A Black Cat in the Eyes

Wilson has responded to my post here. Of course, there are plenty of people on his blog who do not interact in a polite fashion, but will punch the cat in the eyes. But, like he says, you can’t have everything.

First, he says that I am continuing to be plagued by misunderstanding. This is not a felicitous way of expressing what he is getting at. When I counsel young people who are about to get married, I make sure I tell them about how to reconcile. To avoid utterly words like “you always” and “you never” is a good thing. The minute you say “you always,” (unless it is a good thing that they are doing!) you are putting the other person on the defensive. Plus, the generalization is usually false, and so the focus of discussion becomes all about debating the generalization, and nothing about the actual incident that needs reconciliation. Wilson has before said how fair and accurate I have been able to be about his position. So a comment about this particular incident should not include a generalization that he elsewhere has explicitly denied. I am not continually plagued by misunderstanding. I may have misunderstood in this one place (I don’t believe I have). That is what he could have said. I want us to compare two statements. The first is Wilson:

We affirm the reality of the decrees as decrees. The “reality of the decrees” means that we hold them to be immutable, untouchable, settled, predestined, foreordained, unthwartable, eternal, infinite, and unchangeable.

When we say that the reality of the decrees should not be allowed to trump the covenant, we are saying that it is right and appropriate and proper and good for a minister to warn a congregation against falling from grace, or trampling underfoot the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified, or failing to bear fruit as a branch in the vine. We are talking about how we function, how we warn, how we admonish. The covenant is given to us. The decrees are made concerning us. It is not our job to parse the decrees. It is our job to live in terms of the covenant. We affirm that the decrees are there. We deny that we should preach or admonish someone in particular based on a presumed knowledge of the content of the decrees with regard to that person. This is a distinction that the Bible gives us expressly.

“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Dt. 29:29).It is revealed to us that Christians can fall away from the covenant. It is not revealed to us who was predestined to do so, and who was predestined to remain — although everyone in the covenant is in one or the other category. The latter is therefore not to be the basis of our pastoral warnings. The former is.

The second is the FV document:

We deny that the unchangeable nature of these decrees prevents us from using the same language in covenantal ways as we describe our salvation from within that covenant. We further deny this covenantal usage is “pretend” language, even where the language and terminology sometimes overlaps with the language of the decrees. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children, that we may keep the words of this law. We affirm the reality of the decrees, but deny that the decrees “trump” the covenant. We do not set them against each other, but expect them to harmonize perfectly as God works out all things in accordance with His will.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am having a hard time getting what Wilson said out of the FV document, except for the Deuteronomy quotation. How is denying that the decrees trump the covenant equal to saying that we should warn the people? I say let’s warn the people but say that the decrees trump everything. What God has sovereignly decreed to come to pass cannot happen otherwise. Why does warning the people somehow call that into question? Why do we have to say that the decrees do not trump the covenant? If I say that the warnings are there in Scripture precisely so that the elect will never fall away (the elect always heed the warnings, and so never fall away), have I not explained their presence in Scripture while still holding fast to the complete sovereignty of God’s decree? This explanation has the added benefit of giving the warnings their full power. Warnings are not in Scripture either to make us doubt our salvation, or to imply that the elect can fall from salvation, although they certainly give no comfort to the hypocrite. They are rather like the signs that say “trespassers will be prosecuted.” The sign is put there precisely so that there will be no trespassers, not because the owner of the place wants nothing else to do with his time than actually to prosecute trespassers. I don’t see how he gets to the trumping statement via the warning. The one does not follow from the other. I sometimes wonder if the FV thinks they are the only people to take the warnings in Scripture seriously.

It may not be our job to parse the decrees with regard to other people. But the Bible itself tells us to make our calling (effectual calling!!!) and election (eternal election) sure. Surely this is a call for us to have assurance. We can know that we are elected decretally. We just cannot know if someone else is elected decretally.

One word for Tim Prussic. I have dealt in my own way with the Hebrews 10 passage here. And, there is a further, different interpretation of that passage that Fowler White has put forth in the Auburn Avenue Pros and Cons book, pp. 210-211. I believe that either one of these interpretations will quite adequately answer his queries.

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113 Comments

  1. tim prussic said,

    August 8, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    Pastor Lane, thanks for the clarification on this score. I think it is quite helpful and I think that I quite agree with what you’ve written. I’ll be quite happy to check out your consideration of Heb 10 and Dr. White’s, too, although I’ve lent out my Pros and Cons book and despair of its return.

    I think part of the confusion at this point is the clunky language of the FV paper. The term “trump” isn’t much of a technical term and can lead to misunderstanding. Maybe it’s better to speak of the prominence of a particular doctrine within certain contexts. In other words, in the admonition of a straying sheep, the threats and promises of the covenant will come to the fore. In the comforting of a Christian, God’s eternal decree might come to the fore. Neither is trumping anything, but both function all the time with varying emphases in different contexts.

    Another point of interest: My reading of Romans 9 is that God’s eternal decree of election cuts across covenant. Both Isaac and Ishmael were sons of Abraham, both received the sign and seal of circumcision, but Ishmael was cut out and Isaac called ACCORDING TO the decree of God. Thus, it seems that while we, as Christans in via, do view the decree of election via covenant, we must remember that the decree can slice right down the middle of the covenant.

  2. Grover Gunn said,

    August 8, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    God’s warnings given to the elect are sincere and genuine, and God’s gospel offers to the non-elect are sincere and genuine. This is standard Calvinism. If this is all that FV is saying on this point, then what is different about it?

    Some of the FV proponents (not Doug Wilson) have made statements about elect and non-elect in the church having the same grace except for duration, final outcome and a mysterious unknown factor which causes the difference in duration and final outcome. That is different. It looks like a rationalistic effort to make the warnings and offers appear more reasonably sincere and genuine.

    In traditional Calvinism, the mystery is at a different place in the system. The factor causing a difference is the Spirit’s applying the work of redemption in terms of the decree of election. The non-elect may experience the common operations of the Spirit, but they never experience a true saving union with Christ. What is mysterious is that God can have a sincere and genuine desire for obedience rooted in His revealed will which operates even when this obedience is not what He has decreed from eternity past for His own greatest glory.

    Grover Gunn

  3. August 8, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Pastor Gunn,

    I love to see you so clearly express traditional calvinism in this way. It is quite refreshing in light of some of the hyper-calvinistic statements made by some here on this blog. Thank you, sir. And I say Amen to the point of mystery you describe.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Terry W. West

  4. tim prussic said,

    August 8, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Mr. Gunn (pastor?), I also appreciate your clear articulation of what I perceive to be historic, garden-variety Calvinism.

    I agree with your second paragraph, too. There is a certain element of mystery for us in the revealing of the Sons of God at the last day – I’m sure we’ll all have some surprises (didn’t expect to see YOU here!). The notion that ECM and NECM share the same in the same graces differing only in duration seems to me to be only slightly veiled Arminianism and I reject it as such. This, however, is a good bit different from saying that there are senses in which we can speak of NECMs as shaing in ordo-type common graces without sharing in the true and uncommon graces reserved only for the elect.

  5. Daniel Kok said,

    August 8, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    Lane wrote “punch the cat in the eyes”. I have never heard that one before. What does it mean, exactly?

  6. greenbaggins said,

    August 8, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    I was referring to Wilson’s “cat” metaphor, actually.

  7. tim prussic said,

    August 8, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    I got it!

  8. August 8, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    “Now, I don’t know about you, but I am having a hard time getting what Wilson said out of the FV document, except for the Deuteronomy quotation.”

    Actually, that is exactly what I got out of the FV statement, as seen in my comment here:
    https://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2007/08/07/decrees-and-covenant/#comment-25720

  9. Mark T. said,

    August 8, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Perhaps Wilson’s constant clamoring that the anti-FVers either misrepresent the FVers or else they don’t understand the FVers exemplifies the FV proponents’ expressed desire “to be teachable, willing to stand corrected, or to refine our formulations as critics point out ambiguties [sic], confusions, or errors.”

    Furthermore, Wilson’s wordy, wandering response that appears to land nowhere, though it successfully muddies the water, exemplifies his expressed opposition to presenting “a ‘moving target.’”

    And the irony of the FVer’s joint statement lies in the final sentence of their introduction: “This statement is therefore not an attempt at evasion or trickery, but simply represents a desire to be as clear as we can be, given our circumstances.” Sure thing, guys.

    What is a perfect example of one hand taking away what the other hand offered.

  10. August 8, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    Lane, when a straying church member is warned about his life, and he says, “I can’t repent because God has not chosen me,” the decrees (wrongly understood) are being used to trump the covenant. Less obvious, when a preacher of the gospel says, “If you are elect, it will be possible for you to repent, even tonight,” the decrees are trumping the covenant. It makes people think of their categorization of elect/non-elect in the first place, which is not something they can know or figure out in that setting. Perseverance of the saints means that we make our calling and election sure (to ourselves in the presence of others) over time. People try to make the decrees the major premise in their syllogism all the time — they do this just when the fact of election is asserted, and wise pastors know how to counter it. But if the pastor himself is causing the problems by the way he begins an evangelistic appeal (let’s say) with a statement about election, this means that the decrees are being used to trump the language of the covenant. And as your citation of the FV shows, what we meant by trump was clear in our use of phrases like “using the same language,” “as we describe,” “‘pretend’ language,” “language and terminology,” and “language of the decrees.” Plainly, we were saying that the decrees trump the covenant, when that happens, through our ways of talking about it. The decrees obviously are not set against the covenant in substance. How could they be? From God’s perspective, they harmonize perfectly. From our perspective we have a perfectly unnecessary wrangle over the relationship between the two.

