Federal Vision Index

This is an index of Federal Vision posts on my blog, for ease of reference.

Critique of Steve Wilkins’s Response to the 9 Declarations.
Response to Declaration 1, Response to Declaration 2, part 1, Response to Declaration 2, part 2, Response to Declaration 2, part 3, Response to Declarations 3 and 4, Response to Declaration 5, Response to Declaration 6, Response to Declaration 7, Response to Declaration 8, Response to Declaration 9

Critique of Joint Federal Vision Statement: part 1, the Preface; part 2, Trinity and Postmillenialism; part 3, Christians in Society; part 4, Scripture; part 5, Hermeneutics; part 6, Decrees and Covenant; part 7, the Church; part 8, Justification and Covenant; part 9, Baptism; part 10, the Lord’s Supper and Imputation; part 11, Law and Gospel; part 12, Justification By Faith Alone?; part 13, Assurance, Apostasy, and Areas of Alternate Assertions

Response to Jeff Meyers’s Thirty Reasons

Why is the Federal Vision heresy, part 1?

Why is the Federal Vision heresy, part 2?

Wilkins’s exam as a whole

Wilkins’s exam, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12

Methodology and Double-Speak

John 15 and the Federal Vision

Hebrews 10:29 and Apostasy

Matthew 13 and the Visible/Invisible Church Distinction

If Only You Had Read…

Book Review of By Faith Alone

Rejoinder to Jonathan Barlow, Continuation of the Debate With Xon

1 John 2:19

Jude 5

The Greeting in Ephesians 1:1-2

Wes White’s Paper on the Visible/Invisible Church Distinction

The Elect and the Reprobate Within the Covenant

Romans 6 and Baptism

The Denial of the Imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience: Piscator on Justification

Ego, Repentance, and the Federal Vision

Leithart: Part 1 (General observations, part 1), part 2 (General observations, part 2), part 3 (Exegetical response, part 1), part 4 (Exegetical respons, part 2), Leithart’s response to the charge of illegitimate totality transfer, My response to Leithart, part 5 (On Judgment), part 6 (Psalms and Prophets, part 1), part 7 (Psalms and Prophets, part 2), part 8 (Psalms and Prophets, part 3), part 9 (Psalms and Prophets, part 4), part 10 (Paul, part 1), part 11 (Paul, part 2, on Romans 4:25), part 12 (Paul, part 3), Romans 6:7 (from the DRC debate)

Index of posts of my review of “Reformed” Is Not Enough, by Doug Wilson (includes his responses).

Overall Review (Doug’s response); Chapter 1 (Doug’s response); Chapter 2 (Doug’s response); Chapter 3 (Doug’s response); Chapter 4 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response); Chapter 5; Chapter 6 (Doug’s response to both chapter 5 and chapter 6, my response, Doug’s response); Chapter 7 (Doug’s response); Chapter 8 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response); Chapter 9 (Doug’s response) Chapter 10, part 1 and Chapter 10, part 2 (Doug’s first response, my response Doug’s response, Doug’s second response) Chapter 11, part 1; Chapter 11, part 2 (Doug’s response); Chapter 12 (I could not find Doug’s response) Chapter 13 (Doug’s response) Chapter 14 (Doug’s response); Chapter 15 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response, my response) Chapter 16 (Doug’s response, my response); Chapters 17-18 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response); Chapter 19 (Doug’s response) Chapter 20 (Doug’s response); Chapter 21, part 1 (Doug’s response) Chapter 21, part 2 (Doug’s response); Chapter 21 penultimate (Doug’s response); Chapter 21 final (Doug’s response); Chapter 22, part 1 (Doug’s response, my response); Chapter 22, part 2 (Doug’s response, my response, Doug’s response); Epilogue (Doug’s response)

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Wilkins’s exam, part 6

In this post, we will be examining Doctrine of the Church, part 4. The question asked of Wilkins is this: “How would you distinguish between the benefits enjoyed by a (decretively) elect member of the visible Church and a reprobate member of the visible church who has not yet manifest his apostasy?”

I think this is a great question that really gets to the nub of the issue. How does one distinguish between the elect and the non-elect within the visible church?

Wilkins answers with a two-pronged answer. First, he says that the differences are qualitative. He says, “Though the non-elect are brought within the family of the justified and in that sense may be referred to as one of the justified, the elect person’s justification in time is not only a declaration of his present acquittal from the guilt of sin but also an anticipation of his final vindication at the last judgment. The non-elect church member’s ‘justification’ is not. His ‘justifiction is not the judgment he will receive from God at the last day.” However, if this is as far as he goes, then there is still trouble. What differentiates the elect person’s justification from the non-elect person’s justification? Essentially he says that they are different because they are different. He does not address the issue of whether or not the non-elect church member’s sins are forgiven, or whether he receives the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Notice that he gives absolutely zero Scriptural proof of such a “covenantal justification.” That is because there is no Scriptural proof of such a “justification.”

