The Wrong Starting Point

Reed DePace 

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 essential distinction in the FV reading of what is possessed by the elect Church member (ECM) and reprobate church member (RCM). I believe this is an essential distinction because this distinction in perspectives functions as the fundamental interpretive principle the FV applies to understanding the issue of ECM vs. RCM.

It is clear from this exchange, and others, that the FV truly believes we who are opposed are not accurately hearing what the FV is saying, and that this misunderstanding flows in large part from a failure to rightly comprehend and apply these two differing perspectives. If only we would do so, we would realize that the FV is not saying anything contradictory to the reformed standards, it is merely saying more than they do.

I thought it might be helpful to express my understanding of the basic contours of this perspective distinction and how it impacts the FV’s approach to interpreting the Bible in this matter.

If I am reading this commentator rightly, I think he would say something like this, “from the eschatological perspective, I agree with the differentiation between the ECM and the RCM. Yet from the historical perspective such differentiation does not apply (at least in the same way.)” Another way the FV might say it is, “Eschatalogically (decretally) it is correct to differentiate between the ECM and the RCM. Yet historically (covenantally) you are making distinctions that cannot be demonstrated. You are insisting on reading eschatalogically things that can only be read historically.”

To be fully fair in letting the FV speak for itself, we need to note that the FV is not arguing that the historical perspective is in contradiction to the eschatological perspective, but the validity of both of them in their proper uses. Let me offer this summary of how this interpretive principle fleshes itself out in the FV:

  1. The eschatological perspective is indeed valid.
  2. Yet it is the perspective known infallibly only to the Trinity in history, and to us only in the eschaton (the end of this world and existence).
  3. The context of the Church at present is the historical perspective. We can only see the Church undifferentiatedly, ECM and RCM necessarily are seen as the same at present.
  4. Since we cannot know (infallibly) the eschatalogical perspective, the Bible is to be read from this historical perspective.
  5. This necessitates reading the references to church members and their blessings in an undifferentiated manner. E.g., both ECM and RCM experience union with Christ, justifying faith, when viewed from the historical perspective.
  6. The FV is not saying that the ECM and RCM posses the same things from the eschatalogical perspective. Rather it is to say that from the historical perspective the ECM and the RCM posses the same things. It’s a matter of two different perspectives.
  7. Since we cannot know the eschatalogical perspective, we must minister the gospel (in all its fullness) from the historical perspective. We must treat RCM and ECM in an undifferentiated manner. Both possess Christ historically. Both must be ministered to as believers truly possessing Christ and His benefits.

Hopefully it will be concluded, without need for further detail, that in essence I get what the FV is trying to say.

My problem is that the FV wrongly limits the perspective of both biblical interpretation and gospel ministry. The eschatological perspective is not some minor, inconsequential one. Rather, it is the heart beat of the NT (the NT being best understood as the definitive commentary on the meaning of the OT). Rather than there being even parity between the historical and eschatalogical perspectives in the NT, in point of fact the eschatalogical is the dominant perspective. The historical only comes into view in the role of a servant to the eschatalogical perspective.

This is not an immaterial observation. If right, it cuts to the heart of the essential FV interpretive principle, thus vitally and negatively impacting the whole FV system.

The NT does not operate in a manner like this, “now to be sure from God’s perspective there are ECM and RCM. But since you can’t infallibly see this eschatalogical perspective difference, treat all as if there were no such distinction as ECM and RCM.”

Such chapters as Matt. 13 are dominant in making this point. It is the very fact of the reality of the ECM and RCM that drives Christ’s commands in terms of ministry in the Church in this chapter laden with express distinctions between ECM and RCM. Without the eschatalogical perspective, the distinctions Christ makes devolve into at best principles that can neither be understood or applied this side of eternity. Note that Christ’s words will not lend themselves to a historical perspective – they are expressly rooted in the eschatalogical perspective and are intended to guide us in our historical setting!

Consider the example from a passage such as John 2:23-25. John begins (vs. 23) with a perspective that is clearly historical only. The “belief” of the crowd is offered for consideration in an undifferentiated manner (we could say both RCM and ECM potentially in view). Yet Jesus’ response cannot be understood as growing out of the historical perspective. Rather, his point only makes sense from the eschatalogical perspective. He makes a distinction between two kinds of belief, one possessed only by RCM and one possessed only by ECM – a decided eschatalogical perspective understanding. Here it is clear that the historical perspective is the servant of the eschatalogical perspective.

This is the heart beat of the whole NT. It is the light of the eschatalogical perspective that explains the mystery hidden in the historical perspective of the OT. The OT veiled is historical perspective dominant. The NT revealed in eschatalogical perspective dominant. Jesus speaks to his people not in the uncertain, unclear, hidden and veiled manner of the historical perspective of the old covenant. He speaks to them in the clear revelation from the eschatalogical perspective of the new covenant.

Again, this is not an insignificant criticism of the FV. Not to engage in hyperbole, but to demonstrate the significance of using the wrong interpretive presuppositions, consider that a Mormon, a Jehovah Witness, and a Roman Catholic can all (and do) affirm in sincerity, “I trust in Christ.” Yet they all mean something different about both “Christ” and “trust.” These differences flow from their differing interpretation of Scripture. As is obvious, faulty interpretive presuppositions inevitably lead to faulty understanding of the gospel, and often with eternally significant consequences.

To the degree that the FV rests on the faulty interpretive principle of giving preeminence to the historical perspective (over the eschatalogical perspective), it leads to faulty interpretations. I am not inferring anything about the degree of danger of such faulty interpretations. Don’t read between the lines and here me offering veiled accusations against the FV.

Rather I hope the points here bring home the seriousness of this issue. It should be obvious to all that we should so run so far away from faulty interpretive principles, and the faulty interpretations derived from them, as we never discover how truly dangerous they may be.

The FV is not simply saying something more than the reformed standards, and completely consistent with the Bible. It applies a faulty interpretive principle to the Bible and proposes interpretations the Bible does not support. This is dangerous.

Reed DePace


  1. Curate said,

    January 11, 2008 at 2:30 am

    You have put your finger on a vital issue, namely, reading the Bible as an historical document. Put another way, there is a difference of approach between Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology. ST is organized topically, and BT is organized linearly, along a time-line.

    It may be fair to say that this is at the root of many of our differences. ST cultivates a certain mentality that does not easily think historically, and vice-versa. Think of our baptism debate where I was finding necessary temporal things, and you were explicitly arguing atemporally.

    I think that the historical approach developed in the 20th century as a conservative response to Liberal attacks upon the historicity of scripture. It has resulted in a way of reading the Bible that is different from Berkhof and Turretin, and more like Tom Wright and Graeme Goldsworthy.

  2. Curate said,

    January 11, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Rather than there being even parity between the historical and decretal perspectives in the NT, in point of fact the decretal is the dominant perspective. The historical only comes into view in the role of a servant to the decretal perspective.

    Now I would take the exact opposite view, and I would argue that your argument is demonstrably and plainly mistaken. The OT is historical from start to end, and likewise the NT. The four Gospels are histories of the Lord, and Acts is an history of the early church. The epistles thrash out the meaning and implications of the cross for the churches in time and space.

    Only every now and then are we granted a look into the decretal will of God. Romans 9 springs to mind, but even there it is mediated to us through the history of Abraham’s family. There is Ephesians 1, but it is used as an introduction to the the main argument, which is the inclusion, since the cross and resurrection, of the Gentiles with Israel in the commonwealth of Israel and the covenants of promise – all historical.

    And so on …

    The decretal aspect is very much assumed, but it is in the background most of the time.

  3. GLW Johnson said,

    January 11, 2008 at 8:01 am

    As someone who admits he has never read Turretin, how could you possible know the difference?!

  4. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 11, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Put another way, there is a difference of approach between Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology. ST is organized topically, and BT is organized linearly, along a time-line.

    It may be fair to say that this is at the root of many of our differences. ST cultivates a certain mentality that does not easily think historically, and vice-versa. Think of our baptism debate where I was finding necessary temporal things, and you were explicitly arguing atemporally.

    There may be something to this, but give a little credit — it’s possible to do both. I’ve certainly argued whole-book at points; in fact, while the issue at hand has forced some systematic reasoning, I prefer BT to ST.

    And you, likewise, have argued topically at points, such as when you compare 1 Cor 10 to Heb 6 and 10.

    So I would just like to establish as a ground-rule that both ST and BT are esteemed as disciplines and every attempt is made to unite their results.

    Jeff Cagle

  5. January 11, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I think the FV also fails to do justice to the notion that we are called to differeniate between covenant members. Christ said, by their fruits you shall KNOW them. In other words, we are not to simply accept people by their baptism. We are not to be ecumenical to the point we fail to rightly judge the fruit of our professions. The church has a moral responsibility to maintain the purity among the brethren, to root out false teachers, etc. And it would appear this cannot be rightly done given the FV’s understanding of the nature and historical capabilities of the church.

  6. January 11, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I am curious to know if the FV believes whether the visible (historical) church on earth has a moral responsiblity to pursue (as close as it is able) an approximation of the invisible (eschatological) church?

    And if not, what is the purpose of exercising church discipline?

  7. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 11, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    As the commentator referred to by Reed, I should say that I am relatively happy with what he has laid out as a description of what I have been arguing. Several comments:

    1. Although both the RCM and the ECM possess SOME of the same things, they never possess them in the same way. The ECMs, as true sons, always possess them legitimately, while the RCMs, as false sons, always (i.e., whenever they do possess them, which is only temporarily) have them illegitimately. These are the promises and indeed the presence of Christ in the Word and Sacrament. Perhaps the distinction here would a legal, as that between simple possession and legal title–kind of like the issue of illegal immigrants: they enjoy some benefits of citizenship, but they’re not really entitled to them. And there are things that the ECM possess that the RCM never do–e.g., regeneration proper.

    2. I have to disagree with the statement that the NT is primarily decretal in its perspective. Reed seems to equate a “historical” perspective with the administration of the Old Covenant through a veil of types and shadows (see also his comment on JF and TF 3), which is certainly not what I or the FV mean when we refer to the “historical” perspective. Both the OC and NC administration are historical, but that does not mean one is the other. Life under both was characterized by faith (Heb. 11), rather than by sight: we do not yet see what we will be, we do not yet see creation in subjection to man, but we see Jesus by faith, and believe that when He appears, we will be like Him. We don’t see the Bride perfected, cleansed of every blemish and perfectly adorned. This is the historical perspective: although something of what God has decreed has been revealed, we still must live in the historical outworking of those decrees. This is the NT language of pressing on, abiding in Christ, running the race, not growing weary, etc., which is certainly as prevalent, if not more so, than the decretal perspective.

