Westminster bookstore has a great sale on featured authors this week, including Ridderbos, Horton, Ryle, Edwards, Carson, Wright, Ryken, and Warfield’s excellent little book called _The Plan of Salvation_. If you don’t have the latest mentioned book, purchase it now.
May 30, 2007 at 1:28 pm (Federal Vision)
Chapter 6 of RINE, entitled “Individualism” is a very short chapter consisting of 3 pages. The thesis is that corporate and individual aspects of salvation should not be played off against one another. To use his own memorable phrase, “The fact that we believe in a corporate covenant omelette does not mean we disbelieve in eggs” (p. 57). He makes the point that “we go to heaven or hell by ones” (p. 58). Individuals are the counting units (ibid). However, we must take care not to over-emphasize either individualism or corporateness at the expense of the other.
I have a few questions of clarification for Doug: what does he means by saying “A man is not defined by his internal essence” (p. 58)? What is the relationship of such a statement (which presumably is about covenantal relationships) to the statement in Scripture, “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7: note that the various translations differ considerably in their renderings). If a man’s internal essence is defined by the Holy Spirit, then doesn’t his essence form at least part of who he is?
Second question: regarding omelettes, are the eggs Christians in the decretal sense? If so, how do they make up a corporate covenant omelette which presumably contains unbelievers? Do believers and hypocrites together make up a truly scrambled mush? I guess I am not quite sure how the analogy is supposed to work. I agree with the basic point that covenantal and individual aspects of salvation are not to be played off against one another. However (and this is not what Wilson is saying, I hope) this does not mean that the omelette is undifferentiated.
Mark Horne has replied to some of my posts on Jeff Meyers here. Aside from calling me a Satanic, non-sanctified, non-academic, non-intellectual, discipline-averting (internet vs. church courts), wickedly insinuating troubler of the PCA, Mark and I appear to be getting along just fine. Wow. I wonder why he even reads my blog at all, sometimes, if he thinks I’m that dumb. But, of course, name-calling is not logical argumentation. He simply asks people to compare Meyers and my statements, claiming that I have no answer. I wonder where Mark learned logic. He doesn’t seem to be demonstrating very much logic here. Jeff responded on my blog saying that he believed in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (though not in the IAOC). I said I believed him. Evidently, Mark is not willing to extend credibility to such statements. But Mark did not answer the argument concerning Meyers’s statement on the mechanics of justification (how Christ’s death and our justification are related). That remains utterly unanswered. Furthermore, my point about imputation was that some FV’ers do not believe in imputation. Jeff’s statement allows them free reign, whatever he himself believes.
Point 23 is a non-answer, since Mark confuses the term “conditional.” He thinks that he can make covenantal election unconditional simply by affirming God’s sovereignty. But since God’s sovereignty can include sovereignty over the conditionality in the covenant, he hasn’t answered the point.
Regarding 25 and 26, I can only say that I am not willing to steal the committee’s own thunder. I have a perfectly good explanation for the Wilson misquotation. But a committee member specifically directed me not to explain it, so that it can be explained on the floor of GA. So, once again, Mark’s assumptions get him into trouble, and GA will certainly vindicate me on this point.
May 29, 2007 at 12:07 pm (Uncategorized)
This is an open invitation to post links in the comments section to comments made on this blog that you feel have not been answered, or that need my attention. I have no wish to make anyone feel that they have been ignored. So, please direct my attention to your good arguments, and I will look into it. Thanks much.
May 29, 2007 at 10:35 am (Uncategorized)
I am incredibly sorry for all those who have had to watch as vandals have taken over my blog. I hope that I have not only cleaned up the mess, but prevented future problems. From now on, anyone wishing to comment on my blog must have had a previously approved comment. This will be something of a compromise. I didn’t want to have all comments waiting in the Queue, since I quite frankly don’t have that kind of time. But at the same time, there needs to be some sort of gate-keeping. My special apologies to Anne Ivy, who has really gotten walloped for notifying me. But this raises the question: how do we respond when people persecute us, and say all manner of negative things about us? Here is how we respond: we pray for those who persecute us. So pray for Benny (I am pretty sure that that is his name). It is the work of one individual.
Anyway, a heads up to all my readers: you will not be able to post comments until I approve one of your comments. I believe this means that your next comment will have to be approved. So, if you would like to post on my blog in future, send a test comment, and I will approve it. On the other hand, the this works might be grandfathered in. I deleted all the past comments, and you might not have to have your next comment moderated. That would certainly be easier. I sincerely hope this works.
