Wilkins’s exam, part 3

I will skip over I.4 and I.5, since little of substance was addressed there. I will, therefore, move on to section II, dealing with the Memorial from Central Carolina Presbytery. The first question has to do with election. Personally, the first question isn’t a very helpful one. The third question is the important one. I think that Wilkins thinks the same about the first question, as he says, “I’m not quite sure how to answer this question.” For me, the question is not “Does Wilkins affirm the decretal election taught in the WCF?” He has said on many occasions that he does. The real question is this: “Does his view of covenantal election contradict/undermine the teaching of the WCF on decretal election?” Or, we could ask it this way: “Is Wilkins consistent with the WCF when he teaches ‘covenantal election?'” This is the far more important question. Fortunately, Wilkins’s response to this question actually addresses the more important question. We will therefore be dealing with II.1-3.

In answer to the first question, Wilkins asserts that he has always taught the WCF definition of election. He gives a quotation from his Federal Vision article to prove it. Then he says “I then follow this affirmation of the traditional view with a discussion of how the word “elect” functions in various passages of the Bible…We do believe, however, that the terms ‘elect,’ ‘chosen,’ etc., are often used in the Scriptures to refer to those who are members of the visible church (e.g., Col 3:12; 2 Th 2:13; 1 Pe 1:1-2) and not restricted to those who were chosen to eternal salvation. To affirm this, however, does not require a denial of the teaching of the Confession.”

Now, it is certainly the case that the Bible uses the term “choose” and “election” to refer to a corporate body in the Bible. See Calvin’s Institutes 3.21.5, which quotes Deut 32:8-9, Deut 7:7-8, Deut 10:14-15 to prove his point. In fact, Calvin says “sanctification is enjoined upon them because they have been chosen as his ‘special people'” (pg. 927). This corporate election is plainly losable. This is what Calvin says: “Also the prophets often confront the Jews with this election, to the latters’ displeasure and by way of reproach, since they had shamefully fallen away from it” (pg. 927). However, the implications of such an election are not even remotely taken in the same direction as Wilkins takes them. Calvin adds “a second, more limited degree of election, or one in which God’s more special grace was evident” (pg. 929). This is of individual Israelites, as the context of Calvin’s discussion immediately makes plain. Note here Calvin’s use of the term “special grace.” The grace in these two “elections” is by no means the same. Calvin clarifies further down the page: “But I had good reason to say that here we must note two degrees, for in the election of a whole nation God has already shown that in his mere generosity he has not been bound by any laws but is free, so that equal apportionment of grace is not to be required of him. The very inequality of his grace proves that it is free.” On the next page, he equivocates not at all, but says that salvation is to be attributed only to the more narrow, limited degree of election: “His free election has been only half explained until we come to individual persons, to whom God not only offers salvation but so assigns it that the certainty of its effect is not in suspense or doubt…Therefore Paul skillfully argues from the passage of Malachi (in Rom 9) that I have just cited that where God has made a covenant of eternal life and calls any people to himself, a special mode of election is employed for a part of them, so that he does not with indiscriminate grace effectually elect all.” He stops clearly short of attributing regeneration to the “general election,” when he says “It is easy to explain why the general election of a people is not always firm and effectual: to those with whom God makes a covenant, he does not at once give the spirit of regeneration that would enable them to persevere in the covenant to the very end. Rather, the outward change, without the working of inner grace, which might have availed to keep them, is intermediate between the rejection of mankind and the election of a meager number of the godly” (930). The reason I have quoted so copiously from Calvin is that Wilkins claims his views to be from Calvin, and to show that, though there are superficial similarities between them, the difference is deep indeed.

This quotation is from the revised version of the AAPC statement: : “the Bible does not explain the distinction between the nature of the work of the Spirit in the reprobate and the nature of His work in the elect, and even uses the same language for both.” Calvin is very clear: there is an enormous difference between what happens to the decretally elect versus what happens to those who are not, though in covenant. That Calvin is actually addressing this issue is plain from the wording “a part of them.” Regeneration is not given to everyone who is part of the covenant. The AAPC statement still has this completely wrong: the Bible does not use the same language of justification, sanctification, adoption, election, glorification, etc. for the elect as for the non-elect covenantal members. The example used by the AAPC to make its point is not actually to the point, since the Spirit coming upon Saul and the Spirit coming upon David must be explained by the rest of Scripture. Though we can surely take from that passage that the common operations of the Spirit can often look like the real work of regeneration, it is not said to be regeneration. Saul was never regenerated. What happens in the AAPC statement is this leap of logic: since one cannot ordinarily distinguish between the common operations of the Spirit and the “real thing,” and that the Bible seemingly says the same thing about both categories of people, that therefore there must be some ontological reality corresponding to this. Nowhere does “judgment of charity” even get a head-nod.