  11. R. F. White said,

    August 8, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Lane, you ask, “How is denying that the decrees trump the covenant equal to saying that we should warn the people?” Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t think this needs to present a problem. It’s equal because we minister according to what God has made publicly available (covenantally revealed warnings and promises), not according to what He has kept secret (decrees). I don’t believe he means to deny that the decrees of God are effectuated through the covenantal revelation of God. That said, for me, the more serious problem is the FV analysis of the distinction between decretal language and covenantal language. The seeds of difficulty show up when we realize that that which is decretal is, by nature, unchangeable [absolutist], and that which covenantal is changeable [conditionalist].

  12. Robert K. said,

    August 8, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    >Lane, when a straying church member is warned about his life, and he says, “I can’t repent because God has not chosen me,” the decrees (wrongly understood) are being used to trump the covenant. Less obvious, when a preacher of the gospel says, “If you are elect, it will be possible for you to repent, even tonight,”

    Who are these people that say these things, other than straw men in the arguments of proud unregenerate concocters of man-centered doctrine?

  13. Grover Gunn said,

    August 8, 2007 at 10:02 pm

    #4

    I appreciate the kind and encouraging words. Thank you.

    BOQ
    This, however, is a good bit different from saying that there are senses in which we can speak of NECMs as shaing in ordo-type common graces without sharing in the true and uncommon graces reserved only for the elect.
    EOQ

    I could agree with you were it not for the inclusion of the word “ordo-type.” Here are my reasons:

    First, the ordo salutis is a chain made with unbreakable links that stretches from eternity past to eternity future . A common grace link would not be an unbreakable link.

    Romans 8:30-39
    30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
    31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
    32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
    33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
    34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
    35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
    36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
    37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
    38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
    39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    Second, we need to distinguish between possessing the promise and receiving the thing promised. All in the visible church possess the promise of the covenant, but only those who meet the obligations of the covenant ever receive the salvation promised. The obligations of the covenant are faith and faith’s necessary fruits, repentance and new obedience. True saving faith is always persevering faith. A person can possess the promise temporarily, but those who receive the salvation promised possess it forever.

    Possessing the promise of the covenant is a genuine privilege and benefit given by God in sincerity. To forfeit the promise of the covenant is a great tragedy for which the broken off branch and not God is to blame.

    Romams 3:3-4a
    3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?
    4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  14. August 8, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    RobertK, surely anyone who, from your distance, can see whether or not I am regenerate would be up to the trifle of identifying one the elect while in the same room. You asked who would say such a thing. You do, with some regularity.

  15. tim prussic said,

    August 8, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    Pastor Wilson, you don’t know who you messin’ wit’.

  16. Robert K. said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:10 am

    >”RobertK, surely anyone who, from your distance, can see whether or not I am regenerate would be up to the trifle of identifying one the elect while in the same room. You asked who would say such a thing. You do, with some regularity.”

    The demand for paint-by-numbers, man-in-control regeneration is a demand made by the proud unregenerate. Your entire theology is a negotiating down of biblical doctrine to accomodate the proud, man-fearing, man-centered unregenerate. Your very cluelessness as to what Reformed Theology is and inability to grasp the power of Reformed Theology and your willingness to bring the lowest, most inane level of secular-arena sophistical rhetoric to the subject of biblical doctrine as elucidated at the serious level Reformed Theology elucidates it demonstrates the low valuation for such doctrine the unregenerate possess. And of course the proud and resentful unregenerate, actively in rebellion to God, demanding God’s truth and God’s plan be put in your control, are constantly throwing canards and straw men about such as accusing Calvinists of pointing their fingers at people and pronouncing them, or insinuating they are able to pronounce them, elect or reprobate. The subject itself is one you resent and mock. That you are currently unregenerate doesn’t mean you can’t some day find yourself humbling yourself to the Word of God and to the Holy Spirit and the Father Himself. Currently, by your own actions and words you are not there.

  17. Christopher said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:18 am

    What’s your last name, Robert?

  18. Robert K. said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:25 am

    What makes Wilson more worthy of the comments I’ve written above, more so than the average confused Christian, is Wilson is not only Romanist-level in his spiritual pride, but he is playing a fifth column game with Calvinist/Reformed doctrine, and very, very actively attempting to define it down and into nothingness. He knows where the truth resides. He’s not the average innocent confused Christian who has bad doctrine.

  19. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:25 am

    bobby, hold yer horses!

    You managed to condemn pastor Wilson for “accusing Calvinists of pointing their fingers at people and pronouncing them, or insinuating they are able to pronounce them, elect or reprobate.” Then you went on to prove his case by saying, “That you are currently unregenerate doesn’t mean you can’t…”

    That’s just little embarrassing, I’m sorry to say.

  20. Robert K. said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:51 am

    Except that you conveniantly missed the lesson to Wilson that currently unregenerate doesn’t mean reprobate.

    Yes, it’s bad form on Reformed sites to even mention regeneration let alone identify somebody by their words and actions as unregenerate, but FV is really defined by the subject of regeneration. They ultimately justify their enterprise with tales of poor Christians engaging in desperate introspective vigils hand-wringing over whether they are born again or not, effectually called or not, regenerated or not. Who these Christians are they never say. The fact is the unregenerate don’t care if they are regenerate or not, and the regenerate don’t care to base a man-centered novel system of doctrine accomodating their current state and call it by historic names and appropriate theologians of the past to their camp.

  21. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:54 am

    Is regeneration any more visible, of itself, than election? It’s back to your goggles.. where do rest of us get set? I mean, we’re just left with our Bibles and the sessions of our churches, but you seem to have a shortcut. Are they available at the Fundi-Baptist bookstore?

  22. Robert K. said,

    August 9, 2007 at 1:05 am

    >”Is regeneration any more visible, of itself, than election? It’s back to your goggles..”

    No, to say someone is unregenerate is not to damn them to hell. Currently unregenerate is not the same as reprobate.

    As for seeing the unregenerate nature in a person like Wilson and other FV promoters: false teachers put themselves in unique profile. God singles them out as well.

  23. Alexei Rayu said,

    August 9, 2007 at 2:00 am

    Robert, your statement is in direct violation of Mt 5:21ff. Your accusation against Mr. Wilson and others is assumptious and slanderous. Our Lord has stronly warned His discipes that calling a brother “an ampty person”, which in their culture was a way of saying “an infidel”, is a serious crime punishable by the capital punishment. See lest you so dressed up would not appear naked.

  24. Robert K. said,

    August 9, 2007 at 2:18 am

    >”Robert, your statement is in direct violation of Mt 5:21ff. Your accusation against Mr. Wilson and others is assumptious and slanderous. Our Lord has stronly warned His discipes that calling a brother “an ampty person”, which in their culture was a way of saying “an infidel”, is a serious crime punishable by the capital punishment. See lest you so dressed up would not appear naked.”

    Alexei, I hope Federal Vision leaders aren’t teaching you that their critics should be given capital punishment. Though that they come from the Theonomy cult it wouldn’t surprise me. It means about as much to this Christian as the average jihadist wagging his finger and saying allah will destroy me.

  25. August 9, 2007 at 7:24 am

    The only people who I have come in contact with who go around asking the kind of question that Doug Wilson posed in his opening remark in # 10 are people who have come under the influence of the Federal Vision. This is to be expected after they are told things like, ” The elect are those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. If they later reject the Savior, they are no longer elect-they are cut off from the Elect One and thus, lose their elect standing prior to their apostacy. They were really and truly the elect of God because of thei relationship with Christ.” and “All in covenant are given all that is true of Christ. If they persereve in faith to the end, they enjoy these mercies etrenally. If they fall away in unbelief, they lose these blessings and recieve a greater condemnation than Sodom and Gomorrah. Covenant can be broken by unbelief and rebellion, but until it is, those in covenant with God belong to Him and are his.” (Steve Wilkins, in ‘The Federal Vision’. pp.58,60). The clear implication here is that perseverance is now demanded as the sine qua non condition for final justification. As such justification is now contingent upon obedience and perservance and , pastorally speaking, this ends up driving people ( like those described in Q.81 of the Wesminster Larger Catechism) into utter despair.

  26. Evan said,

    August 9, 2007 at 8:23 am

    I have seen not a few people that fit exactly what pastor Wilson describes in #10. In fact I was one of those people who preached the gospel with election at the forefront when I first became a calvinist. Though I wouldn’t say I subscribe to all things FV I do believe that a good deal of their points are helpful, especially this point about God’s decrees not trumping the covenant. If one takes that to mean that they are saying that God’s decrees can be thwarted then they should probably read a little closer.

