Rejoinder to Jonathan Barlow

Many thanks to Todd for directing me to Jonathan Barlow’s critique of Rick Phillips’s critique of Steve Wilkin’s response to the Carolina Presbytery’s critique of Steve Wilkins’s theology. How’s that for back and forth? I would like to add my two cents to Barlow’s critique (or subtract my two cents; whichever way you want to look at it).

As I understand the argument, Barlow distinguishes between a word (how it is used) and a doctrine. He thinks (in essence) that Phillips makes the word-concept fallacy. His first target is that of election. He quotes Phillips’s critique, which says this:

“In response to the citation in the CCP Memorial against TE Wilkins’s
affirmation of the Confession – a citation in which he states that election is
lost by those who profess faith but then fall away – he answers that he
taught this only of the Bible’s teaching: ‘The Presbytery in making this
charge has ignored the context of what I have written and because of this,
has completely missed my point. In the article, this statement comes in
the context of a discussion of how the word ‘elect’ is used in the Biblical
text’ (Answers II.3). His point is that he was merely teaching what the
Bible says about election, in contrast to what the Confession says.”

Then Barlow says this: “Notice that Wilkins does not say that ‘this statement comes in the context of a discussion of how the doctrine of election is handled in the Biblical text.’” Who is supposed to have said this? Phillips? As I read what Barlow wrote here, my strong impression is that Barlow is rephrasing what Phillips says that Wilkins says. In which case Barlow misquoted Phillips. Phillips did not say “doctrine of election,” but simply “what the Bible says about election.” Therefore, Barlow has not proved that Phillips is committing the word-concept fallacy (a fallacy with which he is very familiar, by the way!). At the very least, there would be significant overlap between what the Bible says about election and how the Bible uses the word. After all, how can one find out what the Bible says about election unless one finds out how the Bible uses the word? Is this not proper methodology? Barlow hasn’t proved that Phillips is committing this fallacy.

And so Phillips’s summary sentence is simply incorrect – it is not Wilkins’s point that the Confession and the Bible differ in their teaching about election. It is simply Wilkins’s point, clearly stated, that his comments relate to the way the Bible uses a word as opposed to how the Confession uses a word.

Here we have the (by now) familiar problem of what Wilkins said and what Wilkins meant. Given the lack of clarity that is rampant in all the FV writings, this dichotomy should be evident to many. Barlow has not lessened the problem with his critique here. It is evident that this is the case from what he says here, “the way the Bible uses a word as opposed to how the Confession uses a word.” On the level of words, the WCF does use words in the same way that Scripture uses them. Otherwise, we are going to have to say that the WCF is not exegetical of Scripture as a whole. If the WCF is not exegetical of Scripture as a whole, then its doctrinal formulations are purely and simply wrong. I think, on the contrary, that this is precisely what Phillips does understand.

Phillips claims that if Wilkins makes reference to verse X to establish conclusion Y, and the confession makes reference to verse X to establish conclusion Z, then he implicitly
denies the confession’s formulation Z.

The problem here is in the nature of the conclusions drawn. Phillips’s point is that Wilkins’s teaching (involving the proof-texts) comes to diametrically opposite teachings from the WCF. Phillips is saying that the conclusion of Wilkins and the conclusion of the WCF from those particular texts are diametrically opposite and logically incompatible. The formulation above would be a legitimate critique if conclusions Y and Z were not diametrically opposite. But if only one of those conclusions can be right, then Phillips is correct to use such logic. In effect, then, Phillips is saying that only one of two interpretations of those passages can be right: Wilkins or the WCF. If the WCF is wrong in its exegesis of those passages, then would it not also be wrong in its doctrinal formulations at that point? I realize, of course, that this question involves the assumption that ST and exegesis are mutually informative and compatible, the one with the other. If one does not hold to the said position, then this argument will carry no weight.

Barlow then critiques Phillips for “hold(ing) Wilkins responsible for not viewing subscription to the Confession as a subscription to the implicit exegesis inferred from the proof texts appended to the Confession.” However, this is not what Phillips is doing. Phillips is simply noting that they cannot both be correct in their exegesis, and that if the WCF is wrong in its exegesis, then it is also wrong in its formulation.

A smaller point, but one that bears mentioning here: the levels of discourse that he is talking about cannot be so rigidly separated as he seems to do. Cannot a letter have more technical, precise vocabulary? Could not a Confession have a more discursive style? By driving such a large wedge in-between these levels of discourse, he makes ST and exegesis also to be operating on two completely different levels. I utterly reject this formulation.

66 Comments

  1. Todd said,

    January 7, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    This line made me laugh: “Therefore, Barlow has not proved that Phillips is committing the word-concept fallacy (a fallacy with which he is very familiar, by the way!).”

    Very familiar!

  2. Todd said,

    January 7, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    “On the level of words, the WCF does use words in the same way that Scripture uses them. Otherwise, we are going to have to say that the WCF is not exegetical of Scripture as a whole.”

    But for Hebrews 10:29, you have proposed a meaning/use for the word sanctification that is quite different than the use of that word in the WCF.

    https://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2007/01/01/hebrews-1029-and-apostasy/

  3. barlow said,

    January 7, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    Your first point: “Who is supposed to have said this? Phillips?”

    I wasn’t saying that Phillips “said” this, only noting that Wilkins *didn’t* say it that way. In other words, Wilkins was talking about the way the word “elect” was used in the Bible, he was not talking about the doctrine of election; I apologize for any infelicities in my mode of expression that may have led to your confusion.

    I also think it is not the case that if the WCF uses a passage incorrectly that its formulations would then be wrong. Many times people draw straight lines with crooked sticks. But beyond that, my point was not that the WCF gets a passage wrong, it is simply that there is some reason why the drafters of the proof-texts listed the verses they did and we are not always privvy to why the texts are listed there. Keep in mind the complexity of the situation when thinking of the WCF and its use of scripture. We have:

    1. Oral debates at the assembly and the way that scripture plays in those debates.
    2. Private writings of the members and persuasive essays that use the scriptures
    3. The English Annotations which were a parliament commissioned whole-bible commentary
    4. Obvious allusions to scriptural language in the text of the confession
    5. The proof-texts themselves and their often subtle and sophisticated relationship to the point that footnotes them.

    And so I simply don’t see a reason to pit Wilkins’s exegesis of particular texts against what we might imagine the divines would say about why they footnoted a particular text in a particular clause. And I grant the point that any time the bible uses the word “elect” that the passage is relevant in formulating a “doctrine of election.” Just as most people (Phillips included, I would imagine) grant that both Paul’s and James’s use of the word “justified” are relevant to formulating a doctrine of justification and yet that does not force us to assume that Paul and James are using “justified” in the same way. You might be right that Phillips understands this distinction, but he does not employ that understanding in his paper.

    I simply disagree that Wilkins comes to theological conclusions that are opposite those of the Confession on the issue of the doctrine of election. I see Wilkins very clearly saying that he agrees with the theological conclusions of the Confession while also wanting to be able to take note of the way that the Bible uses the word “elect” in a broader way than simply meaning to denote “the fixed number designated from before the foundations of the world.”

    As for your final point, I agree that the levels of discourse cannot be so neatly divided, but one point in my favor is that there are many epistles in the Bible, and so the theologian has the task of drawing from a fair amount of material and figuring out how to formulate doctrines that do justice to each biblical writer’s God-given perspective and focus. Another point in my favor is that we heirs of Westminster have a fairly fixed technical vocabulary, and even when doing theology in their epistles, the apostles can’t be expected to use terms the way we do. And that’s why I’m skeptical of the utility of even thinking of the apostles as using “terms” or “defining terms.” They are writing about Jesus and the Gospel in the language available to them, and it is the task of a theologian in the 17th century or now to be sure he or she keeps a methodological safeguard in mind to be sure that words in the Bible are not replaced with “terms” that carry a specific meaning to English speaking theologians.

    Hope this helps clarify things a bit, even if you remain unpersuaded by my arguments.

    By the way – whose blog is this? I’ve been admiring the pleasing design as I’ve been typing.

  4. barlow said,

    January 7, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    Someone just told me – you are Lane Keister; I recognize your name from other blog comment discussions.

  5. adam said,

    January 8, 2007 at 12:48 am

    Lane it seems to me that the key question in this debate is in a confessing church, do our doctrinal standards function as a controlling hermanuetic?

    I would think in a denomination where elders voluntarily “receive and adapt the Westminster Standards as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptires” that that also carrys with it certain expectations about the way we express and practice the faith.

  6. pduggie said,

    January 8, 2007 at 9:06 am

    Didn’t the PCA already decide that wasn’t the case with respect to 24 hour 6 day creation?

  7. Xon said,

    January 8, 2007 at 9:24 am

    “Who is supposed to have said this? Phillips? As I read what Barlow wrote here, my strong impression is that Barlow is rephrasing what Phillips says that Wilkins says.

    No, what Barlow is saying is that the only way for that quoted portion of Phillips’ paper to work as an argument against Wilkins is if the “doctrine of election” and “the word ‘elect'” are the same thing. Barlow’s not misquoting Phillips which makes it look like Phillips misquoted Wilkins. He is rather pointing out that the only way Phillips’ argument can work is if there is no difference between “doctrine of election” (which we all recognize Wilkins didn’t say) and “the word ‘elect'” (which we all recognize Wilkins to have said).

    Of course there is a difference between them, they are not the same, and so on these grounds Phillips’ argument is fallacious. It doesn’t matter that Phillips understands the word/concept fallacy. People often understand how logic works, and yet go onto make fallacious arguments. Otherwise all someone would have to do to demonstrate that their argument is valid is point out that they’ve studied logic and they know all the fallacies. Clearly there is a difference between being aware of a fallacy and avoiding the commitance of that fallacy in your own argumentation. Sharp logicians still make bad arguments all the time (for a wide variety of reasons). I’ve done it; I’m sure you’ve done it, Lane; I’m sure Phillips has done it. (People on this blog have gone ad hom on a number of occasions, even though it’s well nigh impossible for anyone to participate in online discussions for more than a week without knowing darn well what the ad hom fallacy is.)

    When Wilkins says that he in interested in exploring the way the Bible uses the word ‘elect’, and that this Biblical usage turns out to be broader than the meaning consistently given to the word “election” when Westminster spells out the Reformed doctrine of election, there shouldn’t be a problem so long as Wilkins affirms the Reformed doctrine found in the Confession (which he does). Phillips claims that Wilkins doesn’t do this, that he actually sees the Confession and the Bible in opposition to each other regarding the doctrine of election, and that since Wilkins goes with what he thinks the Bible says this puts him out of bounds, by definition, with the Confession. But the evidence Phillips provides does not establish this claim.

    Phillips quotes Wilkins saying that one of his earlier written statements “comes in the context of a discussion of how the word ‘elect’ is used in the Biblical text” and then explains what he thinks this statement from Wilkins means: “His point is that he was merely teaching what the
    Bible says about election, in contrast to what the Confession says.” But where die “in contrast to” come from, and where did the phrase “about election” come from? If Phillips means by “about election” the simple word “elect”, then Phillips has to acknowledge that Bible might use the word differently than the Confession always uses it, but that the concepts taught by the Confession and by the Bible could still be compatible. If Phillips means by “about election” the doctrine of election (which is likely given his use of “in contrast to”), then Phillips has mistaken the meaning of Wilkins’ statement, and has used his mistaken undertanding in a way which produces the word/concept fallacy.

  8. Xon said,

    January 8, 2007 at 9:30 am

    One more point to try to make this clear. Wilkins thinks that the Bible teaches the Westmisnter doctrine of election–i.e., that there are some people who have been predestined by God to live in eternal glory with Him, and that everyone who is not so predestined will not live in eternal glory with Him. Wilkins believes this; and he thinks the Bible teaches this. What Wilkins does not think, though, is that every time the Bible uses the word “elect” it is referring to these predestined-to-eternal-glory people. There simply is no contradiction, either between Wilkins’ understanding of Scripture and the Confession or between Wilkins’ own writings and teaching and the Confession, regarding the doctrine of election. But there is a difference between the way that Wilkins thinks the Bible use the word “elect” and the way that the Confession always uses that word. The Bible does not always use that word in the way that Confession always uses that word.

  9. Xon said,

    January 8, 2007 at 11:07 am

    For what it’s worth, I’ve contributed a “Part 2” to Barlow’s criticism of Phillips. I continue Barlow’s basic critique and apply it to Phillips’ comments on the visible/invisible church distinction. It is at my blog here: http://afterdarkness.blogspot.com/2007/01/response-to-richard-phillips-comments.html

    I’d also invite anyone to respond to the post immediately after this one: http://afterdarkness.blogspot.com/2007/01/challenge-to-critics-of-federal-vision.html

  10. greenbaggins said,

    January 8, 2007 at 11:43 am

    All right. First of all, thank you, Jonathan, for commenting on my critique. Thanks even more for your avoidance of ad hom arguments. Thanks for addressing the actual issues. Yes, I like the design of this blog also (though I can’t take credit for it; it is simply one of the designs on offer from WordPress!).

    To issues. BOQ I wasn’t saying that Phillips “said” this, only noting that Wilkins *didn’t* say it that way. EOQ I think that I thought that this was what you were saying. My point was that I didn’t think Phillips was misunderstanding him here either. Surely, there is enough overlap between “what Scripture says about election” and “how Scripture uses the term ‘election'” for Philips not to be making the word-concept fallacy. There, I think that is a clear way of putting my position. (Yes, Todd, that was not the most felicitously worded way of saying what Phillips’s connection with the fallacy is; :-))

    Let me get at what the overall problem here is. As I see Jonathan (and Xon’s) arguments here, what you’re all saying is that if the WCF uses a term in the sense X, and the Bible uses the word in the sense X, but also in another sense Y, for Wilkins to affirm sense Y without denying sense X is still within the bounds of orthodoxy. Is this your position? It seems like that is a reasonable way of putting your argument. Phillips, I think acknowledges that this is what Wilkins is trying to do. However, the way in which Wilkins defines sense Y (Phillips would argue that Wilkins is misinterpreting Scripture to come up with this sense Y) is in conflict with sense X. So, it is not enough for Wilkins to say, “I affirm sense X.” It is not even enough for Wilkins to say “Sense Y does not conflict with sense X.” I’m sure that he means that. But Phillips’s point is that it simply isn’t so. Now, whether or not Phillips has proved his point is, of course, another matter. However, the form of the argument itself is not fallacious. This is my point. If indeed sense Y (having been gleaned incorrectly from Scripture) is in conflict with sense X, then simply asserting that the two do not contradict is not sufficient to prove the point. Otherwise, we should all just read Hegel instead of the Bible.

    BOQ one point in my favor is that there are many epistles in the Bible, and so the theologian has the task of drawing from a fair amount of material and figuring out how to formulate doctrines that do justice to each biblical writer’s God-given perspective and focus. Another point in my favor is that we heirs of Westminster have a fairly fixed technical vocabulary, and even when doing theology in their epistles, the apostles can’t be expected to use terms the way we do. EOQ

    Jonathan, I fail to see how admitting the diversity of the Bible proves that the WCF necessarily uses words differently from the Bible. I also fail to see how the “fixed technical vocabulary” of the WCF has been proven to be different from how the apostles use the terms. I simply deny that the WCF uses terms in a way not supported by Scripture. Todd, Heb 10:29 is not to the point here, since the sense in which unbelievers have been set apart is actually not in conflict with progressive sanctification of believers, whereas I believe that Wilkins’s use of the term “election” *is* in conflict with the WCF’s definition. So the cases are not the same.

  11. Stewart said,

    January 8, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Baggins,

    Is the word “elect” always used in the WCF 3.5 sense throughout all of scripture?
    Is saying that Israel is God’s elect nation the exact same thing as saying that the individual person Bill Smith is elect?