BOQ God, however, mysteriously has chosen to draw some into the covenant community who are not elect unto eternal salvation. These non-elect covenant members are truly brought to Christ, united to Him in the Church by baptism and receive various gracious operations of the Holy Spirit. Corporately, they are part of the chosen, redeemed, Spirit-indwelt people. Sooner or later, however, in the wise counsel of God, these fail to bear fruit and fall away. In some sense, they were really joined to the elect people, really sanctified by Christ’s blood, really recipients of new life given by the Holy Spirit. God, however, has chosen not to uphold them in the faith, and all is lost. They break the gracious new covenant they entered into at baptism. EOQ (from the AAPC revised statement)

Here again we have too much attributed to general election. Such people are never redeemed, and they are certainly never “really joined to the elect people, really sanctified by Christ’s blood, really recipients of new life given by the Holy Spirit.” This is the problem. There is no qualification given to this except the very vague “in some sense.” In guarding the WCF concerns, it is never enough to say “Oh, I believe in it.” It must also be thoroughly guarded at every point in one’s theology. Clarifications and qualifications must be present, especially when engaging in statements such as this.



  1. December 27, 2006 at 11:42 am

    Lane I agree with you completely in this post. Saving faith is always reserved for the elect of God. Saving faith is never attributted to non-elect covenant members. They have a type of faith, call it temporary, unsaving, false, etc. But every reputable theologian from Calvin to Dabney makes this very important distinction, a distinction the FV crowd seems unwilling to make, or at least qualify in any meaningful way. Limited atonement is just that, limited.

    I agree the non-elect receive various common operations of the Spirit. Yet these common operations are distinct and different from the saving operations of the Spirit. Non-elect members are never savingly brought to Christ, they never receive the new-life brought on by regeneration. They never receive the assurance of salvation, for they never truly receive salvation. They never receive the savific benefits of the blood of Christ, for all of whom He is given, none shall ever fall away. And it is here that the historic reformed understanding of how non-elect covenant members are “joined” to the church (the body of Christ) has withstood the test of time. I am personally comfortable with the historic position and am concerned about the degree of ambiguity (not clarity) Federal Vision theology has brought to the table.

  2. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 11:46 am

    “Judgment of charity” is a description of what may be going on in a passage written by a man to a church. But Ephesians 1, for example, is not simply the words of a man, but also the word of God. Is judgment of charity a useful category for the way a passage like this functions as the word of God in the life of the community? Is God making a judgment of charity as he addresses the congregation? Or do we need a different category when looking at a passage from this other perspective?

  3. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 11:50 am

    Good question, Todd. I think that God is talking to the church through Paul there. As such, God’s inspired, inerrant Word takes on human flesh in Paul’s mind and comes down on paper (I mean, papyrus). Therefore, I think that judgment of charity is the best category for understanding such passages. It is in thorough continuity with Deut 29:29.

  4. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    OK. How shall a member of the Ephesian church know whether Paul/God is really speaking to him, or whether the glorious benefits of union with Christ don’t really belong to him at all?

  5. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    This is plainly and simply the assurance question, isn’t it? WCF 18 answers that fairly well, I think. “The right use of ordinary means,” which I take to be all the means of grace. That’s how.

  6. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    But I’m asking about the original readers/hearers, who didn’t have the confession. It’s not a set up; I’m really trying to think through whether the judgment of charity reading of passages like Ephesians 1 is an adequate explanation for everything going on there.

    Presumably, one Lord’s day in the first century, Ephesians was read aloud to a congregation for the first time. I’m wondering how the average member of that congregation understood those first 14 verses. Which members had the “right” to believe that Paul was addressing or describing them truthfully? And how would one members know whether these things were true of him or not?

  7. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 1:09 pm

    Well, I do think that Paul would have answered the question much the same way as the WCF. Surely, the means of grace is the answer, isn’t it? Paul would have said that any who are not living up to their vows to the church would have no right to such assurance. I don’t think that would be controversial. I also think he would say that people who are trusting in themselves, and not in Christ, would have no right to such assurance. Don’t forget, by the way, that the Ephesians had the benefit of Paul’s instruction for three whole years. I can’t imagine the Ephesians not asking Paul this question (isn’t it one of the most basic questions that a Christian can ask?). I think that even believers who are elect sometimes have no right to such assurance in a full sense, if they are backsliding. The seed always remains there, but there are many doubts. God can use such doubts to our benefit, since they flog us into returning to Christ. By “returning to Christ,” I do not mean that they really left the fold, but that they are backsliding.

