Psalms and Prophets, part 1

We move on to Leithart’s exegesis of Psalm 7, which is located on pp. 216-218. Leithart’s logical argument goes like this: the Psalm has aspects of deliverance and judicial language. David asks for God to vindicate him. David also asks for God to deliver him. God, in this situation, really could not declare David not guilty without also delivering him from his foes. Therefore, deliverance and the verdict are the same act (a deliverdict).

There is a fairly simple response to this. It is to show that the conclusion does not follow, for the reason that there is another explanation of the congruence of deliverance and verdict in this Psalm. I do not dispute that David is asking for deliverance and for a favorable verdict. I also do not dispute that they are connected in some way. My question is this: in what are they connected? Are they connected because they are the same act? Or are they connected because they are two inseparable yet distinct acts? The logic of the Psalm works just as well if we suppose that the deliverance is dependent upon the favorable verdict, and will necessarily happen if the favorable verdict is given. We do not have to assume that the deliverance and the verdict are the same act, just as we do not have to assume that justification and sanctification are the same act, if we also argue that they are distinct, yet inseparable. David does not actually ever say that the verdict will take the form of deliverance. Therefore, Leithart has not proven his point here.

52 Comments

  1. Matt said,

    July 5, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    Nope. Leithart is correct. You are trying to force the psalm to fit the just. separate from sanct. model and Leithart’s reading is more natural. Sorry, but “deliverdict” is correct.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    July 5, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Well, that’s your opinion, Matt. But assertion on your part does not equal argumentation. Offer an argument, and then I will respond.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    July 5, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Besides, it doesn’t really matter how improbable my argument is (although I think it is far more probable than Leithart’s alternative). If it is possible, then Leithart has not eliminated the alternatives such that his case is the only one left. And given the fact that we are talking about justification, he jolly well better do that.

  4. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    Lane, I have to lumber in here like a philosopher trying to shed a little extra light, but then accidentally setting off a discussion among the rabbis of what light even is anyway. Or something. That felt Chestertonian, but then I lost it.

    What, either practically or substantively or both or neither, is the real diffeerence b/w saying that deliverance and VNG (verdict of “not guilty”) are the same act, and saying that they are two logically distinct acts which nonetheless are always inseparable in the actual?

    For instance, on Leithart’s view you can separate the “one act” into two different “aspects”–a deliverdict involves both a verdict and a deliverance. Both of these are still logically distinguishable, yet inseprable in the actual matter of fact occurences in the world. But Leithart calls them togehter “one act” b/c, afterall, they always come together in the way God justifies the righteous. You, on the other hand, want to say that they are two distinct acts which nonetheless always happen together. What is the difference, really? How is this a doctrine upon which orthodoxy stands or falls?

    Somehow I feel that we’ve gotten into “angels on the head of a pin” territory here.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    July 5, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    It is the same point as whether justification and sanctification are the same act or not. It is the difference between including works in justification or not. In short, nothing less than the Gospel is at stake here. That this at stake should be clear from Leithart’s saying that Protestant doctrine has been too rigid in separating justification and sanctification (p. 211). This is his agenda, as I see it: to include some aspects of sanctification in justification. This is a denial of the Gospel, for then we have to say that Spirit-infused works are part of justification.

  6. Mark T. said,

    July 5, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    Lane,

    It behooves you to allow room for pronouncements ex cathedra when responding to arguments made by Federal Visionists.

  7. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    This is his agenda, as I see it: to include some aspects of sanctification in justification. This is a denial of the Gospel, for then we have to say that Spirit-infused works are part of justification.

    You mean we’d have to say that Spirit-infused works are part of the (A)”one act whereby God both delivers from personal effects of sin and declares the VNG”? I don’t see how that follows. God has delivered us from the personal effects of sin; where are the “Spirit-infused works” at this point?

    Also, this (hate to say it again, but whatchya gonna do?) just seems like a debate over words. What is the great crime in mixing “sanctification” and “justiifcation”? It all depends on how they are defined. If “justification” is defined as “the declaration of God that a person is righteous,” then obviously this has nothing to do with a person’s moral conformity to Christ, whether Spirit-infused or not. We all agree with this; nobody is grounding God’s declaration of the VNG on some sort of prior moral character on the part of the justified person.

    But Leithart’s whole point is that “justification” should not be defined (if we wish to speak more in accord with the Scriptures, that is) as simply the ‘declaration of God that a person is righteous.’ He is not denying that there is such a declaration (just to point out the obvious in case anyone is losing sight of it), and he’s not grounding that declaration in anything within the justified person. What he is saying, though, is that in the Scriptures we see God declaring a person righteous in the very same act that He delivers the person from sin. So, on Leithart’s understanding, the “whole act” (both deliverance and verdict) should actually be thought of as ‘justification,’ rather than simply using that label to refer to the VNG.

    So look at it like this. Tell me if you think this ‘chart’ is inaccurate:

    Universe of discourse:
    A B
    Declaration of VNG Deliverance from personal effects of sin
    C
    Believer performs actual Spirit-infused works

    Keister
    Justification=A
    Sanctification=B (def. sanct) + C (prog. sanct.)

    Leithart
    Justification=A+B
    Sanctification=Not sure. (Could be B+C, could be C alone)

    So, everybody in the “universe of discourse”, both you and Leithart, affirm A, B, and C. You both agree that all of these things happen, and you also both agree that A and B happen simultaneously and inseparably. But you want to define “justification” as only one part of the A-B simultaneous event, while Leithart defines it as the entire event.

    If I’m getting this right, then isn’t this just a disagreement over terminology? At least as far as major soteriological issues are concerned?