  12. greenbaggins said,

    January 8, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Stewart, you missed the point of the argument. I am not saying that the Scripture always and in every instance, uses terms the same way that the WCF does. But if we’re going to acknowledge that Scripture does so, then we also had better make sure that the ways in which the WCF uses a term do not conflict with the way Scripture uses them. Todd pointed out that Scripture uses the term “sanctify” in Heb 10:29 in a different way than the WCF uses it. I acknowledged that. However, that use of the term does not in any way conflict with the WCF’s definition of progressive sanctification. However, when it comes to how Wilkins defines election (and I would argue that he eisegetes Scripture in order to get at his definition of election), he contradicts the WCF definition of election. It is not the principle, but the result that is the problem here.

  13. Stewart said,

    January 8, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    Baggins,

    I get your point, but you didn’t answer my question. My question to you is specifically about the term “elect,” not about terms in general Do you admit the word “elect” can be used in different ways in scripture? If so, in what ways can it be used? Can you briefly explain the different ways for me?

  14. Xon said,

    January 8, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    “Let me get at what the overall problem here is. As I see Jonathan (and Xon’s) arguments here, what you’re all saying is that if the WCF uses a term in the sense X, and the Bible uses the word in the sense X, but also in another sense Y, for Wilkins to affirm sense Y without denying sense X is still within the bounds of orthodoxy. Is this your position? It seems like that is a reasonable way of putting your argument.

    I do think everything you say above is true enough, and I have said those sorts of things before, but I think the full argument goes even further. More below. (Your effort to sum this up was outstanding, though; it’s not easy to sum up someone else’s argument! Erh, does that sound condescending? I only meant it to be gracious…) (And it goes without saying that I can’t speak for Barlow, of course.)

    “Phillips, I think acknowledges that this is what Wilkins is trying to do. However, the way in which Wilkins defines sense Y (Phillips would argue that Wilkins is misinterpreting Scripture to come up with this sense Y) is in conflict with sense X. So, it is not enough for Wilkins to say, “I affirm sense X.” It is not even enough for Wilkins to say “Sense Y does not conflict with sense X.” I’m sure that he means that. But Phillips’s point is that it simply isn’t so.

    Okay. Lots of opportunity for dialogue (as my liberal relatives would say) here. First, you construe Phillips as saying that Wilkins’s sense Y of the word “elect” conflicts with sense X of the word “elect.” Well, okay, but this isn’t really a problem even if Phillips is right.

    Why not? Pretend that in a sermon Wilkins uses the word “elect” to mean “people predestined to eternal damnation.” This is just hypothetical, to illustrate the point. This usage of the word is definitely “in conflict” with the Westminster use of “elect” where “elect” means “people predestined to eternal salvation.” The same person or group of people cannot be “elect” in both senses; it is hard to imagine a sharper contradition between two senses of a word (and, indeed, I had to make up a hypothetical sense for Wilkins in order to achieve this level of sharpness.) Now, suppose that in Wilkins’ sermon he says the sentence “People who go to Heaven are not elect.” But the Confession says “People who go to Heaven are elect.” But since Wilkins and the Confession are using the word “elect” in two different ways when they make those two assertions, then there is not really any contradiction at all. Wilkins’ proposition would mean “People who go to Heaven are not people who are predestined to go to Hell” and Westminster’s proposition would mean “People who go to Heaven are people who are predestined to go to Heaven.” And, of course, there is now no conflict at all, despite what it might have looked like at first. So here we see that, even if the two senses of the same word are in sharp conflict, still the word can be used with both senses in different contexts and no contradiction results.

    So this is the first reason I would quibble with the way you have put things, because it’s not just a matter of using a word in different senses and then having a debate over whether those senses conflict with each other, though this is certainly part of what is going on.

    It’s not simply that the same word can be used in different senses, it’s also that the same sense of a word can be expressed with other words. In other words, in terms of philosophy of language (sorry!), we can express the same proposition (“doctrine”, belief) with more than one sentence (sequence of words). Of course, real language is tricky, and we all have some familiarity I’m sure (as students of biblical languages if nothing else) with the inherent difficulties of translating from one language to another. But, especially when we are dealing with theological terminology or jargon (I do not mean that term as a pejorative), the labels we apply are largely independent of the concepts to which they are applied. I mean, we have reasons for picking the particular labels we do, but the propositional content of what we are trying to say almost never depends on the particular label that we choose. And, again, in the case of labels created by theologians trying to systematize a bunch of stuff together– which is a very noble cause and needs to be done and our Reformed tradition has been very good at it and I glory in this when talking to all my non-Reformed friends–I think it’s likely that the proposition believed never depends on the particular label that is attached. So, for instance, we don’t need the term “elect” if we want to speak about people predestined from the foundation of the world to live forever with God in glory. Granted, it’s nice to have the shorthand so we don’t have to type this out every time, but we don’t need the particular term.

    So, the same word can have different senses, and that which is meant by a particular sense can also be meant using other expressions altogether. And, of course, many expressions/sentences include the propositional content of other expressions, though they don’t say exactly the same thing (again, making translation difficult sometimes).

    So, it’s not just that Wilkins uses “elect” to mean X and Y while Westminster uses it only to mean X, and then Phillips thinks that Y contradicts X so we have a problem. It is rather, that the Confession and Wilkins both speak of predestined people and reprobate people (more jargon!), and various things about each of them. The particular labels are not important–it’s the content of what Wilkins says.

    The idea (and this is just a picture, not actually achievable because language isn’t really mathematical in this way; but, of course, some might argue that trying to glory in the Bible’s uninhibited poetic use of language is what got FVers into this mess in the first place.) is this. Put all of Wilkins’ theological assertions into propositional form (which we should be able to do without needing any particular theological label like “elect” or “invisible church” or “supralapsarianism”), and then put all of Westminster’s theological assertions into propositional form, and then show a place where Westminster says A while Wilkins says not A. Do this, and you have showed that Wilkins must take an exception to the Confession regarding A (no matter what labels we might normally use to describe A in shorthand), and that he might if the exception is considered weighty enough be out of accord with Westminster. Do it not, and every one of you will die here today…..

    Just kidding. Re-focus.

  15. greenbaggins said,

    January 8, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    To Stewart, I do think that there is such a thing as corporate election (Calvin calls it “general election”). I would chalk up “I chose you Israel”-type passages to that definition. Where I would distinguish between my position and Wilkins’s on this point is that I would not say that the visible church, as elected by God in this general sense, has all the blessings of the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus except perseverance (as he does in _Federal Vision_, pp. 59ff).

    To Xon, it seems to me that you are running pell-mell into Hegelianism. Rhetoric that is on the spur of the moment might very well use language such as you are suggesting. But in an examination where one’s orthodoxy is on the line, one should not resort to such language. Thanks, by the way, for telling me that I actually understood your position, at least somewhat. I think that’s a first. I’ve never had any FV person tell me that I understood their position before. Wonders never cease. :-)

  16. Stewart said,

    January 8, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Yes, but look at what you’ve just done. You’ve admitted to a biblical use of the term “elect” that conflicts with the one found in WCF 3.5, which is precisely what Rick says Steve is doing. “Elect” in WCF 3.5 are those chosen “unto everlasting glory.” Your redefined doctrine of “general election” doesn’t include this “unto everlasting glory” sense. Your doctrine of election is therefore in conflict with the WCF.

    You’re running headlong into Rick’s criticism. Rick main complaint was not that Steve failed to make proper distinctions about how much blessing the elect received (which he does), but that he, to use Rick’s own words, was “in effect, declaring that the Standards define and use the key doctrinal term “election” in a way that is at odds with the Scripture definition and usage of that term.”

    Rick is saying that any definition of election that doesn’t include “appointed…unto glory” is un-biblical and in conflict with the WCF. So, since you notion of “general election” doesn’t include this, then you are in conflict with the confession.

  17. greenbaggins said,

    January 8, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    BOQ Rick is saying that any definition of election that doesn’t include “appointed…unto glory” is un-biblical and in conflict with the WCF. So, since you notion of “general election” doesn’t include this, then you are in conflict with the confession. EOQ

    This is not by any means what Rick is doing. What he is saying is not that the bare use of a different definition is the problem, but that Wilkins’s different definition conflicts with the WCF when it says that those who are “covenantally” elect receive all the blessings of being in union with Christ except perseverance. Rick asks the question, “What is election?” What is the WCF definition of election? Those *only* receive saving benefits. Wilkins does not agree with this. He says he does, but his theology contradicts his saying so. The realy issue when it comes to election is this: what are the benefits that only the elect enjoy? And then, what are the benefits that the non-elect within the church enjoy? There is no spillage of saving benefits over to the non-elect. In no way do any ordo salutis benefits accrue to the non-elect. You have erected a straw man out of Rick’s argument, and I am in no way, shape, or form in conflict with the confession. I am not on trial, Wilkins is.

  18. markhorne said,

    January 8, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    “Wilkins’s different definition conflicts with the WCF when it says that those who are “covenantally” elect receive all the blessings of being in union with Christ except perseverance.”

    Which is not Steve’s stated position. Steve has admitted to a qualitative difference in all blessings.

    “The realy issue when it comes to election is this: what are the benefits that only the elect enjoy? And then, what are the benefits that the non-elect within the church enjoy? There is no spillage of saving benefits over to the non-elect. In no way do any ordo salutis benefits accrue to the non-elect.”

    Which is exactly why Steve insisted on a qualitative difference.

  19. greenbaggins said,

    January 8, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    It is Wilkins’s stated position in Federal Vision, pp. 58ff. He did not say that he retracted that position. Therefore I can only assume that he still believes it.

    With regard to the qualitative difference, while he does state that, the rest of what he says is not in line with that distinction. This is what I have been saying over the last 8 posts on Wilkins’s exam, as well as what Phillips has been saying.

  20. January 8, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    “Put all of Wilkins’ theological assertions into propositional form (which we should be able to do without needing any particular theological label like “elect” or “invisible church” or “supralapsarianism”), and then put all of Westminster’s theological assertions into propositional form, and then show a place where Westminster says A while Wilkins says not A.”

    I already did this, regarding the ordo salutis, over on Wilson’s blog. Your weak retort was that, well, imputing certain benefits to the elect doesn’t preclude them going to the non-elect. I then quoted various sections that said things like “only elect” and “not the non-elect”, as well as other substantive difficulties (those God justifies he continues to forgive…”).

    So, again, Wilkins’ parallel soteriology, while formally distinct from Westminster’ , runs into those sorts of insurmountable A is non-A in the substance (abstract, vague talk about qualitative differences notwithstanding).

    As usual, you try to fly off into the land of philosophy rather than dealing with the nitty-gritty of the texts and specifics of systematic doctrine.

  21. markhorne said,

    January 8, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Hmmm…. I need to re-read Phillips because I don’t remember him acknowledging the qualitative difference. Also, that statement was in the sessional statement and was then revised on the AAPC website. Did anyone ask him about his statement on p.58. I would think that a change of formulation in cyberspace would be more telling than a hardcopy.

    In any case, the qualitative difference exonerates him on all counts from your accusations. They only make sense if you ignore Wilkins own statements about affirming this difference. You have not shown any inconsistency.

  22. Xon said,

    January 9, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    David G, I’m having a hard time seeing where you did this in that discussion. Honestly. Perhaps you could repeat it here?

    I can speculate to get us started, and then you can correct me to fill out the picture. Let’s try to formulate the proposition that Wilkins affirms but which the Confession denies.

    Something to do with Wilkins use of a “parallel” ordo salutis for non-elect covenant members. Wilkins thinks that these non-elect covenant members get certain benefits that are usually described with words under the traditional Reformed “ordo salutis” (justification, sanctification, etc.; or some benefits that seem related to these sorts of terms, like forgiveness of sins, adoption as sons, etc.), but that they do not get them in the same way that the elect get them (or they get a different “kind” of these things than the kind the elect get). So how do we put this more propositionally to make the various doctrines clear without getting hung up over particular terms?

    NE1: There are people whom God has not predestined to eternal life in glory who are members of God’s covenant community (henceforth non-elect covenant members, or NECMs) and who receive benefits from that membership while it lasts.

    So far we have no disagreement, right? The disagreement would come, I take it, when Wilkins posits something like this:

    NE2: One benefit the NECMs receive is justification.

    And here we are tempted to throw our hands up and say “Aha!” But we’re not done yet, because “justification” is a disputed term in this debate, in terms of its full range of senses. We need to find a particular sense Wilkins gives to that word that we worry might be problematic, substitute that sense in for “justification”, and then see if this proposition is denied by something in the Confession.

    I know everyone tires of my wordiness. So I’ll just say “proof left to the reader,” as my logic teacher used to say. :-) But seriously, I ask you David G. or Lane, how would you write the proposition?

  23. Todd said,

    January 10, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Maybe I’m just impatient, but I sure would like to see Lane or David, or someone else, take up Xon’s interesting challenge here.

  24. greenbaggins said,

    January 10, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    On pages 54-59 of Federal Vision, we get this very thing. Pg. 54-” By virtue of union with the Second Adam we have wholeness and restoration- new birth, regeneration, new life.” Pg. 55- “The Bible teaches us that baptism unites us to Christ and His body…At baptism we are clothed with Christ, united to Him and to His Church which is His body.” Pg. 58- “Because being in covenant with God means being in Christ, those who are in covenant have all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Union with Christ means that all that is true of Christ is true of us.” N.B. I looked carefully through the intervening pages to see if he had changed his definition of union with Christ; he means baptism. Pg. 59- “Being ‘in Christ’ they share in his wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption…They have been washed (or baptized) which has brought about sanctification and justification in the name of Christ, by the Spirit of God.” Pg. 60- “All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ… (pg. 60) Thus, when one breaks covenant, it can be truly said that he has turned away from grace and forfeited life, forgiveness, and salvation.” So the train of thought goes like this: baptism unites us to Christ, taking us into covenant communion with the Triune God. That union with Christ gives us all spiritual blessing in Christ, including justification. There is zero indication in these pages that he means anything different by “justification” than what the WCF says it means in chapter 11. There simply is not one indication of a shift in meaning in justification. That justification is something that he says is losable on page 61. Now, do I even have to provide all the WS references that contradict this teaching? Justification is not losable in any way shape or form. Romans 8 says that extremely clearly. Yet here Wilkins says that it is losable. This really ought to be enough to satisfy anyone’s requirements for proof.

  25. Xon said,

    January 10, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Okay, Lane, this is good in that it can really start to get us somewhere. I’d still like to narrow it better, though. This was the point of my question, give me the two statements that look like this:

    (Wilkins) NECM: blah blah blah.

    (Westminster) NECM: It is not the case that blah blah blah.

    To be clear, I’m not asking you to find those exact words. Words aren’t what matter, but the way they are used to mean certain things. Okay.

    So, you point helpfully to some passages from pp. 54-61 of the FV book. You seem to want to say that these add up to an assertion by Wilkins of what I a couple of comments ago called “NECM2”.

    NECM2: One of the benefits the NECMs receive is justification.

    And, of course, there is little need to argue that Westminster says something that sounds contrary to this:

    NECMWS2: NECMs do not receive justification.

    This doesn’t really help us, though, because we still haven’t defined the term “justification” in both senses. This is what I wanted us to try to do in my previous comment. I think it’s fairly easy to plug in a definition in Westminster’s proposition. The WS use “justification” to mean something like “declaration of God that a person is righteous in His sight and will be with Him forever.” Right? Feel free to modify if you think it’s needed.

    So we are getting closer now. For the WS, we have this newest proposition:

    NECMWS2.2: NECMs do not receive a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight and will be with Him forever.

    So, if Wilkins said something contrary to this it would have to amount to this:

    NECM2.2: One of the benefits that NECMs receive is a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight and will be with Him forever.

    If Wilkins teaches NECM2.2, and WCF teaches NECMWS2.2, then I think you’ve got Wilkins. And I definitly think that WCF teaches NECMWS2.2. So, the question is, DOES Wilkins teach NECM2.2?

