Wilkins’s exam, part 8

On page 14, we get to some extremely important sections of the exam. This gets to some of the key issues about exactly what Wilkins is saying regarding the non-elect members of the visible church.

Under question 2, he is asked, “Do you believe that those who ultimately fall away ever truly possessed forgiveness of sins?” He answers in an equivocating way. I like what he says at first “If you mean by ‘truly possessed’ that they had forgiveness in the same sense that those who are elect unto salvation have, then the answer is, ‘no.'” But then, he immediately qualifies this statement with the completely unproven assertion that “The Bible speaks of members of the visible church, as those who are counted among the redeemed, washed, and sanctified and promises forgiveness for all who abide in Christ and persever in faith.” Let’s examine this closely. it must be acknowledged here that he uses the word “counted,” not simply “are among.” There is a difference between those two ways of saying something. If all he means is the judgment of charity, then I could go along with this. However, this is not what I think he means. He goes on to say “Thus, though we know that the elect are forgiven and shall surely be acquitted at the last day, the promise of forgiveness given to us is always conditional upon our continuing in the faith (which of course, is only possible by the grace of God and not the result of our own native strength, will power, or discipline).” I wonder, does he really mean “possible,” as in “we have to synergistically work with God on this,” or does he mean “completely dependent on,” in the sense of “God gets all the glory for our sanctification, as well? What he seems to be saying here is that we are not really forgiven unless we are persevering by God’s grace. But is this not backwards? Our persevering depends on the grace received when we come to faith (which includes forgiveness of sins), not the other way around. Our justification is in no way dependent on our sanctification. It doesn’t really matter here whether we talking synergistically or not: justification, and the complete forgiveness of all our sins past, present, and future is *not* dependent on our perseverance. Rather, our perseverance is dependent on our justification.

He goes on to eisegete Matthew 6:14-15 and Matthew 18:21-35. Those passages simply do not say what Wilkins says they say. Matthew 6: 14-15 is addressed to the disciples. Therefore, it is talking to people who are already forgiven. 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. Matthew 6:14-15 is not talking about ultimate forgiveness, as if our ultimate forgiveness depended on our forgiving others. That would make justification dependent on our works. This is obviously not what Jesus is saying. Jesus is saying that God’s fatherly displeasure is directed to us if we do not forgive others. This is so because of the group to whom Jesus is speaking. The purpose of the parable of the unforgiving servant is that he has proven that his sins are not ultimately forgiven. It is a misreading of that parable to say that an apostate is ultimately forgiven of his sins, but then becomes not ultimately forgiven of his sins. Surely, the 10,000 talents represents all our sins in an ultimate sense. If Wilkins is right, then the Bible is Arminian, because it is possible for someone’s sins to be ultimately forgiven, and then have that ultimate forgiveness taken away. The terms of the passage have to be interpreted in the light of Scripture as a whole. What Wilkins is leaving out of that parable is that the servant proved that he wasn’t really forgiven after all. As a matter of fact, he was never truly forgiven. Because if he was, then he would have forgiven his fellow servant. The parable takes the form of a modus tollens argument: if forgiven, then forgiving; not forgiving, therefore, not forgiven. The hypothetical here is shown not to be real because of the modus tollens argument. Wilkins is way off here.