Wilkins and the Doppelgänger

Now we will address this incredibly clear statement of Wilkins regarding a completely separate ordo salutis that is covenantal.

I believe that membership in the visible church brings with it a covenantal form of justification, adoption, and sanctification which would not be identical to the stipulated definitions given to these terms in theWCF.

There we have it. All the terms that we normally associate with the unbreakable ordo salutis are now to be associated with the covenant. Wilkins argues that it is not the same definition of these words that the WCF has. But this doesn’t really matter, since Wilkins hasn’t even remotely proved from Scripture that such terms are used “covenantally” in addition to the way the Confession describes them. He has to dismiss all argumentation for the judgment of charity approach. And, in fact, he has to precisely double the number of terms used in theology to do this. Now, every time he uses the term “justification,” he has to qualify it with “covenantal” or “decretal.” Wilkins has been extraordinarily sloppy in his Federal Vision article, for instance, in delineating the two. Let’s look at it this way. According to Wilkins’s paradigm there are two categories of people in the covenant of grace, those who participate covenantally, but not decretally, and those who participate covenantally and decretally. The demarcation between those two (according to Wilkins) has consistently been some kind of undefined qualitative difference that is related to (but not completely subsumed by) the diachronic, eschatological difference between them on the last day. Here is the question: what makes one persevere and the other one not persevere? Gary Johnson, in recent comments on this blog, has brought up the excellent point of those who die without ever having apostatized from the visible church, but who were never regenerated. That means, according to Wilkins’s paradigm, that they were covenantally justified all their lives, and yet (Wilson’s point now) they were sent to hell. Wilson and Wilkins want to claim that what the NECM has is something, not nothing, and yet it is nothing on the final day of judgment. Well, if it is nothing on the final day of judgment, then it naught availeth for salvation in this life either. That person is not saved. So, in what sense could they be said to be justified in this life? How can their sins be forgiven? If their sins are forgiven, and they never apostatize from the visible church, yet are not regenerated, then one would expect some kind of mitigated punishment for these people. But the FV usually claims that being a part of the covenant increases the punishment for those who are not elect. I cannot think of any solution to this huge problem in FV thinking.

Wilkins sees his Doppelgänger in the mirror, and says to him, “Hello, you’re elect to the covenant, justified covenantally, sanctified covenantally, adopted covenantally, but that’s a sure-fire guarantee of worse judgment on the final day.” That sure sounds like pastoral encouragement to me. That sounds like a recipe for navel-gazing: how do I know the difference between being just covenantally justified versus being really justified? This is highly ironic: the FV is wanting us to get away from navel-gazing “morbid introspection.” They want to treat people as being objectively in the covenant. They want people’s assurance to be based on that. But there is no assurance, since they have to posit a qualitative difference between the NECM and the ECM. That will make people navel-gaze even more to discern whether they are one or the other. The only way to get around that pastorally is never to mention the difference between the two. Pastorally, then, it lapses into Roman Catholicism’s salvation equals visible church. How many times do FV pastors mention in their pulpits the distinction between NECM and ECM as being something that separates eternal reprobates and eternally saved people? Isn’t their emphasis on the fact that everyone in the covenant has the same benefits? Then those benefits cannot be saving in any way, shape or form. If there is the least little bit of overlap between the two categories of NECM and ECM, then the system is Arminian. This is why it is far better, and pastorally clearer, to reserve the ordo salutis terms for the ordo salutis, and not to use them of what the NECM receives. That would only create confusion, as it obviously has.

I wish that just one FV advocate would admit that if no critic can ever understand the FV, then it might possibly be that the FV teachers are unclear, and inherently ambiguous. If that is so, of course, then they are not fit to be ministers. Ministers need to be apt to teach. Clarity is essential in teaching. Confusion is utterly reprehensible in teaching.  

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