seems to run from Wilson on the moderate end, to Wilkins in the middle, to Jordon on the extreme end). Yet this summary is the minimal that can be summarized with a reasonable expectation that no cries of “foul” will be heard from the FV.

This summary is not sufficient to relieve those of us opposed to the FV of our case of the willies. It could be that we “anti’s” are misunderstanding, overreacting, maybe even deliberately misrepresenting the positions of FV advocates. Or it could be that FV advocates are less than clear. My efforts at listening to the FV lead me to conclude that the problem is a matter of equivocation. FV advocates continually use the same words to mean different things – without distinguishing or (apparently) even recognizing the problem.

Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, we can move past this dilemma by putting effort into answering the question asked at the beginning of this post. A place to start is with reference to the differences between Justifying Faith (JF) and Temporary Faith (TF).

Turretin offers a substantial explanation of the differences between JF and TF (15th Topic, 15th Question, pgs. 587-593, Vol. 2, Elentics, P&R, 1994). In this post I want to summarize Turretin’s key conclusion. The following two posts will offer a summary of Turretin’s arguments.

Turretin was writing in opposition to the Remonstrants. The Remonstrants affirmed a TF that was the same as JF except in one quality only, that of duration. According to the Remonstrants, the key difference between JF and TF is that JF includes the grace of perseverance and TF does not. I am not trying to be provocative when I observe that this is the same description offered by the FV.

If you’re familiar with Turretin’s format, you know that he introduces each subject by asking a question and then giving an answer that summarizes his conclusion. Here is Turretin’s introduction to this subject: “Does temporary faith differ only in degree and duration, or also in kind from justifying faith? The former we deny; the latter we affirm against the Remonstrants.”

To be clear, Turretin says that the Bible teaches that the JF and TF are not the same at all.  The differences between TF and JF are not like the differences between dogs and cats. These differences are more like the differences between a counterfeit $100 bill and a real one. They have some things in common (both are printed on paper, and are used to purchase things). Yet, to use Turretin’s terminology, these are not two different types of the same kind; they are two different kinds altogether. The differences between JF and TF are as dramatic as well.

Posted by Reed DePace

Justifying Faith distinguished from Temporary Faith (part 2)

Turretin offers seven different ways in which Justifying Faith (JF) and Temporary Faith (TF) differ in not just duration and degree, but even more importantly in kind as well. As noted in the previous post, JF and TF are two totally different things. Here is the summary of Turretin’s points:1. As to their origin:

  • JF originates in sovereign election (Tit. 1:1;Acts 13:48) and effectual calling (Rom. 8:28); whereas,
  • TF issues from common grace, external and temporal (2 Tim. 2:19).

2. As to their recipient,

Of whom:

  • JF is received by the elect (Tit. 1:1); whereas,
  • TF is received by the reprobate (Mt. 24:11). 

In what:

  • JF is received in a good heart (Lk. 8:15) and good ground (Mt. 13:23), that is a heart (ground) from the Spirit’s regenerative work (Ezk. 36:26); whereas,
  • TF is received in rocky ground (Mt. 13:20), the original stony heart of death not removed by the Spirit (Ezk 36:26).

3. As to their internal principle and rooting

Internal principle:

  • For JF the principle is the Spirit of regeneration (Jn. 3:5) and adoption (Rom. 8:15); whereas,
  • For TF the principle is the Spirit of illumination (Heb. 6:4).

Manner of rooting:

  • JF is rooted deeply, intimately, vitally, friendly, efficaciously, implanted and tempered by faith in the heart (soul; Jam. 1:21, Heb. 4:2), rooted in love (Eph. 3:17) rooted in Christ, established in faith (Col. 2:7); whereas,
  • TF has no root (Mt 13:21), sticks only in the uppermost surface of the soul (the intellect), it does not penetrate the heart (soul), no true trust in Christ because it has no real uniting to, no real sap from Christ (Heb. 3:14; Rom. 11:17, 20).

4. As to their effects:

  • JF in good ground (living heart, soul), united to Christ, bears fruit constantly, indeed abundantly (Mt. 13:23); whereas,
  • TF, in rocky ground (dead heart, soul) having no root, remains unfruitful and barren (Lk. 8:6).

5. As to acts of faith:

Knowledge:

  • In JF knowledge is deep, cleaving to the inmost heart, not merely hearing but experientially confirmed (1Pet. 2:3; Phil. 1:9), living and practical, both heat and light (1Jn. 2:4); whereas,
  • In TF knowledge is superficial, theoretical, giving wisdom but not regeneration.

Assent:

  • In JF assent is certain and solid, offering fullness of assurance (Col. 2:21), perceiving and agreeing to the invisible things of God as if visible (Heb. 11:1); whereas,
  • In TF assent is weak, slippery, perpetually hesitating and wavering, readily yielding to temptations (Mt 7:26, 27).

Trust:

  • In JF trust is true and real, arising from the deepest knowledge and sense of God’s grace (1Tim. 1:5; 2Tim. 1:5), continually cleaving to Christ (1cor. 6:17), prepared to do and suffer anything to remain in Christ (Lk. 9:23; 14:26, 27; Mt. 16:24, 25; Acts 15:26); whereas,
  • In TF trust is blind and weak, mere verbal profession, not touching the heart (soul), a trust that is an empty presumption, rashly glorying in grace not possessed (Mt. 19:16-22), received only in intellect not will through love (Tit. 1:16),half-hearted (Acts 5:3), deserting Christ rather than renouncing the world (Lk 18:23).