May 23, 2007 at 9:34 pm (Indices)
I note that Mark Horne has started blogging about my responses. I will pay some attention to them when I get back from vacation (next week). Right now, I only have time enough to finish my critique of Meyers’s 30 points. Point 27 is about definitive sanctification and the question of justification. The problem with Meyers here is that he commits a sort of reverse fallacy. By saying that a passage can be talking about more than one thing, that is not the same thing as saying that justification itself has more than one thing involved with it. Ferguson’s quotation from The Christian Life cannot be made to say such a thing, either. Ferguson is talking about the passage, not about justification per se. About being set free from sin, that happens in sanctification, not justification. Meyers is conflating two categories, as is Leithart. Sanctification, as Calvin has told us, happens concurrently with justification, but is distinct from it. Distinct, but inseparable. I am really quite at a loss to know why Meyers and Leithart have to play loci musical chairs by putting deliverance from the power of sin under the category of justification. This happens in sanctification. Furthermore, Meyers misinterprets the WCF. He interprets “acceptance” to mean moral renovation. This is not the proper interpretation that phrase. The proper interpretation of the phrase is that we have a right to eternal life based on the imputed righteousness of Christ. That is what the WCF means by “acceptance.”
On point 28, this is really about the same points that have been brought up before about the level of authority this report will have. It has moral authority. It does not have confessional authority. It provides guidance to presbyteries, and it will provide guidance to the SJC as they make their deliberations.
Point 29 is simply rubbish. First of all, it is not a judicial sentence. It has the same kind of weight that the women in the military report has, or any other report. Secondly, the SJC is already dealing with Steve Wilkins. They were dealing with the issue before the study committee was even formed. And they are the final court of appeal, not any presbytery. If the SJC cannot trump a presbytery’s decision, then we have lost one of the three marks of the church on the national level. If the SJC cannot deal with someone who is outside the bounds of the WS, and rule on that, then there is no church discipline in the denomination as a whole. Why do all FV guys seem to think that presbyteries are the final court of appeal? That is simply not the way our courts are set up.
Point 30 also seems to forget that considerable amounts of dialogue have already taken place. Secondly, if something is not in accord with the Standards, then it needs to be firmly escorted off the grounds, not allowed to split the church in the future. This is why the critics are keen on passing this report: the critics see the FV as outside the bounds of the WS. Therefore, they need to go elsewhere.
Point 23 has to do with covenantal objectivity and the difference between NECM and ECM. This does get at the heart of the debate, and at the heart of what I have been saying on this blog for quite some time. Meyers again lapses into the incoherent when he argues about the “requirement” clause in the Report. Meyers can say, on the one hand, that the baptized are in covenant with God. Presumably, this would also include the corresponding negative, “non-baptized people are not in covenant with God.” We must further say that it is Meyers’s position (along with most other FV’ers) that baptism into covenant constitutes “covenantal election.” So, how can Meyers say that baptism is not a requirement for covenantal election? If baptism differentiates between those who are in covenant and those who are not, and the covenant is covenantal election, then baptism marks the sine qua non. Why then, is the report wrong in saying that the FV holds that this kind of election has a human requirement? If a parent refused to baptize their child, then that child would remain outside the covenant, wouldn’t it? What Meyers does here is conflate the two definitions of election. It is a characteristic of decretal election that it is unconditional, and with this statement FV’ers would agree. But it is not the same with covenantal election, since a parent can have yea or nay on whether their child enters the covenant (and therefore covenantal election). That is all the report is saying. The thing is, the Report does know the difference in FV writings between “decretal election” and what the FV calls “covenantal election.” And this very paragraph is a demonstration of that awareness.
On point 24 (which overlaps a bit with point 23), to deal with the difference between NECM and ECM takes more than Meyers’s say-so on this. He asserts that there is a difference between NECM and ECM. He asserts that the difference is perseverance, and that perseverance qualitatively modifies one’s participation in the ordo salutis (quoting the full context of the Lusk statement). Here’s the problem: the Lusk statement still assumes that NECM’s participate in the ordo salutis! This is precisely the point. The Reformed position is that only the decretally elect participate in any whatsoever in the ordo salutis. This is crystal clear from many places in the WS. Just a few are listed here: WCF 3.6, 15.1-4, WLC 65-77. The difference is NOT that the ECM perseveres and participates in the ordo salutis fully and completely, while the NECM does not persevere, and thus only participates in a partial way in the ordo salutis, as Lusk implies. The difference is that the ECM participates in the ordo salutis, while the NECM does not. This gets at the fundamental problem of the FV: ordo salutis benefits are being ascribed to the NECM. And this is the fundamental difference between the NECM and the ECM. One has the ordo, and the other does not. The Lusk quotation only proves the Report’s point. By saying that perseverance is the qualifying difference, Lusk (and Meyers) allow the possibility that justification comes to the NECM. This breaks the categorical equality of the ordo salutis benefits described in Romans 8, where all the justified are glorified (plainly implying perseverance). Again, the question is not whether Lusk affirms at some point that there is a qualitative difference. The point is that the rest of Lusk’s theology vitiates such a claim. It is methodological double-speak.