  8. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Ugh, in the blockquote from that last comment, A is “declaration of VNG;” B is “Delieverance from personal effects of sin;” and C is “Believer performs actual Spirit-infused works”. Sorry.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    July 5, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Xon, are you forgetting the Reformation debates with Rome? This very issue was the whole question. Do this for me, Xon. Point to one single 16th or 17th century Reformed author who does *not* carefully distinguish justification from *any* part of sanctification. I really am astounded that you can think that this is small potatoes terminology here. The problem here is that definitive sanctification cannot be divorced from progressive sanctification. It simply cannot, since the very act of God in setting apart the believer is by infusing His grace into the believer. So, if one includes definitive sanctification, then one has to include progressive sanctification in justification, which is Rome’s position.

  10. Roger du Barry said,

    July 5, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Lane, I suspect that the real difference here lies in the different way that people think of, and talk about, salvation. There is the logical string approach, namely, the ordo; and then there is the “it happens at one time” approach, namely, union with Christ.

    Gaffin’s book Resurrection and Redemption explains the “its one diamond but with different faces” union with Christ picture.

    When this is grasped it will all sort itself out.

  11. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Lane, the Reformation debate with Rome was over whether or not God declares us righteous on the basis of a prior moral transformation. In other words, Rome said we have to be “sanctified” before we can be “justified.” (A quick summary)

    That is not what Leithart is saying. Leithart is defining the word “justification” to speak of something more broad than simply “God declaring us righteous.” He agrees with you wholeheartedly, against Rome, that this declaration is not grounded on anything within the justified person, Spirit-infused or not.

    Again, going with my chart from #8, Rome does not say (with Leithart) that “justification”=A+B. Rather, Rome says that A happens on the basis of B+C. This is a completely different claim, and one with which both you and Leithart stand opposed, arm-in-arm, teaching the world to sing, together. Forever. Koombaya.

  12. Roger du Barry said,

    July 5, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    I had the same doubts that you express re including our works in justification, but I am fully persuaded now that those fears are unfounded.

  13. July 5, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    I think it is interesting to see Xon and others posit that the way Lane is phrasing things is absolutely unimportant but someow Leithart’s position should be given room to breathe. ‘How many angels dance on the head of a pin’ indeed–the idea that any of this is unimportant and merely a matter of terminology strikes me at once as not exactly being fair to the question at hand and also minimizing its importance.

    I believe the question needs to be asked, “Why would Leithart not only want to phrase things differently but what does the different phraseology have to say to us?” If Leithart is merely messing with terminology, what is the point of his proposed changes in the first place? To be more faithful to the biblical text is the general answer, but this once again assumes that what is posited in the Reformed confessions and systematic theology is somehow devoid of fidelity to the Bible in the very least in terms of the wording. Can we really buy that?

    But, I believe there is more at work here than mere terminological differences and later generations may take Leithart’s work and expand on it much the way orthodox higher critics in the nineteenth century didn’t live to see the complete abandonment of the faith by the generation or two that followed in their footsteps. I know, Xon, you despise the example of history when talking about these things, but nineteenth century advocates of Wellhausen merely posited a different way to see the authorship of the Pentateuch. Who knew this would have the twentieth century mainline churches in such a mess only fifty to a hundred years later?

    But back to Leithart’s work. What exactly is his agenda in terms of sticking with what he feels is the biblical language? I’m not sure I have an exact answer but I certainly do have ideas. The chief barrier from the current Roman view gives us a clue, I believe. The main problem Rome *today* has with a Reformed view of justification is its forensic nature. Leithart’s change in terminology and emphasis allow us to do away with that objection and see justification in a more ecumenical light without the stringent requirements of normal confessional Reformed viewpoint.

    At any rate, in regards to Psalm 7, it seems to me a distinction is made in the text itself quite without the help of Reformed systematics. Am I missing something? 7:6 cleary distinguishes between the command of judgement and the arising of the LORD to fulfill that demand.

  14. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Kevin, I wouldn’t say that Leithart is merely messing wtih terminology. I think there Leithart’s stuff makes a substantive contribution to Reformed theology, etc. But I am having trouble how the particular point that Lane is picking with Leithart does not amount to a terminological difference.

    And yes, I distrust the kind of facile historical allusions that you keep making to bolster your points, Kevin. But, no, I do not dislike “historical arguments” per se. It is “you’re just like so-and-so” arguments that I dislike. And I dislike them, as I have pointed out already in another thread, because they are completely useless to prove your case. History is a many-splendored thing, and I could easily comb through history to come up with some example of your “errors” which are really just repititions of what “Villian X from history” already did. See, it’s just a silly way to argue, period.

  15. July 5, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    You continue to crack me up, Xon. I’m not arguing that anyone is like a certain historical counterpart in times past and that thereby proves that their claims are false or dangerous. I’m merely using history as an illustration to provide you and others with examples that make my point. You can stick with black and white photos if you like, but I personally prefer the variegated color of the old masterpieces. History is useful in these situations and to argue otherwise is to be something other than covenantal when looking at these issues.

    In terms of argument though–I saw no mention of Psalm 7:6 in your last response nor any sort of mention of how Rome’s current issues with justification might fit into Leithart’s vocabulary program with the biblical text. So, I wait for you to actually engage here instead of complaining once again about my preferential mention of history.

  16. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 3:56 pm

    You brought up the history issue, Kevin, and did so in direct reference to me. So it’s hardly off-topic to follow up with you on that point, or at least it is no more off topic than the path that you chose to initiate.

    I’m merely using history as an illustration to provide you and others with examples that make my point.

    And what point, exactly, do these illustrations “make” for you? Is your point simply that there have been in times in history when such-and-such happened, and if you think about it there are some ostensible similarities between that such-and-such and something that is happening now? That’s the only point I could see such examples “making” for you, but if that’s the only point you are making then who can disagree with you? It does very little to advance your more substnative claim, though, that my (or some other FVers’) position is incorrect.