  27. jared said,

    August 9, 2007 at 8:43 am

    G.L.W. Johnson,

    I don’t know too many people who would actually ask the question word-for-word that Wilson posits, but you know exactly what type of people he’s talking about. I don’t think FV is demanding perseverance “as the sine qua non condition for final justification” as much as FV is pointing out that those with genuine faith will persevere. What gets you final jusitification is still faith and the work of Jesus in death, resurrection and ascension. Or, to put it another way, what gets you final justification is God’s eternal decree in which the elect is given genuine faith, a faith that perseveres. I really, really don’t understand what is so complicated an non-Reformed about this setup. If you persevere to the end you receive final justification not because you persevered but because of what Jesus has done. If you don’t persevere, well, then you don’t get final justification because your faith was not genuine as evidenced by the fact of your falling away. You aren’t condemned for your lack of perseverance, you are condemned for your lack of genuine faith and the absence of Jesus’ imputed righteousness. So, justification is still contingent upon faith alone and one of the results of that faith on this side of heaven is perseverance. What’s the big deal? Again, it isn’t the perseverance that justifies, it’s the faith; perseverance is simply an indicator (to the possessor and those around him/her) of genuine faith.

    Robert K.,

    You put on a fantastic show, far better than Wilson & Co.

  28. August 9, 2007 at 8:47 am

    Jared
    Knowledgable Arminians could wholeheartedly subscribe to what Wilkins said.This is NOT Reformed theology as expressed in either the WFC or the Three Forms of Unity.

  29. August 9, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Doug,

    RE #10:

    When you say “trump the covenant,” to what covenant are you refering? I think that being clear on that definition would go a long way to clearing up any misunderstandings.

  30. jared said,

    August 9, 2007 at 9:23 am

    G.L.W. Johnson,

    That isn’t really helpful; knowledgable Arminians aren’t being accused of heresy and of preaching a different gospel and of being false teachers. Also, what is disagreeble in what I wrote? What is Arminian in what I wrote? I’m not, here, agreeing with Wilkins (I haven’t yet read the book so I don’t know the context of your quotes), rather I’m putting forth my understanding of FV on this particular point. Am I, like so many FVists claim, misunderstanding their position here or is it possible that some FVists actually understand things this way?

  31. greenbaggins said,

    August 9, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Dr. White, I agree with what you say. I’m just unsure of how the FV could expect us to get that out of what they said. They obviously mean that the warnings apply to people truly in the covenantal sense. They have always said this. But that statement is not equal to saying that the decrees should not trump the covenant. The latter statement is far broader in scope. I’m just saying that the “trump” statement is vague, and it is too broad in scope to be all that helpful.

  32. August 9, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Jared
    For those sympathetic to the concerns of the FV, statements like the ones I cited by Wilkins are a bit unnerving as is this one by Rich Lusk, ” In Zech.3 we have a prophetic narrative of Joshua being clothed in white so he can stand in the Lord’s presence. On the one hand, the white robe is a gift of grace. Joshua is stripped of his filthy garments, symbolizing his sin, and given the clothes of another(3:1-5). On the other hand, this gift is not given apart from the requirments of obedience. Joshua can only continue to stand in the Lord’s presence if he obeys the Lord.” Wanting very much to see the FV vendicated , you naturally put the best spin possible on statements like these.But it is very difficult not to conclude that in addition to ‘faith’ another condition is now required for final justification. This is a denial of ‘sola fide’. Look carefully at what is being said by Lusk-“on the one hand’ and “on the other hand”. You can protest all you want about how we “misunderstand” what the FV are saying, but from my vantage point it is you who are guilty of misunderstanding what is being said by the FV.

  33. R. F. White said,

    August 9, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Lane, I agree with you: the FV statement did, at that point, trump effective communication. The Joint statement is not as clear as DW’s.

  34. Dean Bekkering said,

    August 9, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Jared

    Lusk again:
    “The initial clothing in white is received by faith alone. This is the beginning of Joshua’s justification. But if Joshua is to remain justified — that is, if the garments he has received are not to become re-soiled with his iniquity — he must be faithful. Thus, initial justification is by faith alone; subsequent justifications include obedience.”

    Remain justified how?

    Dean B

  35. August 9, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Yeah, unless there is something in the context of Lusk’s remarks there quotes that shows that this obedience is completely through faith and is completely a gift of God, I would agree with FV critics that he is denying sola fide. (And I’m not sure who he could do that). Very troublesome.

    It is clear that Rev. Wilson is not doing that, though. But I agree with Rev. Keister’s point in an earlier comment thread, it would be good if Rev. Wilson would disavow Lusk’s comments cited here in #32 and #34.

  36. greenbaggins said,

    August 9, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Dean, where is that Lusk quotation from? It would be nice to get the context.

  37. August 9, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Ugh – typo nightmare. Please scratch #35. Let me try again:

    Yeah, unless there is something in the context of Lusk’s remarks here quoted that shows that this obedience he speaks of is completely through faith and is completely a gift of God, I would agree with FV critics that he is denying sola fide. (And I’m not sure how he could do that). Very troublesome.

    It is clear that Rev. Wilson is not doing that, though. But I agree with Rev. Keister’s point in an earlier comment thread, it would be good if Rev. Wilson would disavow Lusk’s comments cited here in #32 and #34.

  38. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 10:56 am

    One thing at play here, as I see it, is the confusion of forensic justification with other parts of salvation, including glorification and the final/eschatological justification. Forensic justification is not the same as final justification. All of salvation is received in faith, but NOT exactly as justification is – sola fide guards the doctrine of forensic justification specifically. Faith is the alone instrument of justification, but is not such with sanctification and glorification. All parts of salvation are by faith, but not all in the same way. E.g., in our sanctification by God’s grace and in faith we WORK. That work is part of our sanctification. Such is absolutely not the case with forensic justification.

    Now, when we speak of God’s public vindication in the last day (final justification, if you will), is that justification the exact same as the forensic one on the day of our conversion, that is, at the very hour we first believe? NO! It’s the public vindication of ALL of God’s work in that particular sheep from his initial justification to the point of the final justification. I don’t think it’s difficult to show from Scripture that God’s final declaration of vindication includes the good works of the saints (the works that God [graciously] prepared ahead of time that we should [in faith] walk [that’s right, works here!] in them). I think that notion is not only Scriptural, but it’s also to be found in the Reformed symbols.
    Am I way off here?

  39. August 9, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Eric
    Doug Wilson will do no such thing. I wrote him shortly after the Knox meeting and urged him to distance himself from the other Federal Visionists like Lusk, but he refused. He is loyal to a fault. He acknowledged on the WhiteHorse Inn that these men were his personal friends and even though he might disagree with them on this or that point, the disagreements were not considered serious.Candidly, I now wonder if his disagreements with Wilkins and Lusk are really all that substantive- it maybe the old ‘good cop ,bad cop’ routine.

  40. August 9, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Tim
    Again, you are reading Wilkins and Lusk with rose colored glasses- what you said and what they said are not the the same thing. The confusion exists because they are talking about ‘faith’ as ‘faithful obedience’ and as such ‘works’ now become an addition instrument or condition of justification, and ,this coupled with their idiosyncratic doctrine of baptism serving as the immediate means of bring able a salvific union with Christ, chaos now abounds.

  41. Dean Bekkering said,

    August 9, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Lane

    I quoted the next paragraph from Pastor Johnson’s previous quote.

    Found here:
    http://www.hornes.org/theologia/rich-lusk/future-justification-to-the-doers-of-the-law

    Dean B

  42. August 9, 2007 at 11:11 am

    I have a few thoughts on Hebrews 10 here

  43. August 9, 2007 at 11:20 am

    David H.
    After jumping over and reading you brief comments on the English text of Heb.10,I would refer you to Roger Nicole’s essay, “Some Comments on Hebrews 6:4-6 and the Doctrine of the Perserance Of God with the Saints” .Nicole also interacts with the passage in Heb.10. This is in’Current Issues In Biblical and Patristic Interpretation: Studies in Honor of Merrill C. Tenny Presented by His Former Students’, ed. G.F. Hawthorne (Eerdmans, 1975) pp.355-364

  44. August 9, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Dean,

    Thank you for providing the source of your quotes. I’ve now read Lusk’s full article, and though I need to think through it much more, Lusk may be wrong on his points, but it does seem that he is conscientiously upholding sola fide and the security of the beleivers salvation through faith alone in Christ’s finished work alone – at least in this paper. The keay passage seems to me to be the following:

    The only places where God enforces strict justice are the cross and hell. For the covenant people, at least, it seems God will use “fatherly justice” in the final judgment, not “absolute justice.” He will judge us the way parents evaluate their child’s art work, or the way a new husband assesses the dinner his beloved wife has made. The standard will be soft and generous because God is merciful. Our works will not have merit before God, but they will have worth precisely because of the covenant relationship we are in. (Again, compare this notion to those passages in Scripture which claim a particular saint is righteous, or has kept the law, or has done good, e.g., Jn. 5:29, Lk. 1:6, Ps. 7:8, Acts 13:22,etc. These examples show the kind of “soft” evaluation God makes of his people — and the kind of evaluation they should make of themselves and other covenant members. Remember, even David, for all his sin and folly, is regarded as a doer of the law in the Rom. 2:13 sense; cf. 1 Ki. 15:5.)

    This is why judgment according to works is not something that undermines Christian confidence. We can have assurance because we are in Christ, and the Father will not evaluate us apart from him. Union with Christ and familial love form the lens through which the Father looks upon us and our works. We are appraised as sons and daughters, not as servants or slaves.

    Again, he may be wrong re: what he is teaching (I need to mull and study further), but it does seem that, here at least, he is not undermining sola fide. He is merely asserting that God is not an egalitarian.

