Lord’s Supper and Imputation

The next two sections deal with the Lord’s Supper and Imputation. The only thing objectionable in the first section is their paedo-communionist view. They do make a strong effort to avoid ex opere operato on this Sacrament, and succeed, I think. They emphasize that the bread and wine remain the bread and wine, and they affirm the real but Spiritual presence of Christ at the Supper. I have dealt with paedo-communion already here. So, I will not hash it all out again, but rather direct readers to read that post and the many comments there.

The second section is on imputation and faith union with Christ. There are some good points and some not-so-good points here. Good points: 1. The first sentence is certainly encouraging. Yes, the sinless life of Christ, His death, and His resurrction are all credited to us. It is somewhat surprising to me that they are even willing to use an accounting term. It has not been my experience in the past that they have exactly rejoiced in such terminology. 2. I agree also with Jesus being the anti-type of Adam and of Israel.

Some concerns are raised when we consider these several questions: what is meant by union with Christ in this section? Anyone who is baptized, or is it faith-union whereby someone enters the ordo salutis irrevocably? This is utterly ambiguous here. Given the confusion that has resulted surrounding the doctrine of union with Christ, this would be THE place where it should be clarified. If, as I suspect, the union with Christ in view here is baptismal union with Christ (regardless of whether the person is elect or not: i.e., if it is “John 15” union (according to their view), then they are affirming that ordo salutis benefits accrue to the non-elect), then I strongly disagree with this statement. If by union they mean irrevocable faith-union with Christ, by which the elect only participate in all the ordo salutis benefits irrevocably, then I heartily agree. But the statement itself solves precisely nothing. It is the nature of union with Christ that is in dispute here, and they do not define it here in this place, where the entire ordo salutis is said to hinge upon it (as I believe it does).

This is where I would voice my one disagreement (there may be more, but this is the only one I can think of right now) with R. Scott Clark. Clark would not say that the entire ordo salutis hinges upon union with Christ (understood in a saving way). He would say ( I think) that the entire ordo salutis hinges upon justification. Without diminishing in any way the central importance of justification, I believe that Ephesians 1 decisively supports saving faith-union with Christ as the fundamental benefit of salvation. Within this faith-union, there is justification and there is sanctification, which two benefits are distinct, yet inseparable. I do not agree that saying that union with Christ underlies justification and sanctification is equivalent to saying that we are justified by our sanctification. Union with Christ means that imputation is no legal fiction, but a legal reality, and is far from making imputation redundant. Imputation is essential, and is the core of justification. Without it, there is no salvation.

I have flip-flopped several times on whether the imputation of Christ’s active obedience is absolutely necessary to have a saving Gospel. On the one hand, I believe that all the standards teach it. Many people have misused Chad Van Dixhorn’s work on this subject. They emphasize the fact that the language of Chapter 11 was “pulled.” But they forget the rest of Chad’s research, which plainly indicates that the active obedience of Christ was firmly taught in the LC and the SC. It’s there. Of course, it is also present in the 3FU (maybe even more clearly than the WS). On the other hand, there is this magnificent article by Wes White. Upshot? It is taught in the standards, and should be upheld, and I think we ought to hold ministers to the IAOC. The last statement I find particularly disturbing. Roman Catholics can say that our salvation is all of Christ and not of us. But how is it made ours? Imputation or infusion? The IAOC is not so unimportant as the FV would make it out to be. On the contrary, there is no hope without it, as Machen said.

31 Comments

  1. August 13, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Q/A 60 makes me wish I were a Heidelberger:

    “God… grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I… had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart”?

    Note that the “Perfect righteousness” of Christ is not only reckoned (what the FV would call “imputation”), it is also “granted” (which is precisely what they deny).

    It is maddening when the FV refuses to employ Reformed categories, admiting something like “worth” in Christ’s work, but not merit, or “reckoning” but not transfer of his righteousness. His “obedience” is considered ours, but not his active obedience.

    This stubborn rejection of Reformed nomenclature makes it look like what the FV is really worried about is giving people so much assurance that they’ll stop living in fear of losing their “covenantal adoption.”

  2. August 13, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    It should be noted that Wilson’s church includes both the 3FU and the Westminster Standards in their “Book of Confessions”, although WS are given prominence in deciding doctrinal issues.