    I don’t think he does, because he makes it pretty clear (I think this can be gleaned from the context of the pages you cited from the FV book, but even if not there it is abundantly clear from statements he has made since then…and the simple fact that he might have been unclear before does not mean he should be defrocked now that he has clarified himself. Right?) that he only thinks NECMs get a “temporary” justification. Exactly what this means is up for discussion, I think, but at the very least it means that Wilkins doesn’t think that NECMS are declared by God to be destined to be in His presence forever. So, if we modify NECM2.2 to reflect this change, we get:

    NECM2.2: One of the benefits that NECMs receive is a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight, but there is no declaration that this righteous status will last forever.

    Now, when we compare this back with the way we had put Westminster’s doctrine:

    NECMWS2.2: NECMs do not receive a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight and will be with Him forever,

    we have removed the contradiction. NECMWS2.2 and NECM2.2 are not contraries–i.e., they can both be true. So if Wilkins teaches NECM2.2 and the Confession teaches NECMWS2.2, then Wilkins is not out of bounds with the Confession on this point.

    But, we might say, let’s try again with some tweaks.

    Because the whole idea that non-elect people in the covenant ever receive any sort of declaration from God that they are righteous in His sight might strike you as problematic. Perhaps you don’t think that they ever receive any such declaration at all, and that the Confession doesn’t teach this. This would require us to change NECMWS2.2 to read like this:

    NECMWS2.3: NECMs do not at any time receive a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight

    Now we’re back to a genuine conflict: NECM 2.2 and NECMWS2.3 are contraries–they cannot both be true. So if Wilkins teaches NECM2.2 and the Confession teaches NECMWS2.3, then Wilkins is out of bounds (and at the very least should take an exception on this point).

    But, now my skepticism kicks in on the other side: I am not convinced that the Confession actually teaches NECMWS2.3. Does it? Where?

  26. greenbaggins said,

    January 10, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    This is getting us somewhere, Xon. This is very clear. Let me ask you this: why does WCF 3.6 *not* teach NECMWS2.3? We would certainly have to say that the WS never positively teach a temporary justification. The question, however, as you have pointed out, is whether the WS *eliminate* temporary justification from consideration. It seems to me that there are many passages in the WS that limit justification and other saving benefits only to the elect. WS 3.6 and LC 68 are only the most obvious examples.

    It might be helpful here to look at the actual definition of justification in LC 70. “Justifiction is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.” As I see it, there are some implications of this definition that are relevant. “Perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ” implies that the deal is done completely. If Jesus’ full obedience and satisfaction is imputed to a person, but only temporarily, then is Jesus’ obedience really all that perfect and is His satisfaction all that full? The only way that I see to get out of this is to posit not just a difference in the diachronic definition of justification which you have mentioned, but actually to say that there is a difference in the synchronic nature of the two justifications. So then, you have two justifications: one temporary and incomplete, the other eternal and complete. Quite frankly, I don’t see Scripture justifying this, nor the WS. Romans says in 8:1 that there is now therefore *no* condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (surely we would have to say that he is talking about those who have been justified), and that *all* those who are justified are also glorified. There doesn’t seem to be any slippage among those categories in the golden chain. Further, I don’t see anywhere in Wilkins where the difference between the two justifications is anything other than merely diachronic.

    Another consideration here is rather important: if there is a temporal difference, then there would also *have* to be a synchronic difference. The reason can be given in the form of a question: What makes one person’s justification be equal to the final verdict, but the other persons’s justification not equal? There has to be something that differs in the two people. If it is a difference in God’s grace, then there is clearly a qualitative difference between the two justifications, since God does eternally justify one, but not the other. If the difference is in man, then there must be an imperfect faith. But an imperfect faith, according to the WS, is not a justifying faith. In order to be justified, one must have true faith that receives, rests, trusts in Christ alone.

  27. Xon said,

    January 11, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Lane, let’s keep this going. At this point I’m so happy to feel like we are actually talking about “it” that I don’t even think I’d care if I ended up being run out of the PCA with guns shooting at my feet like in an old western. So, serious face back on…

    You mention WCF 3.6. That certainly seems a good place to go for this discussion! I assume this is the portion we might find relevant:

    “Wherefore they who are elected being fallen in Adam are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.” (WCF 3.6)

    Now, we’re trying to focus just on “justification” (though we could presumably have a very similar discussion about any other words Wilkins uses which might bother us). So, a first pass at what the Confession is saying here might look like this:

    (WCF 3.6 on Justification) WCF36J: All and only the elect are justified.

    (We could actually break this down into two separate discrete propositions, one stating the “All” and the other the “Only”, but it shouldn’t be too confusing to just stick with what I have above. Also, we should technically add some prior proposition that makes it clear that WCF does not teach that everyone is elect. (By itself, WCF36J is consistent with universalism.) But reprobation is such an obvious Reformed doctrine to everyone here that I didnt’ think it needed to be spelled out with its own proposition.)

    Like we’ve done before, though, we have to sub in the “usage definitions” for these various terms. So, plugging in for “elect” we get something like:

    WCF36J2: All and only those who are predestined by God to live eternally with Him in glory are justified.

    Now plug in something for “justified.” What to use, what to use? Ah, you made a very helpful suggestion in your previous comment. That suggestion was to, like, you know, look at WLC 70 where justification is actually defined. Sounds reasonable to me. It’s a pretty long definition, though, and probably it all isn’t relevant to our discussion here, so we need to focus in on a part that looks like it might give us a contrary to Wilkins. You helpfully zero in on the part about the “perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ.” I think I can tighten up a bit what you say in terms of drawing out ‘implications’ of this, but I’m not trying to pull a fast one here so correct this “tightening” if you don’t agree with it. Since these people who are ‘justified’ on Westminster’s usage get the full satisfaction of Christ applied to them, and since the full satisfaction of Christ is a satisfaction made for all a person’s sins, not just some of them, then it seems that these “justified” people that Westminster is talking about have to, by very definition, have all of their sins forgiven (past present and future, as we might say; or as my evangelical cohorts in college might have said, it’s “just as if” they never sinned, and never would sin again.) So, we can modify WCF35J like this:

    WCF36J3: All and only those who are predestined by God to live eternally with Him in glory receive a declaration of pardon at some point during their earthly life that includes forgiveness for all sins they will ever commit.

    Does this look good? I definitely think WCF36J3 is a Confessional doctrine, for what it’s worth. I agree that the WS teach WCF36J3, and anyone who denies it should at the very least take an exception and quite possibly should have more serious action taken against them given that this deal with “justification” which is an incredibly important Reformation doctrine.

    So, the question is, does Wilkins deny this? Notice, first of all, that WCF36J3 is not equivalent to NECMWS2.3 from my previous comment:

    NECMWS2.3: NECMs do not at any time receive a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight.

    Notice that these two propositions are not the same. NECMWS2.3 claims that non-elect people do not EVER receive ANY declaration of pardon from God. But WCF36J3 includes the claim that non-elect people do not receive a declaration during their lifetime which includes forgiveness for all sins they ever commit. NECMWS2.3 denies to the non-elect any sort of pardon, while WCF36J3 only denies to them a certain kind of pardon. These are very different claims, and Wilkins is not contrary to the latter one. Remember that NECMWS2.3 was posited in the previous comment as a foil to Wilkins’ teaching that NECM2.2, which you’ll recall from the earlier comment looks like this:

    NECM2.2: One of the benefits that NECMs receive is a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight, but there is no declaration that this righteous status will last forever.

    So, putting all three of them in a row for easier reference:

    (An actual Confessional teaching on justification)WCF36J3: All and only those who are predestined by God to live eternally with Him in glory receive a declaration of pardon at some point during their earthly life that includes forgiveness for all sins they will ever commit.

    (An alleged Confessional teaching on justification)NECMWS2.3: NECMs do not at any time receive a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight.

    (A Wilkins teaching on justification)NECM2.2: One of the benefits that NECMs receive is a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight, but there is no declaration that this righteous status will last forever.

    As we saw before, Wilkins’ NECM2.2 and NECMWS2.3 are contraries. This was where we thought there could be a problem for Wilkins. But I said I was skeptical that the Confession actually teaches NECMWS2.3, and hence there would be no contradiction b/w Wilkins and the Confession on this point. You have helpfully pointed us to WCF 3.6, but it doesn’t look to me like 3.6 actually teaches NECMWS2.3. It looks instead like it teaches WCF36J3. These are not the same, and Wilkins’ NECM2.2 is not contrary to WCF36J3. It is only contrary to NECMWS2.3.

    There are lots of related issues, of course, but so far nothing we haven’t found anything that puts Wilkins and the Confession in opposition to one another.

    (This is enough for now, but there’s still other stuff to consider. I think a lot of your “diachronic” vs. “synchronic” discussion was really good and interesting, but I also think it is more or less tied up in all the stuff I just said. But spelling that all out could take some more work from both of us. Baby steps…

    Also, I didn’t deal at all with WLC 68 just now. My quick answer is that I think that discussion will go pretty similarly to what I just did above with WCF 3.6, but I haven’t thought it through enough yet to say that for sure.)

  28. greenbaggins said,

    January 11, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    Okay, again helpful and clear, Xon. I think I followed you all the way, although all the different algebraic notations for abbreviations are getting difficult.

    Let me try to summarize what you are saying: WCF says that only the elect get a complete forgiveness of all sins. “Complete forgiveness” does not rule out “temporary incomplete forgiveness.” Wilkins teaches the latter in reference to NECM, but not the former. This is probably a bit simplistic, but I am trying to generalize here for the benefits of some of my readers who can’t follow tightly logical abbreviations and such.

    Okay, my response will be two-fold to this. The first prong will be my attempt to prove that the WCF teaches that there is only one kind of forgiveness. The second prong will be my attempt to prove that Wilkins teaches not a “temporary incomplete forgiveness” for NECM’s, but rather a “temporary complete forgiveness.” If I prove the first prong, then anyone who teaches a different kind of forgiveness is by definition out of accord with the WCF. If I prove the second prong, then I will prove that Wilkins, specifically, has in fact stepped out of bounds.

    Prong 1. For this prong, we must go to chapter 15 of the WCF. The section in question is section 3, but we must set the context of the previous three sections. WCF 15 defines repentance unto life as an evangelical grace (15.1). “By it a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of His mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grives for, and hates his sins, as to turn *from them all* (emphasis added) unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with Him in all the ways of His commandments” (section 2). This defines repentance as a repentance unto life and a turning from them all. It is a complete repentance. This is vital to the argument. It is this repentance that “is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.” In other words, there is *no pardon at all* without complete and utter repentance. There is no delimitation on the word “pardon,” such that one could argue that there is a specific kind of pardon that the WCF is talking about. The WCF simply says “pardon.” One could even paraphrase “any pardon.” And remember that this repentance is a repentance unto life. It must be asserted here also that pardon equals forgiveness. I don’t think that anyone will quibble with this, especially since the editors of the WCF saw them as synonymous (look at the index under “forgiveness,” and it says “see ‘pardon.'”) What I believe this proves is that “repentance unto life” is necessary to receive *any* pardon from God (of course, this repentance is an evangelical *grace*). This eliminates any possibility for a lesser pardon of sins, since a NECM cannot have true repentance unto life (unless we admit Arminianism into the discussion). Okay, that is prong 1.

    Prong 2. What does Wilkins teach? Does he teach a “temporary incomplete forgiveness” or a “temporary complete forgiveness?” In one sense, the question is moot if I have already proved prong 1, since there is only one kind of forgiveness that the WCF allows. However, it is still a helpful logical exercise to establish what Wilkins teaches about the kind of forgiveness that a NECM receives. Again I will go to his article in the Federal Vision. Pg. 55 “At baptism we are clothed with Christ, united to him and to His Church which is His body;” pg. 55 “By virtue of our union with Him, we are made recipients of *all* (emphasis mine) that is His;” pg. 56 “As we abide in Him, *all* (emphasis mine) that is true of Him is true of us;” pg. 58 “Because being in covennt with God means being in Christ, those who are in covenant have *all* (emphasis mine) spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Union with Christ means that *all* (emphasis mine) that is true of Christ is true of us;” pg. 59 “They have been washed (or baptized) which has brought about sanctification and justification in the name of Christ, by the Spirit of God;” pg. 60 “All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ;” pg. 61 “Thus, when one breaks covenant, it can be truly said that he has turned away from grace and forfeited life, *forgiveness,* (emphasis mine), and salvation.”

    Now, let’s fill in a few of the gaps here. Baptism means union with Christ. Union with Christ means that all that is true of Christ is true of those united by baptism to Christ. If all that is true of Christ is true of those baptized into union with Christ, then *all* Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer. Otherwise, they would not have *all* spiritual blessings (see pg. 58). By metonymy, having Christ’s righteousness is the flip-side (irrevocably connected) of being forgiven of all one’s sins (see Romans 6:6-7 and how Paul quotes David). If we have all that is true of Christ, then we have His righteousness as well, which means that all our sins have been forgiven. If we only have part of Christ’s righteousness, then we don’t have all that is true of Christ, which Wilkins says we do have. Therefore Wilkins is teaching a temporary, complete forgiveness.

  29. Todd said,

    January 11, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    “The first prong will be my attempt to prove that the WCF teaches that there is only one kind of forgiveness. If I prove the first prong, then anyone who teaches a different kind of forgiveness is by definition out of accord with the WCF.”

    Uh oh, Lane. Here’s what you said before: “But as the Puritans say, there are two kinds of forgiveness: ultimate once-for-all forgiveness of sins, and the Fatherly forgiveness of daily sins. These two are distinct.”

  30. greenbaggins said,

    January 11, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Okay, I am talking about forgiveness from the wrath of God as Judge. So these posts on this thread are talking about whether or not there is more than one kind of forgiveness from the wrath of God as judge. The question of the Puritans and Matthew 6 I see as a whole separate issue, which deals with God’s Fatherly displeasure. WCF 11.5 makes this distinction.

  31. Xon said,

    January 11, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    Darnit, Lane, you are pumping out your responses a lot faster than I am able to formulate mine. Sorry if this makes things sludge along sometimes.

    From here, I’m going to clean up the propositional labels. Not even analytic philosophy lets them get as crazy as I did in my last few comments. From here on out, if we’re talking about something Wilkins teaches (or allegedly teaches), we’ll call the proposition W1, W2, etc. If we’re talking about something the Confession teaches (or allegedly teachese), we’ll call the proposition C1, C2, etc. Good to go?

    I want to address Prong 2 a bit more quickly, because we all agree that Prong 1 is the lynchpin of your argument and Prong 2 is more like gravy. At the same time, though, obviously Prong 2 is important.

    There is a lot that is familiar in what you said under Prong 2, Lane, from all the previous conversations we’ve been having here on your blog. Maybe it’s just me, but the work we have done getting “clear” on what we’re REALLY talking about has helped clarify your own argument TREMENDOUSLY. In other words, I understand better now than I ever did before how your argument is supposed to work.

    That said, I still don’t agree with it. But let’s see why.

    The first problem is something I think you can probably clear up by simply choosing your words slightly differently, but right now it is sticking me in my ear as not quite right. You seem to be arguing by quoting a bunch of things Wilkins says, word for word, and then connecting the concepts together (using his same words), and then concluding with “Therefore Wilkins TEACHES x, y, z.”

    The problem here is that Wilkins does not TEACH a complete forgiveness for non-elect people. Even if your interpretation of his words is right, this is something that Wilkins appears to have missed. Many of his comments since the article in the FV book make it clear that he thinks it is only a temporary, incomplete forgiveness that the non-elect get. To say he “teaches” something implies (to me, at least) that he is intentionally saying is and knows what it is that he is saying.