    Lane and I have done a lot of talking about a lot of things on this blog over the last several months, so I’ll thank you not to swoop in and claim that I am “dodging” whatever valid point you think you made. Your reading of Psalm 7:6 seems to be at odds with Lane’s own reading. I have no particular interest in jumping into a disagreement b/w the two of you. I’m more interested in Lane’s argument. But that’s not to say I won’t ever respond to someone else’s suggested lines of argumentation; I’m kind of a sucker for an interesting argument no matter what the source, actually. In any case, since you have asked so nicely I am happy to briefly address your suggestion about Psalm 7:6.

    At any rate, in regards to Psalm 7, it seems to me a distinction is made in the text itself quite without the help of Reformed systematics. Am I missing something? 7:6 cleary distinguishes between the command of judgement and the arising of the LORD to fulfill that demand.

    Isn’t this just ‘standard’ Hebrew parallelism, though? The same idea is being repeated in slightly different words. “Decreeing justice” is being used as a parallel concept to the Lord’s rising up “against the rage of my enemies.” God decreeing justice, and God rising up to fulfill that decree, are poetically inter-related here. Not distinguished, except in the sense that one word is distinguished from another in its location on the page.

    Your theory about why Leithart is “messing” with the forensic nature of justification (which he’s not; how is affirming a verdict of “not guilty” to the sinner a rejection of the forensic?) is, by your own admission, a speculation and I saw nothing much to respond to. We can play these games all day long. Perhaps Leithart is just knocking down the last great barrier to ecumenical cooperation with Rome on justification? Perhaps. Or perhaps Rome itself recognizes a more forensic notion of justification than you give credit for, and so your entire point is kind of moot. Or perhaps Leithart has some completely different motivation. I don’t know. What do you expect me to say to your speculation? “Nuh uh, it’s thus-and-such”?

  17. greenbaggins said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Now we get even deeper into the realm of Hebrew parallelism. I think that James Kugel is onto something when he says “A, what’s more B” is a better understanding of “parallelism.” All too often, Hebrew parallelism is used to say that the second line is just like the first. The second line is never just like the first. It adds to it another related thought, or sharpens the first thought, or adds to our knowledge of the first thought by talking about its opposite. It is never merely synonymous parallelism.

  18. tim prussic said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    I’ve not read Leithart’s essay (though I’ve heard the bibliography is to die for!), but in the exchange above, I think I’d side with Pastor Lane. It seems to me that the articulation of the doctrine of justification has always been (and is in Paul) something having to do with verbal precision. However, our verbal precision should proceed for the text of Scripture and not just from what’s received for the fathers. Thus, I cannot really understand Mr. Johnson’s question above (post 11):

    To be more faithful to the biblical text is the general answer, but this once again assumes that what is posited in the Reformed confessions and systematic theology is somehow devoid of fidelity to the Bible in the very least in terms of the wording. Can we really buy that?

    Can human beings “somehow” be deviod of fidelity to the Bible? Can we really buy something so deeply biblical as that? The question itself is something of a mind-blower for me. The Reformed tradition is generally faithful to the Bible. I affirm that happily. To act, however, as if we arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries and that there’s been not a lick of variation or shadow of turning are two propositions that (to use the words of Petey in Oh! Brother) don’t make no syeense.

    Could Leithart *actually* have something to teach us? Could, dare I say (dare! dare!), a Papist have something to teach us? Eastern Orthodoxy?

    NO! Absolutely not! We’re Reformed!

  19. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    Lane, great point there! I’m a James Jordan fanboy, chiasm-finding fool, remember! So far be it from me to say that it’s purely synonymous. But the two ideas are closely related in some way which is the point of the parallelism. (I’d say that “B sharpens A” or “B adds to our knowledge of A” fits the ‘Leithartian’ interpretation that Matt and I are arguing for very well).

  20. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Tim, I don’t understant your point about justiifcation always having to do with “verbal precision.” Flesh that out a little more?

  21. greenbaggins said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    But “A, what’s more B” could also mean a congruent, parallel idea that sets off the meaning of A better. In other words, the Hebrew parallelism does not have to mean what Leithart (or you) says it means. This problem cannot be solved by Hebrew parallelism, imo. In this sense, the analogia fidei needs to come into play here. The rest of Scripture needs to help us out. The rest of Scripture undoubtedly distinguishes between justification and sanctification.

  22. greenbaggins said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Tim, the Romanists and the Eastern Orthodox definitely have something to teach us by way of the doctrine of the Trinity. Robert Letham’s book shows us the way on that score (although I don’t agree with every detail of the book). However, the correct doctrine of justification resides solely in the realm of the Reformed world. No one else comes close.

  23. tim prussic said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Pastor Lane, it’s the general attitude of the provincial American Reformed folks that I’m addressing with my little bit o’ phun above, not any specific doctrine. I’ve got the Westminster Confession, what more do I need? The whole world…get readin’.

    As to the language of justification: Paul seems so clearly to isolate justifcation from any human endeavour, from all works of men. So much so, that Paul says the one that DOES NOT WORK but believes is the justified one. He labors that faith itself if God’s gift (Eph 2:9), so we can’t even boast in it. He doesn’t do all the hedging with, say, sanctification, which is, I believe, graciously synergistic in a way that justification is absolutely not (nor regeneration). In other words, Paul seems verbally to protect justification in a way that he does not other aspects of his soteriology.

  24. July 5, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Xon,

    You know, after looking at the Hebrew, the notion that parallelism saves Leithart’s case is just absolutely ludicrous. The last phrase (“you have appointed a judgement”) is hardly definitive in the sense of equating it with the other phrases in the verse itself and on the basis of exegetical method alone Lane is right in asserting that there are other options we can present as legitimate not the least of which the one I’ve already put forward.