6. As to their adjuncts and properties,

Joy:

  • JF results in solid (unspeakable) joy and abiding hope for future glory (Jn. 16:23); whereas,
  • TF results in some joy (Mt. 13:20), but joy that is fleeting, arising from: intellectual pleasure in the newness of the doctrine (Jn. 5:35), or from its pleasantness or promise of advantages in this life, so that when persecution arises the joy dies (Mt 13:21). .

Sanctification:

  • JF is necessarily followed by sanctification, as it purifies the heart (Acts 15:9) and is efficacious through love (Gal. 5:6), enervating a reciprocal love willing to live and die or Christ (2Cor. 5:14, 15; Gal. 2:20) and a willingness to endure all things (2Cor. 4:16, 17) ; whereas,
  • TF is followed by temporary external changes in behavior, escaping to some degree the pollutions of the world (2Pet. 2:20), yet never leads to heart renewal (purity in real holiness) as that when world enticements or persecutions appear, TF wearies of the changed behavior and reverts to its original pollution.

7. As to the object:

  • JF perceives the gospel simply under the idea of truth, thus when facing temptations or trials it adheres to the gospel even more fully; whereas,
  • TF perceives the gospel merely as a useful or pleasant good, thus when facing temptations or trials self-love asserts itself and abandons the gospel.

Rather than offer any extended analysis, let me just observe that Turretin is very clear on one thing, JF and TF have nothing essential in common. Yes, both initiate in the work of the Spirit. Yet in TF the Spirit enables the natural fallen faculties of a man to intellectually perceive the glories of the gospel. All that follows in such a man are the results of the operation of his own fallen faculties – there is no work of the Spirit producing the results seen in TF.

This is exactly opposite JF. The Spirit does not illuminate so that a fallen man can see a little better; He transforms, makes a man new so that he perceives and adheres to the gospel with a faith the never fails.

Where, in this description, is there room for the FV’s proposal that the key difference between TF and JF is the presence of perseverance in the latter?

Posted by Reed DePace

Justifying Faith distinguished from Temporary Faith (part 3)

The Remonstrants offered additional arguments to prove that Justifying Faith (JF) and Temporary Faith (TF) were the same, except in terms of duration. In the last section of his denial of this, Turretin offers five additional explanations as to why JF and TF are completely different altogether.

  1. Why those with TF are called “disciples of Christ,” “sons of God,” “faithful,” and “believers”: they are called either according to opinion (they seem to be such to others) or judgment of charity as they profess faith and receive the sacraments. They are not called such because they truly are such. Augustine affirms that these are called so because while they’ve received TF, they are not in God’s sight true sons of God (et.al.).
  2. Perseverance is not the vital distinction between JF and TF: faith is not JF (true) because it perseveres, but it perseveres because it is JF (true). Perseverance thus is an effect, not a cause of JF. Duration (perseverance) is only a mark (index) of JF; not its source. (Therefore TF is not true; it is not of the same kind as JF).
  3. No express evidence that JF and TF are the same (excepting duration): Scripture offers no statements (express or necessarily inferential) that demonstrate that JF and TF are the same (differing only in duration). The “immediate joy” response is merely the response of fallen human intellectual and the “springing up” is in a dead heart (Mt. 13:20). Any “good works” done by those with TF are like those of the ancient Jews who were condemned for their unbelief (Isa. 58:2), the Jews who exulted in John the Baptist’s message without receiving it in their hearts (Jn. 5:35), or like Herod’s protection for a time of John the Baptist ( Mk. 6:20). Such a perishable good works. The good works of JF are those that last for eternity.
  4. Heb. 6:4-6 is no proof that TF is the same kind as JF: the Spirit works in the reprobate (those with TF) so that they “partake” in illumination and conviction, an awareness that only leads the reprobate to self-reformation. The “tasting” is an external (material) experience only of the material blessings found in the Visible Church. Such experiences can include even such gifts that reflect “powers of the age to come” as in miraculous works and ministerial effectiveness (Mt. 7:21-23) and yet not involve a spiritual relationship with Christ. Those with TF “taste the heavenly gift” with lips that are still spiritually dead.
  5. TF is the same as JF in appearances only: TF is a real faith, in that it receives the seed (gospel) with real joy and responded to with real belief (Jn. 2:23; Lk. 8:13). Yet these are merely the real responses possible to fallen men. TF is a hypocritical faith (1Tim. 1:5; 2Tim. 1:5) that merely emulates JF, and has an external resemblance only to JF, so strong even the elect are deceived by TF.

In the FV, TF is followed (ostensibly) by an experience of a covenantal (temporary) ordo salutis. If Turretin is right about the Bible’s teaching, then the work of the Spirit in giving the Reprobate church member (RCM) Temporary Faith is limited to an illumination and conviction that only operates on the normal fallen faculties of the RCM. There is no experience of covenantal (temporary) union, justification, etc. All that exists is the RCM’s profession to possess these blessings, not a real possession.

Posted by Reed DePace

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