  45. August 9, 2007 at 11:30 am

    Mr Johnson,

    Thanks for the recommendation.

  46. August 9, 2007 at 11:31 am

    Sorry — just saw that should have been Dr. Johnson. :)

  47. Vern Crisler said,

    August 9, 2007 at 11:33 am

    #13, Grover Gunn said:
    Second, we need to distinguish between possessing the promise and receiving the thing promised. All in the visible church possess the promise of the covenant, but only those who meet the obligations of the covenant ever receive the salvation promised. The obligations of the covenant are faith and faith’s necessary fruits, repentance and new obedience. True saving faith is always persevering faith. A person can possess the promise temporarily, but those who receive the salvation promised possess it forever.

    Possessing the promise of the covenant is a genuine privilege and benefit given by God in sincerity. To forfeit the promise of the covenant is a great tragedy for which the broken off branch and not God is to blame.
    ——————

    How can one merely receive the promise of the covenant of grace without at the same time receiving the grace promised? The COG is made with the elect exclusively.

    Moreover, it’s those who have received salvation who meet the conditions of the covenant (sanctification), not the other way around. Warfield 101 I think.

    Vern

  48. August 9, 2007 at 11:47 am

    DH
    Actually, my D.Theol. diss.for the Univ. Of South Africa is just now in its final stages. I will be submitting the wretched thing to Dr.John Bolt, my proctor from Calvin seminary this Fall.

  49. Dean Bekkering said,

    August 9, 2007 at 11:49 am

    Eric

    I agree with you that his article is not teaching obedience will justify in some rank Arminian form.

    However, the problem with FVists is that in teaching their unique twist they collide with the language of historic theology. They don’t seem to care much that they do collide because they are merely emphasize a different point. When they trample historic theology they want us to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them to continue to confuse the Reformed community.

    When someone else comes along and emphasizes a point that Reformed theology has “missed” in John 3:16, should we sit by and let them destroy language of limited atonement also?

    Dean B

  50. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Far from destroying the doctrine of the limited atonement, a close examination of John 3:16 will establish it. We shouldn’t ever be scared of solid exegesis – it will only BETTER our derived dogmatics.

  51. August 9, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Dean,

    Well, it seems to me that the church will always be growing in depth of understanding, and will always be reforming. “Discovering” or pointing out another aspect or application of a particular biblical passage is not in and of itself a undermining or contradiction of the first and more essential point.

    Further, why is it that you can agree that this here is a language issue, and then take from that they are undermining the main substance of Reformed theology? I for one try to read through the writer’s eyes, understanding what they mean in their use of terms, for instance, ass a prism through which to understand what they mean through each part of their writings. Now, that they suggest that there are additional biblical uses of certain words may be confusing at first for those who don’t bother to understand their perspective, and thus may not be the most prudent approach for them to take. But note that there are all sorts of words in the English language that have multiple and differing meanings, so this shouldn’t be such a foreign thing to us.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the critics of FV seem to think that the FV teaching is an either/or proposition, so that these critic interpret any “additional” application as a replacement for the first. I understand the FV to be taking an “and more” approach, rather. To the extent that I have read them, they seem to be holding to the essentials of the Reformed faith, but are also now discussing applications of the scripture and covenant that have been forgotten or long de-emphasized to the poverty of the present-day church.

    I may very well be wrong here, but that is how I read it.

  52. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Did Eric say “ass a prism”?

  53. August 9, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I did. <>

    Some typos are worse than others, and that one just plain stinks. ;)

  54. greenbaggins said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I’m sure he meant “as a prism.”

  55. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    LOL – Eric, nice. Pastor, where’s your humor? Sheesh, tomorrow’s Friday, here people!

  56. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Anyway, ass used as a verb is a new one for me. It reminds me of the verb “smurf.”

  57. greenbaggins said,

    August 9, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    I laughed, Tim. Look at the respective times of the two comments 53 and 54.

  58. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    You’re safe… tie goes to the pastor!

  59. Grover Gunn said,

    August 9, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    #47 asked the following question:

    BOQ
    How can one merely receive the promise of the covenant of grace without at the same time receiving the grace promised? The COG is made with the elect exclusively.
    EOQ

    That is an excellent question. The PCA study paper refers to the dual aspects of the covenant of grace:

    BOQ
    Furthermore, some FV writers have also denied that the covenant can be viewed from two different aspects.
    page 2230, lines 27-28
    EOQ

    The WS refer to the covenant of grace from the broad perspective in WLC Q. 116 when it says that the covenant children, not all of whom are elect, are “in that respect within the covenant.”

    Also, I would recommend the following article by Dr. R. Scott Clark:

    http://www.cpjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/cpj2-clark-partial.pdf

    See page 3, the third paragraph, which begins with the words, “In Reformed theology, these passages and others like them have been understood to make a distinction between those who are members of the covenant of grace outwardly and …”

    See also Berkhof’s ST, pages 284-289 on “The Dual Aspect of the Covenant.” See also _The Covenant of Grace_ by William Hendriksen, pages 47-53 on “The Members of the Covenant.” Here is a relevant quotation from Turretin, v.2, page 207:

    “… [The Reformed] think that the covenant may be regarded in two ways: either as to internal essence; or as to external dispensation. The former
    answers to the internal calling and the invisible church of the elect (which is constituted by it). The latter, however, answers to the external calling
    and the visible church of the called.”

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  60. Grover Gunn said,

    August 9, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    I said, “… only those who meet the obligations of the covenant ever receive the salvation promised.” In response, #47 said:

    BOQ
    Moreover, it’s those who have received salvation who meet the conditions of the covenant (sanctification), not the other way around. Warfield 101 I think
    EOQ

    There is nothing inappropriate about saying that only those who believe with a saving faith will be saved. That is true with the qualification that the elect who die before the age of discretion do not meet the obligations of the covenant in this life.

    The concept of the obligations of the covenant is found in the PCA BCO:

    BOQ
    When [children of believing parents] have reached the age of discretion, they become subject to obligations of the covenant: faith, repentance and obedience. They then make public confession of their faith in Christ, or become covenant breakers, and subject to the discipline of the Church.
    EOQ

    We are saved through faith alone, but saving faith always bears certain fruit. Thus the obligations of the covenant are faith and its necessary fruit, repentance and obedience.

    WCF 11.2
    Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.

    All who meet the obligations of the covenant are saved, and all who are saved meet the obligations of the covenant. Both are true.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  61. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Mr. Gunn, is not the “visible church of the called,” to access the lingo of the mighty Turretin, the communion of the elect, regernerated, adopted, justified, sanctified and glorified in Christ? My ordo-type blessings comment above was intended to communicate that non-elect covenant members (NECMs) share in common grace blessings as they are covenantally united to Christ and his body. These common grace blessings may appear and, to some small extent, function like the true ordo blessings. Thus, NECMs were sanctified (called out of the world and into covenant fellowship with Christ), but they trampled it under their feet. They outwardly but hypocritically share in the ordo blessings as they’re united to the ordo-blessed body of Christ. They NEVER inwardly lay hold of those blessings. Their participation in Christ is merely covenantal and external, and they are cursed all the more for the mockery. The true reception of the covenant blessings can only occur through faith, which only the elect receive. Thus, true and saving union with Christ is given only to the elect and the NECMs never have it; they only common graces that may have the appearance of true ordo graces.

  62. Robert K. said,

    August 9, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    >”is not the “visible church of the called,” to access the lingo of the mighty Turretin, the communion of the elect, regernerated, adopted, justified, sanctified and glorified in Christ?”

    Effectually called and externally called are two different things. You should know this. If you do and still wrote the above shame on you.

  63. pduggan said,

    August 9, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    “We are saved through faith alone, but saving faith always bears certain fruit. Thus the obligations of the covenant are faith and its necessary fruit, repentance and obedience.”

    But babies aren’t saved through faith alone?

  64. Grover Gunn said,

    August 9, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    #61
    Tim asked,

    BOQ
    Mr. Gunn, is not the “visible church of the called,” to access the lingo of the mighty Turretin, the communion of the elect, regernerated, adopted, justified, sanctified and glorified in Christ?
    EOQ

    Thank you, Tim, for that excellent question. Before I address it, let me encourage everyone to read the chapter in Berkhof’s _Systematic Theology_, The Dual Aspect of the Covenant, pp. 284-289. Let me summarize point IV.E.3. Unregenerate in the Covenant:

    BOQ
    a. They are in the covenant as far as their responsibility is concerned. …
    b. They are in the covenant in the sense that they may lay claim to the promises which God gave when He established the covenant with believers and their seed. Paul even says of his wicked kinsmen, “whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises,” Rom. 9:4 …
    c. They are in the covenant in the sense that they are subject to the ministrations of the covenant. …
    d. They are in the covenant also as far as the common covenant blessings are concerned. Though they do not experience the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit, yet they are subject to certain special operations and influences of the Holy Spirit. …
    EOQ

    I will try to answer your question a little later. I need a cup of tea right now.

    May God bless!
    Grover

  65. Grover Gunn said,

    August 9, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    #63 asks, “But babies aren’t saved through faith alone?”

    You probably wrote this before you saw my #60, which included the following:

    BOQ
    There is nothing inappropriate about saying that only those who believe with a saving faith will be saved. That is true with the qualification that the elect who die before the age of discretion do not meet the obligations of the covenant in this life.
    EOQ

    Now for that cup of tea.