    If someone who did not believe nevertheless looked as if they did, and had “fruit” (not realy fruit, since only the elect bear real fruit), their assurance would be presumption. Many people fool themselves into thinking they believe when they do not in fact believe. The Puritans deal with this issue very thoroughly indeed. Do you read them much? If you haven’t, then you should. Most of their literature is written to answer the question of assurance.

  8. December 27, 2006 at 1:20 pm

    And this had been my goal Todd. I have been digging into FV to see if it offered anything the historic view doesn’t. I can’t see where it does. Time and again, traditional reformed perspective does adequate justice to the given textual cocern. I just haven’t been satisfied the FV’ers are adding anything constructive to the reformed view. Conversely, it seems they have very well muddied up some already difficult waters.

  9. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    Good answers. I suspect, though, that Paul is liable to some of the same criticisms made of the FV guys.

    To take one from David M. here on this page:

    “Saving faith is never attributted to non-elect covenant members. They have a type of faith, call it temporary, unsaving, false, etc. But every reputable theologian from Calvin to Dabney makes this very important distinction, a distinction the FV crowd seems unwilling to make, or at least qualify in any meaningful way.”

    Paul himself, as he writes Ephesians, doesn’t make the distinctions that David is demanding. Was he contributing to the possibility of false-assurance in writing the way he did?

    And the FV guys make plenty of qualifications. They are too often ignored. Again, my challenge to you, David, would be for you to talk about a specific essay, and we can ask whether meaningful qualifications are made.

  10. December 27, 2006 at 1:55 pm

    Todd, it appears your beef is with Calvin and Dabney then. The analogy of faith suggests we have to intepret Paul’s words to the Ephesians in light of the whole of Scripture. And the distingushing of various types of faith, besides being biblical, fits this very situation here in Ephesians.

    As far as meaningful qualifications, the AAPC statement above attempts such an effort. Yet we are left with the understanding that non-elect people really were for a time elect, and then not elect. It is incoherent and thoroughly unbiblical. How do they justify saying non-elect people receive the saving benefits of Christ and then fall away when the Scriptures plainly state those given such benefits never fall away. To suggest regenerated people can fall from grace assumes you have something to do with acquiring it. This is Arminianism to the core.

  11. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Are you saying that Paul doesn’t have to make distinctions that are made in other parts of Scripture?

  12. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    Todd, you seem to be assuming that which needs to be proved. You are assuming that Paul makes these statements to the whole church, applying it willy-nilly to everyone in the visible church. What I have carefully argued in many places is that the nature of the benefits *includes* perseverance. Thus, the benefits cannot be applied to everyone, but must be applied only to the decretally elect. The judgment of charity is one part of that argument, and helps to explain why it is that Paul talks the way he does. You say that Paul isn’t making such distinctions. I have argued that he does so simply by how he defines the benefits (defining them as including glorification: in Ephesians 1, he uses the language of “inheritance”).

    Take Ephesians 1, for instance. How can a non-elect covenant member be blameless (vs 4)? How can a non-elect covenant member have adoption, redemption, forgiveness of our sins, having an inheritance, and receiving a guarantee? Verse 11 is fatal to the covenantal view here. One cannot lose one’s inheritance that has been predestined to come to us, and that is sealed by the Holy Spirit, who is the *guarantee.* If it is covenantal-and-losable, then in what way is the Holy Spirit a *guarantee?* To say that one could lose such an inheritance, such a guarantee, is Arminian. Verse 13 explicitly brings faith into the picture: “and believed in him.” These are not losable blessings. Look furthermore at the following context: verse 15 starts with “for.” Therefore, all the way from verse 15 clear through to verse 10 of chapter 2 details this amazing spiritual blessing. How does this passage describe it? As nothing less than resurrection. The first part of chapter 2 is talking about real salvation, real soul-resurrection. It is the same power that raised Christ from the dead (1:20). Therefore, these *cannot* be described as losable blessings. If they are not losable, then Paul cannot be talking “covenantally.” He is talking about real and permanent salvation. Unless you can prove that this resurrection is “covenantal-and-therefore-losable,” then you cannot prove that Ephesians 1 is talking covenantally and not decretally.