    Your argument really seems to be that, while Wilkins denies it formally, the CONSEQUENCES of some of his teachings in fact entail a complete forgiveness for non-elect people. This is nothing earth-shattering, and maybe I’m being pedantic here (if I am I apologize). In fact you have made the point many times in the past that Wilkins is “inconsistent” with some of his more formal statements. So I’m not telling you anything you haven’t already argues. Still, though, it seems important to keep this clearly in mind when reading your argument for Prong 2. You are arguing that Wilkins’ words in the FV article ENTAIL a complete forgiveness for non-elect people, not that Wilkins is self-consciously TEACHING such a thing. (There is room for disagrement that “teach” implies self-consciousness, I suppose. Like I said, maybe this complaint is just fruit of my own weirdness on this.) Even if you disagree with my understanding of what “teach” means, I think it just keeps things much clearer when we put them in the first way instead.

    My second concern is just that, even if you are right about Wilkins’ inconsistency here, it seems like too harsh a punishment to defrock a man for this kind of inconsistency. I mean, he says really insistently that he doesn’t think non-elect covenant members have complete forgiveness. They do not go to Heaven when they die; they go to Hell. At the last day, they are left in their sins before the judgment seat of Christ. He says all of this, and even explains it in ways that I think we could all agree with. It seems to be overkill to me to go back to his article in the FV book and say that, no matter what he says today, that article said something different and whether he realizes this or not he should be held accountable as believing both sides of the inconsistency. Don’t get me wrong here: if his FV article was really inconsistent in this way–if that article really does say that the non-elect get a complete forgiveness despite Wilkins’ own denials that he believes this–then Wilkins should have to recant or apologize for that article. He should come clean, assuming someone can convince him by showing him the inconsistency between what he says today and what he said in the article in the FV book. Also, the fact that pastor of a PCA church could be that sloppy and unaware of the consequences of some of his own teachings would be a cause for concern, and it would certainly be legitimate for his own presbytery (or even another presbytery, allowing for the proper denominational procedure) to question him on these things, to challenge him, even to rebuke him and order him not to teach these particular things anymore. I don’t deny the right of the concerned to look into this further: if the article in the FV book teaches these things, then it is okay to be concerned and to pursue that concern. This IS part of what the presbyterian form of government is all about, that we are all accountable to one another, not free to just teach whatever we want to teach, no matter how confusing of misleading or inconsistent with orthodox theology it may be. I hope it is clear that I am with you on all that. I just wonder about “defrocking”, or about declaring Wilkins “unReformed”, or about treating denominations that are more in tune with Wilkins’ teaching as though they are not Reformed. He sounds more like he is a sadly confused Reformed, but not unReformed. This may be more about semantics than I realize, but it is a concern I have with the way the controversy is currently going, as between those who want Wilkins to get off scot-free and those who want him ousted.

    Okay, let me break here and do another comment on the substance of Prong 2. Didn’t I say something about dealing with Prong 2 “quickly”? Oh well!

  32. greenbaggins said,

    January 11, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    BOQ You are arguing that Wilkins’ words in the FV article ENTAIL a complete forgiveness for non-elect people, not that Wilkins is self-consciously TEACHING such a thing. EOQ Since this is the clearest expression of what you’re trying to get across, I’ll respond to it. You are certainly right that I am claiming inconsistency between what he says he believes versus the implications of his teaching. That is what I have said. However, I cannot go too quickly from there to saying that therefore, he is not teaching it. How do we know that? That might depend on any number of factors. Maybe Wilkins is smart enough to realize the consequences of his teaching. If that is the case, then it doesn’t speak very well for his motives. He could be deliberately fudging. I don’t see this possibility in your list of options. Is it not a possibility? False teachers in the past have done so. If Wilkins is a false teacher, then he could be deliberately fudging. If so, then he is deliberately *teaching* false doctrine without calling it that, or formally doing it. The other possibility is that he is not aware of the consequences of his inconsistency. If that is the case, then it doesn’t speak well of his intelligence. We are not talking about small inconsistencies. I have accused him of huge inconsistencies, architectonic inconsistencies.

    Take your time, by the way, and don’t be frustrated by the fact that I type so fast. :-)

  33. Xon said,

    January 11, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    I have to teach right now, so I really do have to come back to this later. But I will, and I am excited about doing so.

  34. Xon said,

    January 11, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    “He could be deliberately fudging. I don’t see this possibility in your list of options. Is it not a possibility?

    Oh, sure, that’s a logical possibility. I just didn’t want to go there since none of us knows his motives. I just don’t see how we could argue that this is what he is doing, deliberately teaching it and then saying he doesn’t.

    But of course it’s possible, and he wouldn’t be the first false teacher to do so. I just didn’t want to go there since it’s not needed for our discussion of whether or not he is in fact out of accord with the Confession. Why go with the “deliberately teaching insonsistently to the Confession” interpretation of his actions when “unrealizingly [is that a word?] inconsistent with the Confession” works just as well and is more charitable? That’s all I’m saying.

  35. Xon said,

    January 11, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    And, hey, I type really fast myself (even my one-time secretary wife is impressed). But these algebraic proposition thingies are taking a LOT of thought and revision. Not a word out of place, precious!

  36. greenbaggins said,

    January 11, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    My point was that his deliberately fudging could be one way in which he actually teaches something that he formally says that he doesn’t. That is why I can’t necessary say that he *doesn’t* teach it, if you follow me.

  37. Xon said,

    January 11, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    Yeah, I follow you. Onward!

  38. January 11, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    “I said I was skeptical that the Confession actually teaches NECMWS2.3, and hence there would be no contradiction b/w Wilkins and the Confession on this point. You have helpfully pointed us to WCF 3.6, but it doesn’t look to me like 3.6 actually teaches NECMWS2.3. It looks instead like it teaches WCF36J3. These are not the same, and Wilkins’ NECM2.2 is not contrary to WCF36J3. It is only contrary to NECMWS2.3. ”

    Your skepticism is without warrant. NECMWS2.3 is a necessary consequence of WCF 11.5:

    “God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification”

    It leaves no wiggle room, that you imagine, for temporary justification.

    Of course, this teaching is based on the unbreakability of the Golden Chain/ordo salutis in Romans 8, which Wilkins shoots himself in the foot with by quoting it.

    And on what legal basis could the declaration of righteousness be revoked? This is, AT BEST, Lutheranism. It is not Reformed. If one is imputed the righteousness of Christ, which that declaration is based on, then it would be double jeopardy for judgment to come upon the sinner.

    So this leads to a breakdown in our doctrine of the work of Christ as well:

    “To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit”

  39. Xon said,

    January 11, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    My response to Lane is taking a little time to finish crafting, but in the meantime I can respond to David G. fairly quickly.

    Your skepticism is without warrant. NECMWS2.3 is a necessary consequence of WCF 11.5:

    “God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification”

    It leaves no wiggle room, that you imagine, for temporary justification.

    I appreciate you offering another suggestion for a place where WCF teaches (or entails) NECMWS2.3, David G. But, remember, we have to plug in the “usage definitions” of words like “justified”. We cannot assume that WS and Wilkins are talking about the same thing just b/c they both use the word “justified”. This is the whole point of what Lane and I have been fruitfully hashing out so far. If we’re going to look at WCF 11.5, then, we have to remember to sub in the WS “usage definition” for “justified”. So, the portion of WCF 11.5 you quoted appears to be a conjunction of two separate propositions, but we can write them together no problem for our little game:

    C1: God continues to forgive the sins of those that are justified, and those that are justified can never fall from the state of justification.

    Now we plug in the “usage definitions” for “justified” (which occurs twice) and “justification.” Using the same definition (or something very close) as we used above when looking at WCF 3.6 (a definition which was culled from LC 70), we get something like this:

    C2: God continues to forgive the sins of those that \receive a declaration of pardon at some point during their earthly life that includes forgiveness for all sins they will ever commit/, and \those who receive this declaration/ can never fall from the state of \being pardoned by God for all the sins they will ever commit./

    Is there some meaning to the words of WCF 11.5 that I am missing here? Please offer whatever corrective you think appropriate. This looks right to me, though.

    C2 doesn’t tell us WHO it is that receives this declaration of pardon from God which includes forgiveness for all their sins. But obviously we know from other things we have said in the past that this is only those who have been predestined by God to live eternally with Him in glory. (Look at WCF36J3.) So let’s add this in a separate proposition:

    C3: All and only those predestined by God to live eternally with Him in glory receive the declaration of pardon discussed in C2.

    Now look again at NECMWS2.3:

    NECMWS2.3: NECMs do not at any time receive a declaration of God that they are righteous in His sight.

    Now, do C2 and C3 together allow us to derive NECMWS2.3 (which is what we are trying to derive based on WCF 11.5)? It looks to me like the answer to this must clearly be in the negative. C2 and C3 are not even predicating of the same subject as NECMWS2.3. In other words, there looks to be all kinds of “wiggle room” here regarding some sort of declaration of pardon to some non-elect people because C2 and C3 can’t be used to derive anything at all about non-elect people. They are predicating something to elect people, and to the “justification” that these receive. You can’t derive a predication of non-elect people from two statements that only predicate of elect people. There is just no way to get from these two to NECMWS2.3. There might be a way to derive NECMWS2.3 from something else in the WS, but such a derivation would most likely be unrelated to C2 and C3 and would most likely not even need to reference them at all.

    And, remember, we need to get NECMWS2.3 from the Confession if we are to argue that Wilkins’ NECM2.2 is contrary to the Confession. We haven’t got it yet. Of course, we could argue that Wilkins teaches some other doctrine besides NECM2.2 which is contrary. Something like this, perhaps:

    W1: God does NOT ALWAYS continue to forgive the sins of those that \receive a declaration of pardon at some point during their earthly life that includes forgiveness for all sins they will ever commit/, and \those who receive this declaration/ CAN fall from the state of \being pardoned by God for all the sins they will ever commit./

    W1 could be easily shown to be inconsistent with C2 and C3 taken together. But I don’t think anyone can find a place where Wilkins ever teaches anything that amounts to W1 (nor have I even heard anyone claim that he does so, since W1 says that God declares that He will forgive some people for every sin they ever commit, but then reneges and doesn’t do so. Nowhere does Wilkins ever say anything like this.)

    Or we could try to argue a different doctrine is taught by Wilkins:

    W2: There are people who have not been predestined by God to live eternally with Him but who receive a declaration of pardon at some point during their earthly life that includes forgiveness for all sins they will ever commit.

    Or even further:

    W3 There are people who have not been predestined by God to live eternally with Him but who receive a declaration of pardon at some point during their earthly life that includes forgiveness for all sins they will ever commit, and these people who have not been so predestined by God can never fall from the state of being pardoned by God for all the sins they will ever commit.

    W2 says that there are some people who are not elect but whom God says He will forgive for all the sins they ever commit. W3 goes even further and says that there are some people who are not elect about whom God says He will forgive them for all their sins, AND God in fact does so. These are both CLEARLY unconfessional, easily shown to be inconsistent with C2 and C3. But, again, I don’t think Wilkins ever teaches W2 or W3.

    So, I don’t see how WCF 11.5 fairs any better as a “prooftext” for NECMWS2.3. Nor do I see how it teaches any other doctrien that is contrary to a doctrine of Wilkins’.

  40. January 12, 2007 at 1:46 am

    “They are predicating something to elect people, and to the “justification” that these receive. You can’t derive a predication of non-elect people from two statements that only predicate of elect people.”

    Re-read WCF 11.5. The object is “those that are justified.” Theoretically (and I mean theoretically) that could refer to an elect person or a non-elect person. If they are justified, this passage applies to them, elect or non-elect, period. And what happens to this group? God CONTINUES to forgive them. Excluding the idea that the non-elect covenant members cannot see condemnation on the Last Day, this would exclude the whole idea of a justified non-elect covenant member.

    Now this is not just incidental, an isolated blunder on Wilkin’s part – I already mentioned the systematic and Scriptural problems you run into if you try to posit this sort of thing in my last post. His theology is a train wreck.

    Now, possibly, Wilkins may see “justification” in a different definition (one that does not include things like the imputation of Christ’s righteousness that Chap. 11 talks about). But he hasn’t gone beyond giving formal lip service to this. And he has given us every reason to believe otherwise – even appropriating the “if God is for us, who can be against us” language of justification:

    “If God is for us, who can be against us? Christ died, rose again, and makes intercession for us, who can separate us from the love of God?”

    Apparently this is not a rhetorical question for Wilkins. We can separate ourselves from the love of God by covenantal unfaithfulness. He, of course, skipped over the part about there being no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He is absolutely talking about ‘justification’ in the Westminsterian sense.

  41. Xon said,

    January 12, 2007 at 7:24 am

    Re-read WCF 11.5. The object is “those that are justified.” Theoretically (and I mean theoretically) that could refer to an elect person or a non-elect person. If they are justified, this passage applies to them, elect or non-elect, period.

    Of course I’m not positive, David G., but I suspect that Lane and I would be in agreement against you here. (Since Lane didn’t bring up this interpretation in response to my exposition of WCF 3.6, which is similar to WCF 11.5 in a number of ways.) You really think that when the Confession brings up the word “justified” and “justification” in 11.5 that it doesn’t intend to import all the meaning it thinks that word contains? If you are right, this would make the Confession vague in its use of terms, which violates one of the whole points of a Confession. (Confessions are not the same thing as “systematic theology”, but they do have a purpose that is rather systematic, hence “system of doctrine taught in the Scripture.”) Individual people are vague all the time, because words themselves have so many meanings and uses and it is hard for any finite mind to stay clear all the way through everything they say, but the Confession is presumably rising above this ordinary vagueness of everyday speech. It is trying to tell us what we must believe, and this requires a clear definition of terms and the consistent usage of those terms throughout. It seems to me that your interpretatin of 11.5 renders the Confession vague by having it “step back” from the full meaning of a term. Given how the Confession defines justification, for instance, as a particular kind of pardon that only goes to elect people, if it wanted to say that this is the only kind of pardon that anyone ever receives then it could have said so by simply using the word “pardon” (which is already a part of its definition of “justification”). But not by using the word “justified”, which it already defines as a particular kind of pardon.

    The irony here is that I worry you are undermining the Confession’s authority more than you realize with this argument. Because if the Confession slips between using words with its full beautiful definitions attached and using them simply as a vague filler for “anyone who happens to be x, whatever that means (as though it doesn’t define the term)”, then we are going to have trouble understanding a whole host of passages from the Confession. Really, every time the Confession says anything abot “justification” outside of LC 70, we will have to assume that the word “justification” in that place is just a filler word that means something like “justification, whatever that means.” This seems to dishonor the divines’ intentions in much of what they wrote, not honor them.

    Finally, the truth is that it is usually pretty clear when people are using words in this vague sort of way. When a person is talking about a word, for instance. When an English teacher stands up and tells her class: “Okay, class, our first new vocabulary word that we are going to use this week is ‘unadulterated,'” she is clearly not importing any meaning into the word. She is simply talking ABOUT the word. Of course, she presumably goes on to define the word for the class (since it’s a vocab lesson and all), but until she does so, she’s only talking ABOUT the word “unadulterated”, and isn’t giving a definition. (There is a preview here of a possible argument about Wilkins’ article in the FV book.)

    Is it your claim that in WCF 11.5 the divines are only trying to tell us something ABOUT the word “justified”, but aren’t wanting us to understand any particular meaning as attaching to that word?

    If you say, “No, Xon, I made it clear that they attach a meaning to it, but it is a meaning that could theoretically include elect or non-elect people,” then I will ask you WHERE from the context you are getting this idea, especially since when Westminster explicitly defines “Justification” in LC 70 they make it clear that it is something that only happens to elect people. Where is your “theoretical” meaning coming from?

  42. Xon said,

    January 12, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Okay, that was too hastily written as I ran out the door this morning. Please let me try again. If you found anything edified, then continue to feel edified. If you thought some of it was junk, then give me another chance.