    Grover

  66. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    I hope the tea treats you well, Grover!

    What I’m getting at would be covered in letter D of the Berkhof quotation. Even his language of “certain special operations and influences of the Holy Spirit” is a bit cheeky and would have not a few breathing into paper bags!

  67. Grover Gunn said,

    August 9, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Thank you, Tim. The tea was invigorating.

    My initial response to the first sentence of your question in #61 was that you had misinterpreted the Turretin quotation. Then I realized that you didn’t say you were interpreting it, only using its language to express your own point which was made clear in the rest of your comment.

    You have added many helpful qualifications in this explanation of your position. Yet I still don’t think it is wise to refer to a special grace regeneration and a common grace regeneration or to a special grace justification and a common grace justification. I think such language is confusing, and I don’t know of a biblical basis for it.

    Paul wrote to those at Rome whom he referred to as the beloved of God called to be saints. He thus addressed each of them as the Christian each person professed to be. Then in Romans 8:9, Paul said that those to whom he was writing were not in the flesh but in the Spirit, and then he made a qualification. He didn’t say that everyone in the church without exception was “not in the flesh but in the Spirit” with the qualification that only some would persevere in this condition. He said they were not in the flesh but in the Spirit “if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

    So here is one example. I can’t say that everyone in the visible church without exception is not in the flesh but in the Spirit. This is true only of the regenerate in the visible church. I believe that this same basic pattern also holds for the justification mentioned in Romans 8:30, the ordo salutis passage. Paul there says that all who are justified will be glorified. If everyone in the visible church without exception has a Romans 8:30 justification, then everyone in the visible church without exception is going to be glorified.

    Romans 8:30 also mentions calling. The same word is also used in Scripture to refer to all who hear the gospel. Some who are called in that sense are never even members of the visible church. Here is a case where the same word in the Bible can be used in reference to different theological concepts. So instead of saying that everyone in the visible church is called with the same calling with only the elect persevering in that calling, we should say that everyone in the visible church is called with an external calling but only the regenerate in the visible church have been called with an efficacious internal calling.

    We could analyze other words relating to salvation and discuss the word’s meaning as a theological term and the various meanings of the word in the NT in various contexts. For example, the word _sanctify_ and its cognates can refer to the covenant child’s membership in the visible church or to the Spirit’s progressive work of deliverance from sin in the regenerate heart or perhaps even to the legal concept of justification.

    The major point, however, is that not everyone in the visible church has the same salvation with the difference between the elect and non-elect being that only the elect will perservere in that salvation. No, the non-elect never have the same salvation, even temporarily, which the elect possess. I think we agree on that point.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  68. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Indeed, we agree on that point!

    My schtick is just that I see Scripture addressing the collected people of God as the elect of God, as the holy ones, as the dwelling place of the Spirit (that is, the Temple), and so on. I think that the writers of Scripture are not just working with a judgment of charity (though certainly that), but within the covenant, the language of which applies such things of its members (remember, both blessings AND curses).

    I, too, am not real comfortable about speaking of the common grace of justification and the special grace of justification. I’d rather speak of the called-out, covenantally-sanctified people of God AS the elect, regererate, justified… people. In order to keep balance, I try to be clear that, head for head, these covenantal labels may not prove true (however, let God be true and every man a liar). I affirm the special grace of the ordo blessings are to the decretally elect and them only. The eternal decree of election cuts across covenant, but I think we must speak in terms of covenant none the less.

    Do you see where I’m coming from? I don’t think it’s confusing, unless we’re trained only to think in terms of decretal theology. In my view, if that’s how we think, a lot of things are confusing. On the other hand, without the decretal theology, we’d be Pelagian – and that’s far worse than mere confusion!

    With love,
    Tim

  69. pduggie said,

    August 9, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    I’m asking why we need to make the qualification that babies *aren’t * saved through faith alone too.

  70. tim prussic said,

    August 9, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Our confession seems to hold that babies are given faith if they’re to be saved in infancy, just not through the ordinary means (Word and Sacrament, emphasis on the first).

  71. Grover Gunn said,

    August 9, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    #68

    Tim,

    There is a ditch on each side of the road. Christ was crucified between two theives. You can fall out of the saddle on either side of the horse. The point of all these illustrations is that the truth usually has an error on each side of it, each error taking part of the truth to an opposite extreme.

    In the point we are discussing, I think there are two ditches. In the ditch on one side of the road, people define the historical administration of the covenant in terms of election. Some teach that only the truly regenerate can have a valid baptism. Others teach that the non-regenerate can be baptized, but baptism is a sign and seal of the promise of the covenant only for the elect. Some teach that the promise of the covenant is addressed only to the elect among the covenant people.

    In the ditch on the other side of the road, people define election in terms of the historical administration of the covenant. If you are a part of the covenant people, you are elect, regenerate, justified, adopted, sanctified, but only as long as you remain in the covenant. Everyone in the visible church, head for head, possesses not only the promise of the covenant but the salvation promised.

    Now here is what I think is the center of the road. The elders try to administer the church not in terms of the decree of election but in terms of God’s revealed will. (The Holy Spirit does not share this human limitation. He works in hearts in terms of the decree of election.) The promise of the covenant belongs to everyone in the covenant community. Yet only those who meet the obligations of the covenant receive the promised salvation. (God enables the elect and only the elect to meet the obligations of the covenant.) The minister regularly exhorts all the covenant people to believe in Christ, to repent of sins, to obey God. Faith is not a one time act but a way of life. As you have received Christ, so walk in Him. The minister’s passion for all to fulfill the obligations of the covenant mirrors God’s desire for obedience rooted in His revealed will. The minister treats each one in the church as the Christian he professes to be. He treats the covenant children this way with the qualification that he doesn’t expect them to profess their faith or to take upon themselves certain responsibilities until they reach the point in their spiritual and mental development where they can do so meaningfully and responsibly. The minister also regularly challenges all the covenant people to examine themselves that they are indeed inwardly what they profess to be outwardly. When people meet the obligations of the covenant, the minister points them to God’s sovereign grace and exhorts them not to boast but to praise God. When people fail to meet the obligations of the covenant, the minister points them to their own responsibility. God has shined the light of the gospel message upon them. They have seen the power of the gospel at work in the church. They have perhaps themselves escaped for a season the pollutions of this world through the knowledge of the Lord. Yet now they are turning away from the light, and the responsibility is fully theirs. They love the darkness and don’t want to be delivered from their sins. God is genuinely and sincerely grieved by their disobedience, even though He ordains all that happens and will work their disobedience to the glory of His justice.

    That is what I consider to be the middle of the road.

    Allow me to add one more illustration. Good theology is threading a needle. It is truly threading a needle to give people both a sense of their corporate privilege (1 Peter 2:9) and a sense of their individual responsibility to meet the obligations of the covenant.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  72. Grover Gunn said,

    August 9, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    #69 says, “I’m asking why we need to make the qualification that babies *aren’t * saved through faith alone too.”

    Well, in the extreme case of an elect infant who dies only hours after conception, the child’s body at the time of death is a cluster of a few cells. Even if this child was regenerate from conception and therefore disposed toward believing, he dies before he has developed the facilities to do so. I think such a child can be elect, and I believe he will be saved and go to heaven even though he is guilty of Adam’s first sin. The PCA BCO talks about the age of discretion when a child becomes subject to the obligations of the covenant. The BCO also says, “The time when young persons come to understand the Gospel cannot be precisely fixed. This must be left to the prudence of the Session, whose office it is to judge, after careful examination, the qualifications of those who apply for admission to sealing ordinances.”

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  73. Vern Crisler said,

    August 9, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Grover Gunn said:
    “Yet only those who meet the obligations of the covenant receive the promised salvation.”

    Hmmm, perhaps the heart of the problem is with covenant theology itself. I think baptists have seen the dangers here more than presbyterians have. Presbyterians who have an overly strong covenant theology tend to think of both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant as external administrations, with members being required to meet the obligations of each covenant in order to stay in the covenants. Theonomy and FVism show the dangers that this can lead to. In fact, Jesus has already met all the conditions of the covenant, and we respond in love, not in servile fear of being thrown out of an external covenant, as were the Israelites. I realize I may be misinterpreting Grover, but given all the FVism that’s out there, it’s important to affirm the gracious of the New Covenant, and reject the legalism that seems to be a part of certain brands of covenantal thinking.

    Vern

  74. Grover Gunn said,

    August 9, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    #73

    Perhaps the problem is a confusion of the obligations of the covenant of grace with the conditions of the covenant of works.

    Jesus’ work has totally fulfilled all the conditions of the covenant of works for the elect. His finished sacrifice is the legal payment of the total penalty for every sin of the elect. His perfect obedience is the basis for the legal standing of perfect righteousness which is imputed to all the elect. These are conditions which Jesus fully met and which only Jesus can meet.

    Yet God has chosen to work through the instrumental means of faith in applying this salvation to the elect. Everyone who hears the gospel is responsible for responding to it with faith in Jesus. God enables the elect to meet this obligation by bringing the gospel message to them and by giving them an irresistible heart disposition to faith through passive regeneration. The elect’s meeting this obligation does not fulfill any of the conditions of the covenant of works. It is the instrumental means of their experiential union with Jesus, the one who meets the conditions of the covenant of works.

