New Leviticus Commentary

Good commentaries on Leviticus are hard to find. It is not a popular book upon which to comment. This one looks quite good. It is in an excellent series, with McConville on Deuteronomy and Lucas on Daniel. I earnestly hope that he explores the typological connections to our Great High Priest, Jesus.

Reply to Wilson

DW has responded to Reformation Bona Fides here. I have been reading his tackling of the atheist questions with interest, and acknowledge that his work there in many ways is more important than his discussions with me. Be that as it may, further clarification will be helpful before we go on to the next chapter.

The first issue is about the law-gospel distinction. He agrees with the three uses of the law (and I rejoice at that), but does not agree that law is one part of Scripture and gospel another. In other words, he would probably say that the three uses of the law do not prohibit the law from being Gospel at the same time. He would probably say that that would be a false dichotomy. He rejects the law/gospel hermeneutic. A couple of follow-up questions are therefore necessary. Firstly, in chapter 19 of the WCF, section 2, the WS define the Ten Commandments as law, not as Gospel, and then it says in section 5 that the Gospel does not dissolve our obligation to the law. Does this not strongly imply that the Ten Commandments are to be thought of as law and not as Gospel? I grant that the preamble of the Ten Commandments is a statement of grace. Indeed, I have never denied that. I further affirm with DW that the preamble is typological of Christ bringing us up out of our bondage to sin and death. However, that does not mean that the Ten Commandments are Gospel. Indeed, I agree with T. David Gordon’s critique of Rich Lusk at this point (pg. 119 of By Faith Alone: “‘the Mosaic Law was simply the Gospel in pre-Christian form.’ This is the kind of overstatement that staggers non-Auburnites (and, one hopes, embarrasses many Auburnites).”) Is Wilson really going to claim that there are no pure law texts in Scripture? In my judgment, the only relation that many texts (such as “Do this and live”) have to the Gospel is that of the first use of the law. I do not believe that such texts are the Gospel. Rather, they point us to our need of the Gospel. Conversely, is Wilson really going to claim that there are no pure Gospel texts in Scripture? Is John 3:16 law? I am rather hard pressed to see law in any way, shape, or form in that statement.  How would the statements about Christ dying for our sins be law? Second question: how would DW interpret WCF 7.5, where the (singular) covenant of grace is differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel? Does this not introduce some kind of discontinuity between OT and NT? Would not this discontinuity be uncomfortable for someone like Steve Schlissel, who desires to rip out the page separating the two testaments?  

Secondly, with regard to merit, I would ask Wilson what he thinks of LC 55, which uses the exact phrase he rejects:

Q. How doth Christ make intercession? A. Christ maketh intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth, declaring his will to have it applied to all believers; answering all accusations against them, and procuring for them quiet of conscience, notwithstanding daily failings, access with boldness to the throne of grace, and acceptance of their persons and services. (emphasis added)

Now, of course, this question does not explicitly mention the imputation of such merit. However, there are hints that justification is not far off: the phrases “quiet of conscience” and the “acceptance of their persons” certainly point in the direction of justification, especially since the latter phrase is found in chapter 11.1 of the WCF in the section explicitly dealing with justification.

Now, I rejoice that Wilson is willing to affirm that Christ’s obedience is not only imputed to us who believe, but is the sole ground of our justification. We still seem to differ on the nature of that obedience. However, as this article shows, Wilson is well within the bounds of orthodoxy on this point. Whether he is a good representative of the other FV advocates on this point remains in dispute. Again, we must remember that it is not enough to affirm orthodox theology. One must also deny the errors that attack such truth. This is an equally binding and equally important aspect of orthodoxy. After all, one cannot say that one affirms the Trinity, but then say that it is okay for Jehovah’s Witnesses to deny the Trinity. That would be absurd.  

On the aliveness of faith and its instrumentality, I am convinced that actually, there is no disagreement here between DW and myself. It is interesting to note that Wilson thinks there is and I do not! I am perfectly happy with his way of framing it in his last two paragraphs. One side note should be sufficient to convince Wilson of this. When I said “This is not sound,” I wa not actually positing that Wilson was making faith part of the ground. I was rejecting a hypothetical position. This is clear from the original context of the quotation:

My target here are those people who wish to subtlely introduce another ground for justification. By saying “because of aliveness” one has introduced a ground that is different from Christ’s righteousness. This is not sound.

My only question was for DW to clarify whether faith’s aliveness was introducing it as part of the ground of justification. Since he has denied such a position, I have no quibble at all with his formulations on this point.

All this being said, there are a few questions raised in my post which DW did not answer:

Wilson makes the standard Reformed position that justification and sanctification are distinct but not separated (pp. 45-46). This is right. However, I might ask Wilson to elaborate a bit on this statement: “We can separate faith from other graces and virtues logically and conceptually, via abstraction, but not practically. We may distinguish, but never separate” (pp. 45-46). What does this mean? Is he saying that the only distinction that can be made between faith and virtue, for instance, is an abstract distinction? Is there not also a practical distinction between faith and virtue?