Point 25 can be dealt with by saying that the modified report is the current report, and that there is a perfectly good explanation of how the Wilson misquotation happened. This will become clear on the floor of GA.
Point 26 is a rehash of previous arguments, except for the “covenantal efficacy of baptism” bit. Therefore, I will only respond to that part of it. His claim is simply that the Report did not define the term. I would answer quite simply that the phrase constitutes a summary of the Report’s conclusions on baptism. Anyone who cannot see that is a dunce. Is it really such a hard phrase to understand? Is it really hard to understand that they mean it as a summary of the FV position? I think that is enough said. I will try to finish the 30 points next post.
May 20, 2007 at 1:39 pm (Ephesians)
There are four main bones in every organization. The wish-bones: Wishing somebody would do something about the problem. The jaw-bones: Doing all the talking but very little else. The knuckle-bones: Those who knock everything. The back-bones: Those who carry the brunt of the load and do most of the work. Which one am I? That is the practical question to which our text points. Our text tells us that we are part of the church. We are part of one body. It means that one of us is an eye, and one of us is a hand. We need eye-hand coordination! How can we do that? Well, first we need to recognize how we all fit together, and why God has done things that way. Then we will be to see clearly how we are each to function in the body of Christ.
Paul gives us three images that each tell us that we belong together, and that we belong to God. And what I say here is nothing new. Others better than I have said it in the past. The three images are of a kingdom, a family, and a temple.
The first image is that of a kingdom. That’s what Paul means when he talks about being a citizen. Roman citizenship is the background to what Paul is saying here. Roman citizenship was a great privilege in those days. Paul was a Roman citizen. It meant that one could walk from one end of the Roman empire to the other, and fear no harm, because all those countries knew what would happen if they even so much as touched a Roman citizen. Roman citizenship was hard to obtain. You could be born with it, as Paul was, since his father was a Roman citizen. Or you could buy it. But citizenship in God’s kingdom works a little differently. It is true that no one has the ability to take away a Christian’s place in the kingdom. Someone might make you a martyr. However, that is not the same thing as losing your citizenship. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. Not even death. That is the privilege of citizenship in God’s kingdom. However, there is more. Being a citizen also means that you are fellow-citizens with everyone else who is also a citizen. As Paul says here, “you are fellow citizens.” What we translate as two words, “fellow citizens” is only one word in Greek. Remember, Paul is talking to Gentiles. He says that the Gentiles are now fellow-citizens with the Jews as they are both in Christ Jesus. We must never forget that this can only happen in Christ. Salvation does not happen outside of Jesus Christ. But when we all come together as Christians, we can see that God’s kingdom is huge, larger than Rome, larger than the United States. It consist of people from every people group under the sun. We are all fellow-citizens.
The second image that Paul gives us is that of a family. He says that we are part of the household of God. Households tended to be large in those days, since they were not just parents and children. It also included extended relatives, servants, and even friends, sometimes. But it was at the same time large and close-knit. The amazing thing here is that we are described as being part of God’s family. If you are reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus Christ, then you are part of the family of God. You are a child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You, who were once the enemy of God, you are now a child of the King. It is one thing that enemies be made friends. That can happen. But how often does it happen in human experience where enemies not only become friends, but adopt each other? I remember a story told about reconciliation wherein a man had murdered a woman’s husband and served time in prison for it. After getting out the wife of the murdered man sought him out in order to seek reconciliation. She invited him to see her family. She invited him to meet her children. She served him a large, gourmet meal. The man said something like this, “Christians are the only people where, if you murder them, they will invite you into their family. I am not a Christian yet, but the Man upstairs sure is knocking.” That is an illustration of the power of God. He doesn’t just become friends with us. He invites us into His family, even after our sin had murdered His Son on the cross. We are fellow-citizens, and members of God’s household.