    There is an error that is an opposite extreme. Some teach that adults can be saved without meeting the obligations of the covenant of grace. I have a copy of a book that interprets the great multitude from every nation in Revelation 7 as “people from every religion who have been given the fear of God and who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” It says, “Primitive Baptists have known that God was able (and will) save people eternally, from every part of the earth, separate and apart from the gospel.” Well, yes, God can save apart from faith in the gospel. We believe this occurs in the case of elect infants who die before the age of discretion. Yet we also believe that God has chosen to work through the instrumental means of faith in the case of adults, and thus they must hear the gospel to be saved.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  75. pduggie said,

    August 9, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Thanks, Mr Gunn.

    I’ve followed enough in theology to know that the “Disposition to believe” that elect infants have is sometimes called the “root” or “seed’ of an unactualized faith. it isn’t non-faith, but faith that has not yet acted.

    That seems to be the consensus of one school of thought on the matter that I’ve found helpful. It has the happy result of allowing us to always say “sola fide” instead of “sola fide” for those who are obligated to meet the condition of fide.

    So that’s what I was trying to get at. Thanks.

  76. Vern Crisler said,

    August 10, 2007 at 12:52 am

    re:
    “obligations of the covenant of grace.”

    There it is again. That phrase that seems to deny the covenant of grace while at the same time affirming it. As I understand it, the covenant of grace has no obligations, else it wouldn’t be a covenant of grace, but of works. Christians are under no obligations to do anything; they are never made perfect by the flesh. Christians are sanctified by their faith working through love (not through obligation). Again, given how FVists emphasize conditionalism, I think it’s very important for Reformational theologians to speak with care on this topic, not the way Shepherd does. Warfield’s *Perfectionism* is always useful to read in this context.
    Vern

  77. Sean Mahaffey said,

    August 10, 2007 at 1:24 am

    Vern, does the covenant of grace require us to repent and believe? love? trust?

  78. Sean Mahaffey said,

    August 10, 2007 at 1:31 am

    To all those who were dissin’ Lusk’s article and statements on justification and works: Greetings,

    “God has appointed a day, wherein He will judge the world, in righteousness, by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.”

    Does this teach a judgment of works or not?

  79. Sean Mahaffey said,

    August 10, 2007 at 1:33 am

    WCF’s proofs:
    2CO 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. ECC 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. ROM 2:16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. 14:10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. MAT 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

    Do these passages teach a judgment according to works or not?

  80. Sean Mahaffey said,

    August 10, 2007 at 2:00 am

    Believing in a judgment according to works is not a problem as long as:

    1.) We confess that we are sinners who deserve death and Hell forever.

    2.) We confess that there is nothing that we could ever do to wash away that sin, no good works that we could ever do to earn salvation.

    3.) We confess that the Father accepts us in Christ alone, because of Christ alone, through Christ alone. His blood alone washes away our sin.

    4.) We affirm that our good works are gifts. Our good works were predestined before the foundation of the world. Our good works were only done because the Holy Spirit gave us life, led us in truth, changed our heart and mind, strengthened us ,preserved us, motivated us, animated us, etc. In other words our good works are HIS works through us.

    Instead of asking “Do we do anything to contribute to our salvation?” the proper question is “Does the Holy Spirit do anything to contribute to our salvation?” Yes He gives us faith, repentance, and good works.

    On judgment day everything evil that a Christian has ever done will be washed away in Christ because of His shed blood. On judgment day every good thing that a Christian has done will be accepted, blessed and rewarded because of the power, grace and purity of the Holy Spirit. The Father will not condemn us because when He looks at us He will see His Son and His Spirit.

    Blessings,
    Mahaffey

  81. greenbaggins said,

    August 10, 2007 at 9:29 am

    The judgment on the final day is exactly the same kind of “justification” that James is talking about. It is an evidentiary justification, not the declaration that we are right with God. In this life, when God brings us to faith, we are justified. Period. We are never more justified than we are right now. What happens on the final day is that God shows the world to be wrong in its estimation of Christians. The world doesn’t think that we can be right with God. So God shows the world the works that Christians have done and says, “See, world, they *were* truly justified.” These works have ******NOTHING******* to do with our standing before God. Rather, it is the open acquittal that the WS speak of. It is our vindication in the eyes of the world of which this “justification” speaks.

  82. Vern Crisler said,

    August 10, 2007 at 10:05 am

    #77
    Sean, the covenant of grace doesn’t “require” anything else it would be a covenant of requirement rather than of grace.

    Our sanctification is in terms of grateful response, not of servile meeting of requirements. We are not made perfect by the flesh, or by requirement.

    Vern

  83. jared said,

    August 10, 2007 at 10:09 am

    Lane,

    What hapens when God goes to show the world the works that Christians have done and the Christian hasn’t done any? FV, as I understand it, is speaking to this area. Works are the necessary fruit of genuine faith: no works, no faith, no justification. The problem that FV addresses, here, is that “faith alone” is true if (and only if) that faith is genuine. How can we tell if faith is genuine or not? Well, it perseveres and it produces fruit. How is this the same as saying the perseverance and the works net justification? I think FV’s criticism of TR on this point is right on; TR is so hopped up on “faith alone” that it’s forgetting what faith is. From my perspective TR and FV are both right: it is faith alone and it is a faith that perseveres and works. No reason for barking at one another on this point.

  84. greenbaggins said,

    August 10, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Jared, you are supposing a situation that quite simply doesn’t exist. God never justifies without also (though *not* in the same act) sanctifying. There is no such thing as a Christian who will not have good works to show on Judgment Day. No TR would say any different. So you are rejecting a complete straw man. The problem here is the place of works in relation to our definitive, declaritive justification. They play no part whatsoever in it.

  85. jared said,

    August 10, 2007 at 10:48 am

    Lane,

    I agree with you. God never justifies without also sanctifying and there will be no work-less Christians on judgment day unless we define “Christian” as broadly refering to anyone properly baptised (they will be the one’s who say “Lord, Lord”). So what’s the problem between FV and TR again? FV says sola fide, TR says sola fide. FV says genuine faith (i.e. justified faith) comes with sanctification (e.g. perseverance and works), TR says “God never justifies without also sanctifying.” Am I missing something? I mean, I understand not all FVists are on the same page here, but how does that discount FV as a whole?

  86. tim prussic said,

    August 10, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Can’t we all just gettalong?

  87. Grover Gunn said,

    August 10, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Vern,

    Does God save any adults apart from their beleiving the gospel?
    When Paul said to the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” was the jailer under any obligation to obey? Would his not obeying the gospel have been a sin?
    Can a person be united to Christ in a faith relationship and not bear the fruit of repentance and new obedience?

    Answering no to these question is not legalism if

    1) you acknowledge that God enables the elect to believe in Christ by giving them an irresistible disposition toward faith through passive regeneration. Trusting in Christ is not something one does in the moral power of his fallen will apart from regeneration.

    2) you acknowledge that neither faith nor its fruits contribute anything to the legal righteousness of the justified nor meet any of the conditions of the coveant of works. Faith functions merely as the instrumental means of one’s experiential union with Christ. The fruits of faith are the inevitable result of that experiential union and thus evidence of its existence. Christ meets all the conditions of the covenant of works for those who believe in Him.

    Easy believism teaches that believing the gospel is an easy accomplishment which anyone can do without regenerating grace. Easy believism always teaches that repentance and obedience are optional fruits of faith, not necessary fruits of faith.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  88. August 10, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Jared
    With all due consideration for your numerous comments that have appeared on Lane’s Blog, your latest comment,# 85 is nothing short of breath taking in it incredulity. Based on your rather odd take on this debate, the study committees of the OPC and the PCA were a monumental waste of time. Seriously, you don’t see the enormous gulf that seperates the FV perspective from that being argued so ably by Lane?

  89. greenbaggins said,

    August 10, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Jared, I would say that there are those who affirm sola fide within the FV movement. But there are so many other issues that are problematic, such as the nature of baptism, the nature of what the non-elect has, and yes, some in the FV movement do deny sola fide.

  90. tim prussic said,

    August 10, 2007 at 11:35 am

    There are also problems in the TR “movement” (!) with the nature of baptism and the nature of what the non-elect has. Further, I discern problems with the view of children in covenant and the balance of promised blessings and threatened curses in the covenant. Certainly not all TRs have issues like these, but some certainly do. There may be others, but that’s what comes to mind currently.

  91. Grover Gunn said,

    August 10, 2007 at 11:44 am

    #85 “Am I missing something? I mean, I understand not all FVists are on the same page here, but how does that discount FV as a whole?”

