Justifying Faith distinguished from Temporary Faith (part 3)

The Remonstrants offered additional arguments to prove that Justifying Faith (JF) and Temporary Faith (TF) were the same, except in terms of duration. In the last section of his denial of this, Turretin offers five additional explanations as to why JF and TF are completely different altogether.

  1. Why those with TF are called “disciples of Christ,” “sons of God,” “faithful,” and “believers”: they are called either according to opinion (they seem to be such to others) or judgment of charity as they profess faith and receive the sacraments. They are not called such because they truly are such. Augustine affirms that these are called so because while they’ve received TF, they are not in God’s sight true sons of God (et.al.).
  2. Perseverance is not the vital distinction between JF and TF: faith is not JF (true) because it perseveres, but it perseveres because it is JF (true). Perseverance thus is an effect, not a cause of JF. Duration (perseverance) is only a mark (index) of JF; not its source. (Therefore TF is not true; it is not of the same kind as JF).
  3. No express evidence that JF and TF are the same (excepting duration): Scripture offers no statements (express or necessarily inferential) that demonstrate that JF and TF are the same (differing only in duration). The “immediate joy” response is merely the response of fallen human intellectual and the “springing up” is in a dead heart (Mt. 13:20). Any “good works” done by those with TF are like those of the ancient Jews who were condemned for their unbelief (Isa. 58:2), the Jews who exulted in John the Baptist’s message without receiving it in their hearts (Jn. 5:35), or like Herod’s protection for a time of John the Baptist ( Mk. 6:20). Such a perishable good works. The good works of JF are those that last for eternity.
  4. Heb. 6:4-6 is no proof that TF is the same kind as JF: the Spirit works in the reprobate (those with TF) so that they “partake” in illumination and conviction, an awareness that only leads the reprobate to self-reformation. The “tasting” is an external (material) experience only of the material blessings found in the Visible Church. Such experiences can include even such gifts that reflect “powers of the age to come” as in miraculous works and ministerial effectiveness (Mt. 7:21-23) and yet not involve a spiritual relationship with Christ. Those with TF “taste the heavenly gift” with lips that are still spiritually dead.
  5. TF is the same as JF in appearances only: TF is a real faith, in that it receives the seed (gospel) with real joy and responded to with real belief (Jn. 2:23; Lk. 8:13). Yet these are merely the real responses possible to fallen men. TF is a hypocritical faith (1Tim. 1:5; 2Tim. 1:5) that merely emulates JF, and has an external resemblance only to JF, so strong even the elect are deceived by TF.

In the FV, TF is followed (ostensibly) by an experience of a covenantal (temporary) ordo salutis. If Turretin is right about the Bible’s teaching, then the work of the Spirit in giving the Reprobate church member (RCM) Temporary Faith is limited to an illumination and conviction that only operates on the normal fallen faculties of the RCM. There is no experience of covenantal (temporary) union, justification, etc. All that exists is the RCM’s profession to possess these blessings, not a real possession.

Posted by Reed DePace


  1. January 5, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    […] Pastoral Ministry Tags: baptism, election, federal vision, justification, NECM Over at Green Bagginses, Reed raises the question of the status of NECMs (non-elect covenant members) and how the FV views […]

  2. January 7, 2008 at 8:18 am


    Excellent series. Thanks for putting it together. You’ve convinced me to order Turretin for myself.

  3. its.reed said,

    January 7, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Glad to help. Be warned Bob, Turretin is so good that he is tedious quite often. It’s unfair to label him “scholastic” as that misses the value of tediousness – it leaves no rock unturned. I.e., Turretin leaves very few hiding places.

  4. Kyle said,

    January 7, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Thanks, Reed, helpful series.

  5. its.reed said,

    January 8, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Ref. #5:

    So the muse thanks the author. You’re welcome Kyle.

  6. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 8, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    A helpful summary: there’s so much in Turretin that I usually forget most of it, then go back and read it again. Here’s my fundamental concern: Horton, in his open chapter of Covenant and Eschatology, criticizes the internal/external distinction as more Platonic than Pauline and offers instead historical/ eschatological as the controlling dichotomy. I agree with Horton, but then I turn to Turretin’s discussion and find that the internal/external categories are clearly dominant in his entire discussion (esp. on the church). How do we apply Horton’s insight to this issue? How do we take history seriously?

    I also ran across this when reading about the 1924 debate in the Reformed Church about the reality of common grace and the free offer of the gospel. CVT made the point that we can’t short-circuit history and make the final outcome of the elect or reprobate the standard for how we judge blessings within history–the blessings on the reprobate are real blessings, even though they ultimately will result in great condemnation.

    Is it a real blessing to hear the Word? Is it a real blessing to confess one’s sin and hear the words of absolution? Is it a real blessing to have table fellowship with Christ and his body? According to this view, the RCM doesn’t actually get any real blessings: he just claims the name of them. But if none of these things are real blessings, why not just dispense with them and relate to God in our hearts? And I’m asking these questions honestly, not rhetorically…

    Also, how, does 1 Cor. 2:14 fit with point #5? The natural (i.e., fallen) man does not receive spiritual things at all, does he? Again, this is an honest question…

  7. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 8, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    And Heb. 6 doesn’t seem to fit with what your summary makes of it (and I don’t have Turretin at hand). If the person falls away, they cannot be “renewed again to repentance,” which seems to mean that the gifts brought them to repentance–not just self-reformation–once, but now they have rejected that and cannot do so again (you can’t do something “again” if you never did it).

  8. its.reed said,

    January 8, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Ref. 6 & 7:

    It seems to me that Horton’s view helps when we step back from a Platonic conception of man (body vs. soul) and reckon man as he is, a complex of body-soul. Ridderbos’s Outline of Paul’s Theology has a very helpful discussion on sarx (flesh), etc. The very terms Paul chose grew out of the cultural millieu of Greek thought (Platonic). Thus it is understandable that they can be viewed from the dualistic perspective and in that sense short-change what is actually saying.