    What is clear is that a judgment or declaration was put forward by the LORD and that David calls upon Him to fulfill that declaration, poetically or otherwise. In my view, the distinction is quite clear in the text or the parallelisms brought forward make no sense at all and would even be somewhat anti-climactic in the reading Leithart proposes.

  25. July 5, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Tim,

    Your astute words of mockery in regards to those who would learn nothing save what the Reformed confessions put forward ought to be addressed to someone besides myself unless you are just absolutely unaware of what goes on at reformedcatholicism.com. My point was not to tie the biblical text to some sort of slavish read of the confessions and never allow new insight into what has been afforded via Leithart and the others.

    My point is only that the Reformed confessions maintain a united witness and aid in helping us see what the faith is and that they are consistent with the testimony of the catholic Church over the last two thousand years. Surely that regula fidei has some level of value even in exegetical discussions? Not that confessions tie us necessarily to semantic domains but that there is some value in remembering that our Reformed Fathers were not half-cocked and crazy for their observations over the last five hundred years. I’ll be the first to appreciate for example not only what is new and enlightening in the text of Scripture if and when the case is made, but in cases like this where the Hebrew is not at all working with the certitude which Leithart apparently puts forward–what can we do other than rest upon the wisdom of the Fathers in looking at passages like this?

    My experience has been that much of the exegesis of the FV world is tainted by half-made cases and suppositions that are considered fact by their advocates and Leithart is no exception in that regard. Save Jordan, he’s just more sophisticated than a Douglas Wilson and so it takes a bit more explanation to do away with claims that really amount to no more than a really tall and nicely built house of cards.

  26. NicolasBarbeito said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Would it be possible to post a link to the article by Rev. Leithart that you are talking about? Or does that violate some internet protocol? I would appreciate it. Thanks.

  27. greenbaggins said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    I would love to do that, Nicolas, except that it isn’t a web article. It is in the book _Federal Vision_, available from Athanasius Press. Unless someone else knows of a place where it can be found online.

  28. tim prussic said,

    July 5, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    WAIT! Didn’t that violate some internet protocol??! Oh, yeah… we’re no longer under eLaw, but under eGrace!

  29. July 6, 2007 at 6:38 am

    Lane,

    I’m always afraid and bothered when self-proclaimed Reformed folk jump to the statement, “The gospel is at stake…” for every discussion having to do with justification. If one is a good Lutheran, then I understand that statement, since for Luther(ans) the “gospel” and justification are synonymous. But when Reformed types do it, I’m baffled! Most anti-FV types in the PCA sound like good Lutherans. (And with all this talk on your blog [and other places] about the FVers needing to leave the PCA and go elsewhere, it makes me wonder why the Lutheran-PCAers shouldn’t just go join the Missouri Synod? )

  30. Xon said,

    July 6, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Lane, I agree that Heb parallelism does not solve the disagreement between you and Leithart (me). But I do think it speaks against Kevin’s interpretation. That was the context in which I brought it up. And notice that Kevin has called the idea that parallelism is a factor in this passage “ridiculous”. So I think you and I both agree against him on this one. (What particular kind of connection is being ‘paralleled’ between the phrases in the passage, of course, is still a worthy topic of discussion.)

    (Reads rest of comments, ‘cuz that’s always a good idea before you shoot your mouth off).

    Kevin, you said something to Tim which gets at your idea of catholicity and is something I was trying to talk to you about back on Tuesday:

    My point is only that the Reformed confessions maintain a united witness and aid in helping us see what the faith is and that they are consistent with the testimony of the catholic Church over the last two thousand years

    Consistent meaning what, exactly? That they do not contradict any of the ‘major’ positions of the catholic Church over the last two thousand years? Clearly there are elements of Reformed theology which have been denied by a large number of fellow Christinas over the last two millennia. So do you mean that the Reformed confessions are consistent with the “big” stuff? Or do you mean something else?

  31. Tim Wilder said,

    July 6, 2007 at 7:43 am

    Re: 29

    “it makes me wonder why the Lutheran-PCAers shouldn’t just go join the Missouri Synod?”

    Because Jeff Meyers says that he learned at Concordia Seminary how to despise Reformed theology, and that that is why he so good at it.

  32. July 6, 2007 at 7:53 am

    Xon writes:

    Lane, I agree that Heb parallelism does not solve the disagreement between you and Leithart (me). But I do think it speaks against Kevin’s interpretation. That was the context in which I brought it up. And notice that Kevin has called the idea that parallelism is a factor in this passage “ridiculous”. So I think you and I both agree against him on this one. (What particular kind of connection is being ‘paralleled’ between the phrases in the passage, of course, is still a worthy topic of discussion.)

    Xon,

    First of all, I didn’t proclaim “the idea that parallelism is a factor in this passage “ridiculous”–I haven’t even used the word “ridiculous” in this thread at all so I don’t know what is being presented to you on your computer screen. What I said was as follows:

    You know, after looking at the Hebrew, the notion that parallelism saves Leithart’s case is just absolutely ludicrous. The last phrase (”you have appointed a judgement”) is hardly definitive in the sense of equating it with the other phrases in the verse itself and on the basis of exegetical method alone Lane is right in asserting that there are other options we can present as legitimate not the least of which the one I’ve already put forward.

    I would appreciate it if you are going to quote me–that you actually quote me instead of turn my words into something else. The point is not that parallelism is or is not a factor. The point is that parallelism does not help Leithart’s case here as you admit above and as a result there is no need to mention it in the first place.