    Logically speaking, it goes like this: in order for you to describe the benefits in Eph 1 as covenantal, and not decretal, this condition has to be met: the benefits have to be described somehow as losable (if we are to remain in the Reformed tradition, that is). I have argued in depth here that they are described as immutable. Therefore, by modus tollens, the first part of the argument falls. If c, then l (if covenantal, then losable); not l (not losable); therefore not c. This is a quite standard modus tollens argument.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    In answer to 11, what we’re saying is that distinctions that Paul makes elsewhere are applied here.

  14. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    “Todd, you seem to be assuming that which needs to be proved. You are assuming that Paul makes these statements to the whole church, applying it willy-nilly to everyone in the visible church.’

    No. I’m trying to think through the implications of the view that these statements are not really addressed to everyone in the church.

  15. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 3:03 pm

    “what we’re saying is that distinctions that Paul makes elsewhere are applied here.”

    But this isn’t good enough for the FV guys, right?

    “And then I will follow that up with my biggest criticism of the FV: if the FV doesn’t mean the same things by justification, sanctification, redemption, atonement, etc., if they mean by it some form of “covenantal” saving benefit, then why aren’t the FV proponents carefully delineating the difference in every term, every time it’s used?”

    “All of Reformed theology uses it as shorthand in some context or other. They mean one thing by it. If the FV means something else, then they should jolly well define the term every time it’s different. Steve Wilkins falls woefully short here, as do many others.”

    Like Paul?

  16. December 27, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    Todd, the implications are addressed to everyone in the church capable of receving them by faith. Yet the faith required to embrace the truth is a gift of God. And being present in the congregation at Ephesus doesn’t make you automatically privy to this gift/faith. It isn’t our task to try to read everyone’s heart to see if this actually applies to them. God gave us clear and observable means by which to discern faith. Unfortunately, this can be imitated by those not truly given the gift. But we know those with a false faith will eventually show thier true colors. But while they remain within the body we don’t presume to know who they are.

  17. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    You are certainly right, Todd: the analogy of faith isn’t good enough for these FV guys.

    My position is not that Paul does not address the whole church. We’ve gone through this before. Kindly remember that my position is that Paul’s words have the same effect as the law always has: to the elect it brings them ever closer to God; to the reprobate, covenantal or otherwise, it drives them further away. Paul writes to the church. But not everything he says applies equally to all members in the visible church.

    Your “like Paul” comment is not to the point. Paul is the Word of God: FV theology most certainly is not. The analogy of faith doesn’t work with merely human works. In human works, we need to use language carefully. We need always to be clear on what we mean. In describing the benefits of the covenantal members who are not elect, the FV has been the farthest thing from clear. Otherwise, this whole bruhaha would never have erupted in the first place, would it? I don’t see anyone getting up in arms about my theology. That is because my theology is so profoundly unoriginal. That doesn’t mean I am uncreative. But I am saying nothing new.

  18. December 27, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    …to dovetail on Lane, if your at Ephesus and what Paul says applies to you then great. If for whatever reason it doesn’t, your problem isn’t with Paul, it’s with you. The truth goes forth within the Church, yet we are all personally responsible for embracing the truth. We are the elect of God. Are you? No. Then repent and believe, Paul would say. Membership in the Church, access to the means of grace, and public declarations about God’s people don’t save you. They only apply to you as you receive them by faith.

  19. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    “We are the elect of God. Are you? No. Then repent and believe, Paul would say.”

    Wait a minute! Really? If you’re not elect, you should repent? Who’s the Arminian now?

    All in good fun, David. I don’t think our positions are very far apart; I think I’m simply willing to give more benefit of the doubt to the FV guys, to take their qualifications more seriously than you do.

    Here’s some grammar help, David, not at all meant as a put down:

    your: possessive

    you’re: a contraction of “you are” — “if your at Ephesus” should be “if you’re at Ephesus.”

  20. December 27, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Yeah, I skip many grammatical rules when blogging. But hey, who doesnt? ;)

    BTW, only a hyper-Calvinist would suggest we are not to preach repentance unto faith.

    Here’s my take on the whole thing:

    The FV’s believe systematizing Scripture limits the language of the Word in such a way as to not do justice to a “robust” understanding of the Faith. They want the liberty to use biblical language without all the qualifiers a system of doctrine such as the WCF places on them. Yet I believe they fall short in improving what has already been accomplished in Reformed scholarship regarding Biblical doctrine as a whole. Thus in an attempt at being innovative, they haven’t done much more than cause a lot of confusion. Their loose use of language, i.e. “in some sense…” (see above) needs to be clearly and accurately defined. This is where systematic theology has been invaluable.