    David G., you suggested that WCF 11.5 teaches NECMWS2.3. I looked at the portion of WCF 11.5 you quoted and I translated it to C1:

    C1: God continues to forgive the sins of those that are justified, and those that are justified can never fall from the state of justification.

    I then plugged in “those who receive a declaration of pardon from God at soem point during their earthly life, a pardon which includes the forgiveness of all sins they will ever commit” for “those that are justified”. This “usage definition” was drawwn from Westminster’s own definition of “justification” in LC 70. I did this because, again, we have to look at the “usage definitions” of words in their context if we are going to see whether Wilkins really contradicts the Confession or not. We can’t just let words like “justified” stand on their own, because these words are being used (or at least might be used) in different ways. If we fail to substitute the proper “usage definition” in for each occurrence of “justified”, then we commit the fallacy of equivocation when we condemn Wilkins of violating the Confession. We don’t want to do this, so we need to plug in the proper “usage definition,” for both Wilkins’ usages of the word “justification” and the Confession’s usages, and THEN see if there is an inconsistency between the two.

    So, plugging in proper usage definitions for “those that are justified” (twice) and “state of justification”, C1 became C2.

    C2: God continues to forgive the sins of those that receive a declaration of pardon at some point during their earthly life that includes forgiveness for all sins they will ever commit, and those who receive this declaration can never fall from the state of being pardoned by God for all the sins they will ever commit.

    But C2 does not tell us WHO is justified in this way, it just tells us some things that are true about people who are. I added C3 to make it clear that the Confession also teaches elsewhere WHO gets justified in this way. It isn’t said in WCF 11.5, but it is clear from many other places and has already been assumed in Lane and my previous discussion here.

    C3: All and only those predestined by God to live eternally with Him in glory receive the declaration of pardon discussed in C2.

    Now, it sounds like you (David G) disagree with my formulation of C2. So, the question is, why? Do you think that I have plugged in the wrong definitions for “justified” and “justification” in C1? Or do you think C1 itself is in need of modification? (So it’s not a matter of plugging the right definitions into “justified” and “justification” in C1, it’s a matter of re-wording C1 altogether and THEN plugging in the right definitions.) This latter seems like the more likely reading of what you say here:

    Re-read WCF 11.5. The object is “those that are justified.” Theoretically (and I mean theoretically) that could refer to an elect person or a non-elect person. If they are justified, this passage applies to them, elect or non-elect, period. And what happens to this group? God CONTINUES to forgive them. Excluding the idea that the non-elect covenant members cannot see condemnation on the Last Day, this would exclude the whole idea of a justified non-elect covenant member.

    What you SEEM to be saying here, if I understand you correctly, is that you object to translating WCF 11.5 as C1. Instead, you want to translate it somthing like this:

    C4: The only kind of justification is a justification in which God continues to forgive the sins of the justified person, so that all of the sins they ever commit are forgiven.

    But this has “justification” and “justified” in it all over the place, so we still need to clean it up with Westminster’s “usage definitions.” In the context of what we are talking about right now, “declaration of pardon for sinners” seems to be a good quick fill-in for “justification,” though again modify this if you think I’m getting it wrong. So let’s translate C4 into C5:

    C5: The only declaration of pardon for sinners is a declaration in which God continues to forgive the sins of the pardoned person, so that all of the sins they ever commit are forgiven.

    This is certainly different from my C1. But this is also a very unnatural reading of WCF 11.5, which says (to remind everyone):

    “God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification…”

    The most obvious reading of this statement in WCF 11.5, it seems to me, is that it is picking out a particular group of people and telling us something about that group of people, that God continues to forgive their sins in such a way that all the sins they ever commit are forgiven and they cannot ever fall from being forgiven in this way. This group of people that is being picked out is “those that are justified.” And “justification” has a clear and beautiful definition in the WS, so we aren’t left to guesswork as to who is in mind here. This is what is reflected in my C1, once it is turned into my C2 and then combined with C3.

    Your C5 (if indeed you are willing to claim it), however, says something quite different than this. Your C5 goes beyond my C2 and C3. It goes beyond a claim about what kind of pardon God gives the elect (which is something we can learn from my C2 and C3), and claims that this kind of pardon is the ONLY kind of pardon that God gives to ANYONE. You think you are drawing this from the language of WCF 11.5? I just don’t see it.

  43. Xon said,

    January 12, 2007 at 11:15 am

    I agree that, if WCF 11.5 teaches C5, then from C5 we could derive NECMWS2.3 (assuming that “a declaration of God that they are rigtheous in His sight” is synonymous with “a declaration of pardon from God.”) What I find highly problematic is your effort to get C5 from WCF 11.5. It just doesn’t ‘compute’ that way, from what I can see.

  44. Xon said,

    January 12, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    “Let me try to summarize what you are saying: WCF says that only the elect get a complete forgiveness of all sins. “Complete forgiveness” does not rule out “temporary incomplete forgiveness.” Wilkins teaches the latter in reference to NECM, but not the former. This is probably a bit simplistic, but I am trying to generalize here for the benefits of some of my readers who can’t follow tightly logical abbreviations and such.”

    No, Lane, that was a very good summation. Of course, we can put things a bit more tightly, this is why I’m using the “proposition method”, but as a summary of what my propositions have tried to show so far, this was very good. We are on the same page. We know what we are actually talking about.

    Now, on to your “Prong 2.” (Folks should check back up at comment #28, third paragraph, to see what Lane’s two prongs are.) I agree that Prong 1 is the far more deadly prong from an FV perspective, b/c it would simply show that the WS do not allow for any kind of forgiveness from the wrath of God other than the one they describe. Prong 2 is really just “gravy”, in that it only claims to show a particular bothersome teaching from Wilkins only. Any FVer, or at least a lot of them, would presumably be in trouble if you could prove Prong 1, but only Wilkins is in trouble under Prong 2. So, Prong 1 also needs to be answered. But Prong 2 first.

    You seek to show “that Wilkins teaches not a ‘temporary incomplete forgiveness’ for NECMs, but rather a ‘temporary complete forgiveness.'” Because it was now sixteen comments ago or so, let me repeat your argument in full:

    Prong 2. What does Wilkins teach? Does he teach a “temporary incomplete forgiveness” or a “temporary complete forgiveness?” In one sense, the question is moot if I have already proved prong 1, since there is only one kind of forgiveness that the WCF allows. However, it is still a helpful logical exercise to establish what Wilkins teaches about the kind of forgiveness that a NECM receives. Again I will go to his article in the Federal Vision. Pg. 55 “At baptism we are clothed with Christ, united to him and to His Church which is His body;” pg. 55 “By virtue of our union with Him, we are made recipients of *all* (emphasis mine) that is His;” pg. 56 “As we abide in Him, *all* (emphasis mine) that is true of Him is true of us;” pg. 58 “Because being in covenant with God means being in Christ, those who are in covenant have *all* (emphasis mine) spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Union with Christ means that *all* (emphasis mine) that is true of Christ is true of us;” pg. 59 “They have been washed (or baptized) which has brought about sanctification and justification in the name of Christ, by the Spirit of God;” pg. 60 “All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ;” pg. 61 “Thus, when one breaks covenant, it can be truly said that he has turned away from grace and forfeited life, *forgiveness,* (emphasis mine), and salvation.”

    Now, let’s fill in a few of the gaps here. Baptism means union with Christ. Union with Christ means that all that is true of Christ is true of those united by baptism to Christ. If all that is true of Christ is true of those baptized into union with Christ, then *all* Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer. Otherwise, they would not have *all* spiritual blessings (see pg. 58). By metonymy, having Christ’s righteousness is the flip-side (irrevocably connected) of being forgiven of all one’s sins (see Romans 6:6-7 and how Paul quotes David). If we have all that is true of Christ, then we have His righteousness as well, which means that all our sins have been forgiven. If we only have part of Christ’s righteousness, then we don’t have all that is true of Christ, which Wilkins says we do have. Therefore Wilkins is teaching a temporary, complete forgiveness.

    Okay. So the way the argument seems to go is that Wilkins creates a sort of “chain of benefits” that flows to everyone who is baptised. This chain of benefits includes things that can only entail a temporary and complete forgiveness. Therefore, Wilkins has taught things from which can be derived the complete forgiveness of non-elect baptised people. How’s that?

    Let’s fill this out as premises and conclusion:

    P1: Wilkins creates a “chain of benefits” that flows to everyone who is baptized. (Claim)
    P2: Some baptized people are non-elect. (Assumption not in dispute.)
    P3: Non-elect baptized people only receive this chain of benefits in a way that is temporary. (Assumption not in dispute; derived from definition of “non-elect”)
    P4: This chain of benefits entails a complete forgiveness of sins. (Claim)
    C: Therefore, Wilkins’ teachings entail a temporary complete forgiveness for some non-elect people.

    The form of reasoning here seems valid, so the only way to refute the argument is to go after one or more of the premises. P1, P2, and P3 all look solid. So this leaves us with P4, which is where I am skeptical.

    Like we have been doing before, we HAVE to take Wilkins’ statements that you cite from the article in the FV book and “translate” all the controversial terms that might have different usage definitions. So, we need to look at the words Wilkins uses in describing the chain of benefits that go to non-elect people, and sub in the proper “usage definitions” of those words. Once we have done that, then we can look and see if what Wilkins says entails a “temporary complete forgiveness” for all baptized people.

    Your citations of the article in the FV book point to the following phrases which Wilkins uses to describe the chain of benefits for the baptized:

    –“clothed with Christ” (1)
    –“united to Christ and to His Church” (2)
    –“made recipients of all that is His” (3)
    –“all that is true of Him is true of us” (4)
    –“have all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” (5)
    –“sanctification and justification in the name of Christ, by the Spirit of God” (6)
    –“grace” (7)
    –“life” (8)
    –“forgiveness” (9)
    –“salvation” (10)

    I doubt we need to go through all 10 of these in detail. If you think I miss something important by skipping some of them then by all means come back along and point it out.

    I said I was skeptical of P4. Why? The first reason is simply that the phrase “temporary complete forgiveness” seems like an oxymoron. I am not sure what you mean by it. If it is only temporary, then by definition at the last day these people end up being found in their sins, and so they are not forgiven and go to Hell. That hardly seems “complete”—in the ultimate sense, it is what I would call “incomplete.” On the other hand, if it is a “complete” forgiveness, then it cannot be temporary (same argument as above, basically, just starting from the other side).

    You could argue that Wilkins’ view entails this kind of absurdity if you want. People do teach things that are reducible to absurdity all the time. But this is a tough charge to make stick, and especially in the interest of charity I would think that we would want to be careful not to impute such an obvious absurdity to someone. We should only make this interpretation if we have no other choice.

    It seems to me that (2) all by itself, since we know that when Wilkins says “union with Christ” he is thinking of a temporary union with Christ, makes this whole baptism benefit chain temporary in nature, and thus whatever forgiveness must also be only temporary, and hence not complete.

    Ah, but let’s look a little more closely at (3) – (5), which seem basically synonymous. I would say that, in the time I have spent on this blog (about a month now), this is probably where your arguments are most ferocious (not a bad thing) and insistent. And it makes sense that you would be ferocious and insistent, because of that darn word “all.” Wilkins says that we can say of NECMs things like “all that is Christ is theirs” and “all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly realms belong to them,” etc. How can this NOT mean that Wilkins is saying that NECMs have a complete forgiveness of sins? After all, a complete forgiveness of sins implies perseverance, but perseverance should be one of “all” the blessings that Wilkins says these non-elect people receive, right?

    So, it seems that your argument can go something like this: Wilkins clearly says all these blessings are temporary because the union with Christ that baptized non-elect people have is only temporary. But, when Wilkins says this and then follows it up by ALSO saying that “all” the benefits of Christ are theirs, etc., he puts himself into an absurdity. Wilkins cannot say both that there is a temporary, hence incomplete, forgiveness, and that ALL the benefits are their. Because if they really had all the benefits, then this would include a complete forgiveness.

    Well, here’s what I think Wilkins is saying, and for the record I will just say that I agree (particularly in the article for the FV book) that greater clarity on this point, greater care to spell out exactly what he meant, could have saved some trouble. But, at the same time, nobody’s perfect, and I think he has clarified this point in the meantime. When Wilkins says that “all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places” belong to everyone who is baptized, how can this only refer to a temporary status? Why isn’t perseverance included in the “all”? My answer, and I think I am being true to Wilkins here (I have actually sent him an e-mail asking him to verify this. I was tempted to wait until he responded to finish this comment but I’ve decided to go ahead and finish it before he answers.), is that the PRESENT TENSE is key. All the blessings ARE ours. But not all blessings can be ours IN THE PRESENT. What I mean is, there are many blessings that the Bible speaks of—just take going to Heaven as one quaint evangelicalized example—which nobody alive on earth “possesses” (again, note the present tense) right now. I am not in Heaven right now. I do not “enjoy” glorification right now. Because I am elect I enjoy the promise or the hope of glorification. But I do not have it right now.

    So, what I think Wilkins means by “all that is Christ’s is ours” and similar phrases is that “all that is Christ’s that CAN BE OURS IN THE PRESENT is ours”. There is a very real sense in which all who are members of the covenant are under God’s promises of salvation, they have been brought “into Christ” which means that when God looks at them, in some sense He sees Christ and thus passes no judgment on them and tells them that they will be His forever if they believe. This gives us a great many benefits now in our present earthly life and it also gives us great hope for the full reality that is to come, but hope for the full reality is not the same as the actual full reality. That only comes at the consummation. Some of us will in fact not continue to believe (and the belief we had from the beginning was probably a different “kind” of belief anyway; I’m okay with saying that and I think Wilkins is too), and thus we will be destroyed as it was appointed for us from the beginning. We will no longer be “in Christ”, under His protection, and so when God looks at us we will again be in our sins and will perish. And, again, this is all how God wanted it to be in his eternal decree.

    Look, this may not be the best way to use the word “all”. But remember Wilkins’ perspective on this: he thinks that Scripture uses the word “all” to describe blessings that go to people who don’t go to Heaven. Given that he thinks this is what Scripture says, he has to find a meaning for “all” that doesn’t include perseverance, and I think focusing on the PRESENT reality for people who are baptized is what allows him to do it. Again, this may not be the most natural use of “all”, but for us Calvinists Scripture is full of uses of all that require a “second look” to really understand. Besides, the issue here is not whether Wilkins’s use of “all” really conforms to what most of us think, it is just whether this usage allows him to be consistent with the Confession. His usage of a word could be really quirky—and again when people use words in really quirky ways I do think they have a responsibility to be clear about that fact, and Wilkins could have been a little quicker in being clear on this particular usage—but so long as what he means when he uses the word does not put him in opposition to the Confession, then he should be fine.

    So, to put this in my now-infamous propositional way, when Wilkins says that phrases like (3), (4), or (5) can be applied to some non-elect people what he is actually teaching is something like this:

    W4: All baptized people who are not under discipline are united to Christ temporarily during their earthly life.

    W5: This temporary union with Christ described in W4 makes them partakers during the time of their union in all the benefits that such a union can bring during their earthly life.

    And, finally, I would just add that from other things Wilkins has said I think he would also affirm:

    W6: The way in which these temporary partakers in W5 partake of these benefits is not the same as the way in which people predestined to live with God eternally in glory partake of the same benefits.

  45. Xon said,

    January 12, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Okay…

    So now should we pursue Prong 2 further (I assume you will want to respond, Lane?), or should we move on to Prong 1?

  46. greenbaggins said,

    January 13, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Well, I think that prong 2 still needs some more clarification on both sides, although, if you want to start on prong 1 (which is the most important anyway, as we both acknowledge, I invite you to do so). But I will respond to your arguments here.

    As I see your argument, you are basically saying that a temporary complete forgiveness is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, my argument that he teaches a temporary complete forgiveness is invalid by definition (and I am using “by definition” in the technical sense of the logical exclusion of a conclusion by the very definition of the terms). The form of your argument is valid. It remains to be seen whether the premises are valid.