    3. Both of the passages Reed offers are of Jesus’ perspective–one who could read the hearts and minds of those around him. No one’s saying that Jesus did not have a decretal perspective, just that He did not bequeath that to individual Christians or to the Church as a whole. And Matt. 13 demonstrates very clearly the historical perspective: how do you tell the difference between the good soil and the rocky soil? You sow the seed, water it and tend it, and see which bears fruit.

    4. And this gets right to David McCrory’s question: of course the historical church is supposed to approximate the eschatological, which is the point of church discipline. But we don’t put out obstinate sinners and false teachers because we know their eternal, decretal status. We put them out because of what they are doing: we are to judge by their fruit. In fact, part of the point of discipline is for the benefit of the one disciplined, that God will use that to restore them to Himself, in the hope that they are just backsliding, not truly falling away. If we have to make a judgment about their decretal status in order to discipline them, then if they do repent and return (and then, perhaps, sin again), we have to change our position on their decretal status: “they are not elect…well, we were wrong, they are elect after all…wait, they are in obstinate sin again, so they’re not elect after all…” The decretal status cannot be judged for the purposes of discipline in the middle of the historical process (either individual or corporate).

  8. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 11, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    And why does one have to have read Turretin to distinguish between a historical and decretal perspective? I have read significant portions of Turretin, by the way…

  9. its.reed said,

    January 11, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Ref. #7:


    1. Your emphasis between what is truly possessed (decretally) vs. what is historically possesed (covenantally) is assumed in what I’ve written. While there is a wide variety of opinions on this issue (and a decided lack of systematization) on the part of the key FV advocates, for the sake of limiting discussion to just this point I chose not to go into any details here. All FV advocates affirm that what is possessed by the ECM is never ultimately possessed by the RCM. Some offer differentiation, as your details demonstrate you do. As there is not clear cut agreement on the part of FV advocates on this issue, and it is not the particular focus of this post, I chose not to go there.

    2. You may disagree with my emphasis that the NT is to be read primarily from the decretal perspective. But basing your disagreement on the observation that I see this as merely reading the OT into the NT (old covenant into new) is wrong. You pick this up from a misreading of what I wrote in a response to you on another thread. I had not gotten a chance to respond to you there and observe the error in your reading, so let me do it here.

    I was not making a categorical statement, but rather an illustrative observation. E.g., I do not think the FV is merely about sacrifice, forms of worship, etc. I used that as an illustration of the FV’s focus on the external, on the objective aspects of the covenant relationship, i.e., the historical perspective. It would really be naive of me to understand the FV to merely be a new covenant form of old covenant religion.

    Rather, the point of contact is that like old covenant religion, the FV similarly (not the same) places the wrong emphasis on what it calls the objective nature of the covenant, those things which are viewed by eye, professed by mouth, and practiced by hand. The FV contends that as we cannot truly know the state of souls (a eschatalogical perspective infallibly known only to God), therefore ministry must be focused on the externals. The FV contends that for all practical purposes the state of a man’s soul is veiled. Thus the emphasis is placed on what can be seen, heard, felt, etc. This is the same pattern as with the old covenant. This is historical perspective, not eschatalogical perspective.

    Your use of the phrases “pressing on,” “abiding,” “running the race,” provide an opportunity to demonstrate the deficiency of the FV prioritizing the historical perspective.

    You propose these as historical perspective rooted items. I demur. To be sure these are expressed in the context of personal history, but that is not the debating ground between these two perspectives. We’re talking about how we are to interpret and apply these phrases.

    So how does one “press on?” The historical perspective can only answer this from what it looks like. This leads to a failure to differentiate between ECM and RCM. As we all agree “pressing on” may very well look the same (at any given moment and for a time) in both. (This does not mean I am saying they are the same, counterfeit $100 vs. real $100).

    Yet what does the Scripture teach? Does not pressing on mean to perserve in one’s faith, one’s belief, trust and adherence to Christ (at least in the context of Phil 3:15)? Are not these decretal perspective rooted?

    The FV would look at the faith of the ECM and the RCM, and via the reliance on the historical perspective, say they look the same, therefore the are the same (similar), or for all practical purposed as we can’t really (eschatalogically) know, we must treat them the same. The FV will insist that this does not conflict with the eschatalogical perspective as it is not looking at the issue from the eschatalogical perspective.

    The problem is not with the language of appearance. The problem is with then missing that Paul does not treat ECM and RCM the same. Look at the context of pressing on (Phil. 3). How in the world can anyone say that such a chapter, let alone the book, is rooted in the historical perspective. All the problems addressed, all the solutions offered, are rooted in the person and work of Christ – not simply what he accomplished in history but how that now eschatalogical applies to the ECM. The applications are not found in a “since you don’t know if you’re really (eschatalogically) ECM, act as if you (historical perspective are).” Rather the command is to (eschatalogically) believe, to reckon oneself by (eschatalogical) faith.

    One has to come to Phil. 3 with a presupposed conviction to read the text through the lense of the FV’s historical perspective to say that such a chapter speaks to both ECM and RCM in an undifferentiated manner. Is it not obvious that laying ahold of Christ, being conformed to his death and resurrection, can only be fully understood AND applied from the eschatalogical perspective?

    3. I expected this critique. The position you are assuming here places large swaths of the Bible outside the ministry of the Church. “Well that was Christ. He was unique. We can’t do that therefore it does apply to us.” is not a normative interpretive principle that offers any hope or confidence in Scripture. Simple fact, John 2:23-25 demonstrates true and false faith, JF & TF. Other passages flesh out what this means and how it applies to the life of the Church (cf., 1 John 2:19). This is express eschatalogical perspective stuff given to the Church for the edification of the ECM – it is spiritual (decretal) food, not temporal (historical) food.

    If you take this track Joshua, what do you do with Matt. 13, parables that are expressly based on the eschatalogical perspective fact of true vs. false faith? Why would Jesus give us so many parables that frankly have no practical value because they are so rooted in a decretal perspective to which only he had infallible access?

    I’ll leave no. 4 for David to respond to in detail. Just one point, you’ve presented the standard understanding. The FV goes against its own logic in this issue. And the eschatalogical perspective includes the historical perspective (never said either/or, just a matter of which is preeminent). When we discipline we are calling into question the eschatalogical status of an individual, not declaring something about it. We are doing so, as you rightly observe, in hopes that God will use our act of faith (a eschatalogical perspective) as a means of bring them to repentance (a eschatalogical perspective).

    To do what it sounds like you assume the eschatalogical perspective requires (i.e. to infallibly declare something about their eschatalogical status) us to act beyond our knowledge. In point of fact the eschatalogical perspective always points us back, via faith to reliance on the only One Who is infallible.

    Ref. #8 – what??

    I suspect this post, coming on the heels of the others we’ve exchanged, may be leading us to a more casual tone of conversation with one another. If in any way my tone hear comes across as disrespectful please forgive me that. I wish you well and pray God’s continued blessing of Christ and His mercy and grace be yours.

  10. Jeff Moss said,

    January 11, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I think both sides in this discussion may have gone out of balance by overemphasizing “starting points.” For the non-FV side, the starting point would obviously be justification in the Westminster sense, the point at which a decretally elect person becomes right with God. (Even this is actually a historical consideration, not a decretal one.) For FV’ers, the starting point — at least as far as membership in the Body of Christ is concerned — is baptism in the Triune Name.

    But in Philippians 3, the Apostle Paul says not a word about historical starting points (except for his physical circumcision, which he counts as loss for Christ’s sake). Neither does he have anything to say here about the decrees of God.

    The Apostle’s whole concern in this chapter is for things that are historical, that belong to the temporal experience of God’s own people. But look what these are: worshiping in the Spirit, rejoicing in Christ, having no confidence in the flesh (v. 3); receiving righteousness from God by faith (v. 9); pressing on and laying hold (v. 12); being transformed into Christ’s own image (v. 21). (Note that when Paul talks of being found in Him with the righteousness which is from God by faith, he describes even this as a goal and not merely as a foundation!)

    In other words, neither decretal/temporal nor external/internal does a very good job of describing the essential difference between the two kinds of church members. I humbly suggest that we should all speak more like the author of Hebrews, when he writes to the church about the “things that accompany salvation” (Heb. 6:9). What are those things? Are they decreed by God, or are they historical? Are they internal, or are they external? Are they “faith,” or are they “works”? Are they characteristic of those whom God has predestined to eternal life, or of those who belong to the covenant objectively? The answer to all of these questions is simply Yes. Heb. 6:9-12, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

  11. Jeff Moss said,

    January 11, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Oops, I just remembered that Reed used “starting point” in the head post to refer to perspectives, while I just appropriated it to talk about historical moments. Maybe I should have said “starting points in some sense”…

  12. its.reed said,

    January 11, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Ref. #10, 11:

    Jeff, I think you just offered my criticism of your criticism. The issue of perspectives is not a matter of simly reading the text and counting up the elements that are either historical or decretal. Rather its a matter of using a given perspective through which to view and interpret a given passage.

    In hindsight I may have been better served to use the eschatalogical label for the decretal perspective, as the term decretal seems to very easily lend itself to the kind of flat, linear thinking you’ve fallen into here. I think some of this can be seen in Joshua’s response as well.

    And, since I’m being generous with criticism, I think I need to level some at myself. This is truly a complex topic, and one which I think I still need to do some work on in being clear.

    Anyway, I’m going to change the term decretal to eschatalogical, at least as one step towards more clarity.

  13. Gabe Martini said,

    January 11, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    I’m a little confused by the objections made by reed in the original post. I mostly agree with his assessment of FV viewpoints, but I’m still feeling that the waters are muddy here; maybe it is just me.

    What part of salvation is decretal? By decretal, do you mean occuring in eternity? How is that even possible? Nothing “occurs” in eternity, properly speaking — it all is.

    By decretal do you mean grounded in God’s decree? If that is the case, which I’m assuming it must be (which is why I’m feeling confused, personally, no fault of reed’s), then what is the disagreement over?

    God decrees an apostasy from the new covenant. God’s predestination of all things is the absolute ground or cause of all that takes place, including a NECM’s entrance into the covenant community through baptism, profession of faith, repentance (without a penitent heart, albeit), participation in the Lord’s Supper, and so on. This is all grounded decretally, and it takes place in history.

    The same can be said for God’s elect, of course. They are predetermined to become one of God’s children — in time — through the appointed means. Nothing about salvation happens “outside of time,” properly speaking. That isn’t within the realm of possibility, philosophically speaking (and, I believe, Biblically).

    Given this, and assuming I’m not mis-reading reed’s thoughts, what is the “problem” with the FV’s emphasis on the COVENANTAL nature of one’s salvation experience (better stated than historical, in my opinion). Taking Deuteronomy 29:29 for granted, what is the issue? This seems to be Biblical, and completely so. Again, cf. Matthew 13:29-30. We live according to God’s PROMISE within his COVENANT, and salvation should be understood in these “temporal” and “historical” terms, I believe. I believe Scripture presents things in this manner, while AT THE SAME TIME presupposing and grounding all that occurs (whether we’re talking about perseverance unto glorification or apostasy of an “NECM”) in God’s predestination or eternal decree.