    The TR’s do have a tendency hold such a high view of systematic theology in general and the WCF in particular, that to try to speak outside of it automatically raises the “Heresy” flag in their bunker. As Lane has admitted, the Confession is a summary of doctrine, not capable of addressing every single point of biblical teaching directly. If more TR’s would be willing to think “outside the Confession”, not contrary to it, I believe both they and the FV’ers might find some very common ground.

  21. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    I agree with some of what you have here, David. But I cannot agree that it is fine to think “outside” the WCF. I don’t believe that that is consistent with my ordination vows (in which I explicitly say that the WCF is *the* system of doctrine taught in Scripture). While it is not exhaustive, it is umbrella-like, in the sense that it covers all the bases. Everything that comes must then be consistent with it, not “outside” of it. Thinking outside the WCF is an activity limited to those who are not confessionally bound by it.

  22. December 27, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    Lane, you agreed with me when I used the example about husbands and wives and how they are to relate one with another in a previous post. Though there isn’t a chapter in the Confession on this subject, there are biblical principles we must adhere too. Therefore we can speak to this particular matter Scripturally, and by necessity, “outside” or we might say, “beyond the immediate scope” of the Confession (since it doesn’t address it directly). This can be done consistent with the Confession and within the guidlines or framework the Confession provides for dealing with all matters of faith and practice.

  23. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    Okay, I guess there is some ambiguity in this word “outside.” There is an acceptable “outsideness” when the matter under consideration is not dealt with explicitly in the WCF. But “outside” can equally (and probably more often) mean “not in accordance with.” It is certainly the latter which must be avoided by those confessionally bound. We must be careful with such words, I think.

  24. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    “While it is not exhaustive, it is umbrella-like, in the sense that it covers all the bases.”

    “Thinking outside the WCF is an activity limited to those who are not confessionally bound by it.”

    Are we to refrain from thinking through the implications of Davidic kingship on Christology because the WCF doesn’t mention David?

  25. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    My question is covered in #23, which came in as I was writing #24. But Lane’s statement here–

    “There is an acceptable “outsideness” when the matter under consideration is not dealt with explicitly in the WCF.” —

    is exactly Wilkins’ claim for his teaching on the subjects that are controversial.

  26. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 7:22 pm

    I know that, Todd. The difference here is that he comes into conflict with the bases of the WCF.

  27. Todd said,

    December 27, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    Asserted but not yet proven.

  28. greenbaggins said,

    December 27, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Of course you would say that. Others would say that I have already abundantly proved it over and over.

  29. December 27, 2006 at 11:50 pm

    I would say the above AAPC statement is in conflict with the WCF. Benefits of the faith reserved for the elect are here attributed to those who are non-elect. The benefits of salvation in Christ (regeneration, justification, sanctification, etc.) are for the elect alone and non-elect members in no way participate in these blessings; for to have obtained them makes you elect. You can’t be elect and non-elect at the same time and in the same relationship. This is where Clark and Robbins thinks Van Til dives off the deep end.

  30. Anne Ivy said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:15 am

    David, your point is well made, but there’s one spot which could use a little tweaking: “…to have obtained them [i.e. the benefits of salvation in Christ] makes you elect.”

    I am 100% confidant that simply came out wrong, and you don’t in fact believe “If one obtains the benefits, then one is made elect.” ;^)

    As your general point alluded, it’s “If one is of the elect, then one obtains the benefits.”

    [apologetically] I don’t mean to be a pickypants, but thought it’d be prudent to not let it sit there uncorrected, y’know?

  31. December 28, 2006 at 9:08 am

    Right Anne, thanks. It would probably be technically correct to phrase it “…for to have obtained them [i.e. the benefits of salvation in Christ] demonstrates (not “is made”) you’re elect.”

    Between you and Todd hopefully my grammar and syntax will improve a great deal. ;)

  32. Todd said,

    December 28, 2006 at 10:07 am

    David: “The benefits of salvation in Christ (regeneration, justification, sanctification, etc.) are for the elect alone and non-elect members in no way participate in these blessings;”

    What about union with Christ? Is there any sense in which the non-elect participate in this? Does John 15 teach a kind of covenantal union?