    Yet looked at in their context, a different sort of picture arises. Paul sees man in two states, a fleshly one and a spiritual one. Both are describing men as complex men, body-soul beings. The difference is not simply internal (soulish only) vs. external (body only). The difference is between fallen (body-soul) man and regenerate (body-soul) man.

    Both have comparable faculties (mental, emotional, will, physical). yet the capabilities of these faculties are as opposite as death and life, literally. Thus a fallen man, a fleshly man is literally dead, even when he expresses a valid semblance of temporal life. Contrarily the spiritual man literally is eternal, even though his body will undergo a temporal death (Jesus’ parousia, return, nothwithstanding).

    I would argue that the flattening of the internal-external distinctive to a mere Platonic level (something easily and often done) is not of the essence of Turretin’s arguments. Following Calvin, I think he demonstrates a more nuanced view. This accounts for the times when reading these guys when we scratch our heads, thinking they’ve said something that contradicts something else they’ve said. We’re reading them with a flattened (read Platonic) perspective.

    It seems to me that the tendency to this flattening is the ordinary (may I say natural intentionally) perspective of fallen man. His worldview exists as a fractured whole, in which he can never quite fit the edges together neatly.

    To the extent that we read from the fallen perspective then, we will find internal-external a limiting, a flattening perspective. Stripping away the unintended and unnecessary limits, we find that yet again the problem is the weakness of finite language to describe the wisdom of the Infinite.

    That’s why guys like Turretin are so valuable – internal-external are merely labels for a whole lot of deep, deep thought.

  9. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 9, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    I agree absolutely. I would say that it is the very fact that language is limited that we need several sets of terms to use to emphasize different aspects. The internal-external dichotomy does not deal with man as historical being, defined by his telos, which is right now known only to and determined absolutely monergistically by God. Here is where I appreciate Leithart’s more developmental anthropology, since it tries to take into account the telos as well as the points along the way. If we look at a certain ECM at a certain point in his life, is he saved or not at that time? If he has not yet repented, believed, etc., then he is not actually saved, not actually united to Christ at that time, even if he is eternally elect.

    So, I’m not disagreeing with the reality that the internal-external distinction is meant to explain, but I just don’t think those terms are the only or even the best way of doing so. The central idea is this: there are those who are baptized, profess Christ, and even internally seem to be changed (joy, assent, etc. being internal operations) who are turned away at the last day. There is no head-for-head universalism even for the baptized, and the only final reason for this is the electing decree of God. So, how do we explain the difference between these people now, from our history-bound perspective? I don’t think the difference is simply, on the face of the terms, between external participation and internal participation.

  10. its.reed said,

    January 9, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Ref. #9:

    Joshua, on the contrary, rightly understood and applied I think the traditional terms internal-external are fine.

    Yet that is a quibble. I’m more concerned with what I perceive is the FV’s, on the one hand rejection of a system based on a weakness of terminological usage, and on the other hand replacement with a system that has even more problems.

    What is insufficient about the traditional, rightly understood, perspective?

    The RCM really and truly receive the Spirit’s work and blessings. Yet they do so in the state of a fallen man. Fallen man apart from the Spirit expresses joy, love, faith, etc. So it is no problem to assert that the RCM express these very things, and to a degree that appears to us undifferentiated from what the ECM experience.

    The ECM really and truly receive the Spirit’s work and blessings. Yet they do so in the state of a regenerate man. The ECM’s expression of joy, love, faith, etc. is akin to the RCM’s (fallen man’s), yet it flows from a different source, namely the life-giving presence of the Spirit. The RCM’s response flows from their own dead heart.

    Such an explanation is more than satisfactory, does justice to the reality of the RCM’s experience, and does not posit some sort of temporary regenerate-like experience on the part of the RCM that stands condemned by Scripture.

  11. January 9, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Actually, I should point out that the “external/internal” distinction has gone under different names. Berkhof, for instance, preferred to call the internal relation a “communion of life” whereas the external relation was a “legal relationship.”

  12. January 9, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Nelson Kloosterman comments:

    Such views refuse to recognize, among other things, the dual aspect of the covenant of grace, which has been described in various ways in Reformed dogmatics.2 The covenant of grace can be seen from different vantage points, which requires us then to formulate distinctions that
    are necessary for proper practice. This dual aspect could be distinguished as the internal and external aspects of the covenant (Mastricht, Kuyper, Bavinck), or the essence and administration of the covenant (Olevianus, Turretin), or the legal and vital aspects of the covenant (G. Vos,

  13. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 9, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Couldn’t one also suggest the historical and eschatological aspects of the covenants? There is participation in the historical blessing, but that is not the same thing as participation in the consummation…

    And Reed, it seems to me that you have described “some sort of temporary regenerate-like experience on the part of the RCM…”:
    The RCM and the ECM both:
    1. “really and truly receive the Spirit’s work and blessings.”
    2. “express joy, love, faith, etc.” and the ECMs expression is “akin to” the RCM’s.
    And the experience of the RCM “appears to us undifferentiated from what the ECM experience.”

    Isn’t your point here that, in fact, the experience of the RCM is an awful lot like that of ECM? So, the RCM do have a “temporary regenerate-LIKE experience…” And these blessings on the RCM are the work and blessing of the Spirit–which is the Spirit of the regeneration (i.e., the future renewed order of the cosmos–Matt. 19:28). If the blessings on the RCM are produced by the life-giving Spirit and look to us at certain points just like real regeneration, isn’t there a regenerate-like experience?

    Given what you’ve said here, what would you disagree with in pp. 14-15 of Wilkins’ written answers, including Leithart’s statement which he quotes?
    Again, this is an honest question–maybe I’m just thick, but these look very similar to me…

  14. its.reed said,

    January 9, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    Ref. #13:

    Historical is fine. Regenerate-like is not.

    Look at it this way, similarities of appearance can have either one of two explanations: 1) either the appearances express real similarities, or 2) the appearances merely present a counterfeit.

    The latter is the Bible’s position.

    Consider man in 3 relations: reprobate non-church member (RCNM), reprobate church member (RCM), and elect church member (ECM):

    All 3 types experience love, joy, faith, etc. These are the ordinry experiences common to all men. They are experienced without extraordinary work of the Spirit.

    The RCNM never experience any work of the Spirit. They experience love, joy, faith, etc., but never in Christ. These experiences are those which are ordinary, common to fallen man.

    The ECM experience the regenerative work of the Spirit. They experience love, joy, faith, etc., in Christ. This experience flows from the regenerative work of the Spirit.

    The RCM experience the illuminating work of the Spirit (following Turretin). They experience love, joy, faith, etc., in Christ. This experience, however, flows from the ordinary operations of their own fallen nature. These experiences do not flow from any sense of regeneration. I.O.W. the Spirit did effectively work in them, but not to any regenerate-like result. All he did was work in them so that their fallen human faculties were persuaded in a mere ordinary manner to profess faith in Christ. This is why such faith falls away when either tempted by something more alluring, or deterred by persecution. There was no real possession of Christ.

    The Spirit is not limited to working in men only in a regenerate-like experience. Consider the example of Pharoah, who clearly had an extraordinnary work of the Spirit – which served to enable his own fallen faculties to more surely choose his own doom. Similarly the Spirit works in the RCM to enable them to make merely an ordinary fallen profession of faith.

    The Spirit of regeneration only works in the sons of the new age. The sons of the new age are none other than those who will inherit the new age. By definition this is only the ECM.

    The RCM merely profess to be sons of the new age, a profession flowing from their own fallen nature, and thus a profession which will prove to be false. They are not sons now, but not sons later. They are false sons now – professing to be something they are not.

    They are the counterfeit $100 hiding in the stack of real $100.

  15. its.reed said,

    January 9, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Ref. #13:

    Joshua, I (re)read the pages you referenced from Wilkin’s response. As with most of what I’ve read of Wilkins he says a lot to which on the face of it I can say amen. In order to do so though I have to assume a lot of meaning his words, things he has not spelled out. Then, when I read other things he’s written, I find I can no longer give him the benefit of doubt. Again, the issue of equivocation rises its head.

    Leithart’s quote is almost suspiciously like Turretin. Indeed he makes some of the exact points (e.g., ministry and miracles by those possessing only TF). As it reads there, I don’t see a lot of distance between us.

    I note he references the common operations of the Spirit. It is here I’d want to see more detail. I disagree with Wilkins’ comment that the Bible does not provide such details (p. 14). I’d want to hear from Leithart how he unnderstands common operations to work. I.O.W., I’d want to see his distinction between RCNM, RCM, and ECM with reference to how the Spirit works. Any sense of regenerate-like experience for the RCM will not fly.

    Leithart’s teological points, etc., if I am following him correctly, do not seem at all relevant to me. This sounds like one of the common FV refrains, ” we can’t see decretally, we only see that eschatalogically; all we have now is historical. So we need to accept all who profess as if they decretally profess Christ until they apostatize.”

    My response is a polite, ‘uh huh, yeah, pretty standard stuff. What’s your point?” That’s when the trouble starts. The FV wants to insist not that for all practical purposes the ECM and the RCM historically viewed (Leithart’s punctiliar) are the same (but they’re really not). No, the FV wants to maintain that the ECM and the RCM actually are the same for a time (more or less depending on the advocate).

    Why is the language of appearance and/or judgement of charity not sufficient?

    Just to ponder, consider another example: where does the Scripture teach that the RCM hear the effectual call of the Spirit, in even a manner similar to that heard by the ECM? It doesn’t. This is another (temporary) blessing of the RCM that must be inferred in the FV system is to be consistent.

    Such examples go on and on. And still the system of Calvin-Turretin, et.al. is more consistent with Scripture.

  16. Roger Mann said,

    January 10, 2008 at 10:01 am

    10: Reed wrote,

    The RCM really and truly receive the Spirit’s work and blessings.

    While I agree that the reprobate experience real “common operations of the Spirit” (WCF 10.4) — whether members of the visible church or not — I question whether it’s accurate to describe these workings as genuine “blessings” (as in gracious operations) of the Holy Spirit. I think a lot of confusion (especially as it relates to FV teaching) arises over this point. The key question is what is God’s intention in these “common operations” of His Spirit? Is it to bestow mercy or to “harden” the reprobate (Rom. 9:18)? Is it to open or “blind” (Jn. 12:39-40) the eyes of the non-elect? Paul’s answer seems clear:

    “What then? Israel [God’s external covenant people; Rom. 9:3-5] has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect [God’s true “Israel”; Gal. 3:7; 6:16] have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.’” Romans 11:7-8

    Would not God’s intent be the same toward the reprobate within the visible church today, even for those who experience a temporary, non-saving conversion/faith? If not, why? Where does Scripture teach that God has changed in this respect? If God’s Spirit works in a non-gracious way to “blind” and “harden” those who reject the gospel outright, then He could just as well work in a non-gracious way to produce a temporary, spurious “faith” in reprobate members of the visible church. God’s intention is not “gracious” in either one of these “common operations of the Spirit.” After all, He has already eternally decreed their reprobation (e.g., Rom. 9:11-13). Thus, unless God is irrational, He most certainly isn’t working toward their ultimate “good” or “blessing” — He does that only for the elect (Rom. 8:28). Rather, His intention is to increase their responsibility and guilt for the day of judgment (e.g., Matt. 11:20-26; Heb. 10:26-31; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Jude 4; etc.). Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

    Nevertheless, you have correctly pointed out that God certainly doesn’t grant reprobate members of the visible church any type of “temporary” regeneration, saving faith, or justification. That much is beyond question!

  17. its.reed said,

    January 10, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Ref. #16:

    Roger, a criticism I feel and sympathize with. As you are aware, this is one of those areas where the FV will say, “now wait a minute, …” I might add, I think with some legitimacy.