    You ask:

    My point is only that the Reformed confessions maintain a united witness and aid in helping us see what the faith is and that they are consistent with the testimony of the catholic Church over the last two thousand years

    Consistent meaning what, exactly? That they do not contradict any of the ‘major’ positions of the catholic Church over the last two thousand years? Clearly there are elements of Reformed theology which have been denied by a large number of fellow Christinas over the last two millennia. So do you mean that the Reformed confessions are consistent with the “big” stuff? Or do you mean something else?

    I don’t know why you keep working on this assertion that Reformed theology as it is in the confessions is distinct from other theologies that have happened upon the Church in the last two thousand years as if that had anything to do with what I am emphasizing here. I am saying that in general the Reformed confessions are representative of the catholic faith–the faith once for all delivered to the saints and as such consistent with the testimony and traditions of the Church over her two thousand year history. As I indicated earlier in the week–the Reformers claimed no less and used the content of the confessions similarly. Of course that does not mean that the confessions automatically represent this or that tradition. But it does mean that they play somewhat of an interpretive and guiding role in looking at Scripture and what it means.

  33. Chris Hutchinson said,

    July 6, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Matthew,

    Without conceding your point, maybe it would help the discussion if you defined for us how you think the Reformed *should* define the Gospel? I am not sure there is a uniform answer anymore.

    Blessings,
    Chris H.

  34. Xon said,

    July 6, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Kevin, I wasn’t trying to twist your words, but I see now that my effort to summarize your view quickly did not do full justice to what you said. My bad, yo!

    A review of the last couple of steps in our little dance, however, helps clarify how my point about parallelism does indeed work in Leithart’s favor. It does not vindicate Leithart’s interpretation all by itself, since there are multiple ways to go with the parallelism. But, it does call into question your earlier claim (in #13) that the text of Ps7:6 “clearly distinguishes between the command of judgement and the arising of the LORD to fulfill that demand.” You claimed that these are clearly two different things in the text of the Psalm itself; I brought up parallelism to show that no, that’s not obvious at all. The whole idea behind parallelism is to relate two things together, usually as an elaboration or even an outright identity. So saying “the text distinguishes” the decree of judgment from God’s rising up to fulfill the decree is not at all clear. Parallelism was a response to your claim about the text’s “clear” meaning. It was not meant to be a slam dunk that proved Leithart was right.

    And as I pointed out earlier too, Kevin, I have suspected all along that we are talking past each other as to what it means to say that the confessions are “representative of the catholic faith”. This is why I asked your opinion, because, believe it or not, I want to know. I’m giving you a chance to clarify your position. This might help me out in our discussion. Sorry if the request seems irrelevant to you, but being clear about your understanding of the very subject we are discussing doesn’t strike me as an irrelevant concern.

    I think I understand where you are coming from concerning the Reformed confessions’ representative role of the catholic faith, and I agree. But what is not at all clear is how this position justifies a rejectin of FV thinking. You say that the Reformed confessions “play somewhat of an interpretive and guiding role in looking at Scripture and what it means.” Agreed! But this is a pretty modest claim, and doesn’t at all mean that we can’t let other things also play a role in figuring out what Scripture means. I know that you will say that FV interpretations of Scripture are far from “certain” and so we should ‘default’ to sticking with the traditional Reformed confessional interpretations, but of course that’s precisely the point of dispute (whether FV intepretations are justifiable–I am modifying slightly from your term “certain,” which is much too strong a burden of proof to place on a would-be reformer, imo). If all you’ve been saying about the Reformed confessions is that they representt the catholic faith adequately (i.e., that they are orthodox expressions of Christian faith), then you and I have no disagreement about that.

    But earlier, back in that other thread on Tuesday, I had asked:

    How, exactly, do you discern successfully which usages (other than obviously slangish ones like surfer-dude saying ‘righteous’) are relevant to the doctrine and which ones are not? Who says, for instance, that integrity/honesty is not relevant to a doctrine of justification? God chose to used the word ‘justify’ in the context of talking about integrity/honesty, after all. So what makes you so sure that this isn’t ‘relevant’ to a proper doctrine?

    This was a question about the foundation of Lane’s exegetical argument against Leithart. I.e., Lane argues that we must not use all biblical usages of ‘justify’ and similar words to formulate our doctrine of justification, b/c not all the biblical usages fall within the desired semantic range of “justification” proper. (I.e., the word ‘justify’ can be used in ways that are outside “justification” proper). My question, while agreeing in principle, was “how do we konw whether a particular use falls inside or outside the proper range?” Leithart says that the passages in Genesis should inform our doctrine of justification. Lane says that no, those passages are about “human integrity or honesty,” and that the doctrine of justification is supposed to be about divine righteousness. But who says that there is no connection between these things? Who says that integrity and honesty don’t have anything to do with “justification proper”? This is a difficult question, it seems to me, and it makes Lane’s approach to refuting Leithart difficult. (It would be difficult for anyone to proceed in this way, not just Lane)

    Okay, so that was my question. Your response in that thread was that the Reformed confessions tell us when a biblical usage of the word ‘justify’ is or is not in line with the ‘proper’ doctrine. Here is how you put it:

    I believe the answer here to this question must and should be the wisdom of the Reformed churches over the ages as it is expressed in the central confessional norms we have before us.