  33. December 28, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Yes Todd John 15 teaches us there are those who are joined to Christ who will eventually be cut-off. The entirety of Scripture must inform our interpretation of this passage, like any other. Based upon the Scriptural teachings regarding such things as regeneration, preserverance, justification, etc. it is much easier to say what this temporary union doesn’t include than it is to say exactly what it does. There are many in the last day who will say “Lord, Lord”, yet Christ will deny ever having known them.

    This is where the visible/invisible church distinction helps in our understanding of this relationship. There are those who very visibly appear to be joined to Christ, they are members in the church, they take the sacraments, they may even come under church discipline. Yet what they lack is not readily seen by our eyes. They lack the faith to receive the things of God, as the things of God. They have a form of religion, but lack the power thereof. They are not indwelt by the Spirit and therefore these graces are not spiritually discerned. This is why they will wither and die. They aren’t being feed by Christ and don’t receive the life giving nourishment to flourish and bear spiritual fruit. To repeat what I said eariler:

    “Membership in the Church, access to the means of grace, and public declarations about God’s people don’t save you. They only apply to you as you receive them by faith.”

  34. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2006 at 10:50 am

    Todd, I have already addressed this in the John 15 post, if you recall. There are now not a whole lot of issues regarding FV that have not surfaced in or the other of these discussions. Indeed, most of them are discussed on the 250 comment thread.

  35. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2006 at 10:51 am

    David, good stuff. I would agree with that.

  36. Anne Ivy said,

    December 28, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Marvelously expressed, David. Quite the boffo post. ;^)

  37. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2006 at 11:28 am

    Welcome, Anne, by the way. I think you may have commented a while back on some other posts, but I’m glad you stopped by.

  38. Todd said,

    December 28, 2006 at 11:36 am

    “They are not indwelt by the Spirit and therefore these graces are not spiritually discerned. This is why they will wither and die.”

    But they’re alive on the vine for awhile?

  39. December 28, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Again, I’d humbly suggest Todd, the Scriptures speak more clearly as to how they are not sustained (i.e.; through saving graces) for a while as it does to how they are. We can say they aren’t sustained in the same manner, or with the same benefits the elect are. There is such a thing as temporary faith. But this is not saving faith. By suggesting the temporary vine receives the same benefit the permanant does proves too much. We know people are given common operations of the Spirit. It would not be going too far, I believe, to say one of these common operations of the Spirit is to allow those who are reprobate to be superfically and temporally united to Christ. Lane, wadda think?

  40. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    I agree, although I am still uncomfortable with the phrase “united to Christ.” It is used by FV guys so often without qualification, and so imprecisely, that I have a hard time using it to describe in any way the experience of the non-elect members of covenant. However, you do qualify it rather heavily with “superficially and temporally.” As long as it is understood that they have no real faith, no real union, no salvific blessings, etc., then I am cautiously approving of it.

  41. December 28, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    Well, they are a branch on the vine. I think in order to do any justice to the textual analogy, we have to admit they are joined (united) to Christ in some sense. The very important and key factor is in how we go about describing this union.

  42. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    I like to think of it as a parasitic relationship that the “branch” ( I would say “sucker”) has to the vine.

  43. Anne Ivy said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    You know, mistletoe grows in the Middle East. A parasitic plant like that is both truly attached to the host plant yet is not of its essence and will certainly not bear the same fruit. It’s a superb example of how a “branch” can be growing on a vine or tree yet not be part of it.

    ISTM it fits with “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me” and “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”

    Reprobate “Christians” do the same damage to the church as parasitic plants, heaven knows.

  44. Anne Ivy said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    Jinx! =8^o

  45. December 28, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    O.K. So there’s union, but it’s strickly a one way relationship.

  46. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    Really great analogy, Anne. Thanks. That’s much better than my simple “parasite.” Quick question: what does “ISTM” stand for? I don’t know all the abbreviations that are standard on the net.

  47. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    What do you mean, David, by “one-way relationship?”

  48. December 28, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    That the reprobate is trying to “suck”, to use your term, off the vine. Yet Christ (the Vine) is not reciprocating.

    ISTM >— “It seems to me”

  49. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks, David. I can definitely go along with that.

  50. Anne Ivy said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    ISTM = It Seems To Me.

    I’ve got a million of ’em, give or take 999,985. >:^>

    Excellent point about the “one-way relationship”, David.

    Thanks for the welcome!

  51. greenbaggins said,

    December 28, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    Mostly “take,” I assume! ;-)

    You’re welcome.

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