    Now, I believe that it is quite possible to believe in a temporary complete forgiveness, if one introduces a further term to the equation. This involves a closer definition of the two terms “temporary” and “complete.” Does the term “complete” need to involve a time aspect in order to be complete? I would argue that it does not. If one says that a person’s sins are completely forgiven, contingent on remaining in the covenant, then one is saying that all one’s sins are forgiven, but conditionally (the condition being perseverance). This is what I understand Wilkins to be teaching when he uses the term “all.” As you noted, what Wilkins seems to be meaning by that term is that the temporary union with Christ makes them partakers of all such benefits that such a union can bring during their earthly life (see W5 in comment 44). One of those terms that Wilkins uses is justification. In the context of his article, he does not define justification. He seems to assume the “1 Corinthians” definition of the term, quoting 1 Cor 6:9-11. The relevant verse is surely verse 11: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” In the context of that verse, Paul talks about all the sins that they had formerly committed (vv. 9-10). He explicitly connects those sin with verse 11’s “such were some of you…BUT…you were justified.” Does this not plainly imply that the sins were forgiven? Wilkins at the very least is implying a temporary forgiveness. The question is whether he implies that it is complete. Without knowing what his detailed exegesis of the terms of this passage, are, it would be impossible to say *from this verse, and from his quoting of it.* However, by Paul’s own terms, the sins are forgiven. They are, by definition, no longer the “unrighteous” of verse 9. By that term, then, they must be inheritors of the kingdom of God. By the logic of Paul’s argument, those sins are completely forgiven, since the readers he is addressing were unrighteous (and thus equal to the non-inheritors of the kingdom), but now are justified, and thus *are* inheritors of the kingdom of God. No one can be an inheritor of the kingdom unless his sins are completely forgiven. Period. Paul puts no qualification on the status of the believers here. (This is why I think the judgment of charity makes more sense of this passage, by the way).

    On W6, how would you say that the benefits are the *same,* if the partaking of them is not the same? Are they not then different benefits? That one doesn’t make sense to me.

    BOQ “all that is Christ’s that CAN BE OURS IN THE PRESENT is ours”. EOQ This is your summary of Wilkins’s position (written, of course, prior to your receiving any response from Wilkins to your query: by the way, has he responded?). Now, here it the question: is Christ’s complete righteousness ours in the present if we are united to Christ by baptism? You see the problem: the first term is this: “all that is Christ’s.” That would include righteousness, surely (relates, as has been claimed before, and which you did not seem to dispute, to forgiveness of sins, via Romans 4:5-6). The righteousness of Christ therefore must include the forgiveness of our sins, right? Then, the only way to make that statement work is if we receive only partially Christ’s righteousness. The part that we would receive is then proportional only to the part of our life that we have lived. Christ’s righteousness would have to become more and more perfect in us as life progresses. However, if Christ’s righteousness is completely ours at the moment of justification (WS’s definition here), and Wilkins says that we have justification (def?) at baptismal-union-with-Christ, then is there not significant if not majority overlap between those two definitions of justification? Would there not have to be? On what basis, then, does Wilkins distinguish between temporary justification and full justification? That distinction would have to include the exclusion of completeness from any and all aspects of forgiveness of sins. Otherwise, the game is up, and he has claimed complete forgiveness for a temporary status. How much overlap is there? I would argue that for his position to be consistent, he would have to argue that there is nothing like complete forgiveness in “covenantal justification.” One then would wonder in what sense one could even call that justification? What kind of justification is it that doesn’t involve the forgiveness of sins? I guess I’m really asking Wilkins to be precise in his definition of “incomplete forgiveness.” To me, *that’s* an oxymoron. How can sins be kinda sorta forgiven, but not really?

  47. Xon said,

    January 13, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Just a quick question, Lane. You indicated in your most recent post (Wilkins Part 12) that that was to be your “last comment on FV for a couple of weeks.” Did you mean that you wouldn’t be contributing to our discussion here, either, for a couple of weeks? Or did you just mean that you wouldn’t be putting up any new main posts on your blog that relate to FV?

    Just wondering what kind of time table we’re working with, here. This conversation is very important to me, and actually enjoyable (given how clear we are both being, for the most part; I apparently fell a bit short in my most recent, though). It is my top priority of things to do outside of my actual “responsibilities of life.” But if you aren’t going to be coming back to this thread for two weeks, then that’s something worth knowing on my end.

  48. greenbaggins said,

    January 13, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    No, Xon, I was referring only to main posts, not to comments. I intend to actively pursue this thread the most avidly. Comment away.

  49. Todd said,

    January 13, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    Wilson on Barlow on Phillips on Wilkins:

    http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=3376

  50. January 13, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    Xon, I think you are getting lost in this argument because you are forgetting the context of my argument, which is against Wilkins’ formulations.

    If WCF says that “God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification”

    and then Wilkins comes along and posits the existence of a group “of those that are justified” that God does not continue to forgive, we have a huge problem.

    Now, you and I can agree that Westminster’s sense of justification is applied ONLY to the elect, but it is hardly apparent that Wilkins believes this. He formally distinguishes his sense of the term, but, again, not in substance. He can only talk about qulitative differences in the abstract. Your argument, in short, assumes too much about what Wilkins believes.

    Again, I note that you have shimmied your way around the systematic problems here. You have spent far too much time in philosophy and not enough in systematics. Until you address these matters, your defense of Wilkins will only be a 3-wheeled wagon. Not enough to get him out of the ditch and convince us that he has a coherent, much less confessional, theology.

    If Wilkins would at least say “my sense of justification does not include the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner” then we could believe that his sense of justification is not simply Westminster’s sense minus eternal duration. But he hasn’t done that, tellingly, and so inherits all of the soteriological and Christological problems I mentioned earlier.

  51. Xon said,

    January 14, 2007 at 12:46 am

    If WCF says that “God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification”

    and then Wilkins comes along and posits the existence of a group “of those that are justified” that God does not continue to forgive, we have a huge problem.

    Only if Wilkins and WCF are using the term “justified” with precisely the same meaning. Otherwise, you just committed the fallacy of equivocation.

    And assuming that the “default” meaning for Wilkins’ usage of the term is the same as WCF’s, so that Wilkins has to clearly lay out what his own usage is or else we can just assume that he is using the word in the same way WCF uses it, is not appropriate, either. You haven’t interacted with my comment #42 at all on these points, and as such I don’t know what else to say to you at this moment. Perhaps we are two ships passing in the night.

    Now, you and I can agree that Westminster’s sense of justification is applied ONLY to the elect, but it is hardly apparent that Wilkins believes this. He formally distinguishes his sense of the term, but, again, not in substance. He can only talk about qulitative differences in the abstract. Your argument, in short, assumes too much about what Wilkins believes.

    Even if everything in the second and third sentences is correct, you have the burden of proof exactly backwards. Wilkins is not under any obligation to demonstrate that he AGREES with the Confession. If you can’t find any place in his writings where he ever teaches some Confessional doctrine, then you must construe his silence as agreement, not as disagreement. If you want to show him to be out of bounds with the Confession, then you must show where he teaches something that is actually contrary to it. This is what Lane and I are currently looking into; Lane is actively working to provide actual examples of places where Wilkins says “not A” to the Confession’s “A”.

    Again, I note that you have shimmied your way around the systematic problems here. You have spent far too much time in philosophy and not enough in systematics. Until you address these matters, your defense of Wilkins will only be a 3-wheeled wagon. Not enough to get him out of the ditch and convince us that he has a coherent, much less confessional, theology.

    Sorry, but I have no idea what this means. I have been relating various parts of the Confession, and various doctrines and terms (such as justification and forgiveness of sins and elect), together in a way that respects their meanings throughout the WS and in Wilkins’ writings. If this is not systematic then I don’t know what is.

    The bottom line is that, if you look back at my comment #42, I tried very clearly to lay out what WCF 11.5 seems to me to teach, and what you seem to think it teaches. I asked you specifically if you disagreed with my formulation C2, and if so to offer a correction. You haven’t answered that, but have instead argued that I “assume too much about what Wilkins believes.” Well, again, I assume he is in conformity with the Confession until he is shown to be contrary to it, and you have not brought up any passage that shows him to be contrary to WCF 11.5. This wasn’t even your original argument: originally, you tried to argue that WCF 11.5 teaches NECMWS2.3, which would be contrary to something Wilkins says as I had pointed out earlier. I argued that WCF 11.5 does not derive NECMWS2.3, so you haven’t proven your case here. You have offered nothing in response to this, but instead are now claiming that something in Wilkins’ writings contradicts WCF 11.5. But since WCF 11.5 does not derive NECMWS2.3, and NECMWS2.3 is the only proposition “in play” so far that we KNOW would be contrary to Wilkins, then you have to provide a source for Wilkins going awry of WCF 11.5 You haven’t done this yet. So, do you have a particular passage of his in mind where you think he goes contrary to WCF 11.5?

  52. Xon said,

    January 14, 2007 at 1:03 am

    Lane, I’ve gone through a number of re-writes on this. Because we are focusing on Wilkins’ own views, and not on comparing those views directly to the Confession (this is not the point of “Prong 2”), my propositional method of expressing things isn’t working out the same way it was before. It seems easier to just talk about what Wilkins says and what I understand that to mean using my own natural style of language, and hopefully this won’t be too unclear.

    I may have to try this entire comment again, though. We’ll see.

    As I see your argument, you are basically saying that a temporary complete forgiveness is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, my argument that he teaches a temporary complete forgiveness is invalid by definition (and I am using “by definition” in the technical sense of the logical exclusion of a conclusion by the very definition of the terms). The form of your argument is valid. It remains to be seen whether the premises are valid.

    Hmm…this is not exactly what I meant, though I don’t think I was sufficiently clear. I WAS saying that “temporary complete forgiveness” seems like a contradiction in terms. But I don’t have any problem, in principle, with accusing someone of teaching a contradiction in terms. People commit such absurdities all the time. I just wanted to be sure that this was our last resort of interpretation before we put such an absurdity in someone’s mouth.

    But your argument from the “all” in phrases such as “all that is Christ is theirs,” etc., is actually a pretty good argument that Wilkins’ indeed affirms this, even if it is an absurdity. I mean, I don’t think it holds up in the end (this is what we’re discussing), but it is easy to give Wilkins the reading you give him, and easy therefore to conclude that he really is teaching a “temporary complete forgiveness,” even if such a notion is self-contradictory. Your argument is plausible enough on its face that I don’t think you are “utting an absurdity in Wilkins’ mouth,” like I worry about in the previous paragraph. So, in the end, I took you to be arguing that Wilkins affirms this absurdity, and I didn’t rule this argument invalid by definition, but rather tried to show that Wilkins’ meaning when he says those “all” phrases is such that he isn’t really teaching the absurdity. So I definitely did not mean to give the impression that your argument was invalid simply because “temporary complete forgiveness” is an oxymoron. I meant to take your argument that Wilkins teaches this oxymoron seriously, and to respond to it.

    But you actually raised some reasonable points in support of the notion that “temporary complete forgiveness” is NOT an oxymoron. So, regardless of how I was interpreting your argument originally, let’s look at these points directly.

    Again, this all comes down to definitions. I am willing to grant, after your previous comment, that we can talk about a forgiveness that is both “temporary” and “complete” without falling into self-contradiction. But my concern with your argument here is that there is nothing wrong with affirming this sort of “complete” forgiveness. It turns out that both the elect and the non-elect have “complete” forgiveness in this sense of “complete”, but the non-elect covenant member’s is only temporary and thus of no use to him at the last day.

    In other words, this is where I see things standing right now. If your “Prong 1” is correct, then a forgiveness that is “temporary” gets Wilkins into enough hot water. But your “Prong 2” is claiming that he also says something else that is problematic on top of this “temporary” stuff, in that he says that this forgiveness that the non-elect receive is “complete”. But this latter concern is one I am having trouble following, because it seems to me (now that I know better what you mean by “complete”) that there is nothing wrong with saying that the non-elect can have complete forgiveness for a time. That is, there is nothing wrong with saying this that isn’t already included in the “for a time” bit. (Whether it really is contrary to the Confession to assert a temporary forgiveness, of course, will have to wait until we discuss Prong 1 directly.) In the end, I don’t think “Prong 2” really adds any problems to Wilkins’ views. I think his trouble is all Prong 1. “Temporary” forgiveness is all we need to get him in trouble, and adding “complete” to this temporary forgiveness doesn’t make it any worse.

    This requires some reflection on forgiveness. The real question here, I think, is how forgiveness of future sins actually works. It seems to me that there are two “models” for thinking about this. The two models go something like this: Am I forgiven NOW for sins I haven’t committed yet? Or am I just forgiven for the sins I have done up until now, but I have confidence that, in the future, God will be gracious and forgive me for those future sins when they happen (or shortly thereafter when I confess them and repent?)

    The latter “model” for thinking about this seems correct to me, for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t seem right to me to think about ANYONE as being given “forgiveness” for all future sins. Their identity is bound up in Christ, with His righteousness imputed to them, so of course when the future sins happen these elect people will be “covered” at that time. But I don’t think it really makes sense to talk about forgiveness as something that God gives before the word or deed that needs forgiveness is even done. We can talk about an assurance or a promise of such future forgiveness, though. (More on this in a sec…)

    (Of course because God is timeless this gets a bit weird, but at least from the “human perspective” we don’t get forgiven for the sins we commit on January 25, 2012 before January 25, 2012. Of course since God made provision for us at the cross, and predestined us from the foundation of the world, we can talk in a certain sense as though God “forgave” us at those earlier times. But this is really a stretched meaning of “forgive”, it seems to me, and not its strict sense. Consider salvation as a parallel. In a sense we can say “I was saved 2,000 years ago on a hill outside Jerusalem,” but in the strictest sense I wasn’t actually “saved” until the Holy Spirit actually took over my person and claimed it for Himself, thus literally SAVING me from my sin and its consequences which had enslaved me before that moment.)

    Now, on this way of thinking about forgiveness, can we say it is “complete”? Sure, I think so. It is “complete” because you have assurance that you have all the “tools” you need to cover you every time you sin. (“Tools” is just my crude way of speaking—it is the covering of Christ’s righteousness that you have, not some “tool” that you work with to produce or earn forgiveness for yourself.) Or, another way of saying it is this: my forgiveness is complete because “all” of me is wrapped up in Christ, and this includes my sins. There is no part of me that is not covered in Christ’s righteousness—I am “completely” covered and so any sins I commit are “completely” looked over or forgotten. But right now, the sin I commit on March 4, 2024 isn’t one of “my” sins. I am not guilty right now for sins I haven’t committed yet, am I? These future sins are not a part of my identity in the present, are they? But when I do commit this sin later, I WILL be covered when that time comes, if I am still wrapped up in Christ.

    Now, the interesting thing is that, if I am right about all this, then this is how forgiveness for future sins would work for both non-elect covenant members (if Wilkins is right that these receive some kind of temporary forgiveness) AND for ELECT covenant members. Forgiveness “works” pretty much the same way for both, as both are united to Christ and it is in Christ that we find our righteousness before God (which includes being forgiven for all the sins that would otherwise be on our account). And both have the promise or assurance that—if Christ’s righteousness remains their righteousness—then they will be forgiven for all the future sins they commit as well. But, of course, the non-elect covenant members DO NOT, in fact, remain in Christ’s righteousness. But not remaining is a matter of temporality, and is covered by Wilkins’ notion of “temporary forgiveness.” “Temporal” issues are the fundamental question—on this issue of forgiveness anyway—that separates the non-elect guy from the elect guy: when I commit a sin tomorrow, will I still be covered by Christ, or will I have removed myself through unbelief? For the elect person the answer is always “Yes, I will still be covered by Christ” (though not all elect people have assurance, of course, and so they won’t always give this answer confidently.) And so his new sin will be forgiven when it comes up. For the non-elect, this is always an open question, and we know that at some point the answer becomes “No, he will not still be covered by Christ.”