    So, when in doubt as to whether the “justify” root word in the story of Jacob and Laban is an okay thing to include in our doctrine of justification-proper, you say that we should do what the Reformed confessions do. (Of course, the confessions don’t actually tell us anything about how to interpret particular passages, but I think I follow your point just the same. You are saying that we should simply let the Confessions provide us with our definition of “justification” proper, and so then any usages which pop up in the Bible not conforming to that definition can be left out of formulating the doctrine). And you grounded this at least in part on the ‘catholicity’ of those Reformed confessions. But now you are making it clear that the ‘catholicity’ of the Reformed confessions is simply a general-conformity to broad historic orthodoxy. In other words, Lutheran confessions, ecumenical confessions, etc., should all be authoritative in this regard. And you also admit that the Confessions can go wrong. Okay, but that’s just what the FVers like Leithart think has happened here. In the case of justification, our confessions have defined the word too narrowly. (Which is not to say that confessional statements about the more narrowly defined concept are false.) Leithart thinks he has biblical reasons for taking issue with the narrower definition here. As such, it’s hard to see how you are offering very helpful advice when you say that we should simply let the Reformed confessions themselves answer these questions for us. You acknowledge that the confessions are violable, that they play “somewhat” of a guiding role in our interpretation but not an absolute one. So, that being the case, we should be focusing our energies on looking at Leithart’s particular exegetical arguments (which Lane is trying to do, to be fair), and we should drop all these ‘meta’ discussions about ‘letting the Reformed confessions speak’. We both agree that the confessions are authoritative and that they play a guiding role; we disagree as to whether that role should be overridden in the particular case under discussion.

  35. July 6, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Xon writes:

    It does not vindicate Leithart’s interpretation all by itself, since there are multiple ways to go with the parallelism.

    Xon,

    This is exactly Lane’s point. We are not forced into Leithart’s view because there is more than one way to look at this view–if anything, as I said previously, the parallelisms speak to the possibility of more than one view. You can doubt the relevance of my own opinion on the verse all you like but Lane was correct in noting that we are not forced into viewing this in the same way that Leithart presents the matter. In the article itself, Leithart doesn’t even deal with this verse specifically and so while you can bring up parallelism to defend his point of view, he certainly hasn’t. Again, remember that Lane’s original point stands regarding not having to take the passage as Leithart has framed it. It’s not a matter of whether Leithart’s view is possible, but that Lane’s view and other views (including my own) are certainly reasonable from the standpoint of mere exegesis and because of that Leithart’s conclusions are by no means certain.

  36. greenbaggins said,

    July 6, 2007 at 9:33 am

    To piggy-back off Kevin’s excellent summary, if Leithart wants us to change the traditional formulation of justification to something he might call “more biblical,” then he needs to give us compelling reasons to change our formulation. That is, he must eliminate all other possible readings of the texts he is exegeting. For surely, the burden of proof lies upon those who would modify our confessional position. The burden of proof does not lie upon me, except to prove that his views are out of accord with the WS, which is a slightly different issue.

  37. Xon said,

    July 6, 2007 at 9:44 am

    Kevin, I know that’s Lane’s view. Are you even reading my comments?

    You said that Ps 7:6 “distinguishes” the command of justice from the rising up to fulfill that command. I said “not necessarily, parallelism connects the ideas in some way.” Lane said “not necessarily Leithart’s connection,” with which (watch this closely) I have already agreed twice now. But as a response to your earlier point, that the text “clearly distinguishes” between thsoe two concepts (i.e., presents them as different), my pointing out paralellism was right on.

    As to the fact that Leithart doesn’t mention this verse specifically, that’s right he doesn’t. But you, Kevin, brought up this verse as a way of refuting Leithart. That’s okay; but try to remember why we’re talking about it. If we’d like to return to Leithart’s own arguments and the verses he explicitly deals with, then by all means I would love to do so. For instance, Lane has not yet responded to my #11.

    I am not arguing “Leithart’s view is possible, therefore Leithart’s view is correct.” I am defending Leithart’s view against the particular charges that Lane and you have raised. Lane’s argument is that Leithart is “mixing justification and sanctification” and thereby undermining Reformed orthodoxy. This is a question of logic as much as exegesis, and I’ve responded to Lane on the logical point that Leithart’s view does not entail a denial of any substantive Reformational point that I can see. That is a response to Lane, Kevin. Of course, since my response is limited in scope to the context of Lane’s original critique, you could always say that the limited scope has failed to “prove” Leithart’s point. But that would be a silly thing to say.

    So, a recap.

    (1) Leithart says x. His argument is largely exegetical.

    (2) Lane says that x is false, and points out some perceived implications of it that he finds problematic.

    (3) I point out that x does not have those implications, and so Lane’s argument in (2) is refuted.

    (3) is not a vindication of Leithart. It is not meant to show that Leithart is definitely correct to say x. It is meant rather to show that an argument offered against Leithart’s assertion of x is itself not a good argument. (3) is a refutation of (2), which was an attempted refutation of (1).

  38. July 6, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Xon writes:

    So, when in doubt as to whether the “justify” root word in the story of Jacob and Laban is an okay thing to include in our doctrine of justification-proper, you say that we should do what the Reformed confessions do. (Of course, the confessions don’t actually tell us anything about how to interpret particular passages, but I think I follow your point just the same. You are saying that we should simply let the Confessions provide us with our definition of “justification” proper, and so then any usages which pop up in the Bible not conforming to that definition can be left out of formulating the doctrine). And you grounded this at least in part on the ‘catholicity’ of those Reformed confessions. But now you are making it clear that the ‘catholicity’ of the Reformed confessions is simply a general-conformity to broad historic orthodoxy.

    A few things:

    1) First, no–the catholicity of the Reformed confessions is not merely general conformity to broad historic orthodoxy. The catholicity of the Reformed confessions is that they are simply accurate statements or professions of the Christian faith–the gospel–and as such provide the best rule in our Reformed communions to understand and talk about the gospel as it relates to Scripture and other issues.

    2) Of course you can involve other information in interpreting Scripture, but the concept of regula fidei is not new (nor is it something other than catholic in the best sense) and I’m surprised to hear you argue that the confessions do not play this role in looking at Scripture, especially for Reformed communions.

    3) It is a mistake to tie the doctrine of justification woodenly to other uses of the word for justification and this is in large part what Leithart has been doing. It is one thing to note semantic domain and provide additional light on the possible shades of meaning of a particular term and quite another to take that and build an entirely different doctrine of justification from the use of words in the biblical text even if that different doctrine contains some semblance of meaning to the old received doctrine. This is where I believe Lane is correct in criticizing Leithart. It is a matter of the gospel when we redefine the doctrine that is represented in the confession. It would not be a matter of the gospel if Leithart was seeking merely to provide additional light to our understanding of the biblical text.

    4) Psalm 7 is only distantly relative to a theology of justification in the first place and the same goes for the story of Jacob and Laban. For exegesis, all these passages do for the doctrine of justification is seemingly provide us with a wider semantic domain than what the Reformed usage has been in past centuries. But, the passages do not speak directly to the matter of justification and frankly never were meant to. Leithart’s assertion here that we have any reason to think that the passages in question should change what we believe about forensic justification and its role in our salvation is just absolutely groundless.

  39. Xon said,

    July 6, 2007 at 9:46 am

    The burden of proof does not lie upon me, except to prove that his views are out of accord with the WS, which is a slightly different issue.

    Just so. And regarding that issue (of conformity to WS), let me gently remind you of my #11 to which I eagerly await a response.

  40. July 6, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Xon writes:

    Are you even reading my comments?

    If you are interested in civil discourse, you can cut crap like that out. Really, Xon. Disagreement with you or even reading things differently is no excuse for that sort of attitude. I would appreciate more consideration than that–it’s not like I haven’t spent the last seven years in your own camp.

  41. greenbaggins said,

    July 6, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Xon, I would say that Rome does not disagree with the already of justification. Rome is quite willing to say that a person is justified at the time point when he comes to faith. (Actually they say it happens at the time-point of baptism). They are merely keen on saying that remaining justified depends on works, and that there is a future justification dependent on our works. See the CCC, pp. 535-537. Your schema seems to make justification a suspended thing, whereas the Romish doctrine is definitely justification by baptism, and final justification by works.

  42. Xon said,

    July 6, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Kevin, a brief response to those 4 points in 39, and then you may have the last word while I try to get back ‘on track’ with Lane.

    (1)

    First, no–the catholicity of the Reformed confessions is not merely general conformity to broad historic orthodoxy. The catholicity of the Reformed confessions is that they are simply accurate statements or professions of the Christian faith–the gospel–and as such provide the best rule in our Reformed communions to understand and talk about the gospel as it relates to Scripture and other issues.

    Well, again I’m having trouble following exactly what you mean. You are now saying that the Reformed confessions are “not merely general conform[ing] to broad historic orthodoxy,” but something even more–they are “accurate statements of the Christian faith–the gospel.” But I don’t understand the difference between these two things that you think is important. How is “hte Christian faith, the gospel” different from “broad historic orthodoxy”? Do you mean by “the Christian faith, the gospel” the Reformed view of soteriology? But if this is what you mean then in what sense is it “catholic”? The majority of Christians in non-Reformed traditions do not hold to the Reformed view of soteriology.

    Second, saying that historical (why limit ourselves to creedal?) Reformed theology is the “best rule in our Reformed communions to understand and talk about the gospel as it relates to Scripture and other issues” is something I have no problem with at all. But the ‘best’ rule is not the only rule, nor is it an un-overridable rule, nor is it an infallible rule. We all agree with that in principle, and yet here you are arguing that the FV is out of line by making some bare appeal to the regula fidei as if such an appeal by itself can make your point at all. (Since it is not an infallible regula, FV is not automatically wrong for going against it. Thus, we need to look at the particulars of the FV case and see where it goes wrong or goes right on its own terms. It may deviate in an unnecessary way from the Reformed regula fidei. It may do so in a heretical way. Or, it may offer a helpful corrective. Or it may do a combination of all of these. But no matter what the case turns out to be we don’t settle the issue by simply comparing FV to the regula fide and saying “Aha, out of accord, therefore FV is not orthodox.” If you agree with all of that, then you and I have little to disagree on in this conversation except perhaps whether this conversation has been necessary at all.

    (2) I do not deny the regula fidei role of Reformed confessions for Reformed theology. Nothing I have said even hints at such a denial.

    (3) I agree that we shouldn’t do this “woodenly,” but I don’t know why you think Leithart is doing so. And, honestly, I don’t even see how you (or Lane) can begin to demonstrate that he is doing so, short of Leithart himself stating that he uses such a wooden hermeneutical principle. If he doesn’t say that he uses such a principle, then I don’t understand the point of speculating that he does. You do not need to attibute this error to him in order to refute him; you simply need to go through his exegesis and refute it case-by-case.

    (4) You are just asserting at this point, not evincing, especially in light of the fact that I have already asked the pointed question as to how you *determine* which passages are relevant to the doctrine of justification and which ones aren’t. (4) is nothing more than you repeating your position in sweeping terms (that these passages don’t mean what Leitharat says it means, frankly was never meant to, has no bearing on doctrine of justification, Letihart’s interp is groundless). You’ve added nothing new to the discussion here, and so (other than pointing out the fallacy) there is nothing to respond to on this point. Nuh uh Yeah huh.

  43. Xon said,

    July 6, 2007 at 10:18 am

    Kevin, sorry but my question (while borne out of slight frustration) was also absolutely honest. I honestly want to know if you are reading my comments. As to whether I want civil discourse, I always do but I’m not sure that’s what you and I have been doing here anywhere. This feels more like fencing with herrings, and I don’t know what exactly to call it but it’s not exactly “discourse” and it’s not exactly “civil.” :-)

    Here’s why I have doubts you were reading me carefully.

    In #19 when Lane first brought up his point about the parallelism, I said “Lane, great point there!” Then a bit later in #30 I said:

    Lane, I agree that Heb parallelism does not solve the disagreement between you and Leithart (me). But I do think it speaks against Kevin’s interpretation. That was the context in which I brought it up.

    And again in #34 I elaborated:

    A review of the last couple of steps in our little dance, however, helps clarify how my point about parallelism does indeed work in Leithart’s favor. It does not vindicate Leithart’s interpretation all by itself, since there are multiple ways to go with the parallelism. But, it does call into question your earlier claim (in #13) that the text of Ps7:6 “clearly distinguishes between the command of judgement and the arising of the LORD to fulfill that demand.” You claimed that these are clearly two different things in the text of the Psalm itself; I brought up parallelism to show that no, that’s not obvious at all. The whole idea behind parallelism is to relate two things together, usually as an elaboration or even an outright identity. So saying “the text distinguishes” the decree of judgment from God’s rising up to fulfill the decree is not at all clear. Parallelism was a response to your claim about the text’s “clear” meaning. It was not meant to be a slam dunk that proved Leithart was right.

    Now, the way you chose to respond to these statements, Kevin (#36), was to quote the italicized phrase from the above blockquote and say “This is exactly Lane’s point.” Oh, really? I think that’s….what…I…said. :-) So hence my frustration as you ‘told’ me that Lane was saying the very thing I’d already acknowledged him to be saying.

  44. Xon said,

    July 6, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Lane, the Reformation debate with Rome was over whether or not God declares us righteous on the basis of a prior moral transformation. In other words, Rome said we have to be “sanctified” before we can be “justified.” (A quick summary)

    Lane, I realize I was unclear here but it was just a quick summary. :-) I know that Rome allows for an “already” justification, which they think must be “kept” through works. but I wasn’t trying to give a chronology in that above paragraph, so much as a “logical” dependency. Sanctification is “prior to” justification for Rome, in the sense that the justiifed person is justified on the basis of a prior moral transformation that has taken place. (This happens at baptism, as the person is regenerated acc. to Rome, and of course it then happens throughout the person’s life as they continue to do good works, to confess and do penance for their sins, etc.) But at every step along the way, a moral transformation is the logical and legal basis of the justifying act of God. Leithart’s position has nothing to do with this. Leithart’s position isn’t any more Romish here than is standard Reformed theology, which makes salvation completly by grace through faith and yet also insists that works are necessary (but not as “meriting conditions”, or whatever). If you’re not sanctified, then you’re not justified. No non-sanctified people are justified people. That’s the Reformed view. But we make it clear that the sanctification does not serve in any way as the ‘grounds’ or ‘basis’ of the justification/election/salvation of the person. Rather, it is a necessary accompaniment to those wonderful things, but it is not the basis for them happening. I don’t see how Leithart’s view contradicts any of this.

  45. Grover Gunn said,

    July 6, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Let me try an analogy with adoption. A righteous king periodically adopts children from an impoverished orphanage. At the moment the judge approves the adoption, the child from the orphanage immediately has a new legal relationship with the king, that of son to father. Immediately upon adoption, the king always changes the child’s residence, buys him new clothes and enrolls him in an excellent school; i.e., he definitively delivers the child from poverty. Therefore adoption and definitive poverty deliverance are one and the same act. Those who define adoption as strictly a legal transaction have an inadequate, reductionistic understanding of adoption.

    Or would it be better to say that adoption by this king and definitive poverty deliverance are distinct (one legal, the other circumstantial) but inseparable acts?

    Grover Gunn

  46. Grover GUnn said,

    July 6, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    A righteous and merciful king periodically adopts an undeserving child from an impoverished orphanage in another kingdom. At the moment the judge declares the adoption, the king’s legal relationship to the child changes to that of father to son. Also, at that very moment, the king, in every adoption, takes action to definitively deliver the child from poverty. He changes the child’s residence, grants him a place at his table, gives him new clothes and enrolls him in an excellent school. Therefore, in regard to this king, adoption and definitive poverty deliverance are the same act. Those who say that this king’s adoptions are a strictly legal transaction have an inadequate and reductionistic understanding of adoption.

    Or would it be better to say that in regard to this king, adoption and definitive poverty deliverance are distinct (the one having to do with a legal relationship and the other having to do with material circumstances) but inseparable?

    Grover Gunn

  47. Grover Gunn said,

    July 6, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Sorry about the double entry. It was not intentional; I thought the first effort had failed. Yet I think my second effort is a slight improvement.

    Grover

  48. curate said,

    July 7, 2007 at 1:37 am

    “To piggy-back off Kevin’s excellent summary, if Leithart wants us to change the traditional formulation of justification to something he might call “more biblical,”

    Have I missed something? Does Dr. Leithart want to change the traditional formulation? I see his position everywhere in Calvin and loads of other Reformed sources. Viewing justifiaction as an aspect of union is Reformed Theology 101.

    There is a certain tendency in Luthernaism, however, to isolate it.

  49. greenbaggins said,

    July 7, 2007 at 8:59 am

    Roger, Leithart’s goal is most definitely more than saying that justification is an aspect of our union with Christ. He wants to add definitive sanctification into justification. That is revisionist. There is no Reformed theologian who has ever done that before.

  50. curate said,

    July 7, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Lane, I am completely certain that you are mistaken. Read his blog articles from the OPC GA, and your mind will be put at rest. He has said in so many words that the sole ground of our justification by faith is the cross.

  51. October 22, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    […] to the charge of illegitimate totality transfer, My response to Leithart, part 5 (On Judgment), part 6 (Psalms and Prophets, part 1), part 7 (Psalms and Prophets, part 2), part 8 (Psalms and Prophets, […]


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