It seems to me that the real difference between the two seems to fall on the durative aspect, of which he treats next: “The elect person perseveres and remains in a state of grace until the end of his life. the non-elect believer (???) eventually forsakes the faith and falls away from the state of grace.” Now, there’s all sorts of ambiguity in this statement: 1. What does he mean by “non-elect believer?” Is there such a thing? 2. “falls from the state of grace” is very suspiciously Arminian. At least, he should have carefully defined the state of grace to be something utterly and completely distinct from the state of the decretally elect. 3. Given that he doesn’t really define the qualitative difference very well, and that the emphasis thus falls on the durative aspect, what really is the basis for the elect person’s final justification? Would it not be that which distinguishes him from the non-elect? In that case, it is the believer persevering that gets to final justification. Very problematic.

He gets a bit better on page 11, when he says “all covenant members are viewed and treated as elect, but also warned of the dangers of apostasy.” I definitely resonate with this. This is actually close to the judgment of charity. A pity that he didn’t see the implications of this statement when he talked about how Paul truthfully applies election to every member of the church.

He uses the example of Saul and David. His position is that “the biblical narrative itself draws no distinction between his initial experience of the Spirit and the experience of those who would obtain final salvation.” But he has not addressed the key question here: in what way did Saul receive the Spirit? Could it not have been more like Balaam than like David? Indeed we have twenty-twenty hindsight. The point may very well be that we might have a hard time distinguishing between the elect and the non-elect. But that is completely irrelevant as to what is actually happening in the lives of those people!

His statement (quoting the AAPC statement) regarding the distinction between the work of the Spirit in the reprobate and the nature of His work in the elect is pure junk. I’m sorry. There’s no other way to describe this. There is no explanation in Scripture about the difference between how the Spirit works in the reprobate and how it works in the elect?? How about regeneration, adoption, justification, sanctification and the entire ordo salutis?

Again, he gets a bit better when he says “Some members of the Church are ‘effectually’ (savingly) joined in union with Christ by faith while others are not.” But then he uses a highly ambiguous quotation from Leithart to support his contention: “First, God has decreed the eternal destiny of elect and reprobate. That cannot help but color God’s attitude toward someone who is ultimately reprobate. He is obviously conscious that any blessing He gives or favor He shows is blessing and favor to a reprobate.” This is Leithart’s quote. I can’t get over the word “color.” What an amazing word! It says precisely nothing. It says nothing of the degree of grace given to reprobates. It allows the maximum amount of wiggle-room for anyone. Is it just me, or is this statement just about as unclear as it is possible to get?

One last problem with this section: “I am favorable toward a teleological view of human nature. If you slice into the life of an elect man at a point of backsliding, and also slice into the life of the reprobate at a point when he is rejoicing in the gospel, it will appear that the reprobate’s faith is strong, more living, more true, than that of the elect. Analyzed in that kind of punctiliar fashion, the two are well-nigh indistinguishable. But nature is determined by ends. We are what we are destined to become (which is what we are decreed to become). Thus, the quality of temporary faith, even the nature of temporary faith, is different from the nature of true and living and persevering faith.” He goes on to mention marriages that are determined by how they end. Now, there’s all sorts of problems with this formulation: the “slicing into a person’s life” is presumably looking at what really is the case. What is the degree of faith that they have? He is presuming to judge the faith of two people in this hypothesis. That means that he assumes that he is seeing the true nature of things. Fine. Since he is in the hypothetical, this procedure in and of itself doesn’t bother me at all. But what he says is crazy! “More living, more true, than that of the elect?” This is absolutely outrageous! Perish the thought that the strongest “unbelieving faith” could be one whit stronger than the weakest true believer’s faith. And what, pray, does “well-nigh indistinguishable” mean? Are they distinguishable or not? My guess is “not until the end.” Rubbish. If you were to look inside a backsliding Christian’s life and a hypocrite who is still in the church, and see the true nature of what they have, this is what you’d see: true living faith in the backslider, white-washed tomb in the unbeliever. Period.

Luther’s 97 Theses

Yes, that’s right. Luther’s ninety-seven theses. Here is a copy of them. Through no fault of their own, they are less well known by far than the 95 theses.

Philosophy and Protestant Scholasticism

Now there’s an ambitious blog entry title! What Muller is dealing with on pp. 67-73 of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, is the place of philosophy among the Reformed scholastics.

He says, “The understanding of the relationship of philosophy to theology propounded in the Reformed prolegomena and in various apologetic works of the era of orthodoxy assumes a view of philosophy as ancilla and subordinate both in a purely hierarchical sense among the forms o knowing and in a historical sense, regarding it as a derivative form of knowing” (pg. 70). This is a fairly comprehensive way of looking at the relationship. On the one hand, the Reformed scholastics recognized (in general) the dangers of rationalism, and usually tried to avoid it. On the other hand, philosophy could be useful in theology, though in a derivative manner.

Actually, “the rise of modern science and modern rationalism did not profoundly affect Protestant orthodox theology until the latter half of the seventeenth century” (71). In fact, “Christianized Aristotelianism remain(ed) the dominant philosophical perspective thoughout the era of orthodoxy” (71). This must not be misunderstood, however. Christian Aristotelianism did not substantively affect doctrine until the later half of the 17th century. One suspects that it was the logic of Aristotle, more than any other strand of philosophy, that had the largest impact on Protestant Scholasticism.