    Of course, this is a “conditional” way of speaking (“if you are still in Christ”), and this might make us think that therefore I am ascribing only a “conditional” election to the elect. (since I say that elect and non-elect covenant member both have a forgiveness that “works” the same way) But this is not that kind of “conditionality.” It is simply the sort of conditionality that is present when we say that “if you die believing in Christ, you are saved.” We can say this to an elect person, and it is a true statement. It’s true that IF you die in belief, then you will be saved (conditional). It’s also true that God decides who dies in belief and who doesn’t, and that the way He decides this is not based on anything within the person (unconditional). God works out his election through means, and so God makes sure that His elect meet whatever conditions there are to being forgiven in the future. But for the non-elect who are in the covenant He makes sure that they, at some future point, fall short of these same conditions.

    Now, this might seem like I have now gone out of bounds with the Confession. Look back at WCF35J3, for instance. But I don’t think this is so; rather, we have just discovered through further discussion that some of my older propositions about the Confession’s teaching are still a little ambiguous. They could still be tightened up even more carefully than we have done so far. When we do so, I don’t think anything I’ve said here will actually be out of bounds with the Confession.

  53. Xon said,

    January 14, 2007 at 1:21 am

    A few more thoughts, if that’s okay.

    Let’s look quickly at the words you used about what hypothetical (for you) “complete” non-elect forgiveness would mean: “If one says that a person’s sins are completely forgiven, contingent on remaining in the covenant, then one is saying that all one’s sins are forgiven, but conditionally (the condition being perseverance)”

    Yes, but in what sense are “all one’s sins forgiven” when one says this? Are they “all” forgiven in the sense that you are currently in a status which wipes out all sins you have committed and which will continue to do so as long as you remain in that status? (This is the view that makes sense to me.) Or are they “all” forgiven in the sense that you have actually been granted forgiveness NOW for all future sins you might commit? These are the two different “models” or pictures for thinking about future sins committed by a person whose status before God is bound up in Christ. If my “model” is right, then the words you say above could be said truly of an elect person just as much as of a non-elect person. So this sort of “complete” forgiveness goes to everybody who is ever forgiven at all, and isn’t really a problem for Wilkins’ (or anybody else’s view). The problem with Wilkins’ view, then, would just be with the idea that he thinks some people are in this forgiven status only temporarily. Again, as you and I have both already acknowledged several times, this is what “Prong 1” is about.

    Conditionality is not a problem per se when talking about elect people. There ARE ‘conditions’ to the reality enjoyed by the elect—for instance, if you don’t believe in Christ, you cannot be saved. But, as I said in my previous comment, God decrees who will meet this condition and who will not, and He does this based on nothing within the people He chooses. So, in the ultimate sense, the elect are unconditionally chosen by God. But they are chosen by God to DO certain things—to accomplish certain conditions (like believing in Christ) which are necessary for salvation. But therefore we can also tell an elect person that his sins are completely forgiven, but if he doesn’t persevere they won’t be any more. Even though he’s elect and so he cannot do anything but persevere. So the elect person has a “complete” forgiveness, but conditioned on future perseverance, and so does the non-elect covenant member. But the elect person’s complete conditioned forgiveness is permanent (because he is predestined to meet the conditions), while the non-elect person’s complete conditioned forgiveness is only temporary (b/c he is predestined to fail to meet the condition for permanence).

    I realize that there are issues about “qualitative” differences b/w elect and non-elect covenant members that are still (always) floating around in the air. But I just don’t see how this question of forgiveness is an area where that discussion really has much to offer. Forgiveness is something we get from being “in Christ,” and if it is possible to be in Christ for a while then out again then it is possible to be forgiven for a while and then not anymore. (And, just so nobody forgets, these “possibilities” are actually necessities that happen to each person in accordance with the eternal decree of God.) Of course, we could ALSO ask whether the people who are forgiven permanently and those who are forgiven only temporarily are also different in a way beyond this mere durational difference, and that is a good question to ask and I think all sides would say “yes” and then we would disagree about what exactly the qualitative difference is. (And, for what it’s worth, this is the area I am most open-minded about when it comes to showing FV to be out of accord with the Standards. I don’t think presently think that Wilkins’ view about the “qualitative” differences b/w elect and non-elect covenant members is out of accord with the Confession, but I could definitely be convinced. Keeping in mind, though, that if I were convinced it would then take a further argument to convince me that we shouldn’t just treat this as an allowable exception for FV people.) But I just don’t think that this question about whether Wilkins teaches a “complete” forgiveness addresses that part of our disagreement.

  54. January 14, 2007 at 3:19 am

    “Wilkins is not under any obligation to demonstrate that he AGREES with the Confession. If you can’t find any place in his writings where he ever teaches some Confessional doctrine, then you must construe his silence as agreement, not as disagreement”

    Wrong. Wilkin’s presbytery asked him point blank about how he makes these distinctions. His answer was not sufficient to prove that he believes, substantively, in such a distinction. Now, when someone is examined, to determine if they are competent ministers of the Gospel, the burden of proof is on THEM, not on the examiners, to prove that they are in accordance with the confessions. If he cannot do this, then he ought to be deposed. This is not a matter of criminal judicial proceedings, where one is innocent unless proven guilty. You are operating in an altogether faulty understanding of presbyterian courts if you make this equation. Ministers must prove that they are worthy of shepherding over God’s sheep.

    “Sorry, but I have no idea what this means. I have been relating various parts of the Confession, and various doctrines and terms (such as justification and forgiveness of sins and elect), together in a way that respects their meanings throughout the WS and in Wilkins’ writings. If this is not systematic then I don’t know what is.”

    That is logical and philosophical, but it is not systematic theology. In systematic theology, we demonstrate how our system relates to other doctrines. We are not just concerned with logical consistency, per se. And this shows, glaringly, how you cannot exhonerate Wilkins on this level. You can’t even address a basic concern about how Wilkins can be right about justification, if indeed it involves a “justification” where Christ’s righteousness is imputated to sinners. In that case, we would have an injustice in God, where the sinners’ sins are punished twice, in Christ and in the sinner.

    So I ask you, now, as a man to answer whether or not Christ’s righteousness is imputed to non-elect covenant members. If you don’t, then please explain how Wilkins’ views can accomodate this necessary fact.

    Don’t act as if you aren’t aware of such a glaring defect. The implications of Wilkins’ theology are just as pertinent as the logical consistency of his theology.

    If Wilkins says “my justification is not the sense Westminster is talking about” then the onus is ABSOLUTELY on him to tell us what that different sense is. He has not done so, so the bulk of your argument is beside the point until that matter is resolved.

  55. January 14, 2007 at 3:29 am

    Oh, and I should mention that a fair indication that Wilkins is NOT using those sorts of terms in a non-Westminsterian way is because of the fact that he grounds his doctrine of assurance in it (as Lane has pointed out before).

  56. Xon said,

    January 14, 2007 at 9:38 am

    That is logical and philosophical, but it is not systematic theology. In systematic theology, we demonstrate how our system relates to other doctrines. We are not just concerned with logical consistency, per se.

    I say that I am trying to relate different doctrines together, and you tell me that I am not doing systematic theology b/c sys theo involves relating other doctrines together?

    I think you mean something like this: Wilkins may be okay in all the stuff he says about “justification”, but this has implications for other doctrines, like the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and it is here in these implications that he runs into trouble. This is a fine argument to try to make, and is EXACTLY the sort of thing that Lane and I are trying to explore. You keep swooshing in and acting as though I am not aware of some basic critique you COULD launch. Well, I am aware of it, but I can only deal with one criticism at a time. You need to FORMULATE your argument, so I can respond to it. Right now, all you’ve said is that Wilkins’ view of temporary justification seems to involve the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to non-elect people, but only temporarily, and you think this is contrary to the Confession. Do I have that right?

    If I do have your argument basically right, then you’ll just have to wait while I get to your question in due time. It’s not that I’m not willing to be systematic, it’s that I’m being too systematic to get to every point you bring up right when you bring it up. Lane and I are trying to work through several issues that are already “in play,” in detail, and “imputation” would be another issue added to the pile. It takes time, David, and I would appreciate you not rushing in to accuse me of “avodiing” whatever fine argument you think you’ve made simply because I focus on other things first.

    In the meantime, while we work to the question of imputation, perhaps you could look back through the conversation Lane and I have had here and try to formulate your argument in a similar way to what we have been doing. Quote Wilkins directly and show that the statement you quote “means” something about imputation of Christ’s righteousness to non-elect people. Then, quote the Confession and show that the statement you quote “means” something contrary to what you just quoted from Wilkins.

    Wrong. Wilkin’s presbytery asked him point blank about how he makes these distinctions. His answer was not sufficient to prove that he believes, substantively, in such a distinction. Now, when someone is examined, to determine if they are competent ministers of the Gospel, the burden of proof is on THEM, not on the examiners, to prove that they are in accordance with the confessions. If he cannot do this, then he ought to be deposed. This is not a matter of criminal judicial proceedings, where one is innocent unless proven guilty. You are operating in an altogether faulty understanding of presbyterian courts if you make this equation. Ministers must prove that they are worthy of shepherding over God’s sheep.

    What does it mean to say that Wilkins’ “answer was not sufficient to prove that he believes, substantively, in such a distinction”?. Are you saying that we cannot derive the distinction from the things he says? Okay, then, quote away and show the place where Wilkins answers these questions, and then demonstrate that the things he says “under-determine” whether or not he actually believes in the distinction you are concerned about. Again, evidence please.

  57. Xon said,

    January 14, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    David G., I don’t know why, but you and I just are not “clicking” in this discussion. I don’t know what to do about that, but I’m sorry on my end for whatever I might have done or might be doing to contribute to this lack of communication. I don’t feel as though anything I say registers with you the way I intended it. I imagine you feel similarly about me. I don’t know what to do at this point.

  58. greenbaggins said,

    January 14, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Another good answer, Xon, and I think I’m tracking. I’m going to try to summarize (I am always trying to do this: sometimes I over-generalize, and then people like Todd jump all over my for doing that: but it is my nature to immediately try to see the big picture).

    BOQ But my concern with your argument here is that there is nothing wrong with affirming this sort of “complete” forgiveness. It turns out that both the elect and the non-elect have “complete” forgiveness in this sense of “complete”, but the non-elect covenant member’s is only temporary and thus of no use to him at the last day. EOQ You further explicate what you mean by saying this: “it seems to me (now that I know better what you mean by “complete”) that there is nothing wrong with saying that the non-elect can have complete forgiveness for a time.” Your further position on the two models is that “Or am I just forgiven for the sins I have done up until now, but I have confidence that, in the future, God will be gracious and forgive me for those future sins when they happen (or shortly thereafter when I confess them and repent?) The latter “model” for thinking about this seems correct to me…”

    I see this as the linch-pin of what you are saying. You qualify the statement with this sentence, “I realize that there are issues about “qualitative” differences b/w elect and non-elect covenant members that are still (always) floating around in the air” late in the second comment.

    Now, the point I want to raise with respect to this is two-fold: firstly, do you think that this is what Wilkins is saying, or are you formulating your own views in saying this? I think this is an important question to ask, simply because some of what you say there sounds like your own views on things. I would appreciate clarification on that point.

    That being said, I will move on to your definition of forgiveness, and note several things. Firstly, does not justification (WS def) imply complete forgiveness of all sins that one will ever commit? I believe this is firmly implied by Romans 8:1. There is zero condemnation for those who are truly in Christ Jesus. Is this not further required by the doctrine that the present justification that we have *guarantees* the future verdict on judgment day? There is no possibility of someone being truly justified now (in the WS sense) and being thrown into hell on judgment day. I think Romans 8:29-30 ices this for us. (The past tense of “glorified,” by the way, indicates that in God’s mind, it is as good as done, not that it was literally done in the past. Since he is dealing with the decree in the mind of God, then surely God already did these things in His mind).

    Now we get to what you are saying about Wilkins. If what I understand you to say about Wilkins is that the “complete forgiveness” of which we have been talking is correct, then Wilkins is saying that forgiveness is the same in the believers and in the non-believers. The only difference really is temporal, qualifications notwithstanding. Now, you are probably saying that Wilkins’s definition of forgiveness in justification for NECM’s is not the same as the WCF’s definition of justification for the elect. Fair enough. However, I am still not clear as to what those differences really are. The WCF says that no non-elect person ever really comes to be in union with Christ. Is not complete forgiveness of sins dependent on true repentance and true faith, which is given by God?

    BOQ Forgiveness “works” pretty much the same way for both, as both are united to Christ and it is in Christ that we find our righteousness before God (which includes being forgiven for all the sins that would otherwise be on our account). And both have the promise or assurance that—if Christ’s righteousness remains their righteousness—then they will be forgiven for all the future sins they commit as well. But, of course, the non-elect covenant members DO NOT, in fact, remain in Christ’s righteousness. But not remaining is a matter of temporality, and is covered by Wilkins’ notion of “temporary forgiveness.” “Temporal” issues are the fundamental question—on this issue of forgiveness anyway—that separates the non-elect guy from the elect guy: when I commit a sin tomorrow, will I still be covered by Christ, or will I have removed myself through unbelief? For the elect person the answer is always “Yes, I will still be covered by Christ” (though not all elect people have assurance, of course, and so they won’t always give this answer confidently.) And so his new sin will be forgiven when it comes up. For the non-elect, this is always an open question, and we know that at some point the answer becomes “No, he will not still be covered by Christ.” EOQ

    This is what I see as the difficulty: WCF 15.1-3 says that *no one* may expect pardon of sins without true repentance and faith. The statement is explicitly unlimited by the “all sinners” right before the last phrase. In other words, for *all* sinners, *no* pardon may be expected without repentance *unto life.* The WCF had defined repentance unto life as an evangelical grace, namely, a saving grace of the Gospel. That is an absolutely essential condition for *any* pardon to come to a sinner. In other words, for your position to be correct, you must assume that the repentance of a NECM is a repentance unto life, the evangelical grace of WCF 15. Therefore, you must also assume that there is *no* difference except time between the NECM and the elect. But this assumption would run foul of many places in the confession where the elect and the NECM’s are distinguished by synchronic differences, not merely diachronic differences. I hope this is clear. Let me know if it isn’t.

    A further difficulty with your position I see in section 4 of WCF 15: “As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation, so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.” This I see as implying that the future sins of believers are in fact already forgiven by virtue of their justifiction. Elsewhere, the WCF defines sin as being something that brings damnation by definition (WCF 6.6). So if sin by its very nature brings damnation and guilt upon the sinner, *BUT* no sin is so great that it can bring damnation upon those who are justified, then it follows that no sin brings guilt to the justified person, and therefore, the future sin of that person has already been forgiven. All our sins, past, present, and future are already forgiven in our justification. This does not mean that we don’t need to ask for forgiveness. But it is God’s Fatherly displeasure which we need to appease, not His judicial wrath. His judicial wrath has been utterly and completely appeased by His Son’s death. Okay, gotta go for now. But I think this is a reasonably complete response to what you have written.

  59. Xon said,

    January 14, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Okay, Lane, if we’re talking about WCF 15, then we’re on to Prong 1, aren’t we?

    I have actually heard back from Wilkins on my earlier query I mentioned, and his answer is helpful in clarifying what he is trying to say (I also think his answer allows us to give a consistent interpretation of everything he has said going back at least to the article in the FV book, so that it’s not as though he is reneging now on things he wrote in that article but he isn’t wanting to come out and say so.) Wilkins was intrigued by the way I have been putting things, but said that he hasn’t quite thought of it that way before. So, it looks like most of what I wrote above was just my thoughts, not Wilkins’. Of course, this might mean that we should now have a conversation about whether I am out of bounds with the Confession, right? :-) Your argument from WCF 15 looks good to me at the moment, but I need to think about it some more.