    Also interesting is that, if I recall, they use the original British version of WS, no doubt because of its stronger theonomic emphasis, although I’m not sure what they do with its historicist hermeneutic and all the nasty things it says about the Pope and Romanists.

  3. John said,

    August 13, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    In response to Jason, I’d point out that when Ursinus discusses Q&A 60 in his lectures (i.e,. his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism), he speaks of this righteousness that is granted as being Christ’s satisfaction for our sins, or the punishment He endured for our sins. That is, he sees it as what’s often called Christ’s passive obedience.

    As Wes White points out in the paper to which Lane refers, Ursinus, at least after 1566, didn’t hold to the imputation of Christ’s active obedience for our justification. White doesn’t deal with Ursinus’s discussion of Q&A 60, but it appears, then, that even if Ursinus DID hold to IAO when he wrote the Heidelberg Catechism, he still thought his views were compatible with the Catechism when he later explained it in his lectures in a non-IAO way.

  4. Dean Bekkering said,

    August 13, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Pastor Keister

    I am interested in hearing you expand on your comment, “I have flip-flopped several times on whether the imputation of Christ’s active obedience is absolutely necessary to have a saving Gospel.”

    The PR denominations does not maintain a distinction between Christ’s active and passive obedience. Not that they would deny the active aspect, but they would say it is a stretch to say anything Christ did was passive. They would point to John 10:17-18 and BC art 22.

    Is this the distinction you are making in your comment or is your understanding a little different? Please elaborate.

    Dean B

  5. August 13, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    John,

    I’m on vacation and don’t have access to my copy of Ursinus’s commentary on the Heidelberg.

    Are you saying that Ursinus denied the IAO? That is difficult to believe in the light of Q/A 60, that “the perfect obedience, righteousness, and holiness of Christ” are “granted” to us, the result being that we are now considered to have lived his sinless life.

    Even if he later denied this (which I regard as unlikely, but again, I can’t check at the moment), the fact is that millions of Reformed believers have subscribed to the Heidelberg Catechism, and not to Ursinus’s private views on every point.

    Thanks for the reference….

  6. John said,

    August 13, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    In the paper Lane refers to, Wes White writes: “Some have particularly objected to the view that Ursinus denied the active obedience of Christ because his views have implications for the Heidelberg Catechism, which the continental Reformed Churches hold as a secondary authority. We believe that Shepherd is probably right (though we do not believe that he himself has offered convincing evidence of this) that Ursinus did deny the active obedience of Christ. There are three prominent authorities that say that he did. First, Heinrich Heppe, the great historian of German Reformed history, claims this in his Reformed Dogmatics.4 Second, Johann Gerhard, the great Lutheran scholastic, placed him alongside Piscator as one who denied the active obedience of Christ. He simply lists him along with several other German Reformed theologians.5 The great theologian of the 18th century, Bernhardin de Moor in his Commentarius Perpetuus, dealt at length with this issue, citing rare (to us!) sources shedding light on this issue. De Moor was an ardent opponent of this view, but he admitted that Ursinus held to it. De Moor cited John Jacob Schultens who demonstrated at length that Ursinus held to this position;6 however, Schultens also added that Ursinus did not hold to this position before 1566. Ursinus wrote the Heidelberg Catechism in 1562/3.7 This seems likely from the fact the Heidelberg says that three things were imputed to us: his satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness.8 This follows Beza’s viewpoint, and Ursinus had studied in Switzerland in 1558 under Calvin and in 1660-1 in Zürich. What happened after 1566? Ursinus was in Germany and probably came under the influence of Piscator.9 His denial of the active obedience is further confirmed from the fact that Ursinus’ great pupil, David Pareus, also denied the imputation of the active obedience of Christ. So, we agree that Ursinus held to the imputation of the passive obedience only, but we deny that this is found in the Heidelberg, as Shepherd suggests” (http://tinyurl.com/3bgmrl).

    As well, see this discussion of Ursinus’s commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 60 (http://tinyurl.com/2rktg8). Because his focus is actually on Piscator, not Ursinus, White doesn’t deal with this section of Ursinus’s commentary (which is actually his lecture notes, taken by David Paraeus).

    It seems that Ursinus, at least later in life, didn’t interpret Q&A 60 as requiring an affirmation of IAO.

  7. A. Dollahite said,

    August 13, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    Jason,

    I’ll let Terry West or others who have gone over Ursinus’ view provide the documentation, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find Ursinus denying IAO. my main point is that you seem to indicate that even if it’s true that he denies IAO, this shouldn’t impact our interpretation of the catechism. This has been discussed before with David Gadbois, and I continue to find it amusing that we here in the 21st century are so quick to dismiss as important the writings and opinions of the men who actually wrote the catechisms. In that respect, I think John’s point in #3 shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed as relatively unimportant as though my interpretation of the catechism is more accurate that the interpretation of the man who wrote it, because my interpretation fits how I want to do church politics in the 21st century.

    All this as someone who believes in the imputation of both the active and passive obedience of Christ,

    Andy Dollahite

  8. August 13, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    “All this as someone who believes in the imputation of both the active and passive obedience of Christ,”

    So while you aren’t the one charging the hill, you are laying down the cover fire for others to do so.

    “my main point is that you seem to indicate that even if it’s true that he denies IAO, this shouldn’t impact our interpretation of the catechism. This has been discussed before with David Gadbois”

    Well it is fairly vague to say that it shouldn’t “impact” our interpretation of the catechism. Who would disagree? We would all agree that original intent plays a role here, but this goes well beyond that, demanding that other areas of Ursinus’ belief not specifically touched on should be a controlling authority, along with beliefs of Ursinus that existed AFTER he wrote the Catechism.

  9. A. Dollahite said,

    August 14, 2007 at 12:55 am

    David,

    I’m not laying cover for the Nazis in an American uniform. My point is only that its one thing to say that the IAO is an important doctrine… it’s an entirely different thing to say men cannot believe in the gospel unless they accept it. As for Ursinus, if your interpretation of the catechism is more influenced by 21st century politics than the contemporary context of the writing itself then we’ve lost sight of what it is we’re attempting to achieve in the first place with the confessions.

  10. Robert K. said,

    August 14, 2007 at 2:20 am

    >”In response to Jason, I’d point out that when Ursinus discusses Q&A 60 in his lectures (i.e,. his Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism), he speaks of this righteousness that is granted as being Christ’s satisfaction for our sins, or the punishment He endured for our sins. That is, he sees it as what’s often called Christ’s passive obedience.”

    I just now read through the entire section of Q&A 60 in Ursinus’ Commentary, and one has to be wearing FV goggles the thickness of the lead protecting the scientists at Los Alamos to say he corrals the righteousness of Christ solely with the punishment he endure for our sins. Ursinus made himself clear in that section over several paragraphs. If an FVist wants to post a quote it would be helpful. I will post the quote in context and then give several quotes from the same section demonstrating Ursinus clearly referenced obedience to the law, etc. in his definition of the righteousness imputed to the elect by faith.

    I may be missing something big, but after reading that section of Ursinus’ Commentary complete it is really actually a slam-dunk that what the FVists are saying here is just simply wrong.

  11. Robert K. said,

    August 14, 2007 at 3:03 am

    It’s Christ’s active obedience that merits specifically eternal life. As the second Adam fulfilling what the first Adam didn’t fulfill. Anybody who thinks they can give away the active obedience of Christ and still have eternal life based on His passive obedience hasn’t spent enough time thinking it through. This is an example of what can happen when you spend too much time with fools like FVists. You get influenced by their nonsense and make slippery concessions without realizing what you are doing.

    Berkhof reminds us as well that though we distinguish the active and passive obedience of Christ they *can’t be separated.* See Christ’s active obedience in his suffering for us in John 10:18.

  12. Robert K. said,

    August 14, 2007 at 3:38 am

    Ursinus, Commentary:

    P&R ed. pg. 325: “righteousness if the fulfillment of the law, and a conformity with the law is righteousness itself”

    “By legal righteousness we mean the fulfilling of the law by one, who is therby declared righteous; or it is such a fulfilling of the law as that which is accomplished by one’s own obedience; or it is a conformity to the law which he has who is declared righteous. This legal righteousness was the righteousness of Adam before the fall, and is in the angels, and in Christ as far as he is man. *Evangelical righteousness* is the fulfilling of the law, performed, not by us, but by another in our stead, and imputed unto us of God by faith.”

    pg. 327: “The righteousness with which we are here justified before God, is not our conformity with the law, nor our good works, nor our faith; but it is *the satisfaction which Christ rendered to the law in our stead*; or the punishment which he endured in our behalf; and therefore the entire humiliation of Christ, from the moment of his conception to his glorification, including his assumption of humanity, *his subjection to the law*, his poverty, reproach, weakness, sufferings, death, &c., all of which he did willingly; yes, whatever he did and suffered to which he was not bound, as being righteous, and the Son of God, is all included in the satisfaction which he made for us, and in the *righteousness which God graciously imputes to us*, and all believers. This satisfaction is equivalent to the fulfilling of the law, or to the endurance of eternal punishment for sin, to one or the other of which the law binds all.”

    Notice the last sentence. As Berkhof states the active and passive obedience of Christ can’t be separated. But anyway, to the point as to whether Ursinus believed in the imputation of the active obedience of Christ…there it is.

  13. Robert K. said,

    August 14, 2007 at 3:44 am

    I spoiled the FV party again, boo hoo.

  14. tim prussic said,

    August 14, 2007 at 9:58 am

    I don’t think anyone’s giving away the IAO or denying that Christ actively obeyed – they’re just questioning the theological significance of it.

    The conception of Christ’s work that makes the most sense to me includes his active obedience fulfilling the requirements of perfect and personal obedience to God. As we’re united to Christ by faith, we’re united to ALL of him, including his active (& passive) obedience. Thus, I hold to the imputation of Christ’s active obedience and I see that it holds a specific and important part in the salvation he purchased for his people. His passive obedience atones for sin while his active obedience is credited to us as our positive righteousness.

  15. pduggan said,

    August 14, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Torah never promises resurrection after death as a merited benefit to those who keep the law.

    As Ursinus would say, keeping the law for Christ was a humiliating experience. It wasn’t “look at me, I’m really earning some big bucks here”

    Christ doesn’t get resurrection as a merited reward for keeping the law, as someone who gets rich by working hard does. He gets resurrection as a merited reward for humiliation.

    “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name”

    “I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ”

  16. August 14, 2007 at 10:53 am

    pduggan – The language of “…obedient to the point of death…” clearly includes those points before His death as well as the death itself. It therefore includes His active and passive obedience.

    Then, of course, there is always Romans 5. Rom 5:10 says: “For if, when were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Again, both the passive (“death of his Son”) and active (“saved by his life”) are in view. Rom 5:12-21 seals that deal, as in verse 18: “Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” Again, clearly Christ’s active obedience as a gift that is offered to all but only received by those elected from before the foundation of the world for their salvation.

    How can this not be theologically significant since the Scriptures say that our salvation hangs upon it?

  17. pduggan said,

    August 14, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    I’m not saying active obedience isn’t significant.

    I’m saying that too often we characterize it as shining moral achievement and work full of merit and glorification.

    But Christ’s work was only “worth” something because it was unremarkable servant-work, done by God’s Son *for others* in suffering.

    Its an emphasis that gets lost too often

    And I’m saying all the stuff I say in post 15.

  18. pduggan said,

    August 14, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die”

    Do this, and live.

    But not as Christ lived by “doing this”

    but repenting from dead works and receiving fogiveness from a God eager to grant it without merit.

    Or is God offering Israel salvation based on the merits of new obedience? Of course not.

  19. August 14, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    pduggan,

    but repenting from dead works and receiving forgiveness from a God eager to grant it without merit.

    Repenting of dead works, yes. But God does NOT grant forgiveness without merit. He forgives us because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin in our place and the Father graciously accepts the Son’s perfect sacrifice and imputes the Son’s perfect righteousness, which is meritorious, to us. 1 Cor 5:21.

    The only covenant which we are all universally under is the COW. It applies to all of creation. The only question is “by whose works are we saved?” In and through the COG, the Father justifies the elect (and only those elected before the foundation of the world) based on the Son’s perfect obedience (i.e., works) which fulfilled the COW perfectly. That’s the central points of Romans 5.