    The problem is that the FV wants to propose an either/or solution; “either the RCM are in the Church where they necessarily receive the same (similar) blessings as the ECM, or the RCM are not in the Church and so receive no blessings. Which one is it?!”

    [An aside, in a weird way, the FV share this characteristic with our Protestant Reformed brothers who reject any notion of common grace.]

    The dilemma is a false one, for both you and the FV, as it is not either/or. Take my explanation to Joshua here of semantical range of meanings for words and apply it to the word “blessing”:

    > My wife is a blessing to me.
    > I was blessed by the play I saw.
    > Christ blesses me.

    Clearly I am using the word “blessing” validly in all three sentences in their own context. The problem arise when I start mixing contexts:

    > My wife blesses me in the same manner (degree) that seeing a play blesses me – if I really mean this I am a very shallow man. Or maybe I’ve mixed contexts.

    > Christ blesses me the way my wife blesses me – if this is the real measure of my appreciation for what Christ does for me then I am in serious trouble (no disrespect to my wonderful wife). Or maybe I’ve mixed contexts.

    The context of blessing for the RCM and the ECM is different:

    > The ECM receive both eternal (internal, spiritual, fruit of regeneration) and temporal (external, earthly, temporary, fruit of Christ’s rule of the Church in this world only) blessings.

    > Let us call these eternal-blessings and temporal-blessings.

    > The RCM receive only temporal-blessings, no eternal blessings.

    This is what the FV advocates are so intense on pushing; there exist real and true blessings for the RCM in the Church because the RCM are “in covenant” (temporarily) with Christ. As it stands this is fair and accurate.

    Yet the FV goes on to confuse contexts. The FV fails to either recognize or protect the distinction between eternal-blessings and temporal-blessings. The FV wants to maintain that the RCM enjoy atemporary experience of eternal-blessings. They support this by referencing texts which attribute temporal-blessings to the RCM, and fail to differentiate these from eternal blessings. I.O.W., the FV equivocates on what “blessing” means.

    When I say “real and true” blessings, I am not merely tossing the FV a bone. This is a biblically accurate manner of speaking. What we need do is keep the eternal-temporal distinction in mind however. That is why, with reference to the RCM, the description I gave of those blessings (I offered an exemplary list, love, joy, faith) is a description limited to temporal characteristics (i.e., the context of falleness).

    > New creation regenerate-man (ECM), and
    > Fallen non-regenerate man of both types (reprobate non-church member, RCNM & RCM),
    > Experience real ordinary blessings from God in that they merely draw breath. We agree that God is obligated to no one, and so from that contextual perspective, life is a blessing.

    > ECM, and
    > RCM
    > Also, experience temporal blessings in the Church (the rule of Christ effected through the ordinary operations of life under the fall, otherwise called common operations of the Spirit).

    > The ECM, and the ECM alone,
    > Experience eternal blessings in the Church, the full panoply of the glorious Christ in all the ordo salutis.

    Your criticism still stands – we need to make sure we do not equivocate in the opposite direction however.

  18. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 10, 2008 at 11:58 am

    Reed, I’m not sure you answered my question about your own statements in #10. You insist again that calling the experience of the RCM “regenerate-like” is unacceptable, yet it seems to me that you say that the experience and the blessings of the RCM are like–in the sense of “similar” or “resembling”–that of the ECM (see #13 for how this works). And you continue to admit a likeness or similarity in your analogy of the counterfeit money–a counterfeit bill is, in fact, a great deal like a real one. That’s the whole point of it. Thus, your dichotomy in #14 between counterfeit and real similarity is inaccurate: a counterfeit does have a real similarity to the official bill.

    And the Spirit of regeneration does not work only in the elect: you have already admitted this when you say that the blessings of illumination and miracles come from the Holy Spirit. He does, however, work effectual regeneration (in the decretal sense) only in the elect–but as He is a Person, His character, which is that of creation and life-giving (cf. Gen. 1:2, 1 Cor. 15:45, Nicene Creed), is involved in all His works. So, even the blessings of illumination, miracles, etc. share in that renewing character of the Spirit, as Heb. 6 explicitly says (cf. again the close similarity between metoche and koinovia in 2 Cor. 6:14).

    Scripture teaches that the RCM experience something that can be very similar to the effectual call: this is the seed that springs up quickly! The truly elect, when they are effectually called, respond with agreement with and joy and delight in the gospel, but so do the ECM. Is it the same response? Well, no, since they differ in the sort of quality that makes one fruitful and persevering and the other not. But, as you said, those responses appear undifferentiated to us–both the observer and the one experiencing that joy, delight, agreement, etc.

    Again, it seems to me that you have in fact described the ways in which the experience of the RCM and ECM are actually similar (you even say “akin,” which word seems to imply a real relation or kinship between these blessings, not, mere similarity!) while insisting that saying the blessings on the RCM cannot be said to be “like” regeneration. So, I agree with you, and agree that there does not seem to be much distance here between you and Leithart, and I agree that what they are saying at certain points does sound a lot like the traditional approach.

  19. its.reed said,

    January 10, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Ref. #18:

    No disrespect Joshua, but I have answered you numerous times on this very point. You are not getting the distinction. I am willing to take that as my responsibility.

    It is a matter of taxonomy. Let me offer an example:

    > A Doberman Pinscher and a Jack Russell Terrier are two different types of dogs. They are two different types of the same kind.

    < A Doberman Pinscher and an Orange Tabby are two different kinds, one a dog, the other a cat. They are two distinctly different kinds, not two different types of the same kind.

    For the RCM and the ECM, there are both similarities and differences at the kind and type levels.

    > Both RCM and ECM are different kinds of man. E.g., dog and cat are two different kinds of mammal.
    > But RCM and ECM are not different types, in that one belongs to the temporary realm of existence and the other belongs to the eternal realm of existence.
    > Their experience overlaps now (similarities), but this overlap does not mean same-ness. Cat and dog exists as house pets. A cat is not a dog.
    > They are not merely different varieties of the same kind. A cat is not a potential dog.

    The same taxonomical consideration applies to the experience of the Spirit’s work.

    > There is overlap; both RCM and ECM experience the temporal-blessings of the Spirit.
    > Yet only the the ECM experience the eternal-blessings.

    >Temporal-blessings are not potential (unfulfilled) eternal blessings. A cat is not a potential (unfulfilled) dog. Temporal-blessings are not a subset of eternal-blessings.

    > A counterfeit $100 experiences the temporal blessings of being a means of material exchange, as long as its false status is stays hidden. The minute this is shown, the counterfeit is tossed in the fire.

    This analogy breaks down with reference to the eschataological “breaking in” persepective.

    > The ECM experience the historical-temporal-blessings (outward, external, here and now only) of being members of the Church.
    > The ECM also experience the eschatological-eternal-blessings (inward, internal, regenerative), in part but not fullness yet, while still in the temporal realm.
    > The ECM will experience the fullness of the eschatalogical-eternal-blessings in the final state, the eschaton, when this temporal realm is removed and replaced by the eternal realm.

    > The RCM have no possession of the eternal-realm.
    > The RCM have no experience of eschatological-eternal blessings because these beling exclusively to the eternal-realm.
    > The RCM only experience the temporal-blessings of the Church in this temporal-realm alone.

    > It is wrong to speak of any sense of regeneration (like or otherwise) with respect to the RCM, as this is expressly and only a blessing belonging to the eternal-blessings set. Regeneration is only a dog (no disrespect intended).
    > There is no such biblical thing as temporal-regeneration. That is this blessing does not have an expression in the temporal-blessings set. Regeneration never comes in a variety of cat (sorry cat lovers, but disrespect intended :) ).

    I hear you wanting to insist that there are two types of eternal-blessings, those which are for the ECM and those which are for the RCM (the critical distinction being the latter is temporary). I.e., you want to say we’re looking at two different types of dogs.

    We are not. We are looking at a cat and a dog. Clearly this analogy is limiting with respect to the breadth of biblical distinction between the RCM and the ECM. How can that which has only temporal existence have anything truly (i.e., of the same kind) in common with that which has eternal existence?

    This is the force of the biblical distinction between the elect and the reprobate. The elect are not a new-improved variety of the reprobate. They are a new creature altogether. The FV does not adequately recognize this distinction. Arguing for two types of dog, the FV is really talking about a cat and dog, two completely distinct and separate kinds altogether.

  20. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 10, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks for your #17, Reed, although it’s odd that you put the FV with the PR, when it was actually Roger who was getting awfully close to a view that rejected common grace…

    Again, I find myself in agreement with you. I would add that for the ECM, the same blessings that are temporal for the RCM are in fact eternal. The common operations of the Spirit (e.g., illumination) are used by God to bring the elect to glory, and this especially includes the means of grace…

    Just as I don’t see the FV denying common grace, I don’t see them saying either/or. It seems that they are trying to say both/and: the same blessings of the Spirit upon the church (esp. Word and sacraments) are both temporal and eternal–and the difference is only the decree of God, who makes these blessing effective unto eternal life for the elect, but makes these blessings effective only to a certain temporary benefit for the reprobate. And it seems as though this is your issue with them, that you want to say that these must be different blessings entirely–so aren’t you the one making the either/or?

  21. its.reed said,

    January 10, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Ref. #20:

    Joshua, I think we are possibly posting past each other a little bit. Please read my comments in no. 19 and consider them for the points you make in no. 20.

    The aside aside, my point is a both/and, at least with respect to the ECM.

    > The ECM experience both eternal blessings and temporal blessings.
    > The RCM experience only temporal blessings.

    I think you are reading the FV accurately, at least as far as your description here goes. In the FV:

    > Some advocates maintain that the ECM and the RCM experience the exact same eternal blessings, but for the RCM these are only temporary.
    > Some advocates maintain the there are two different types of eternal blessings, that look, feel, taste, etc. the same, eternal blessings ECM type and eternal blessings RCM type.

    To prove either one you must demonstrate this from Scripture. The FV consistently fails to do so, regularly falling into the equivocation trap.

    No disrespect, but your reference to “illumination” here is an example of falling into the illumination trap. You are presuming that the Bible only teaches one kind (to stick with my taxonomic distinctions) of illumination. Thus both ECM and RCM must received the same kind of illumination (a regenerative illumination).

    The Bible teaches that there are different kinds of illumination, one eternal and one temporal. The RCM do not experience a variety of eternal illumination, merely temporal illumination. This is in no way the same kind, a variety of, etc., eternal illumination.

    The Scriptures do not maintain either of these positions.

  22. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 10, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Okay, I suppose #19 helps. You are distinguishing two different meanings of “like” by setting out the categories of “kind” and “type”–which, I may point out you did not do before. You did point out all the similarities in the experience of the RCM and the ECM (even saying they were “akin”), then said that the RCM experience was not actually “like” regeneration. Similarities, kinship, etc., all seemed to me to be “likenesses,” so for you to explain the likenesses between the experience of the RCM and regeneration, then say the former cannot be said to be “like” the latter was a little confusing. Words, words, words…

    I think my #20, oddly enough, is apt for your #19, even though I hadn’t seen #19 while I was writing #20…

    I’m not sure that I follow the whole dogs-cats analogy very well, but I’ll make various comments…

    1. “Their experience overlaps now (similarities), but this overlap does not mean same-ness.” I completely agree. If there are similarities, then that means that one is like the other, no? So, since the experience of the ECM is called regeneration, then the experience of the RCM is “like” regeneration: in some characteristics, though not in quality or essence. Cats are “like” dogs in that they have some characteristics in common; in the same way, the RCM and ECM are “alike” in that they have some characteristics in common (which you helpfully listed in #10 & 14). Of course, no one ever mistakes a cat for a dog–just so, no could ever mistake a RCM for an ECM IF he had God’s perspective, which only God has.

    2. “The RCM have no experience of eschatological-eternal blessings because these beling exclusively to the eternal-realm.” Here we come back to Heb. 6:4-5, which says that, in fact, the RCM does have some experience of those eschatological blessings: they have tasted of the powers of the age to come. And we agree that the eschatological breaks into history, which means that the eschatological blessings are not exclusively found in the eternal realm–and I’m trying to be careful with my terms. The eschatological blessings do BELONG properly TO the eternal realm, but they are also FOUND IN the temporal realm. And so if they are found in the temporal realm, some who have them in that context have them illegitimately (the RCM are not true heirs), and thus they will be taken away when that illegitimacy is discovered.

    3. “There is no such biblical thing as temporal-regeneration. That is this blessing does not have an expression in the temporal-blessings set.” But there is temporal participation in the new order of things, which can be called THE regeneration (Matt. 19:28) and has broken into the temporal order in the life of the church (1 Cor. 10, Heb. 6). So, I would say that this blessing does have some sort of expression in the temporal realm, insofar as the experience of the RCM is similar to regeneration (not “the same as”!) in:
    a. the agent of the blessing: the Holy Spirit.
    b. the object: the work of Christ
    c. certain formal characteristics: e.g., notitia & assensus, joyful & eager participation in the life of the Church.

  23. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 10, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I think we’re starting from different points: you are starting from the decretal status of the person, while I am starting from the objective blessings. Thus, your both/and is that there are two types of blessings, and the ECM receives both the eternal and temporal. My point is that there is a type of blessing which is both eternal and temporal: temporal for all CMs, but continuing into the eternal for the elect alone. Notice: “a type of blessing”–not only one type of blessing overall. I would agree with you in principle, but I would say that starting from the decretal status is not something we can do in applying these things.

    For example, a former pastor of mine laid out exclusion from the table as discipline in this way: “The table is only for the (decretally) elect, and by this person’s fruit they do not appear to be part of the elect, so therefore the table is not for them.” But I do not find this way of arguing in Scripture: we are called to judge by the fruit, so the biblical argument for exclusion would be: “You are not bearing fruit, therefore you should be excluded.” The purpose of discipline (including exclusion from the table) is to restore, yes? So discipline cannot be on the basis of the decreed end, since that hasn’t been reached, and the discipline is applied in the hope that it will call the person back to living faith, thus showing that he is elect…

    Thus, from the eternal perspective, we could call them different blessings. But we don’t like from that perspective, so how do we understand the historical outworking of the decrees from within history? The whole thrust of certain warnings is that false Christians can look an awful lot like real ones, even to themselves (Matt. 7, 1 Cor. 10, Heb. 6 & 10)…

  24. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 10, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Sorry, that should be “we don’t *live* from that perspective”…

  25. Roger Mann said,

    January 10, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    17: Reed wrote,

    The context of blessing for the RCM and the ECM is different: The ECM receive both eternal (internal, spiritual, fruit of regeneration) and temporal (external, earthly, temporary, fruit of Christ’s rule of the Church in this world only) blessings. Let us call these eternal-blessings and temporal-blessings. The RCM receive only temporal-blessings, no eternal blessings.

    I understand the distinction you are making between “temporal” and “eternal,” but I fail to see how God’s temporal gifts can be classified as “blessings” apart from God’s intention in giving them. Things in themselves are not “blessings” anymore than they are “curses.” They are “blessings” or “curses” depending on God’s purpose in giving them. For example, even God’s gift of the gospel is a “blessing” or “curse” depending on God’s sovereign decree and providential control:

    “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” 2 Cor. 2:14-16

    The gospel, in and of itself, is not a “blessing.” It is only a “blessing” for God’s elect; it is a “curse” for the reprobate (see Matt. 11:20-26; Heb. 10:26-31; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Jude 4; etc.). And, of course, this is all in accordance with God’s eternal purpose (1 Pet. 2:7-8). The WCF also teaches this:

    “As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sins, doth blind and harden; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understandings, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had; and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan; whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.” (WCF 5.6)

    Thus, since God uses the same “means” that He “useth for the softening of others” to harden the reprobate, the “temporal” gifts He gives to the reprobate (whether material or spiritual) are not gracious “blessings” from the perspective of God’s intention or purpose.

    Fallen non-regenerate man of both types (reprobate non-church member, RCNM & RCM), Experience real ordinary blessings from God in that they merely draw breath. We agree that God is obligated to no one, and so from that contextual perspective, life is a blessing.

    Well, I’m not sure I agree that “life is a blessing” for the reprobate, even in that “contextual perspective.” God is most certainly not “obligated” to give anyone anything (aside from His self-imposed covenantal obligations), but that in no way implies that natural life is a “blessing” for the reprobate. After all, their ultimate rejection of the gospel has been preordained by God (1 Pet. 2:8), and they live their entire life “treasuring up wrath” (Rom. 2:5) every time “they merely draw breath.” And Christ Himself declared, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24)! So, how was Judas’ life a “blessing” from that biblical (and logical) perspective?

    When I say “real and true” blessings, I am not merely tossing the FV a bone.

    I didn’t think you were. However, it does seem to me that they are simply taking the covenantal/spiritual “blessings” for the reprobate teaching to its logical end. After all, they reason, if God intended them as covenantal/spiritual “blessings,” then they must be “temporary” because of the reprobates covenantal unfaithfulness, otherwise they were not real “blessings” after all.

  26. its.reed said,

    January 10, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Ref. #22 & 23:

    Joshua, yes I could have been more detailed in the distinction between type and kind. I did not do so merely because of unawareness that this was needed. Frankly, each time I discuss these things at this depth I learn more about how comprehensive the FV perspective is as an interpretive grid. Each time I think I’m on common ground, I find there is still more I must prove/demonstrate.

    I used words like “akin” to get at this. Reading your responses here I think I am still not being clear enough. You still think I am saying “yes” on the one hand and then contradicting myself by saying “no” on the other.

    For my perspective, I still see you reading my comments from the wrong perspective. Let me summarize this way.

    > You are maintaining that the ECM and RCM experience both temporal blessings AND eternal blessings. The notion of similarity is critical in your observation.

    > To use “set” language, let us call temporal blessings TB and eternal blessings EB.

    What is the biblical relationship between TB and EB?

    > Are TB and EB simply different names for the same thing? Neither of us would agree.

    > Is TB a subset of EB? It sounds like you are agreeing with me no.

    > Are TB and EB varieties (types) of a larger set of blessings, let’s call it Regenerative Blessings, RB. I am hearing some equivocation from you on this. My point here is that this is not the case.

    > TB and RB are different enough that whatever they have in common is immaterial. Their similarities DO NOT flow from some essential same-ness.

    I agree that this is from the decretal perspective. And this is the dominant perspective of the NT. To be sure, this is the perspective that is veiled in the OT. Yet it is brought to the fore in the NT.

    One of my criticisms of the FV is that it fails to do justice to this. The NT is not a book in which there is even parity between historical vs. eternal perspectives. The dominant theme for Christians is the eternal perspective.

    Yes, the historical perspective is still present. Yet it operates to reinforce the believer’s (ECM) adherence to the eternal perspective. E.g., the warning passages do not call the ECM to immediate adherence to works, only mediately, and that through the immediate adherence to Christ.

    The historical perspective is not one to be used to understand or explain to the ECM or the RCM what they posses now.

    > The ECM posess both TB and EB.
    > The RCM only posess TB – a TB which they wrongly believe is EB in that there are similarities.

    This is where the counterfeit $100 analogy comes into play. The similarities between the real and the counterfeit do not represent any essential same-ness between the two kinds. All the similarities show is that one kind represents itself as the other kind. It is, in the end, a counterfeit. It pretends to be the same as the real. It is not a variety of the other (TB and type of EB), nor is it a a variety of a larger kind (TB & EB types of RB).

    The FV puports to offer a stronger way of viewing the Visible Church (preferring the label “historical”). Since we cannot know the decretal (the eternal) perspective infallibly, the FV wrongly argues we must rely on the historical perspective. FV: view all church members (ECM and RCM) in an undifferentiated manner. Thus, folllowing logically (and validly though not truly), the FV must presuppose some sense in which the RCM really and truly posess what the ECM posses (some variety of EB or some TB which like EB flows from RB).

    Yet what the FV does in fact is wrongly view the Church from the old veiled perspective of the OT. It fails to adequately view the Church from the NT perspective, the eternal one, the decretal one. This is the perspective that the NT writers time and time again call us to view ourselves from. The warnings to apostasy are there to drive us not to lie to ourselves, to consider ourselves hypothetically at best at ECM when all the while we are RCM. The warnings are there to drive us to rightly reckon ourselves as truly regenerate or not, to see whether we truly are ECM or RCM.

    That the RCM can only deceives themselves is beside the point, as they are not the focus of the warning passages. The warning passages, as all of Scripture, are written for the benefit of the ECM.

    I fully recognize I am saying things that FV advocates will respond to with, “that’s what we’ve been saying all along.” Respectfully, no it is not. The FV says we cannot tell the difference between ECM and RCM. In fact there really is no difference, historically speaking. So we all better pursue … at this point its not really clear exactly what we’re supposed to do.

    This is not the message of the NT. The ECM can know themselves to be ECM, and they can know themselves to posess the EB. That which is posessed by the RCM looks similar, but this similarity does not mean an essential relationship. It means that they posess a counterfeit given to them by God to deepend their judgment on that last day.

    This is not the clear and simple message the FV puts forward.

    As I have been discussing with you Joshua, I am struck by how much we think the other is not getting what we are saying. I am persuaded that it is a matter of perspectives, of starting points. You and I both have a different starting point. You start saying that we must view the Church via the historical; I say from the eternal.

    Which does the NT support? I would argue that even those which discuss a historical view (few and far between in comparison to the vast majority of the NT which is eternal view oriented) do so in support of the eternal view. E.g., Heb. 6:4-6 is a warning whose application can only be posessed via the eternal perspective. I do not avoid the apostasy warning of Heb. 6:4-6 by historical applications (following the old covenant, external applications of sacrifice, worship regulations, e.g., good works). I avoid apostasy by grapsing more fully the decretally oriented reality of Christ – clearly an eternal perspective.

    The FV offers a faulty starting point, an interpretive grid which prioritizes the historical over the eternal, contrary to the Bible’s opposite prioritization.

  27. January 10, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Joshua said ” But there is temporal participation in the new order of things, which can be called THE regeneration (Matt. 19:28) and has broken into the temporal order in the life of the church (1 Cor. 10, Heb. 6). So, I would say that this blessing does have some sort of expression in the temporal realm, insofar as the experience of the RCM is similar to regeneration ”

    This confuses two different categories – “regeneration” as a dogmatic category is an ordo salutis benefit unlike “the regeneration,” which refers to an eschatological age (probably referring to the Resurrection in Matthew 19). The latter is *not* just a temporal version of the former. The dogmatic category is indexed to Jesus’ words concerning the New Birth in John 3, which is not equivalent to Matthew’s use of palingenesia. Reed is absolutely right in criticizing this sort of equivocation in FV thought.

    Joshua also wrote “For example, a former pastor of mine laid out exclusion from the table as discipline in this way: “The table is only for the (decretally) elect, and by this person’s fruit they do not appear to be part of the elect, so therefore the table is not for them.” But I do not find this way of arguing in Scripture: we are called to judge by the fruit, so the biblical argument for exclusion would be: “You are not bearing fruit, therefore you should be excluded.” ”

    Your former pastor would be right if you substitute the word “decretally elect” with “regenerate.” I take it that is what he meant to say.

    It is also wrong to say that we are excluded from the table based on fruit. Fruit is, rather, the evidence that someone is or is not really a Believer.

  28. January 10, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Reed, your analogy of the counterfeit $100 bill is fitting. As it were, Joshua is fixated on just how “similar” the counterfeit is to the real thing – the fact that the counterfeit is green and has a picture of Ben Franklin on it. Nevermind that it is a fake, a fraud, and worthless. Yet FV wants to build a system driven by this strange fixation. Is this really a pastoral concern or a decadent, hilariously out-of-touch academic exercise?

  29. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 10, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    I’m not actually fixated on the similarity between the real and counterfeit bill. The only reason I focused on that was that Reed said that we cannot say that the experience of the RCM is like regeneration, then he listed ways in which the former is similar to or akin to the latter–and I took “similar to” and “akin to” as meaning, oddly enough, about the same things as “like.” So, I spent time pointing out what seemed like a contradiction, Reed disagreed that it was a contradiction and clarified some terms, and I responded to that. Hardly a “strange fixation” that is driving my system (if you’re including me in the FV, which seems to be the case, as you argue from what I say to what the FV is doing).

    Reed, I haven’t any more time today to say anything but that I disagree with you that the NT prioritizes the decretal view. More tomorrow, perhaps…

  30. its.reed said,

    January 10, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Ref. #25:

    Roger, the majority of your comment is not contradicted by my usage (as distinguished) of the term “blessing.” I think this is quibbling about a point that is neither in view nor threatened by the observations here.

    But, in an effort to remove the offense, would you be satisfied instead with the use of the word privileges?

    ” WLC Q63: What are the special privileges of the visible church?”

    Unless you can demonstrate how this is on topic here, to the point of Turretin’s distinguishing TF from JF, I’ad aks you to keep you response brief.


  31. January 10, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    […] FV, Historical, Theology I’ve spent some time contemplating a commentator’s repeated references to the historical (covenantal) vs. eschatological (decretal) perspective. I think he dwells on an […]

  32. Roger Mann said,

    January 10, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    30: Reed wrote,

    I think this is quibbling about a point that is neither in view nor threatened by the observations here. But, in an effort to remove the offense, would you be satisfied instead with the use of the word privileges? “WLC Q63: What are the special privileges of the visible church?”

    As defined by the Answer in WLC 63, I see no problem with the term “special privileges” as used in reference to the visible church as a whole. You may feel that I’m merely “quibbling” about a relatively minor point, but I believe that this is just one in a series of “minor” points that the FV (and other false teachers) latch onto in formulating their errors. In and of itself it may not be that big of a problem. However, when it is combined with other imprecise or false distinctions/assumptions (such as a rejection of the CoW, a redefinition of the CoG, a blurring together of justification and sanctification, redefining faith as “covenantal faithfulness,” etc.), which seems to inevitably be the case, then it no longer remains such a “minor” point anymore. Consequently, it makes contending “for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) that much more difficult for those of us, like yourself, who are trying to combat the FV movement. You may not be intending to “throw the FVists a bone,” but that seems to be the practical effect of using such language as “grace” or “blessings” when referring to the “common [as opposed to “special” or “gracious”] operations of the Spirit.” That’s the way I see anyway. Thanks a lot for the exchange.

  33. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 11, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Re #26: Actually, the author of Hebrew lays out how one can avoid the apostasy he warns against in 6:4-6 in what follows. The reason why he had confidence that something better was in store for the Hebrews was not some decretal knowledge, but rather their “work and love” in “ministering to the saints.” So, he comforts them by pointing out the fruit of love in their lives, which is something that happens in history. Then, he lays out a variety of historical concerns: things that God has already accomplished in history (rather than in eternity). He doesn’t appeal to the eternal decree, as Paul does in Ephesians, but to the historical, redemptive work of God in covenant and Christ (e.g., Heb. 12:1-3).

    But as I look again at # 26, I think we have very different understandings of historical. When you talk about “historical applications,” you go on to list elements of the Old Covenant administration: sacrifice, etc. But that is not what I mean by “historical,” and I must say that to equate “historical” with “old covenant” seems like a drastic narrowing of the term. By “historical,” I mean that which takes place throughout the entirety of history, or the temporal progression of the fulfillment of the eternal decree. So, for example, I would speak of an eternal election to union with Christ for a particular person–call him John. But I would also then say that there is a moment within history at which John is in fact united to Christ (using union here in the Westminster sense): there was a point at which his heart was made new, he turned from his sin in repentance and toward Christ in true faith, etc. Let’s say that was on July 23rd, 1994. The day before that, he was not united to Christ, he was not regenerate, etc.–even though he was eternally part of the elect. In the eternal decree, Christ was viewed as the one whose obedience in life and death was granted to His people, even though he had not yet done this in their place, as a man, which happened from 4 B.C. to 30 A.D.. So, “historical” as I use it does not have any necessary connection to the Old Covenant (although the OC did happen in history). It has to do with our lives as they unfold, as we see them from within.

    In the NT, this is the language of pressing on, running the race, holding fast, remaining in the faith, abiding in Christ, etc. These are all things we are to do in history, and it is these things that are the means that God uses in the elect to bring to the eternal state. And it is the perseverance in these things that demonstrates whether the experience of the CM is true regeneration, or just something that looks and feels similar–whether the bill is real or counterfeit.

  34. its.reed said,

    January 11, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Ref. #33:

    Joshua, as you now have seen, I moved this tangent of our conversation here to another post specifically addressing the differences in perspective.

  35. rjs1 said,

    February 2, 2008 at 10:02 am


    Good post. As you will see from my post linked below I have come across the teaching you are talking about. Your comments are helpful.


  36. February 2, 2008 at 10:04 am

    […] plase see this post also by Reed […]

  37. its.reed said,

    February 2, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Thanks Richard.

  38. Jack Bradley said,

    November 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Reed, thanks for your patience re: my response to the links. I should have something up within a couple of hours.

  39. Jack Bradley said,

    November 4, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Reformed Anglican, I don’t know if anyone else is having this problem, but when I click on your link, all I get is this:

    reformedanglican.wordpress.com is no longer available.

  40. May 1, 2015 at 10:31 am

    […] at Green Bagginses, Reed raises the question of the status of NECMs (non-elect covenant members) and how the FV views […]

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