    (In my own defense here, I would only say that I am not “settled” on these forgiveness issues. If you look back at my comment # 27–I think that’s the one–you can see that my definition of WCF36J3 is rather ambiguous given the stuff I have said more recently about forgiveness. I am trying to work things out in a way that makes sense, but I also want to be consistent with the Confession. If you can convince me that my views here are out of bounds with WS, then I will humbly submit to further study on these matters. And, if after such study I still hold a view that is contrary, then I will of course take an exception on that point and take my chances at presbytery (if I ever get that far).)

    Wilkins’ answer gives a slightly different flavor to things, I think, though I hinted at it as a possibility in some earlier comments. I’ll try to give the details soon.

  60. Xon said,

    January 14, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    Just a few comments for now, Lane. I’ll write more tomorrow.

    That being said, I will move on to your definition of forgiveness, and note several things. Firstly, does not justification (WS def) imply complete forgiveness of all sins that one will ever commit? I believe this is firmly implied by Romans 8:1. There is zero condemnation for those who are truly in Christ Jesus.

    Well, yes, certainly we can say that there is zero condemnation for those who are truly in Christ Jesus, but what does this mean? It seems to me that this could mean that I stand unconvictable–the Accuser has nothing he can charge me with–as long as I am in Christ. For those who are in Christ Jesus right now, there is right now nothing that can be brought against them. None of their past sins, and none of the sins they might be committing right this moment.

    And, if they are still in Christ a year from now, then any sins they commit a year from now will not bring them any condemnation, either. But it’s all about being “in Christ”, and the question is whether it is possible to be “in Christ” for a time, or whether being “in Christ” is something that only happens to someone for keeps. “No condemnation” doesn’t have to mean, as I see it, that I stand right now forgiven for all future sins. Pretend that Satan somehow is able to know some future events (perhaps God tells him just to taunt him?), and comes to God today and says, “I accuse Xon of lusting on March 30, 2015.” Your view of forgiveness seems to be that God would say “Sorry, dude, I’ve already forgiven him for that.” My view is that God would say something like, “Uh, there’s literally nothing to accuse him of at this point, since he hasn’t done it yet.” So Satan waits patiently until March 30, 2015 (for some reason not taking all the other opportunities I give him to accuse me in the meantime), sees me lust, and then goes to God and accuses me. God says, “Sorry, dude, he’s in Christ, so he’s forgiven for that. Next!” I get forgiven for each sin “as it happens”, because I am in Christ. There is never any sin “on my account” when I am in Christ Jesus. This status of being “in Him” just moves along with me through time and swallows up every sin I commit as it happens. It seems to me that I can say “there is no condemnation” just as much as you can. I don’t think Romans 8 answers the question of which of us is right here.

    Is this not further required by the doctrine that the present justification that we have *guarantees* the future verdict on judgment day? There is no possibility of someone being truly justified now (in the WS sense) and being thrown into hell on judgment day.

    This is exactly right, but my view (and Wilkins’, if Wilkins agrees with me here) can also affirm this. No person who is WS-justified now can be thrown into Hell on judgment day. That’s a good way to put things! But I do think that there are people who are XW(Xon/Wilkins)-justified that will be thrown into Hell on judgment day. Again, we could turn this into two different propositions, and we would see that they are not contraries. XW-justification is not the same thing as WS-justification!

    Now we get to what you are saying about Wilkins. If what I understand you to say about Wilkins is that the “complete forgiveness” of which we have been talking is correct, then Wilkins is saying that forgiveness is the same in the believers and in the non-believers. The only difference really is temporal, qualifications notwithstanding.

    Well, it seems to me that the difference in the forgiveness is only temporal. But the difference in the two people (non-elect and elect) is more than temporal. This is what I was getting at when I said that, while the question of “qualitative” differences b/w elect and non-elect people is an important and valid question, I dont’ think it applies to this particular issue of forgiveness.

    This isn’t quite an analogy, so I guess we should just call it a metaphor. Two people both eat a yummy meal. One person throws it up and the other digests it and falls asleep on the couch watching football. Now, the difference in the digestion is purely temporal: both men have the same kind of digestive system, digestion works the same way for both of them, etc., but one of them digested the food only for a time while the other digested it completely. Okay? But we might wonder, “Why did the one guy throw it up and the other guy didn’t?” And to this question we could offer lots of answers, but one answer that is possible is that there is something about the men themselves that is different and which makes the one unable to digest the food the whole way like he’s supposed to. Perhaps he is a crazy person who always takes stomach-upsetting pills before he eats because he is, well, crazy. But the other man is sane. We could say that the crazy guy “needs a new heart” if he is ever to digest the food properly. And we could say that the sane guy is a “different kind of person” than the crazy guy. This could be a qualitative difference between the two men. But this qualitative difference b/w the men led to a difference in digestion that was only temporal. Does that make sense?

    When it comes to forgiveness, I think the only real difference is temporal. But when it comes to elect and non-elect people in general, and all the other ways they differ (not just in the forgiveness they each receive), then I think there are qualitative differences. But the two questions are separable; a non-qualitative difference in forgiveness does not imply a non-qualitiative difference across the board.

    Now, you are probably saying that Wilkins’s definition of forgiveness in justification for NECM’s is not the same as the WCF’s definition of justification for the elect. Fair enough. However, I am still not clear as to what those differences really are.

    Well, Wilkins himself admits that he doesn’t have all this worked out clearly yet, either. (A preview of his answer to me.) He just thinks that, whatever exactly it means to say this, we do need to say it–we need to say that non-elect covenant members have these things (like forgiveness of sins). He definitely doesn’t think that the benefits the non-elect cm’s receive are exactly the same as those the elect receive, but he openly admits that he doesn’t know exactly what the best way to describe the differences is. But he thinks, based on his reading of the Bible, that we have to say that non-elect people are “provisionally forgiven,” or “temporarily forgiven,” etc, whatever the heck that means exactly. And he wants very much to say this in a way that remains consistent with the Confessional way of speaking, but again he doesn’t claim to have worked out exactly what that way is.

    The WCF says that no non-elect person ever really comes to be in union with Christ. Is not complete forgiveness of sins dependent on true repentance and true faith, which is given by God?

    This statement would need to be “broken down” like we have done with other statements, subbing in all the appropriate “usage definitions” and such and then seeing what it is really saying. It’s the “really”, the “true repentance” and the “true faith” that I raises my eyebrows–I suspect that once we plugged in “usage definitions” for these things and then compared to things that Wilkins has said (or that I would be willing to say), that there won’t actually be a contradiction.

    Several of my earlier propositions probably need to be tweaked now, in order to more properly express what both the Confession and Wilkins are saying. And then we might need to re-evaluate what I said in those earlier comments. And, given that WCF 15 has come onto the table, it seems that we are about ready to discuss Prong 1 as well.

  61. Xon said,

    January 15, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Oh, one more thing, why not.

    A further difficulty with your position I see in section 4 of WCF 15: “As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation, so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.” This I see as implying that the future sins of believers are in fact already forgiven by virtue of their justifiction. Elsewhere, the WCF defines sin as being something that brings damnation by definition (WCF 6.6). So if sin by its very nature brings damnation and guilt upon the sinner, *BUT* no sin is so great that it can bring damnation upon those who are justified, then it follows that no sin brings guilt to the justified person, and therefore, the future sin of that person has already been forgiven. All our sins, past, present, and future are already forgiven in our justification.

    Hmm….interesting. I can’t say you aren’t making sense with this argument, but I think in the end you are pressing the meaning of “bring” in WCF 6.6 too literally. I mean, your argument actually proves too much: not only that elect, WS-justified people are forgiven in the present for all future sins, but that these people don’t even commit any future sins! Afterall, a sin is–by definition–something that brings damnation, but none of these people’s future actions can bring damnation, so therefore none of these people’s future actions can be sins. !!

    I think the key to understanding here is provided by the full statement of the Confession:

    “VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.” (WCF 6.6, emphasis added)

    It is the “nature” of sin to lead to damnation. If God had simply let “nature” take its course, and hadn’t become man to take on sin for us, then every sin WOULD lead to guilt, death, damnation, etc. But God, of course, doesn’t let nature take its course for the elect. Their sins can never lead to condemnation because they will be buried in Christ as soon as they happen. When a WS-justified person sins, his sin does not bring what sins “naturally” bring, because he is in Christ. But I don’t see why this needs to imply an actual forgiveness that precedes the sin. When a justified person sins, no matter how great (to tie this in to WCF 15.4) the sin, it cannot bring him damnation, even though that is the “nature” of sin, because God has already conquered the nature of sin for that justified person. Doesn’t this still get the gist of what the Confession is saying?

  62. Xon said,

    January 15, 2007 at 1:04 am

    Oh, why not? I have tomorrow off…

    This is what I see as the difficulty: WCF 15.1-3 says that *no one* may expect pardon of sins without true repentance and faith. The statement is explicitly unlimited by the “all sinners” right before the last phrase. In other words, for *all* sinners, *no* pardon may be expected without repentance *unto life.* The WCF had defined repentance unto life as an evangelical grace, namely, a saving grace of the Gospel. That is an absolutely essential condition for *any* pardon to come to a sinner.

    Okay, a warning on the front end that this is going to sound pedantic. But I don’t think it actually is, and I plead for patience to see my point to the end. There is actually a subtle slip in meaning when you go from

    (1) “WCF 15.1-3 says that *no one* may expect pardon of sins without true repentance and faith.”

    and then re-explain it as

    (2) “In other words, for *all* sinners, *no* pardon may be expected without repentance *unto life.* …That is an absolutely essential condition for *any* pardon to come to a sinner.”

    Saying that “no sinner may find pardon without x” ((1), which is what WCF 15.3 actually says) is not the same as saying that “a sinner may find no pardon without x” ((2), which is not quite what it says).

    Under (1), we want to ask what the “usage definition” of pardon is. In other words, we immediately realize that WCF, as a fairly systematic confessional document, is talking about something particular when it says “pardon”, and we want to go digging through other parts of the Confession to see what kind of pardon we are talking about. At least, this is what I want to do when I read (1). (1) is making a universal negative statement about that WS-pardon in relation to sinners: none of them can receive it (without repentance unto life). “No sinner without repentance has WS-pardon.”

    Under (2), with the “no” in front of the “pardon”, we are not as tempted to look for a “usage definition” of pardon. It seems instead like the WCF is trying to simply exclude any notion of pardon from sinners who don’t have repentance. Does this make sense? (2) does the work you need, but I don’t think WCF 15.3 actually says (2). I think it says (1), which if we are being really precise with our language (and we have to be in this discussion, don’t we?) is not the same thing.

    Let’s look at (1) more closely (and let’s turn it into a new “C” proposition):

    C6: No sinners who do not have repentance unto life receive pardon.

    And “pardon” is a word that we need to understand better. What is the WS sense of “pardon”? The first place to look for help is in the immediate context, as WCF 15.3 mentions the word twice, clearly referring to the same thing both times:

    “Although repentance be not to be rested in as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof, which is the act of God’s free grace in Christ; yet is it of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it.”(WCF 15.3, emphasis added)

    We are talking about a particular kind of pardon here, the pardon “thereof” that pertains to “satisfaction for sin.” What does the Confession mean by “satisfaction for sin,” the pardon thereof not being applicable to sinners who lack repentance unto life? I suggest this passage from WCF 11.3 as our help:

    “Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction of his Father’s justice in their behalf. Yet inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for any thing in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.” (WCF 11.3, emphasis added)

    The satisfaction for sin that the Confession tells us about is a satisfaction that only goes to WS-justified people. This satisfaction brings with it a pardon. This pardon cannot be received by any sinner who does not have “repentance unto life.” But, completing the circle, only WS-justified people make the “repentance unto life”, without which no sinner can receive the pardon that comes from having the full satisfaction for sins that only WS-justified people have. The Confession’s meaning seems very “tight” here, connecting quite nicely and impressively the concepts of chapter 15 with what has been said earlier in chapter 11. This means that C6 can be modified into this:

    C7: No sinners who do not have a repentance unto life receive the pardon that accompanies the full satisfaction for sin made by Christ.

    And let’s sub in some usage definitions for “repentance unto life” and for this “full satisfaction made by Christ”, both of which we have seen are clearly things that only go to justified people according to the Confession. So:

    C8: No sinners who do not have a repentance that only goes to justified people receive the pardon that accompanies justified people.

    And, of course, we need to be clear on what “justified” means according to the Confession. The relevant feature of the Confessional sense of “justification” for our purposes here is that it is unlosable. We know from WCF 11.5 that “justified” people on the Confession’s definition of that term can “never fall from the state of justification.” So, tweaking C8 further:

    C9: No sinners who do not have a repentance that only goes to permanently justified people receive the pardon that accompanies permanently justified people.

    So, for Wilkins (or myself) to contradict this teaching, he (or I) would have to teach something that contained the meaning:

    W7: Some sinners who do not have a repentance that only goes to permanently justified people receive the pardon that accompanies permanently justified people.

    And, of course, Wilkins nowhere teaches W7. And I certainly would not agree to this, either, for whatever that’s worth.

    I hope I’m not leaving anything out. I haven’t responded to every word you wrote, so if you think I missed something important, then please bring it to my attention.

  63. Xon said,

    January 15, 2007 at 1:06 am

    “And, of course, Wilkins nowhere teaches W7.”

    That was rhetorical hyperbole, of course. I can’t actually KNOW for sure that he nowhere teaches it, and I am willing to entertain an argument that he does so. I was just saying that it seems obvious to me, and I have read a lot of his stuff, that he doesn’t teach W7. But my hyperbolic way of speaking may have sounded arrogant, like I was belittling any possible comeback you might have in advance. This was not my intention.

  64. MoxM said,

    February 18, 2007 at 12:22 am

    Your all wrong. Who is man to judge at all what is justified. “God” has given his words to adhere within the text of the written bible. Instead of countertexting, irrationally segmenting and humanly disecting your need to somehow rationalize your short comings, you need to read the actual writtings as they appear and open your hearts. In purity, as it is and feel the warmth of his given reality. Your accute expositions from which you feel to draw are only covers for your own short sidedness and willingess to make excuss for your own and others actions. To be forgiven is yes a daily event however to continue to perform and justify those actions and thoughts upon others that you wish forgiven, shall not be in the acts of recurrance against the divine wishes and needs. So in your contexts, your all for the better part of shaving your ego’s in an effort to feel good about the acts you perform against his will and to be forgiven for them time and time again. In the end, man shall not judge man but man shall be judged by the holy scrolls of his lifes efforts and for what he has done to that of his fellow brother man. Further, the judgement of men shall be that of the holy father and that of his holy son Christ and the justice shall be carried out by his angels… only 144,000 shall rein with Christ in heaven and the remainders shall be here on earth…Just keep in mind that for all you should do unto others shall surely be remembered on that last day of this system…which is very close, I assure you…

  65. greenbaggins said,

    February 18, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    MoxM, I do not allow anonymous posting. What is your name? You sound like a Jehovah’s Witness, especially the bit about the 144,000. If so, you are welcome to comment.

    We who put our trust in Christ receive the righteousness of Christ, and are thereby covered completely. We will not be judged based on our works. If we were, we would never enter into eternal life, since by works of the law shall no one be justified, as Paul says. We need a perfect righteousness in order to enter into eternal life, and Jesus Christ has supplied it.

    This is not an enemy to good works, this theology of justification, but rather a spur to it. To know that we don’t have to earn our way to heaven, but can do good works out of gratitude for what God has done is a much better spur than the stultifying thought that we must earn our way to heaven, and always thereby being doubtful as to whether we have done enough or not.

  66. March 30, 2007 at 10:19 am

    […] Rejoinder to Jonathan Barlow, Continuation of the Debate With Xon […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: