Another Conversion Narrative

The FV guys are dropping like flies. Kevin Johnson narrates his move away from the FV to a Confessional position. Who’s next?

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The man who graciously allowed me to post his conversion narrative from FV to Truly Reformed has a blog. Check it out.

The Nine Declarations Versus Wilkins, part 1

Not to have too many irons in the fire at once on this issue. But Wilkins has sent a document to his Presbytery responding to the Nine Declarations of the denomination’s study committee report. I intend to blog through Wilkins’s response point by point. It is important to note that Wilkins sees himself as “reiterating (his) views.” In other words, he doesn’t feel the need to shift ground.

Point one has to do with the Covenant of Works. The issue for Wilkins is whether or not Adam would have earned eternal life in any sense by his obedience. God intended to glorify Adam. However, it would have been all of grace. Apparently, Adam did not have the condition of perfect and personal obedience assigned to him in order to attain that glorification. There is this problem with Wilkins: why did the divines call that covenant a covenant of works? What did they mean by that designation? Whatever one can say about it, surely we can say that, in the minds of the divines, an idea of works was connected to the pre-Fall covenant made with Adam. I would like the FV to give their explanation as to why the pre-Fall covenant was called a covenant of works by the divines. The distinction between covenant of works and covenant of grace suggests that the contrast in view here means that the first covenant did not operate primarily on the basis of grace.

And again, because this point is misunderstood so often by the FV, let it be here known that the pre-Fall covenant did have aspects of God’s condescension. I don’t think I am aware of anyone (even Kline!) who would disagree with that. However, that is not the question here. The question is this: on what principle, or condition, would Adam have entered glory? The WCF is clear here: it would have been upon condition of perfect and personal obedience. It is usually objected here that Adam already had life and partook from the Tree of Life. However, Adam did not have the glorified body (which is immutably glorious). This is quite clear from 1 Corinthians 15, where the Adamic body is contrasted with the glorified body. Secondly, I see no contradiction between saying that Adam partook from the Tree of Life (a statement with which I agree) and saying that there was still a further, eschatological body which Adam would have attained. It was a period of probation. Vos has the best arguments for this in Biblical Theology, pp. 19-40. Therefore, Wilkins’s assumptions are incorrect when he says this:

I do believe that God’s purpose was to “glorify” Adam if Adam had abided faithful. But this “glorification” would have been a gift from God and not something earned or “merited” by Adam’s works of obedience. If Adam had been obedient, that obedience would have been the fruit of the grace and power of the Spirit who had been given to him and not the fruit of his own native strength or ability.

Aside from gutting the Covenant of Works of any and all aspects of works, the logic is faulty. He explicitly denies that Adam had the free choice in his own native strength and ability to choose what was right. Wilkins is not denying the free choice of Adam here. Rather, he is denying that the free choice was resultant from Adam’s own native powers (yes, given him by God). This seems to me a denial that Adam was created very good (וְהִנֵּה־טוֹב מְאֹד). Why would Adam have needed God’s sustaining moral power if he was already created good?

And the reward given to Adam, it was on the basis of pactum merit. Of course, this is a category that every FV writer denies (although Wilson has admitted that one could use the term, even if he really doesn’t like it). Pactum merit gets around all the problems that the FV poses for traditional CoW terminology. Pactum merit proscribes Adam’s having any kind of claim on God other than the covenantal one. Adam’s obedience would have not have had any kind of intrinsic merit. Rather, the nature of the agreement was such that the condition for glorification and the end of the probation would have been Adam’s perfect and personal obedience.

The problem here really comes into sharp focus when we look at the antitype, Jesus Christ. Presumably what is good for the type is good for the antitype. Jesus needed God’s sustaining moral power so that He could resist temptation. Therefore, God did not reward Christ for His obedience. Rather, Christ was justified by faith like the rest of us. This is the logical conclusion of the FV position. Of course, in the traditional schema, Christ not only earns pactum merit for us, but also condign merit, since He did have claims on the Father. Christ’s work was both condign and pactum merit, since there is a difference between Christ and Adam: namely, Christ is God and Adam wasn’t. God can make a claim on Himself.