    The 2007 GA recommended the nine declarations as a faithful exposition of the WS. Here is the ninth declaration:

    9. The view that justification is in any way based on our works, or that the so-called “final verdict of justification” is based on anything other than the perfect obedience and satisfaction of Christ received through faith alone, is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

    John Murray discusses judgment according to works on pp. 78-70 of volume 1 of his commentary on Romans. There is nothing there that contradicts the nine declarations. Here is what he says:

    BOQ
    In reference to the precise question, the judgment of believers, certain positions need to be set forth. (1) The distinction between judgment according to works and salvation on account of works needs to be fully appreciated. The latter is entirely contrary to the gospel Paul preached, is not implied in judgment according to works, and is that against which the burden of this epistle is directed. Paul does not even speak of judgment _on_ _account_ _of_ _works_ in reference to believers. (2) Believers are justified by faith _alone_ and they are saved by grace _alone_. But two qualifications need to be added to these propositions. (a) They are never justified by a faith that is alone. (b) In salvation we must not so emphasize grace that we overlook salvation itself. The concept of salvation involves what we are saved _to_ as well as what we are saved _from_. We are saved to holiness and good works (cf. Eph. 2:10). And holiness manifests itself in good works. (3) The judgment of God must have respect to the person in the full extent of his relationship and must therefore take into account the fruits in which salvation issues and which constitute the saved condition. It is not to faith or justification in abstraction that God’s judgment will have respect but to these in proper relationship to the sum-total of elements comprising the saved state. (4) The criterion of good works is the law of God and the law of God is not abrogated for the believer. He is not without law to God; he is under law to Christ (cf. I Cor. 9:21 and see comments on 6:14). The judgment of God would not be according to truth if good works of believers were ignored. (5) Good works as evidence of faith and of salvation by grace are therefore the criteria of judgment and to suppose that the principle “who will render to every man according to his works” (vs. 6), has no relevance to the believer would be to exclude good works from the indispensable place which they occupy in the biblical doctrine of salvation.
    EOQ

    Grover Gunn

  92. Grover Gunn said,

    August 10, 2007 at 11:46 am

    correction to #87

    I said, “Answering no to these question is not legalism if ..”

    I added some questions without editing this statement, questions whose proper answer is yes. I think everyone can figure out which questions should be answered no and which should be answered yes.

    Grover

  93. jared said,

    August 10, 2007 at 11:50 am

    G.L.W. Johnson,

    Am I mistaken to think that justification is “the big issue” regarding the FV? If there are those in the FV that are orthodox here then why deride the whole movement as teaching another gospel and as heresy?

    Lane,

    So, what of those who are sympathetic with the FV where the FV is right?

  94. greenbaggins said,

    August 10, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Justification is one issue among many. Otherwise, why would there be *nine* declarations in the PCA report? I see the nature of what the non-believer has to be the main point of contention. I see the non-believer as having no ordo salutic benefits of any kind. FV authors see them as having ordo salutis benefits in some sense (even if it is not the same sense as the elect have them).

  95. jared said,

    August 10, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Grover Gunn,

    I read the study report, several times and interacted with both the declarations and the recommendations on my blog. I don’t see FV as teaching only the particular view of justification found in that 9th declaration.

  96. Grover Gunn said,

    August 10, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    #93 said, “So, what of those who are sympathetic with the FV where the FV is right?”

    Is there any doctrine “where the FV is right” which is not also taught by many who do not view themselves as FV proponents and who accept all nine declarations as faithful expositions of the WS?

    Are there any FV proponents who accept all nine declarations as faithful expositions of the WS?

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  97. Grover Gunn said,

    August 10, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    #95 says, “I don’t see FV as teaching only the particular view of justification found in that 9th declaration.”

    Are you saying that some FV proponents agree with declaration 9 and others do not?

    Grover

  98. Vern Crisler said,

    August 10, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    #87

    Grover Gunn said:
    Does God save any adults apart from their believing the gospel?
    —–
    Vern: Depends on what you mean. Believing is not a work that contributes to salvation, as even Barth said somewhere, i.e., faith is not the finally true and successful form of self-justification.

    Grover: When Paul said to the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” was the jailer under any obligation to obey? Would his not obeying the gospel have been a sin?
    ——-
    Vern: faith is not obedience nor is it an obligation. It is a gift of God, not a work. Men are not saved by Jesus because they believe in him; rather, they believe in Him because He saves them. I have no problem with instrumental means, but in the FV context of covenantal objectivism, such means become causative.

    Grover: Can a person be united to Christ in a faith relationship and not bear the fruit of repentance and new obedience?

    Vern: Of course not. We are justified by faith alone, not by words alone (as Berkouwer says somewhere, summarizing James).

    Grover: 1) you acknowledge that God enables the elect to believe in Christ by giving them an irresistible disposition toward faith through passive regeneration. Trusting in Christ is not something one does in the moral power of his fallen will apart from regeneration.

    Vern: Agreed.

    Grover: 2) you acknowledge that neither faith nor its fruits contribute anything to the legal righteousness of the justified nor meet any of the conditions of the coveant of works. Faith functions merely as the instrumental means of one’s experiential union with Christ. The fruits of faith are the inevitable result of that experiential union and thus evidence of its existence. Christ meets all the conditions of the covenant of works for those who believe in Him.

    Vern: Agreed

    Grover: Easy believism teaches that believing the gospel is an easy accomplishment which anyone can do without regenerating grace. Easy believism always teaches that repentance and obedience are optional fruits of faith, not necessary fruits of faith.

    Vern: But faith is “easy” since it rests and receives. The work has already been done. Repentance and obedience to Christ’s commands are a grateful response working by love, not by burdensome obligations, requirements, excessive self-examination, worry, and continual fear.

    I’m sure we’re probably on the same page, Grover; it’s just that the FVists use seemingly innocent language and distort it in line with their covenantal objectivism.

    Vern

  99. tim prussic said,

    August 10, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    I don’t see how that ninth declaration doesn’t flatly contradict Scripture and the Standards. Can someone explain that to me? Have I missed something? Why in the world would they conflate forensic justification with final-verdict justification, unless they think that both have strictly to do with our standing before God. What am I missing?

  100. Grover Gunn said,

    August 10, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    #99

    John Murray said, “Good works as evidence of faith and of salvation by grace are therefore the criteria of judgment…” WSC Q. 38 says, “At the resurrection, believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment…” The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness. At the resurrection, believers are made perfectly holy in body and soul. When believers are acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, the ground or basis of their justification will still be the alien righteousness of Christ. Their good works will function only as evidence of their faith union with Christ, who is their righteousness. The ground of justification also does not at the time of the resurrection shift from the alien righteousness of Christ to the heart righteousness of the believer now made perfectly holy in body and soul. The new perfect holiness will have a new consistency with their legal state of perfect righteousness, but it does not become its new ground or basis.

    I believe the doctrine that the legal ground of justification is the perfect heart righteousness believers will have at the resurrection was taught by Cardinal Newman, the nineteenth century Anglican bishop who became a Roman Catholic.

    May God bless!
    Grover

  101. Grover Gunn said,

    August 10, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    #98

    Thanks for the gracious words, Vern.

    Faith is a gift from God in the sense that God gives us an irresistible disposition toward a faith response to the gospel through passive regeneration. Faith as an act is still something we have to do. Jesus doesn’t believe on our behalf or in our stead. Faith is not a work in the sense of something we do to earn salvation. Faith is a work in the sense of something we do.

    John 6:28-29
    28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
    29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

    When I was a student at DTS, I was taught that faith precedes regeneration and that salvation is all of grace. To teach both, they had to minimize faith as something easy to do. They taught me that faith is looking to Jesus as Savior for forgiveness but not looking to Jesus as Lord for deliverance from sin. To include looking to Jesus as Lord for deliverance from sin in one’s definition of faith would make good works a necessary part of the received salvation.

    When I came to see that regeneration precedes faith, then I realized that salvation can be all of grace without having to minimize faith as something easy to do which does not necessarily result in significant deliverance from sin.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  102. jared said,

    August 10, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Grover Gunn,

    You say:

    Is there any doctrine “where the FV is right” which is not also taught by many who do not view themselves as FV proponents and who accept all nine declarations as faithful expositions of the WS?

    That’s sort of my point. Are there FV proponents that accept all nine declarations as a faithful exposition of the WS? I don’t know, but I don’t see why there couldn’t be. Some have claimed I’m an FV proponent and I can, more or less, agree with the nine declarations. You can be the judge; my initial response to the declarations can be found href=”http://civitate-dei.blogspot.com/2007/04/pca-and-fv.html”>here.

    As to #97, it seems to me that yes, there are FV proponents who could/would agree with declaration 9.

  103. jared said,

    August 10, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Right, so the link should have been: this. Unless they are turned off…

  104. David Weiner said,

    August 10, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Pastor Gunn,

    I do hope you won’t see this comment as nit-picking but just an honest concern of a fellow Tennessee believer. You say “Faith is a work in the sense of something we do.” Then you quote John 6:28-29 as support for this view. However, as I read verse 29 it seems to me that it is talking about something that is an ongoing work of GOD and not US. Is there a passage that more clearly shows faith as a work WE do?

  105. Grover Gunn said,

    August 10, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    #104
    I just looked up the DTS doctrinal statement on the internet. It says, “We believe that the new birth of the believer comes only through faith in Christ …” Back when I was at DTS and had come to believe that regneration precedes faith, I used John 6:29 in a private discussion on the point with some other student. There is something disconcerting about that terminology if one believes faith to be so insignificant an act that one can do it while unregenerate without this compromising unconditional election and salvation by grace alone.

    In John 6:28, the Jews asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” The works of God in that context are works we do which are pleasing to God or required by God. They no doubt meant this in a works righteousness sense that is contrary to grace. Jesus answered in verse 29, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” I believe he was using the noun _work_ to refer merely to something one does.