But we are also part of the temple of the living God. As we have seen before, God has opened the way to the Most Holy Place by Christ’s sacrifice. We now have access to the Father. But there is more than that. Paul is telling us that we are the new temple. It is not merely that we have access to God. It is that we are living stones being built up into the dwelling place of God. The largest temple of the ancient world was the temple to Diana at Ephesus. It was one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. It was huge, and took many years to build. The worship of Diana overshadowed everything else that went on in Ephesus. So, for Paul to say, “There is a more wonderful temple, a larger temple, and one that is not dead like the Ephesian temple, rather it is made with living stones,” that would resonate loudly with his readers. Paul is telling us that there is a more wonderful temple that has better worship, better stones, better foundations, and a better cornerstone. How was a temple built? Well, first, a foundation was laid down. The builders would start with the cornerstone. That cornerstone was perfect, since it had to be perfectly square. Paul mentions that we, the new temple, are built on just such a cornerstone, Jesus Christ. It is His person and work which form the basis of this New Temple, the church. After the cornerstone was laid, the rest of the foundation would follow. Paul tells us that the foundation is the teaching of the apostles and prophets. In other words, the Bible is the foundation of the church. We sing about this when we sing that the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. Now, this might be a bit confusing. In one passage, Paul tells us that there is only one foundation, Jesus Christ. Here, he says that the foundation is the prophets and apostles. Which is it? Well, it is both. Paul uses language as he needs to use it. When Paul says “the apostles and prophets,” he does not mean that human beings as human beings form the foundation. What he is saying is that it is what they teach that is important. The apostles and the prophets wrote the Bible. The Bible tells us about Jesus. And so the Bible is the foundation for the church. We also sing about how firm a foundation is laid for your faith in His excellent Word.
There is no other foundation for the Christian life. One of the biggest problems that Christians face today is the problem of culture. The Bible says one thing, but all our friends in the world out there say something else. And sometimes, even our fellow temple-stones say something other than what the Bible says. By what rule do we live our lives? Are we living our lives by what the Bible says? If we have been reconciled to God by the blood of the Lamb, then how could we live our lives by any other standard? The Christian life is lived on the foundation of the Bible. Whatever decision we face must be approached by saying, “What principles from the Bible guide me here?” All too often, our first question is this, “What will work?” We need to rethink our standards. The first standard is the Bible. The Bible tells us that greed is wrong, that sex before marriage is wrong, that dressing immodestly is wrong, that holding grudges is wrong, that forgiveness is required, that we worship God on Sunday rather than working, that we get along with our fellow citizens and temple stones. This week, as you are faced with a decision, try to remember to ask this question first, “What is Biblical?” You ought not even to consider doing something that the Bible forbids. It doesn’t really matter how well it might work. It is not an option. A little lie here and there might make your life a whole lot easier in one sense, but the Scriptures say you must not.
Another application of our text here (and that flows from the previous one) is that we must look out for the good of the whole church. It is very easy to think, “Me, me, me.” That is what the world thinks. They think that it is all about me. But the world is not all about you or me. God only is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That is why we come here on Sunday to worship God. We do not worship ourselves. But even if we do not worship ourselves, it is still very easy to think of one’s own best interests first. Paul says in Philippians that we are to regard one another as better than ourselves. How about going through a mental list of the members of this church and thinking to yourself that that person is a better Christian than you? Would you be willing to do that? But further than this, even, when you are considering doing something, ask yourself this question, “will this action benefit other people, or am I doing it only for my own good?” Especially we need to ask whether or not such an action will harm others in the church. If it will harm others in the church, then it is not an option. One stone in the temple cannot go about trying to destroy other stones in the temple. The temple will fall down! Don’t do it. Always think about what you are saying before you say it. We are not islands to ourselves, but are rather part of a larger reality, the church.
Charles Colson wrote a book entitled The Body, wherein one chapter is entitled “Extending the Right Fist of Fellowship.” In that chapter Colson describes what happens when one member of the church has it in for someone else, and fails to exercise Christian love and forbearance. That case actually resulted in a fistfight in the sanctuary during the worship service! Paul warns against that ind o behavior when he warns us about devouring one another.