    Both Augustine and Calvin’s doctrines of predestination and election were based first on the general or corporate/covenantal aspect of election, and the mystery this presents to us (e.g., why do some fall away? why would God allow this? it is all of his will, is the answer they give, and why election is a mystery and important to acknowledge), and THEN moving to special or individual election within that larger aspect or sense of election.

    Again, I must ask: If God’s decree is the basis for everything that happens, what is the issue? I admit confusion and missing the point, and freely submit that. Please help me understand your concerns more pointedly or concisely, if at all possible, Reed.

    Thanks, and peace,
    Gabe M

  14. Gabe Martini said,

    January 11, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Also, I believe Scripture presents election as Christ’s election, primarily. Christ is the elect one, and if we are in him, we are elect.

    If the Church is the body of Christ, then all those within the Church (even if for a season) are to be counted as God’s elect, being united to the elect one (in some sense, sorry to use that phrase, but it is the only way I can put it!), if only “legally” (as Berkhof would put it) or provisionally so.

  15. Gabe Martini said,

    January 11, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    In your last post, Reed, you also clarified decretal as “eschatological.” If that is the case, then I’m assuming you mean where we will stand on the last day, or at judgment.

    Given that, I still don’t see the danger or problem with living life through the lens of God’s promises and covenant. If someone is being unfaithful to God, they are exhorted to repent and place their trust in Christ alone for their salvation, and live a life worthy of their calling. There’s nothing dangerous about this. If they aren’t being faithful, they are to be reminded that God has placed his name on them in baptism, and that he has laid a claim to their life; they are to, in turn live a life of thanksgiving before God as a living sacrifice, remaining faithful to the God who bought them from this world of corruption. There’s nothing dangerous about that, either. This is Biblical discipleship and sanctification. Nothing more, nothing less. If we hold people accountable according to their covenant obligations (faith and obedience, according to Reformed thought) as Christians, then people will by God’s grace persevere according to his provision and means appointed in the Church for such a thing.

    When we’re concerned more about the eschatological aspects of salvation than where we are in the present — in the Church here and now — we may tend to err towards antinomianism. Presuming upon God’s kindness, sinning so that grace may abound, and so forth — all of which are deplorable in both Paul and God’s sight!

    The importance of the eschatological aspect of salvation, however (which I fully concede! wholeheartedly!), is in its place as our assurance of salvation. When we confess our sins and hear an assurance of pardon, we know NOW in the PRESENT according to God’s PROMISE and COVENANT that we will be forgiven “ultimately” or “finally” on the last day of judgment. Our faith is a hope for things not seen, as Hebrews argues. That hope is hope in the resurrection from the dead, and in our glorification! We hope in that which is not yet a reality. However, all throughout Hebrews’ argument for this faith and hope is the exhortation and reminder to remain faithful, to persevere, to not take God’s grace for granted or despise the gospel and Christ’s blood. These are real fears that are to be countered by a faith that looks to our future vindication before God’s throne on the last day. In this sense, the eschatological aspect of salvation is indispensible, and most necessary; and full of hope and joy. While the warnings are important, they are always followed by judgments of charity (by both John in his first epistle, cf. 1 John 2:18-23 or so, and in Hebrews 6:9ff). We believe better things of you, brethren. Why? Because you’re in the covenant! You’re baptized! You repent and place your trust in Christ alone for your salvation! Thank God for all you have and do all for him and in him, with love and joy. And so, you will be saved.

    Our experience of salvation is ALWAYS covenantal, anyways. There’s no arguing that. No one has absolute knowledge of all things, future things especially. That is why we must find confidence and assurance in knowing that the covenant and its promises are grounded in God’s decree and predestination and the fulfillment and attainment of those promises in FULL is to be anticipated with hope and faith, looking towards the eschaton.

    Gabe M

  16. January 11, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Re. #15

    I haven’t posted here in a while. But I just had to give a good hearty amen to Gabe’s #15. Our Calvinism needs this kind of covenantal context. If it doesn’t have it then we tend toward a very high if not hyper Calvinism. I found this to be true of myself early on in my thinking through Calvinistic theology.

    By the way, Reed, good post my brother. I think the conversation is indeed advancing with this kind of post.

    Blessings in Christ,

  17. Gabe Martini said,

    January 11, 2008 at 8:36 pm

    The A-men should be directed towards John Calvin, John Murray, and other “moderate” Calvinists, who champion a faith that is grounded in God’s decree and promises, and lived out in the “here and now” by faith, looking with hope to final glory.

  18. Gabe Martini said,

    January 11, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Re-reading Reed’s post, I must say one last thing: Any over-emphasis is going to end up being both wrong AND dangerous, in my opinion.

    We must strive to embrace a faith and Christian experience that is grounded in God’s predestination, lived out in the covenant according to God’s promises, and with anticipation of the final judgment when all of God’s people will be declared “not guilty” and resurrected unto glory and eternal life.

    All three perspectives are important and necessary, with relative equality. The only thing that I would emphasize, however, is that we actually “live” in the covenantal perspective — in time or in history — with the understanding of both God’s predestination and our future hope in the eschaton at play along side our covenant life.

    I’ll stop talking now… maybe…

    Gabe M

  19. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 11, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Jeff Moss (#10):

    In other words, neither decretal/temporal nor external/internal does a very good job of describing the essential difference between the two kinds of church members.

    I agree. External/internal is flawed because it’s incorrect; both the ECMs and the NECMs have both external and internal experiences. Decretal/temporal is flawed because the decrees are themselves worked out over time. Hence, God’s election does not simply manifest itself in eternity, but it starts now, resulting in fruit.

    It seems to me that the parable of the wheat and tares, the parable of the soils, and Jesus’ and the author to the Hebrews’ use of agricultural metaphors give a better description:

    The ECMs are those whom God grants a living root in good soil. The NECMs are those who have a non-viable root in soil that might look good, but is flawed from the start.

    (All of this, of course, is from God, the tiller of the soil, who causes the growth. I’m not advocating that “decretal election” is a matter of forseen faith.)

    On this account, the ontological difference between ECMs and NECMs is one of viability. That viability then works itself out over time into perseverance or the lack thereof.

    Hence, after delivering the warning concerning falling away, the author to the Hebrews assures them that he is “persuaded of better things concerning [them], things that accompany salvation.” (6.7 – 9 ) That is to say, he believes their soil is good.

    That’s one reason that I object to Wilkins’ exegesis of John 15. By insisting that the ECMs and NECMs have access to the same life-giving sap, he overturns every single other agricultural metaphor for salvation in the Scriptures.


  20. Curate said,

    January 12, 2008 at 2:01 am

    Reed, please tell me how to read the Gospel according to Mark decretally. Then tell me how to avoid exegeting it historically.

  21. Curate said,

    January 12, 2008 at 2:04 am

    Let me rephrase that. Let’s stick to Mark chapter one.

  22. Curate said,

    January 12, 2008 at 2:29 am

    Reed, how do I access the Fv and Adult Baptism thread? I have been reading Turretin on baptism, and he has some remarkable things to say that I would like to share. :)

  23. Curate said,

    January 12, 2008 at 3:05 am

    Ref 4

    So I would just like to establish as a ground-rule that both ST and BT are esteemed as disciplines and every attempt is made to unite their results.

    No argument from me. But there is a real practical difference in mentality between the two. I went to Seminary with a Reformed ST already in place. My College majors in BT, and ST took second place, so I had a lot of adapting and learning to do. A sister College next door was looked down upon because they weren’t cool re BT.

    Our students ran into difficulties when they went into churches with the older generation of Ministers who had all studied at that other College, and who therefore did not have a BT. There was a real clash of methodology, and even content. It got to the point where some of the older men wouldn’t accept the denomination’s graduates!

    The BT trained Pastor has a different way of reading the Bible from the classical evangelical. As time goes on I think that we will see the gap widening.

    This is a part of the problem between the FV and the Antis, between say a Tom Wright and a Berkhof. BT develops an historical mindset, whereas ST is more abstract and topical, even Aristotelian. I think that Reed’s article articulates the problems that a ST theologian has in understanding the BT trained man, and vice-versa.

  24. Curate said,

    January 12, 2008 at 3:48 am

    An example of the two methods at work.

    BT: God promised Abraham a kingdom – people, land, blessing, God as King over them. It was realized in the conquest of Canaan and reached its high-point under David and Solomon. The kingdom was destroyed because of Israel’s refusal to obey, and their inability to be God’s subjects. God promised to restore the kingdom once and for all, starting at the end of the time of the exile and punishment. That restoration has begun with the re-institution of David’s heir upon David’s throne by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and all who believe in him have the remission of their sins and the promise of bodily resurrection into the kingdom.

    The Gentiles are included in this restored kingdom by baptism into the King of Israel, and they, by faith, become co-heirs with Israel in the covenants of promise and the restored Davidic kingdom that will appear here on earth when the Lord returns to judge the living and the dead.

    Traditional Evangelical: God loves mankind and wants to have a personal relationship with it. But there is an unbridgeable gap between God and man …

    See what I mean? The two readings are vastly different in emphasis and even content.

  25. David Weiner said,

    January 12, 2008 at 10:19 am

    curate, re: #24,

    First a compliment. You have the ability to make comments to which I just feel compelled to respond. Of course, before responding, I have to go to the Word and that is the best part. Anyway, I do thank you.

    You said: “That restoration has begun with the re-institution of David’s heir upon David’s throne by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, . . . ” I would really like to know how you know that Jesus is currently sitting on the throne of David.

  26. its.reed said,

    January 12, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Ref. #22:

    Roger, scroll down till you see “Archives” on the left bar. In the “Search” box, type in the title and hit enter. It will come up.

  27. Gabe Martini said,

    January 12, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Re #25:

    Matthew 19:28, Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 12:2, and the ecumenical Creeds (e.g., “he is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty…”).

  28. Gabe Martini said,

    January 12, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Re #25 (again):

    Psalm 110:1, 5; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Revelation 4:2, etc.

  29. David Weiner said,

    January 12, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Gabe, re #27-28,

    Thanks for trying to help me out. I went to each of the passages you mentioned in your comments. Maybe it is just me but I did not see ‘David’s Throne‘ mentioned in any of those verses. For example, Hebrews 8:1 talks of the one (Jesus) “who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” This says He is sitting right next to God who is sitting on His throne. Nothing is said about what Jesus is sitting on and in particular nothing is said about His actually sitting on the throne of David there. What am I missing?