    I looked this verse up in my commentaries by Hendriksen and Morris. Hendriksen says “But this does not exclude the idea that man must render to God the _work_ of faith.” Morris says, “‘There is a sense in which “to believe” is to perform a work’ (MacGretor).”

    Of course, Paul used the word _work_ in the works rigtheousness sense that is contrary to grace, when he was arguing against works rigtheousness.

    I assume you agree that faith is something we do and not something Jesus does in our stead and on our behalf. I am saying that faith is a work only in that sense, only in the sense that it is something we do and not something Jesus does for us. What is a gift of grace is the disposition toward faith which results from regeneration. There are verses which point to the act of faith as a form of obedience to a command: 1 John 3:23; John 3:36 NASV, ESV; 1 Peter 1:22.

    Here is something from one of my sermons:

    BOQ
    Now faith is something we do. God doesn’t believe for us. Jesus doesn’t believe for us. The Holy Spirit doesn’t believe for us. Faith is something we do, but faith is not some condition we meet to merit salvation. Faith by its very nature is an act which denies all merit in itself. Faith is a hand reaching out to God. It is not the working hand demanding wages nor the full hand offering something in payment. It is the empty hand pleading for mercy. Faith is our emptiness looking to the fullness of Christ. Faith is our weakness looking to the strength of Christ. Faith is our poverty looking to the riches of Christ’s grace. This is the sense in which faith is an alone instrument. Faith does not bring its fruits, which are repentance and new obedience, as partial payments for salvation or as reasons for acceptance. The hand of faith is the empty pleading hand asking for nothing but undeserved mercy.
    EOQ

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  106. David Weiner said,

    August 10, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    Pastor Gunn,

    Re: #105 – Thank you for a very thoughtful response. I agree with you that they (Jews, under Mosaic Law, before the cross) were looking for what they could do (work). I really think Jesus was telling them ‘more’ than that for which they were looking. Their believing (or obtaining faith) really is a ‘work’ of God. They were asking for what they could do; I see Jesus telling them how it really ‘works’ (no pun intended) i.e., God has to give them faith or they can not please Him through anything they might try to do. I am afraid my presuppositions are preventing me from seeing faith as something we do (work). But, I do sincerely thank you for trying to straighten me out.

  107. Grover Gunn said,

    August 10, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    #106

    Thank you for your kind remarks. I’m not sure I understand what you are saying. You say that you don’t understand faith as something the believer does. Does that mean that the believer is not trusting in Jesus for his salvation? Do you believe believing is something Jesus does for the elect?

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  108. Sean Mahaffey said,

    August 10, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Rev. Keister,

    You said, “The judgment on the final day is exactly the same kind of “justification” that James is talking about. It is an evidentiary justification, not the declaration that we are right with God.”

    1.) Justification does mean different things in Scripture then and so do other words we use in the ordo.

    2.) I don’t think I disagree with what you mean here, but the language you used is hard to reconcile with the words of Jesus, “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord’…”When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory… “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: ‘for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; ‘I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'””

    Jesus declares them to be good and faithful and invites them to the reward of Heaven because of their good works.

    Blessings,
    Mahaffey

  109. David Weiner said,

    August 11, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Pastor Gunn,

    Re: # 107

    Short answer to both questions – no. My understanding (and that is all that it is) is that faith (a free unmerited gift from God) is the means that a person uses, along with all of his/her other faculties, to repent (change their mind). Part of the changed mind is a decision to trust Jesus for salvation, etc. While this may involve time and mental activity, I don’t see this as a ‘work’ nor that faith is something that a person ‘does.’

  110. Grover Gunn said,

    August 11, 2007 at 11:44 am

    #109

    Thanks for the challenging interaction. This sort of exchange is helpful in that it encourages us to reconsider what we take for granted and, to use a metaphor, to paint with a finer brush.

    I found some material in Muller’s _Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms_ which supports some of that you have been saying:

    BOQ
    The scholastic language of faith as actus must not be construed as a description of faith as an activity that accomplishes, for the mind and will, a saving knowledge of and trust in Christ. Such a view would constitute a denial of the doctrine of justification by face alone (see iustificatio). Instead, the language of hibitus fidei and actus fidei, of the disposition or capacity of faith and the actuality or perfecting operation of faith, needs to be understood in the context of the scholastic language of potency (potentia) and act, or actuality (actus). The disposition, or habitus, is a potency for faith that can be actualized as faith. The act of actus of faith, although it may be defined as an operation, is not an activity in the sense of a deed or work, but an operation in the sense of an actualization in which faith comes to be faith or, in other words, moves from potency to actuality.
    pp. 21-22
    EOQ

    I don’t know if you would agree with his statement that the act of faith is an operation.

    Berkhof is also helpful. He mentions Barth’s position, which I think someone referred to earlier:

    BOQ
    It is only after God has implanted the seed of faith in the heart that man can exercise faith. This is apparently what Barth has in mind also, when he, in his desire to stress the fact that salvation is exclusively a work of God, says that God rather than man is the subject of faith.
    p. 503
    EOQ

    The quotation below is more in line with what I have been saying:

    BOQ
    When the Bible speaks of faith, it generally refers to faith as an activity of man, though born of the work of the Holy Spirit.
    p. 503
    EOQ

    The act of faith is a human activity or operation. To use Biblical language, a person comes to Christ, heeds the gospel, obeys the truth, does a work. Yet it is not an activity or work in the sense that the human agent accomplishes anything that in any way compromises the gracious nature of salvation. Thank you for helping me come to a greater appreciate of the fine nature of this distinction.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  111. Grover Gunn said,

    August 11, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    One more thought came to me, a thought which goes back to my original point about arguing that the new birth must precede faith at least logically if not chronologically. The act of faith is an act such that doing it apart from regeneration would compromise the gracious nature of salvation. Yet when done as an actualization of the disposition toward faith given through regeneration, the act of faith does not accomplish anything which in any way compromises the gracious nature of salvation.

    I like to define the ditches on both sides of the road. If we go too far one way, them people can argue that the unregenerate can believe. If we go too far the other way, then faith becomes a meritorious work.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  112. David Weiner said,

    August 11, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Pastor Gunn,

    Re: #110-111
    “This sort of exchange is helpful in that it . . . .” Absolutely!

    “I found some material in Muller’s _Dictionary . . . ”

    You must know by now that I am not a theologian; nor even a Presbyterian. This is an outstanding site and I am learning a great deal here. One of the surprising things I see here is the degree of emphasis on what other ‘great’ men have said. What I have been sharing with you is what a simple man with a love for the Word has concluded and not at all supportable by reference to anybody.

    “I don’t know if you would agree with his statement that the act of faith is an operation.”

    My take is that he is saying that faith exists (within all individuals?) as a potentiality. At this point it is not ‘functional.’ The ‘work’ of faith is its transition from potential to actual. I have never thought about it in these terms but I have no problem with this although I wouldn’t know how to support it from Scripture. Regardless, I see this transition as a work that God does and not something that the individual does. Further, I don’t see how it clarifies what faith is or how it arises in the individual except to say that the Holy Spirit knows what it is and how to actualize it so that it becomes part of the person’s physical/mental processes.

    “When the Bible speaks of faith, it generally refers to faith as an activity of man, though born of the work of the Holy Spirit.”

    Sorry for being slow; but I really don’t see this in the Bible. People clearly do stuff (no disrespect intended) after receiving faith that they wouldn’t have done previously. But, to say that it is faith that is doing the particular activity just doesn’t seem to fit the picture I get. The person is choosing to do such and such an act; one component, albeit a primary component, of their decision process is the faith which they have been given in Christ.

    “One more thought came to me, . . . .”

    Great point! Naturally, it also raises a question or two. You say “The act of faith is an act such that doing it apart from regeneration would compromise the gracious nature of salvation.”

    I assume you are equating the ‘act of faith’ with the conscious decision a person makes to trust Christ. If so, then why is not the gift of faith of such moment as to be considered the act of grace which results in salvation? Could not the receipt of faith be the first step in the ‘process’ of regeneration? By making a decision which could not have been made without having been given faith by the Holy Spirit, God is now just in justifying and regenerating that person.

    “I like to define the ditches on both sides of the road. . . .”

    I hope I haven’t fallen into either ditch because there are aren’t that many Samaritans in east TN.

  113. Grover Gunn said,

    August 11, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    #112 says, “My take is that he is saying that faith exists (within all individuals?) as a potentiality. At this point it is not ‘functional.’”

    No, he is referring to a moral ability which is given at regeneration. At regeneration, the dominion of sin as an overwhelming propensity to rebel against God’s authority and to break God’s law is broken and replaced with an overwhelming propensity to please God and to obey His revealed will. This first expresses itself in the act of faith.

    Here is Muller on the seed of faith:

    BOQ
    semen fidei: seed of faith; the ground or beginning of faith in man, brought about or implanted by the work of the Spirit in regeneration. Some of the Protestant scholastics use semen fidei as a snynonym for the disposition or capacity for faith, the habitus fidei (q.v.); others make the semen fidei more basic and regard the disposition, or habitus, of faith a fully developed capacity arising out of the seed, or semen.
    p. 278
    EOQ

    You could argue that the unregenerate have a potentiality on the level of the mental and volitional capacity to exercise faith in something. The unregenerate do not have the moral capacity to direct that faith toward Christ. The unregenerate have no motivating desire to be delivered from the dominion of sin.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn


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