So you are a citizen of God’s Kingdom, a member of the family of God, and a stone in the temple of God. You have become so because of Christ’s righteousness, not because of anything you have done. God has transformed you. And now you must act like it. The Holy Spirit will enable you to this task. As Paul says in the very last two words of the chapter, “in the Spirit” or “by the Spirit.” it doesn’t really matter what translation is used, the point is the same: the Spirit enables us by indwelling us. And so, make use of the means of grace. Be filled with the Spirit, and not with the spirit of the age. Trust in the Word of God as the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and remember that you are part of the larger whole, God’s glorious bride, the church.
Point number 20 is very interesting to me. Is it any accident that imputation, which is the heart of justification, is not mentioned? Is it any accident that the mechanics of how Christ’s death benefits the believer are said to be indifferent? Pardon me, Jeff, but the mechanics of how Christ’s death and the believer’s justification are related constitute the entire debate of the Reformation on justification. How is Christ’s righteousness given to the believer? Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers believed that Christ’s righteousness became ours. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers believed in union with Christ. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformers could say “saved by grace.” The debate turned precisely on how Christ’s righteousness becomes ours. Does it come by an infusion of grace, such that our good works form part of justification (Roman Catholic belief), or is Christ’s righteousness imputed to us when we come into faith-union with Christ? Debate over these mechanics is the main hinge on which our religion turns. It really makes one wonder if Jeff has read any substantive account of the Reformation doctrine of justification. Has he read John Owen? Buchanan? Edwards? Burgess? My guess is probably not. Otherwise, he would not be making such breathtaking claims about the mechanics of how Christ’s death and our justification are related.
Point 21 is about the Leithart quotation, and then it morphs into a discussion about covenant and election. Firstly, let me interpret what I think the committee’s intention was in quoting Leithart here. They quote Leithart as saying that Leithart challenges the Reformed world in some way. They then turn that quote rhetorically to their advantage to say that the FV challenges the Reformed world in the very thing that makes the Reformed world Reformed. I seriously doubt that the committee was intending to state that Leithart would have agreed with the paragraph immediately after the quotation, nor that the following paragraph is what the FV proponents would actually come right out and say. The rhetorical effect of using this quotation is something like this: PL: “The FV challenges the Reformed world in some aspects.” Committee: “Yeah, it challenges the Reformed world in what is distinctively Reformed, and therefore constitutes an abandonment of Reformed orthodoxy.” In other words, the committee is using the quotation against him in a rhetorical manner. I think that Jeff probably missed this in his effort to manufacture misinterpretations on the part of the committee. With regard to these two boundary markers, I will repeat what I have already said before: saying that Israel is elect, but that some will be cut off is not the same as saying that every individual has this covenantal election wherein he is justified, sanctified, adopted, etc., which he then loses because of his apostasy. The properties of the whole are simply not the same as the sum of the properties of the individual members of that whole. To say that it is is called the fallacy of composition. I will reiterate the chemistry lesson in simple terms: sodium is a poison. If you put it on your tongue, it will burn a hole through it. Chloride is also a poison. So, we might think that the combination is even more poisonous than each component by itself. But the chemical combination sodium chloride is table salt. Much less poisonous than sodium or chloride by itself. We use the same argument in defense of capital punishment. When Jesus says “Judge not,” He is talking to individuals, not to a nation, as is obvious from the context, where the applications are all to individuals. Therefore, the nation has the right to judge, as is obvious from Romans 13. Private judgment and public judgment by the state are two different things. We are saying that the properties of an individual are not the same thing as the property of the aggregate. The same thing is true of “corporate election.” God’s choosing Israel out from among the nations has no bearing on whether each individual Israelite has “covenantal justification, sanctification, adoption, etc.” It simply does not bear on the subject. I am not denying that there are benefits that come from being part of the chosen nation. But that is different from saving benefits: not all Israel is of Israel. This plainly proves my point.
On point 22, Jeff must have missed the reference to Ralph Smith’s book on the Trinity and Covenant, which most certainly was referenced. No footnotes or citations? Footnote 17 doesn’t count as a reference? This is poor reading, Rev. Meyers. The last part of the paragraph constitutes an example of the first part of the paragraph. Meyers makes a further error when he claims that because there are differences in the FV position between the Adamic administration and the Covenant of Grace, that therefore the FV men are bicovenantal. this does not follow. I can say “the difference is that one was made with Adam and one was made with Christ.” That does not make me a bicovenantalist. The key principle in the bicovenantal schema of the WS is the works/grace distinction. If that is not affirmed, then one is not a bicovenantalist, whatever other differences may be asserted between the first and the second covenants. The works/grace distinction is clearly the operative distinction between the two covenants in chapter 7 of the WCF.