  30. Gabe Martini said,

    January 12, 2008 at 11:11 am


    I believe Matthew teaches that Jesus is the Son of David (cf. Matthew 1:1) and has come to inaugurate the fulfillment of David’s kingdom in the incarnation. As such, we can conclude through comparing all of these passages that Jesus has, indeed, taken his seat in YHWH’s throneroom, and the kingdom is in place (albeit not completely consummated yet, as it will be at his return). Also, in Matthew 19, Jesus says that he will be on the throne ruling in the “new world” (literally: regeneration, or new creation). I believe that new creation has begun with the new covenant, and all of creation is moving towards the ultimate new creation when Jesus returns and the new heavens/new earth are in place. There is a lot of already/not yet tension at play here. Just as we are saved now, and we have been saved, we also will be saved in the future in the final judgment, being in Christ. Jesus’ whole point of coming into the world was to fulfill the promise in 2 Samuel 7, and I think we can reasonably believe that this has — at least in some way, perhaps not in full, though — taken place. Jesus is King now; we’re not waiting for him to become King. Hebrews teaches this early on in the epistle.

    Maybe that helps some.

  31. David Weiner said,

    January 12, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Gabe, re #30,

    Again, thanks for trying to help me understand. I can agree with lots of what you say here (e.g., Jesus has, indeed, taken his seat in YHWH’s throneroom,). However, much of what you say here depends on ‘reasonable conclusions as contrasted with clear statements of Scripture. I would love to pursue this with you but I really think we are spiraling way off of the intended purpose of this post. What do you think?

  32. Gabe Martini said,

    January 12, 2008 at 11:52 am

    I don’t want to get the thread off-topic, either. If you want to talk about it more, shoot me an email or post over on my blog. There’s nothing wrong with reasonable conclusions being drawn from Scripture from necessary consequence; much of Christian doctrine is arrived at in this way. Peace be with you!

    Gabe M

  33. January 12, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    […] Vision” Controversy Progress? Reed DePace has made one of the best posts ever posted on the Greenbagginses blog in regards to the emphases or beliefs of those associated with the Federal Vision. While not by any […]

  34. its.reed said,

    January 12, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    General Response to numerous posts:

    Reading through the various comments here I see that I’ve not been as clear as needs be on this topic. Let me offer a few brief explanations to help clarify what I’m getting at.

    1. The difference in perspectives is not a matter of systematic theology vs. biblical theology. I understand how the terms decretal and covenantal lend themselves to this misunderstanding. Both ST and BT are valid approaches. Yet these are not what I have in mind here.

    2. By historical perspective it’s not a matter of simple historical elements vs. didactic elements. To put it another way, it’s not a matter of narrative vs. doctrinal elements. E.g., of course Mark is set in a historical context; the literary genre is a form of narrative. As well, the narrative serves as the setting for Jesus’ teaching, his didactic delivery of doctrine. But again, this is not what I am getting at here.

    3. It is not a matter of one vs. the other. Both the historical and eschatological perspectives are proper and have a role in interpretation of Scripture. [Lest I be misunderstood, let me interject here that merely as a general observation am I saying that the historical perspective is dominant in OT (not exclusive), and the eschatological perspective is dominant in the NT (not exclusive). In the OT the eschatological perspective is veiled. In the NT the eschatological perspective is brought to the fore.]

    4. By historical vs. eschatological perspective I am getting at the FV’s fundamental principle that dominates the interpretation of Scripture in the system.

    > Existence consists of at least two realms, two dimensions, the material and the immaterial. The material realm is physical, visible, where flesh and blood find their existence. This is the dominant realm in that the immaterial is hidden from us. The immaterial realm is spiritual, invisible, where spiritual beings exist.

    > Man has existence in both realms; he has body (material) and soul (immaterial). In relation to one another we can observe each other’s material existence. Yet, as the immaterial is hidden from our (material) view, we can only “see” our own immaterial existence (and even that dimly due to the effects of the fall).

    > When Jesus returns he ushers in the final state of existence. In this new realm both the material and the immaterial will be merged. The veil blocking from our view the immaterial will be removed. Rev. 21-22 provides the basis details of this new realm in which material and immaterial are merged. Now, don’t anyone go off into any philosophical speculations of the details of how this will all work.

    > The historical perspective is that which is currently visible to us. If you were to see me you could see that my material existence does not include hair on the top of my head. On the other hand, you cannot see my soul. We cannot see, we cannot truly know the state of someone else’s immaterial existence.

    > The eschatological perspective is that which will be visible to us at Christ’s return. It is only then that you will learn that bald really is beautiful. It is only then that we will be seen as we really are, we will be known as we really are. It will be then that we will truly know the state of someone else’s immaterial existence.

    5. The FV argues that for all practical purposes all we have available to us is the historical perspective. This is seen in the FV’s insistence that ministry must be offered to members of the Visible Church in an undifferentiated manner. We cannot know, right now via the historical perspective, who is ECM and who is RCM. All we can see is externally, the material existence of a person; those who profess faith are assumed to be ECM.

    6. The FV is not saying any given person, viewed via the eschatological perspective, truly is an ECM. The FV is saying that all we have to go on now is what we see via the historical perspective. Thus all we can do now is call all Church Members ECM, historical perspective viewed.

    7. This is where the FV’s preference for Historical-Eschatological Church rather than the traditional Visible-Invisible Church.

    Everything I’ve said so far is not, on the face of it, what those of opposed to the FV, generally a problem for us. I am willing, as far as the description here goes, to in general agree with these distinctions. I actually find some value in explaining the Visible-Invisible Church distinction via the points made here.

    The problem is not so much with the application of these two differing perspectives to the Church. The problem is with respect to their application to Scripture.

    It appears to me that the FV wrongly allows the logic above to dominate the interpretation of Scripture. E.g., a common example is seen in the interpretation of most of the introductory sections of Paul’s epistles. Considering the introduction to Ephesians (Eph. 1:1), the FV argument follows like this:

    > Since the Church in Ephesus (presumably) contained both ECM and RCM, and
    > Since the context in which Paul was writing was necessarily the historical, therefore,
    > Paul must be writing what he is saying to both ECM and RCM.

    From this flows a whole host of inferences that the FV believes are necessary:

    > The historical perspective must be preeminent in our interpretation of Ephesians.
    > Any eschatological perspective elements must be read primarily via the historical perspective.
    > E.g., with reference of the ordo salutis oriented list of benefits beginning in Eph. 1:3, Paul must be understood to be speaking to both ECM and RCM church members.
    > The ECM possess these ordo salutis benefits decretally, but this won’t be seen until the eschatological perspective merges with the historical perspective in eternity.
    > Therefore, following the primacy of the historical perspective, Paul must necessarily be understood to be saying that the RCM, in some manner, possess these same benefits.

    This conclusion can go a number of different directions, according to which FV advocate you read:

    > Some do propose that the RCM possess the same benefits, but only temporarily, in that the Spirit only gives them a partial ordo salutis, perseverance not being given.
    > Others propose that the RCM possess a different version of the same benefits, ones that look to us via the historical perspective exactly the same as those possessed by the RCM.

    There are other nuances and variations among FV advocates, but these two seem to be the predominate perspectives.

    The point of my post here is that I believe the FV wrongly imposes the historical perspective on the Bible. There are other valid explanations for how Paul can be writing to the “saints” in the Ephesus without qualifying that he is only writing to the ECM and not the RCM. The language of appearance and the judgment of charity are both examples, and ones that have stood the test of the scrutiny of the Church over time.

    Rather than argue for either of these explanations, what I wanted to do via this post was look at it from the perspective of what the NT writers actually do. In another comment (I was planning to write it this morning, but it will have to wait at this point), I will provide a “test” case to demonstrate why I believe the FV wrongly gives priority to the historical perspective over the eschatological perspective. To end here, let me just observe that if I am right, that if the FV as a matter of its ordinary-common interpretation of Scripture, wrongly applies the historical-vs.-eschatological perspectives, then the conclusions it reaches are (more or less) wrong.

  35. Roger Mann said,

    January 12, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    19: Jeff Cagle wrote,

    External/internal is flawed because it’s incorrect; both the ECMs and the NECMs have both external and internal experiences.

    You raise a good point. However, properly understood, the internal/external distinction is perfectly valid — with regeneration being the dividing line. Regeneration (and all subsequent working of God’s Spirit in the life of a believer) is what is referred to as “internal,” while everything falling short of regeneration is what is referred to as “external.” It was never meant to deny that all people (elect and reprobate) have “internal” and “external” experiences of God’s Spirit, as that would be impossible — “for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Not a single thought goes through our mind apart from God’s sovereign/providential control.

    Jesus’ and the author to the Hebrews’ use of agricultural metaphors give a better description: The ECMs are those whom God grants a living root in good soil. The NECMs are those who have a non-viable root in soil that might look good, but is flawed from the start.

    Isn’t this just a different way of describing the same internal/external distinction, as properly defined above?

  36. Curate said,

    January 12, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Ref. 25

    Plain text in plain language:

    Acts 2:29   “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, …

  37. Curate said,

    January 12, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Reed, I think that you are going to run into trouble with your argument because it is too vague. Also you are defining eschatology as something that happens in our future. In actual fact biblical eschatology begins with the birth of Christ. The NT is the eschatology of the OT! What you are calling eschatology is the conclusion of the eschaton.

  38. its.reed said,

    January 12, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    Ref. #38:

    Actually Roger I’ve merely explained the FV’s notion of the historical and eschatological perspectives. So far the response here suggests I’ve understood the FV pretty well. If that is the case, then I’m not the one who will be running into trouble.

    It sounds like you may be flattening what is intended by the FV here. Do not limit the discussion here to merely “systematic” doctrinal categories, e.g., eschatology proper.

    And, in point of fact you’ve brought up a point that I actually believe argues against the FV’s historical perspective reading of certain passages.

    Indeed the end has broken in upon the now. The whole point of Jesus’ teaching is that that which is to be fulfilled at the end of time has come upon us now. The NT is dominated by this intepretive principle. I.O.W., the eschatological perspective is the primary interpretive perspective of the NT.

    Application – in Eph. 1:1 Paul is to be understood to be speaking eschatologically, not historically when he calls the Church “saints”. The FV is wrong to read this reference to saints from the historical perspective.

    I understand I’ve spoken by mere assertion here, so please, do not spend any time responding or critiquing. I merely offer this to clarify further what I’m trying to get at, not to offer any substantive arguments to prove my point yet.

    I promise to get to that soon.

  39. Gabe Martini said,

    January 12, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    This is getting really confusing and strange, Reed. So nobody is a saint “yet”? What? I find it rather strange and quite a stretch to say the NT is dominated by an eschatological hermeneutic, when the majority of the exhorations from Paul, John, and Peter (to name a few) are dealing with first century, historical, “here and now” issues. The vast majority. The NT speaks in past, present, and future tenses, as well. Again, I must persist that any “over-emphasis” on one approach to “how the Bible is speaking” is in error. It simply isn’t that … simple.

    Gabe M

  40. its.reed said,

    January 12, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Ref. #39:


    You’ve demonstrated another weakness of the FV perspective, called the either/or scenario. Those of us opposed to the FV do no see things in such an either/or manner. The options are not limited:

    > Either everyone Paul is calling both RCM and ECM saints, or
    > He is calling neither saints.

    I suspect you’re familiar with the “language of appearance” and the “judgment of charity” arguments, and do not find them compelling. Again, as my point is not to demonstrate the alternatives, I’ll not spend time now arguing for them.

    I think as well your “here and now” and your “past, present and future” comments miss the point. To be sure the NT was written in history. That’s not the point of what the FV references by historical perspective. See points 4-7 in my comment no. 34. The historical perspective is about what we can see, what we can know now about people now.

    The FV brings this perspective to bear upon, to interpret Scripture far more than is justified by te text itself. At least that is my contention. I think your use of over-emphasis would be a fair way to describe what I am getting at. The FV over-emphasizes the historical perspective, it applies it in interpreting Scripture.

    I agree with you that these things are not that simple. I just believe the FV is the wrong simplification.


  41. its.reed said,

    January 12, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    One other point floating in my mind here.

    The NT addresses us via the eschatological perspective in the context of our historical perspective . The NT breaks into our historical perspective and calls us to live in the eschatological perspective now.

    In that the FV proposes that we read the NT from the historical perspective, it leaves us in confusion. It leaves us with no means of reckoning ourselves ECM or RCM.

    This is not what the NT does. It speaks to us from the eschatological perspective, it calls us to view ourselves via the end of time now.

  42. Gabe Martini said,

    January 12, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Reed, if you’re accusing me of engaging in “either/or” thought, you are certainly highlighting how very little we know about one another! :-) I would be the last person on earth to defend any such form of thinking! It is in my blood, you could say. :-)

    Anyway, I still don’t quite get your concerns or objections here, and I think you’re being a little unfair, perhaps, in post 41. At least confusing things a tad bit, if I may say so humbly and without hostility.

    We live in the historical perspective, because we live in time. In history. That is fairly basic and shouldn’t be controversial. That does not, however, necessitate us ignoring the eschatological aspect of our salvation. Not at all. I already granted that way up above this.

    I would submit humbly that you’re ignoring the multi-perspective nature of salvation by picking any aspect over the other as having primacy. I realize it may appear through the emphases being made in recent theological speak that the FV are only concerned with the historical aspect of salvation. That is not, however, the case. Just because I spend a lot of time talking about the Trinity doesn’t mean I don’t believe God is sovereign as well. Sometimes we have to make certain emphases because a very important truth has been ignored or at the very least neglected for a while.

    With that said, let me reiterate again my perspective on this:

    — We live and experience salvation in history. This means we live and experience our salvation based on its covenantal nature, and within the covenant community; that is, the Church.
    — Our salvation, which involves being in covenant with God, is grounded in God’s predestination and eternal will. This must be understood, or we will be Arminian in belief.
    — Our salvation, which is understood as our covenantal relationship with God IN TIME or IN HISTORY, is also about our future vindication, salvation, and glorification. This must be understood and appreciated A GREAT DEAL, or we will have little assurance of salvation.
    — However, if we believe that our salvation is GROUNDED IN that future vindication, or CENTERED AROUND that way of thinking, we will be in danger of antinomianism, and taking God’s blessings in the covenant for granted. This is what leads many people to fall away, presuming upon God’s kindness, and it is also what led to the necessity of MacArthur and others to harp on “Lordship salvation” years ago.
    — In other words, unless we have a three-way-balanced approach, all lived out and experienced in our covenantal relationship with God, we will be in error in some way or the other.

    As far as how we read Scripture, which I noticed you keep referencing, I must again submit that any one “approach” is going to err in extremism at one point or another. Some passages of Scripture speak of things (related to salvation) as being in the past, some in the present, and some as anticipation of future events or vindication. We have to take all three into account in order to be Biblical and truly consistent with Scripture. It is an issue of hermeneutics, and having a “one approach catches all” standpoint won’t do us much good. It will simply force us to, eventually, force whatever “system of theology” we have back onto the text in order for it to “make sense” to us.

  43. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Curate (#23):

    BT develops an historical mindset, whereas ST is more abstract and topical, even Aristotelian.

    Given your experiences, I can see where you’re coming from. All I can say is that neither has to be practiced in this way.

    (#24): I think one of the reasons that your “BT Gospel” and “ST Gospel” are so different in form and content is that you start the BT Gospel in the middle of the story. If we begin at Genesis 1, then the unbridgeable gulf between God and man — sin — appears as the central problem that is dealt with progressively through the covenant with Abraham (what does circumcision mean, again?); the Law on Sinai; the Prophets; the first coming of Jesus; and the second coming of Jesus.

    And funny enough, a robust “ST Gospel” teaches the same thing.

    See, what BT aims to do is to get the story straight, Genesis to Revelation, of the God who creates and saves a people for Himself. And what ST aims to do is to articulate the theory of the story in order for God’s people to be (a) nourished, and (b) guarded against those who tell the wrong story — e.g., Pelagius.

    So it’s clear that both, when done properly, cannot help but be complementary. And it’s also clear that while there are certain tendencies in each, those tendencies cannot compete with one another for primacy.

    Jeff Cagle

  44. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 12, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Roger M (#35):

    I agree exactly with the concept of “external/internal distinction” as you’ve articulated it. I just would … errmm … “quibble” with the word pair as the best choice to describe that concept, because it can lead to misunderstanding.

    Far better, IMO, to describe the difference in terms of “genuineness” or “good soil-ness” or “viability.”

    Jeff Cagle

  45. its.reed said,

    January 12, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Ref. #42:

    Gabe: thanks for your gracious response.

    From your post (no. 39) I understood your question, “So nobody is a saint “yet”? ” to be assuming I was implying the either/or scenario I outlined. It appears I assumed incorrectly. Please forgive me.

    Accordingly, I haven’t the faintest idea what you meant by that question (the either/or was my best guess). Given the direction of the rest of that comment, and this one here, I suspect it’s probably not worth either of our time to explore it further, so I’ll drop it. Your question does not serve as an example of the kind of either/or scenario I’ve seen often from FV advocates responding to comments from those of us opposed to the FV. [I still think the observation is fair, but I’ll leave that for another post].

    With reference to comment no. 41, if I am wrong in my criticism it is unfair. That is the question, of course, is the FV wrong or I am wrong.

    Yes, we live in the historical right now. Yes, without agreeing comprehensively with the FV, there is a manner in which the historical perspective plays a necessary role in how we minister the gospel. No, I’ve neither said we are to ignore the eschatological, nor have I said that the FV ignores the eschatological. It’s a matter of emphasis and priority.

    No, I’m not ignoring the multi-perspective. E.g., by limiting my focus to the historical vs. eschatological perspectives in this post, I am doing so because these are the perspectives that form a crucial distinction within the FV interpretive framework. Nor do I think the FV ignores the issue of multi-perspectives in interpretation. Again, my focus here is limited to these two because they form the foundation of the reason why the FV believes it is necessary to propose ECM (like) benefits to the RCM. It is because of how the FV gives the historical perspective priority over the eschatological perspective – in texts that speak eschatologically. I provided Eph 1:1 ff. as a standard example of the FV argument illustrating this prioritization of the historical over the eschatological perspective.

    Here let me deny the implication of your conclusion, which sounds like you are reading me as saying either historical or eschatological perspective (there I go again). In arguing against what I perceive the FV’s error is in this regard, I’ve said nothing to lead to the conclusion that I am arguing for a hermeneutic exclusively eschatological. Nor am I arguing for such an emphasis on the eschatological that for all practical purposes it is the only perspective. My general observations (NT vs. OT) are just that, general, not comprehensive or absolute.

    I am simply observing that with reference to the issues that the FV deals with, there is a wrong prioritization – texts which are to be read eschatologically are read historically – to the end that dangerous errors are brought forth.

    [Gabe, this is the second time I’m reading a comment from you as assuming that a particular criticism of the FV I’ve offered as meaning that I am proposing an extreme position in opposition. If I am reading you wrong, please think about how you might change what you say to be clearer and avoid this misunderstanding. Thanks.]

    Your illustration of the Trinity is not relevant. I know of no FV advocate who has argued against any such (shall we call them) exclusively decretally oriented doctrines, nor do I know of any FV opponent who has charged them with such. The main field of contention (not the only) is how we are to view the ECM vs. the RCM at present, and whether or not the FV’s insistence on a real union, a real justification,, for the RCM, undifferentiated from the ECM’s possession of these, is in error.

    I’m familiar with the claim the FV is merely a re-focusing on an area of doctrine that has been ignored or at least neglected. I am very familiar with all the arguments used to support that assertion. Humbly and respectfully, I find such assertions empty and baseless.

    If think this statement from your post is very telling of our differences:

    “– However, if we believe that our salvation is GROUNDED IN that future vindication, or CENTERED AROUND that way of thinking, we will be in danger of antinomianism, and taking God’s blessings in the covenant for granted. This is what leads many people to fall away, presuming upon God’s kindness, and it is also what led to the necessity of MacArthur and others to harp on “Lordship salvation” years ago.”

    This may need some more fleshing out from you, lest I put words in your mouth. Let me offer some (hopefully) sound and safe responses:

    > Are you suggesting that FV opponents teach that we are to ground our salvation in future justification (centered around that way of thinking)? If so, who? If this is what you mean, this is an outlandish claim at best.
    > If this is not what you are suggesting, do you think this necessarily follows from my observations here? If so, how?
    > This sounds an awful lot like the FV accusations of failures among reformed churches to rightly teach the gospel, necessitating the FV system. I find such accusations particularly empty of real substance. Do churches struggle with tendencies toward either legalism or antinomianism? All the time, and till Christ returns. Yet I find the FV’s description of such failures to not ring true, and thus the FV’s system to be solving non-existent problems.

    Our salvation is grounded on our present justification. This is specifically the eschatological breaking in on the present. Herman Ridderbos’ The Coming Of The Kingdom does an exceptional job of demonstrating how comprehensive this eschatological breaking in on the historical is.

    Yet the FV teaches that we cannot know for sure our present justification. The FV, by insisting on the historical perspective, puts the eschatological perspective of our justification in the future. Everything is tentative today. Thus we need to be faithful, to be careful not to fall into antinomianism as you say here.

    Your caution here is thus a great illustration of the danger of prioritizing the historical over the eschatological.

    Those who presume on God’s kindness, who take his covenant blessings for granted, come in two varieties; 1) those who fall into antinomianism, and 2) those who fall into legalism. The solution to both is not doctrine taught from the historical perspective, but the eschatological.

    Take any warning passage in the NT. Read carefully the warnings spoken to those who profess Christ. Then read the offered remedies for the warnings. They are all presented from the eschatological perspective. They are all to be applied from the eschatological perspective. Only the ECM can do so. Those RCM who read these warnings and remedies CAN ONLY understand and apply them from the historical perspective. Thus, not reading from the eschatological perspective, they can only deepen their judgment.

    The FV says, yes there is justification from the eschatological perspective, and there is also justification from the historical perspective. The FV says we cannot know justification from the eschatological perspective. The FV leaves us grounding our salvation in a historical perspective justification – a perspective that leaves us without any hope.

  46. Gabe Martini said,

    January 12, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    I’m so confused!!!

    I will only respond to your very last paragraph.

    Speaking for myself, I would say:

    We know our future justification (eschatological perspective) by faith. We KNOW it. By FAITH. Faith is… what? See Hebrews. That’s the argument there, after all. We know by faith that what we hope for will be accomplished. That’s what all the saints of Hebrews 11 had, and that is what we should have. Live as though we had the reward, even though it is “not yet” with us. That’s quite a bit of hope, if you ask me. :-)

  47. Grover Gunn said,

    January 12, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    I am commenting on the original blog. I think this does indeed address a vital point. Even though humans cannot outwardly administer the covenant according to the decree of election, the Holy Spirit can and does inwardly and invisibly. God knows who the elect are, God knows when the Holy Spirit is effecting union with Christ, and God knows when the Holy Spirit is working His common operations. Even when we cannot discern the difference between good ground, stony ground and thorny ground, the difference exists and God rightfully identifies each from the very beginning. During the historical administration of the covenant, these visible and invisible perspectives overlap. In eternity, they will converge completely.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  48. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 14, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Different folks have different nuances of the same terms. I was not considering “decretal” and “eschatological” to be entirely univocal or interchangeable, Reed, so that may have led to some of the confusion. I won’t go into nuancing the difference here, though.

    “Take any warning passage in the NT. Read carefully the warnings spoken to those who profess Christ. Then read the offered remedies for the warnings. They are all presented from the eschatological perspective. They are all to be applied from the eschatological perspective.”

    Okay, let’s try this. I’ll lay out an example of this as I understand the relation between historical and eschatological–perhaps a concrete example to discuss will help.

    Heb. 6:4-8. What is the remedy? Why is the author “convinced of better things concerning you, the things that also accompany salvation”? Well, in this case because of the work and love already shown to the saints (v. 10). This is certainly historical in perspective, not eschatological. The author goes on in vv. 11-20 to lay out both historical and eschatological elements in the Hebrews’ continuing response to these warnings: they are to be diligent unto the end (historical), because God swore by Himself to Abraham (historical?), in order to show to the heirs His divine purposes (eschatological), which provides us with hope (hope is necessarily historical, since it waits for what has not yet fully come), because Jesus has entered the heavenly places as our high priest. Reed, would you say that this passage’s remedy for the warning is eschatological because the hope is anchored in Christ, who is an eschatological reality, being the firstfruits of the resurrection? If so, then I guess I would agree in this case–as would the FV. Their whole point about assurance is actually eschatologically-oriented, viz., Christocentric. If one is in doubt, they say, look at what Christ has done. Don’t twist yourself around trying to look at yourself, but rather look outward to Christ in the Word and in the meal…and be diligent through faith and patience.

    It seems to me that the debate now become how to interpret specific passages. That would seem to be a legitimate debate within Reformed circles, and so the FV question is a hermeneutical one, not one of Reformed or Westminster orthodoxy.

    And honestly, a material vs. immaterial dichotomy is, in my opinion, even less felicitous than the internal/external one–it’s right out of Plato, as far as I can tell, and certainly is not what Paul means when he talks about sarx and pneuma…

  49. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 14, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Another note on the remedy question. When you say that only the ECM can read or apply these passages eschatologically, while the RCM read them historically, do you mean that the ECM reads these and looks to Christ (getting to Heb. 6:11-12 through v. 20), while the RCM reads them and tries to fix himself (reading only the order of the verses, trying to work himself into hope in Christ the Forerunner through his own diligence)? If so, I would agree with you. And so would the FV–again, their point is to look to Christ, not to how we can fix ourselves, and only then be diligent.

  50. its.reed said,

    January 14, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Ref. #48 & 49:

    Joshua, reasonable and fairly helpful responses. I will get back to you in some depth a little later on. I was actually hoping to use at least one phrase from this passage as a test case. I may very well do so still, after responding to your observations.

  51. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 14, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    1 Cor. 10, however, appears to focus on the historical as a remedy for the warning passage: 6ff. is simply a series of warnings, what not to do, and certainly I would consider v. 12 historical, since it seems to clearly include both justifying faith and temporary faith–the RCM can “think he stands” (because he has been baptized and eats and drinks the spiritual food of the supper) and eventually fall away, while the ECM can think the same thing (there’s the similarity), but will actually heed the warning, not presume upon his baptism, and flee idolatry and immorality, producing fruit in keeping with the profession he makes in the Lord’s Supper, only because he has been truly chosen and is held by Christ.

    Perhaps the difference is in who is being warned: to those who are set in a sort of covenantal presumption, we must stress the historical outworking in bearing fruit, etc. (that would be the Corinthians), while to those who are weaker (the Hebrews), we need to lay forth Christ and His completed work. That means, again, that neither perspective is privileged in the NT, but that they are balanced against what a certain person, or congregation, needs to hear. Thus, the danger of emphasis is not absolute, but relative to the tendency of the congregation or people: if we preach the certainty of Christ’s work to those are pretty sure they stand, they will not realize their own weakness or sin. If we preach the need to be diligent in faith and obedience to those who are worried about their own sinfulness, we will break the bruised reed…

  52. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Joshua and Reed,

    I would like your opinions on the tri-perspectival solution I was floating to Curate in another thread.

    What if we approached the problem like this:

    There is but one church. But, we have a problem of knowledge — what is that church? Who belongs?

    Viewed normatively, we say that we *owe* a deference or judgment of charity to all members of the visible church.

    Viewed situationally, we look at the fruit born by the members of the visible church and use certain types of fruit as evidence of their belonging or not belonging to the church.

    Viewed existentially, we consider the means of assurance to answer the question, “Do I belong to the church?”

    Now, moving along the normative-situational edge is essentially the function of church discipline.

    Moving along the situational-existential edge includes things like the warnings of 1 Cor 10, Heb 6, and Heb 10.

    And moving along the existential-normative edge includes things like the warning to examine oneself in 1 Cor 11 and 2 Cor 13.

    Clearly, this is a sketch of an idea only. But the virtue of it (I hope) is that it allows us to agree that *both* historical and eschatological perspectives are in operation right now, and yet provide a means of separating them a bit for purposes of analysis.

    Jeff Cagle

  53. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 14, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Jeff, I wouldn’t put it that way, and I’m not even sure I understand it entirely, since I’ve never gotten around to reading DKG, but I’m guessing that Reed will point out that it doesn’t seem to take into account the eschatological perspective. How would the eschatological/historical distinction fit here? It seems that all three perspectives you talk about here are from the historical angle overall, regarding our own current knowledge…

  54. Curate said,

    January 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    I have a real problem with the terms eschatological versus historical. I know what is meant, but biblically it doesn’t stand up. Biblical eschatology began with the births of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus. It is the beginning of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Promises in time and space, so eschatology is the history of the end times.

    What I am saying is that it is thus impossible to read 1 Cor 10 and Hebrews uneschatologically and unhistorically. They are both, simultaneously. Even the final judgement (which is what is usually meant by eschatology) is an event in time and space here on earth.

  55. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 14, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    “the FV’s insistence on a real union, a real justification,, for the RCM, undifferentiated from the ECM’s possession of these”

    This, as far as I know, is simply not accurate. The FV writers that I have read (Wilkins, Leithart, Wilson, Horne, Lusk, Meyers) do not say that there is no difference between the RCM and ECM: at the very least, they agree that their possession of these blessings differ in duration, so it is perseverance that differentiates the two. And certainly Leithart and Wilkins agree that this duration is the evidence and effect of a qualitative difference in the possession of such blessings. I don’t want to get off into a side trail, but this charge of “undifferentiated” possession of blessing keeps coming up, and I have never found it to be accurate.

  56. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 14, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Curate, I don’t think anyone disagrees with this (#54). It is admitted on all sides that eschatology breaks into history. The issue with historical and eschatological perspective could perhaps be restated in terms of inaugurated eschatology and completed eschatology to explicitly take into account your concern. Do we read certain texts (e.g., the golden chain of Rom. 8) as referring to the inaugurated eschatology, i.e., the blessings of the Holy Spirit that the whole church now has (like, say the gift of miracles), or as the completed eschatology, i.e., that which only the ECM will receive in full at the end? Note: I’m not at all certain that I agree with Wilkins on Rom. 8–I’m just giving that as an example of a text that the FV perspective interprets in a very controversial way (Reed, would you say that Wilkins’ view of Rom. 8 is, in your opinion, a very good example of how the FV incorrectly reads “eschatological” texts “historically”?).

  57. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    The eschatological is what we don’t actually know — who’s *really* in the church. So each of our historical perspectives gives us partial information about that fact.

    So in accord with Reed, I’m suggesting that the eschatological is in part active in the here and now, having effects on our behavior and assurance.

    Against the FV, I’m suggesting that the Visible Church *is* an approximate church, and that it is but one perspective of three by which we gain knowledge of the Church.

    With the FV, I’m agreeing that there is but one church, with both visible and invisible aspects, and that the ministry of the church is normatively binding in our lives.

    Jeff Cagle

  58. its.reed said,

    January 14, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Ref. #54:

    Roger, you’re not arguing against me. These are FV defined perspectives, not mine.

    If I might help the FV find sympathy from you here, just remember that all labels have their short-comings. The FV insists that this distinction in perspectives is fundamental to their reading of the Scriptures, when it comes to the ECM vs. the RCM.

  59. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Joshua (#55):

    The FV writers that I have read (Wilkins, Leithart, Wilson, Horne, Lusk, Meyers) do not say that there is no difference between the RCM and ECM

    I’ve linked to some quotes from Mark Horne and James Jordan that appear to say that there is no difference apart from perseverance.

    On that account, at time t, a CM who later turns out to be an RCM is ontologically the same at t as a CM who later turns out to be an ECM. Xon and I are involved in an ongoing discussion on this topic as well.

    However, Wilson (certainly) and possibly others disagree with this point of view. It is a point of intramural disagreement amongst the FV.

    Over against this, Reed (it seems) and I are arguing that regeneration is an ontological difference that exists between the RCM and ECM from the beginning. As Curate has said, the eschatological breaks in to history – my personal life history included.

    Jeff Cagle

  60. markhorne said,

    January 14, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    “I’ve linked to some quotes from Mark Horne and James Jordan that appear to say that there is no difference apart from perseverance.”

    No you haven’t because I never said any such thing. Jordan is, as far as I can tell, completely unique on this point. I disagree with him.

  61. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 14, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    I apologize sincerely for misrepresenting you, then! Sorry about that.

    Here’s what you wrote here:

    “On other terms such as “born from above,” “born again,” “reborn,” etc, I would very much like to see a non-circular argument that these refer to an interior transformation worked directly by the Spirit which irreversibly guarantees persevering faith–that is, “great moral change, wrought by the Spirit of God, which must pass upon everyone before he can be in a state of salvation.” — Mark Horne, “SAMUEL MILLER, BAPTISM, & COVENANT THEOLOGY”

    I was reading this as a denial of an interior transformation worked directly by the Spirit that irreversibly guarantees persevering faith, which must pass upon everyone before he can be in a state of salvation — which is, at least approximately, how I understand regeneration and definitive sanctification.

    What was your intent?

    Thanks, and sorry for the confusion,
    Jeff Cagle

  62. markhorne said,

    January 14, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Saying a term could refer to phenomenal conversion and/or formal initiation is not the same as doubting the reality of an irreversible gift of a faith the non-elect never receive. I said nothing to deny or even question the reality of the doctrine of regeneration. I have affirmed it many times and made my defense of both Lusk and Wilkins (in terms of Westminster orthodoxy, the same standard I myself subscribe to) hinge on that very point.

  63. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2008 at 8:33 am

    Great! One less disagreement among the brethren. I apologize for the misunderstanding and will make appropriate changes to my own website.

    (I should note that I *do* believe that being “born again” in John 3 entails an irreversible change by the Spirit, but that’s apparently an exegetical difference rather than a systematic one).

    Mark, this one question of “ontological difference between NECMs and ECMs” is one of the reddest of red flags for me wrt the FV doctrine of the Objective Covenant. I first became concerned about it when reading Wilkins’ article in “The Federal Vision”; his exegesis of John 15 *has the appearance* of saying that fruitful and fruitless branches have the same experience except for perseverance; his response to the Nine Declarations hedges on the issue (“I went on to say that there may also be “other experiential differences between the elect and the non-elect,” but these differences may not be discernible to others (or even to the individuals themselves) until “the non-elect person displays his unbelief in some very explicit and concrete ways.””).

    And I should point out that it’s not merely FV opponents, but also FV advocates that have interpreted the FV as teaching that NECMs and ECMs are ontologically identical except for their perseverance. The discussions we’ve been having here with Roger “the Curate” and others (though not all) have centered precisely around this point.

    So I would suggest that this could be an area in which the FV teachings could be made more clear.

    But in any event, thanks for correcting the record.

    Jeff Cagle

    P.S. Would you be willing to weigh in on this discussion?

  64. Curate said,

    January 15, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Ref 63

    Reading the WCF on assurance it is clear that while it is possible to have an infallible assurance that one is elect, it often takes time and hard work to arrive at that point, and it may be lost or eroded through sin or providence, the dark night of the soul.

    This tells me that it may at times be impossible or difficult for an elect person to be sure that they are elect as opposed to being a self-deceived reprobate. A self-deceived reprobate may be very sure that he is a true Christian due to the deceitfulness of sin.

    This is why it seems that the true test of one’s Christianity is the one that James insists upon – faith working through love. IOW look away from your inner being and your feelings to your actions, your perseverance being one of them.

    BTW I do not insist that there are no differences between the two groups except for perseverance. The parable of the sower shows us a few.

  65. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 15, 2008 at 11:13 am

    It’s great to see a misunderstanding actually cleared up with no one calling names in the process! Thanks, Jeff and Mark.

    Jeff, I’m curious why you consider your view that the visible church is an approximate church to be against the FV…

    I also think that I’m in accord with you and Reed in saying that the eschatological is active in part in the here and now–I thought Reed and I were simply arguing about how this effects the RCM and ECM similarly or differently…

    All this agreement going around…

    Oh, and in #56 that smiley with the shades should be the number 8–not sure how that happened…Although it does express how I feel about the book of Romans!

  66. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 15, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Re #64. To me, one of the great glories of the Reformed tradition is that it calls you to look first and foremost to Christ for assurance. If you’re worried about whether you are elect, you don’t look at your feelings or attitude, nor do you look too closely at your works, since they can still be flawed. Instead, you look to Christ as He truly offers Himself in the Word and Sacrament, and then trust that God is pleased with you, and your flawed works, in Him and His perfect faithfulness. Worrying that your heart is not perfect and worrying that your works are feeble is a lack of faith, a looking to yourself. That seems to be what I have heard from FV preachers on assurance…

  67. markhorne said,

    January 15, 2008 at 11:24 am

    I think the only “FV teaching” is that document we all signed.

    Which is hardly ever used as a source of info about FV, as far as I can tell.

  68. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Joshua (#65): Jeff, I’m curious why you consider your view that the visible church is an approximate church to be against the FV…

    Because of the official FV statement:

    We affirm that there is only one true Church, and that this Church can legitimately be considered under various descriptions, including the aspects of visible and invisible. We further affirm that the visible Church is the true Church of Christ, and not an “approximate” Church.

  69. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2008 at 11:47 am

    Curate (#64):

    This tells me that it may at times be impossible or difficult for an elect person to be sure that they are elect as opposed to being a self-deceived reprobate. A self-deceived reprobate may be very sure that he is a true Christian due to the deceitfulness of sin.

    Full agreement. We deal with these in church discipline cases on occasion.

    This is why it seems that the true test of one’s Christianity is the one that James insists upon – faith working through love. IOW look away from your inner being and your feelings to your actions, your perseverance being one of them.

    I would put it like this: both must be in accord to have confident knowledge. It’s possible to either emphasize feeling to the exclusion of actions (Israelites responding to Joshua: “We will obey!”) or vice-versa (the Pharisees).

    But that’s simply agreeing with you in part and then going one step further.

    BTW I do not insist that there are no differences between the two groups except for perseverance. The parable of the sower shows us a few.

    Then I’m having a real problem understanding why you insist that both RCMs and ECMs are genuinely justified before the former fall away. In this discussion, you appear to deny a distinction between justifying and non-justifying faith (comment #45). You further asserted that all were saved (comment #52).

    That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe you now. I just was led by the previous discussion into one understanding of what you meant, but now am being presented with an opposite understanding.

    Jeff Cagle

  70. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2008 at 11:51 am

    Mark (#67):

    I think the only “FV teaching” is that document we all signed.
    Which is hardly ever used as a source of info about FV, as far as I can tell.

    Give some credit here. I think most folk on this forum are trying in good faith to understand (a) the whole counsel of Scripture, and (b) the various statements of one another. And I mean that of the recent (January) discussors on both sides.

    That doesn’t mean that we do a particularly good job at all times, but we’re trying.

    Jeff Cagle

  71. Curate said,

    January 15, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Ref. 69

    Isn’t it good to so much agreement?

    The differences between elect and non-elect persons are shown in the parable of the sower. The word falls on shallow soil, is received with joy, but because the soil is shallow and the man has no root within himself, troubles cause him to fall, and the word shortly dies.

    A difference here is the shallow soil as opposed to suitably deep soil.

    Notice that the word is received with joy. To me that is a response of faith. When the word dies within that man his faith ends with it.

    Then the word falls on another kind of soil where thorns and weeds, which are the cares of life and the deceitfulness of riches, choke it to death, and he becomes unfruitful. To be choked to death the word has to be present and produce a plant to be choked, which is faith. A difference here is the presence of weeds and thorns that eventually destroy the word. This man has fruit initially, but he eventually becomes unfruitful.

    A difference here is the response to cares and riches.

    Finally the word falls on good soil. This is the true Christian, whose field has been prepared by God to receive the word and bear much fruit, which is works of faith.

    Here is a third difference.

  72. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Curate (#71):

    Isn’t it good to so much agreement?

    Yes, it is. :) Let’s figure out how far it goes.

    Would you say that in Matt. 13, that

    * The rocky and thorny soils have genuine, justifying faith for a time, OR
    * The rocky and thorny soils have a kind of “faith” (scare-quotes faith) that does not justify, OR
    * something else.

    And, would you consider it legitimate to use James 2 as a control in understanding Matt. 13?


  73. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 15, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks, Jeff. I hadn’t noted that part of the document. I’m not entirely sure what they mean…Mark, any comments?

  74. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 15, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Can I give my answer to at least one part of #72?

    The rocky and thorny soils have “faith” that has the following characteristics in common with justifying faith:
    1. Source–the Holy Spirit
    2. Object–Christ and his gospel
    3. Certain attendant responses–joy, love for the saints, etc.

    The rocky and thorny soils do not have true faith because of:
    1. The nature of the HS’s work: it is illumination or enlightening only (cg. Heb. 6:5) rather than pervasively transforming.
    2. The way the object is viewed: it is as a pleasing intellectual idea, like a satisfying argument, that acquires their agreement. They “believe that” and do not truly “believe in.” We Reformed should take note of this, especially, given our penchant for doctrinalism.
    3. A lack of true fruit, i.e., lasting, clear blessing on those around them (esp. family and church). They feel joy in the gospel, but oddly enough don’t communicate joy to anyone around them. They feel like they are being self-controlled, but everyone else still notices their wildness. Etc.

    All three of these differences are shown up only by the passage of time, just as the depth of the root is only shown by how well or how long the plant grows in the parable.

  75. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    So Joshua, just to be clear: it seems like 1. (HS’s work) is efficiently causative, 2. (type of faith) is instrumentally causative, and 3. (fruit produced) is evidentiary?

    Would you say that the faith of the rocky and thorny soils is a justifying faith or not?

    Jeff Cagle

  76. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    So Joshua, just to be clear: it seems like 1. (HS’s work) is efficiently causative, 2. (type of faith) is instrumentally causative, and 3. (fruit produced) is evidentiary?

    Would you say that the faith of the rocky and thorny soils is a justifying faith or not?

    Jeff Cagle

  77. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 15, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Jeff, are you talking about the relation of #’s 1-3 to justification? If so, I would agree with you, even though that wasn’t exactly what I was after. I was trying to categorize how the “faith” of the RCM and the faith of the ECM are similar and different.

    I would say that the “faith” of the rocky and thorny soils is not justifying, because it is not the kind of faith that produces lasting fruit. I should say that I initially wrote that last sentence: “because it does not produce fruit,” but that could be read as the fruit being the ground of justification (if you read “because” as describing a “ground-consequent” relation), which is not what I mean.