  20. pduggan said,

    August 14, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Why do the son’s works merit, though? Because they were inherently glorifying works? Or because they were humiliating works?

  21. August 14, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    A fair question. From the PCA study report, page 7:

    “This is precisely the point of the Standards’ use of the term and theological category of “merit.” Merit relates to the just fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant of works (LC 55, 174). This no man can do since the Fall (LC 193) but Christ only (WCF 17.3). The Standards consistently assert our inability to merit pardon of sin (WCF 16.5), and contrast our demerit with Christ’s merit (LC 55, cf. WCF 30.4). Christ’s work (active and passive, preceptive and penal, perfect and personal, obedience and satisfaction) fulfills the conditions of the covenant of works (WCF 8.5, 11.1, 3, 19.6), and thus secures a just and righteous redemption that is at the same time freely offered and all of grace.”

    The footnote from the end of the paragraph reads:

    “Hence, denial of the category of merit, or the substitution of the idea of maturity in its place, neither enriches our covenant theology nor makes God more gracious in his dealings with us, but instead compromises the Cross’s vindication of the righteousness of God, and diminishes the believer’s apprehension of the security that flows from the costly justice of free grace.”

  22. Robert K. said,

    August 14, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    >”I’m saying that too often we characterize it as shining moral achievement and work full of merit and glorification.”

    This is the straw man justifying of moves to undercut justification by faith alone and keep people in the Kingdom of Darkness. You take out the Covenant of Works, you take out the imputation of the active obedience of Christ, you ignore the parallel between the two Adams (etc., etc.), then you justify these moves by writing the nonsense in the sentence above. Notice the “we” he puts into the sentence as well.

    Perhaps the most creepy thing about this FV putsch is they they are moralizing about people who are supposedly glorifying themselves in their works and so on when their entire program to put works in the place of faith alone for salvation.

    They’re unmasked, they’re Jesuits, get the tar and feathers, but we’ll give them an opportunity to run back to the walls of the Vatican or their local parish if they so choose…

  23. Robert K. said,

    August 14, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    >”I don’t think anyone’s giving away the IAO or denying that Christ actively obeyed – they’re just questioning the theological significance of it.”

    If you think you can save yourself with your works or with priestcraft then the “theological significance” of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ would indeed be lessened.

  24. pduggan said,

    August 15, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    The important thing, of course, is that Christ’s need to humiliatingly obey the law vicariously for our salvation is parallel to the way in which Adam’s obedience related to his glorification. Adam’s glorification would come as an inheritance, not earned wages, and so also Christ’s.

    Complete parallels.

  25. August 15, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    RE #24:

    You need to read #21 again:”Merit relates to the just fulfillment of the conditions of the covenant of works (LC 55, 174).” That does not say what you said in #24. Further, see WLC Q.20:

    “Q. 20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
    “A. The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.”

    From Miriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: Pledge = “something given as security for the performance of an act.” Condition + Pledge for performance => Merit if condition is met.

  26. pduggie said,

    August 15, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Inheritances can involve pledges as much as wages could. Inheritances probably more so. Inheritances can involve just fulfillment of conditions too. But the conditions NEVER “properly” merit the reward.

    MARS seminary said so.

  27. pduggie said,

    August 15, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    Pledge: “The transfer of possession of personal property from a debtor to a creditor as security for a debt or engagement; also, the contract created between the debtor and creditor by a thing being so delivered or deposited, forming a species of bailment; also, that which is so delivered or deposited; something put in pawn. &hand; Pledge is ordinarily confined to personal property; the title or ownership does not pass by it; possession is essential to it.”

    Ah, God is debtor, Adam is creditor.

  28. Robert K. said,

    August 15, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    This is false piety in the service of shoring up false doctrine.

  29. pduggie said,

    August 15, 2007 at 11:10 pm

    This is your brain

    This is your brain on Rotbert K

    Any questions?

  30. August 26, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    […] goes straight to the heart of the gospel and how we are saved. Green Baggins posted on imputation here. As he points out, the most troubling aspect of this section of the joint statement is that they […]

  31. December 29, 2008 at 10:40 am

    […] Doug’s post. My previous handling of the union/imputation section of the joint statement is here. I would say that I have changed in a much more strongly IAOC direction, affirming that it is […]


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