    Could I ask what you make of WCF 14.2? Would it be acceptable to say that WCF 14.2 gives all the characteristics required of saving faith, a sort of irreducible complexity, in which one element give you not a partial faith, but a dead one? To continue the analogy, the “accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ” are like the heart in the circulatory system, while the other acts of saving faith are the veins and arteries? If you get rid of either of those, you have a dead organism, but their roles are very different, and one is clearly more central than the others. So, faith is the entire circulatory system, that which gives life to the body: take away the heart (accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ), and you have nothing moving through the vessels, take away the vessels (obedience, etc.), and the life-giving blood doesn’t go anywhere. Take away either, and faith is dead.

  78. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 15, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Yes, I would agree, both with you and also with WCoF 14.2. More agreement!

    One control I would place on this (in order to guard against the works of the flesh being substituted for the fruit of the Spirit) is that the acts of saving faith as you enumerated are necessary results of that faith, as a result of the indwelling Spirit uniting us to Christ, rather than a definition of what faith *is*.

    Put another way, I take the “By this faith…” of WCoF 14.2 to be an instrumental “by”. And what follows are necessary results of any saving faith.

    That is, I would follow Calvin in seeing repentance and faith as inseperable but distinguishable characteristics, and repentance necessarily follows and is produced by faith (cf. Inst. 3.1), as the fruit from the root.

    Jeff Cagle

  79. Curate said,

    January 16, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I am still sticking to my guns fellas, so I can’t join the partly yet. Something that I am being accused of is assuming that which I need to prove, for example, that those spoken of as partaking of the Spirit have received the same. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of that kind of thing. You guys are the ones who need to demonstrate your point, not me, because from where I am sitting it looks like you are refusing to see the noses on your faces.

    We have been talking long enough to know that I am not playing games, and that I am not going for cheap points.

    Look again at how these apostates are described: they have been sanctified by the blood of Christ, but to you that means that they have not been cleansed of their former sins, so I must conclude that the blood of Christ according to you does not cleanse, at least, not always.

    Are you hearing me?

    How then were they sanctified by the blood? By not being sanctified? How does the blood of Christ merely set one apart in some formal sense? Is the blood itself needed for that?

    David W made the point that if these men were never saved, how is it that it is now impossible to renew them to repentance? If they were never forgiven then they should be in a position to repent and be justified for the first time. What sense does it make then to say that Christ can only die once for our sins, not twice?

    And so it goes on.

  80. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 16, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Curate (#79):

    Are you hearing me?

    Fair question. Here’s what I hear you saying, so correct the record as needed:

    (1) Heb. 6.4 attributes to the apostates a former partaking of the Spirit.

    (2) Heb. 10.29 attributes to the apostates that they were sanctified by the blood of Christ.

    (3) Partaking of the Spirit is necessarily salvific.

    (4) Being sanctified is necessarily salvific.

    (5) Therefore, the apostates in Hebrews were saved prior to their apostasy.

    Is that a fair summary?

    Also, do you have any thoughts on my question in post #72 re: types of soil?

    Jeff Cagle

  81. Curate said,

    January 16, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Ref. 80

    I am happy with 1 and 2 and 3. With qualifications.

    On point 4, it is necessary to say that sanctification in this verse is justification. Yes, justification! How is one sanctified by the blood except by the remission of sins?

    On point 5, it is not necessary to deduce that they were saved, (although it is legitimate to do so) because we are told that they were once renewed! “It is impossible to renew such people …” What does that mean except that they were once renewed?

    On Gill’s so-called explanation, he gets 10/10 for creative writing, but 0/10 for exegesis. It even qualifies as ventriloquism. He simply inserts “they appeared to be (Spirit-filled, justified, sanctified, cleansed etc., just choose the desired term)” into the relevant passages and expects us to swallow it whole.

  82. Curate said,

    January 16, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Ref. 80

    I have a few thoughts on the types of soil, and on James 2 as a control, but it has to wait a day longer due to circumstances. I am giving it serious consideration.

  83. Gabe Martini said,

    January 16, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Re, #80:

    No Longer Forgiven.

  84. January 16, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Jeff, if I can add a few points to the discussion:

    1. First, on burden of proof. When we do our systematic theology, each player should be prepared to argue establish their interpretation of a text *and* its doctrinal implications. The burden of proof is on all parties involved if we are working with a handful of exegetical options. No one gets to assume that theirs is true without argument.

    2. Second, entirely missing is R.F. White’s treatment of the Hebrews passages over in the other thread (Justifying Faith…Part 1), a position that you can also find in the Knox Colloquium book. Although, incidentally, I am partial to John Owen’s take (he believes it is *Christ* who is sanctified by the blood of the covenant). The Hebrews passages have been discussed before (and exegeted from an orthodox Reformed perspective), so I am frankly tired of seeing long conversations in the combox that don’t seem to realize that. Also, Rick Phillips has a commentary on Hebrews in the Reformed Expository Commentary series. I also recommend that.

    3. Third, I don’t know that you should be spending time arguing with Curate on this matter, since he is not FV. His theology is closer to Lutheran on baptism and perseverance of the saints. That’s not an argument, just an observation.

  85. January 16, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Gabe, I’m glad that you (and a limited group of FV proponents) are becoming more explicitly clear in adopting Arminian (or, at best, Lutheran) theological positions as an alternative to Reformed ones. As defective as the theology and reasoning is in your blog post you linked to, it demonstrates that quite clearly, and that clarity is helpful. I say all of this quite matter-of-factly. The more this “conversation” moves on, the more it becomes clear just where the FV “trajectory” heads.

    But as a remedy to the position you have layed out, I commend to you the alternative exegesis I mentioned in my last post (#84) as well as the Reformed Confessions (CoD 5, RE 3; WCF 3.6; and 11.5).

  86. R. F. White said,

    January 16, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    84 — David Gadbois’s comments, especially the first and the third, are well taken. One hermeneutical axiom comes to mind: there is no such thing as theologically neutral exegesis.

  87. January 16, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    That wasn’t name-calling. Saying your *position* is Arminian might be labeling, but it is not name-calling. And I believe the label is accurate. If I’m wrong, then I can be corrected. But I doubt I’m the only one here who doesn’t see that this is prima facie true. You need to stop acting (along with the rest of the FV crowd) as if you don’t need to reconcile your views with Reformed theology, and especially our confessional standards when you say things like this.

    To sum up: you said that the reprobate covenant member has had their sins atoned for by Christ, had their sins forgiven, and had lost that forgiveness. Good sir, it is most difficult to talk to someone who doesn’t see any issue with that from a Reformed perspective. The label of “Lutheran” is as charitable as logic and truth will allow me to be. That is not writing you off – I am quite willing to argue anything I’ve said here (either on the exegetical or theological issue). That is simply an accurate label to my mind.

  88. David Weiner said,

    January 16, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Apparently there is a view here that Hebrews 6 has been thoroughly handled and it is a waste of time to discuss it here. Possibly. But, let me just add one thought. The word that is taken to be ‘commit apostasy’ or ‘fall away’ in verse 6 does not have to relate to salvation. It has to do with removing oneself from a relationship. Does a saved person have the power to loose themselves from God’s grip? I think not. But, taking that word as apostasy really affects the understanding of the passage. In a bad way, I think. The whole thrust of the passage is moving on to maturity; not loss of salvation.

  89. its.reed said,

    January 17, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Ref. #85:

    Dave, Gabe, and Roger:

    Dave: welcome back. I appreciate the tone of your comments. Please continue to respond with gentlemanliness while making substantive points. Please do not respond to Gabe or Roger’s personal criticism of you.

    Gabe: your comment in retort to Dave has been deleted because it was out of bounds. Dave’s comments to you are completely within the bounds of discussion and debate between men who affirm the high standards of conduct presented to us by Christ. To affirm Dave’s point of critique and deny your charge of him, there is no name calling here, merely assigning a doctrinal label he believes applies. He does so to hopefully advance the discussion and clarification between the sides. He is willing to be shown the error of such labels. See my comment to Roger below concerning labels. Also, please consider this a mild admonishment.

    Roger: sorry friend, but I need to offer you a stronger admonishment. Your comment in complaint to Lane is specifically off bounds. I believe you’ve been reading wrong enough to have heard that before. If not, let me clarify – any complaints about someone’s comment are to be reported – off-blog – to the editor of that thread. As you know from such private interaction with me, they will be dealt with fairly.

    Dave’s use of labels here is nothing more than what you do yourself regularly on this blog, and in much more provocative manner. I refer you to such threads as FV Adult Baptism where you persisted in labeling you opponents, regardless of how many times they offered you clarification to demonstrate that the label was wrong. You even went so far as to insist that some of us (me twice) agree with you that the reformed world (this blog in particular) was riddled with people guilty of the error identified by your label (an agreement I still do not give).

    You were never rebuked for such provocative lableing. For you to insist on Dave’s rebuke here is to your shame. Sorry brother.

    All: this is a silly complaint in light of the highly provocative labeling that has been engaged in since virtually the beginning of this debate. I myself eschew the label TR, the FV advocate’s lable of choice (in my opinion; used when they want to ignore their opponent without substantively engaging him.) I do not complain about the label however. Instead, I try to keep talking with FV advocates.

    Please, substance includes labels that identify positions. Those on the FV side want to affirm they are completely consistent with the reformed standards. We opposed both get that and are willing to interact with you on that basis. This does not mean we agree with your self-assessment – if we did there would be no debate. You’ve got two honorable choices: 1) agree to discuss with us the issues of difference, including why we believe you are not in accord with the reformed standards, or 2) simply not debate us.

  90. its.reed said,

    January 17, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Ref. #88:

    David, no, not a waste of time. Rather Dave’s point is that there is substantive discussion on these passages, discussion that directly addresses the issues debated here, in the writings of fathers and brothers. The conversation here gives evidence that some of us are not aware of this discussion. It is a mark of wisdom to listen before one speaks in ignorance. Dave is merely suggesting that we should all devote ourselves to coming to such discussions here having spent the time listening elswhere. Sound advice, not an attempt to shut off debate.

    Please do not read any attempt on my part to label your position(s) ignorant. Not my intention at all.

  91. R. F. White said,

    January 17, 2008 at 9:19 am

    88 — David Weiner, as you can probably infer from my multiple other posts on Heb 6 and 10 on other threads, I am certainly not unwilling to discuss these texts. That’s not to say you have to engage me personally. It’s just that I do not want you to think that I think it’s a waste of time to discuss those texts. There is certainly no consensus on their interpretation or their implications.

  92. curate said,

    January 17, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    For the benefit of those who genuinely think that the doctrine of temporary justification is Arminian, please read what follows.

    Arminianism, as I understand it, is rooted in the principle of free will. The Reformed Faith is rooted in the biblical revelation of the absolute sovereignty of God, which includes absolute predestination. The view that I have been arguing for is in no way based upon the freedom of the will, but entirely upon the will of God. It is an aspect of predestination. At no time has the principle of free will been used, implied, or included by me, or any other FV advocate known to me.

    Therefore the repeated accusation of Arminianism is ill-informed and entirely unfounded.

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