A Faith That Is Never Alone, Preface

I wish to start a new blog post series, this time on the book A Faith That Is Never Alone, edited by P. Andrew Sandlin. This book is a response (though not a comprehensive response, see page xv) to Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, edited by R. Scott Clark. I do not think that any of the authors of the latter book will defend their book. They do not want to give the former book the time of day. And that’s fine. But I am going to give the former book a fair critique. I invite any author of the former book to comment on what I write, and debate with me.

The preface is by Andrew Sandlin, and is entitled “The Polemics of Articulated Rationality.” Sandlin starts with a lament about the strife within the Reformed world. He says, “The history of the Reformed world is a history of theological combativeness.” In some ways, this is true. The very name “Reformed” suggests that something else was deformed. The Reformed church has always stood for the purity of the Gospel (to a greater or lesser degree). It has not always been Reformed folks’ fault, however, that there has been strife. For instance, at the meeting between Luther and the Reformed, it was Luther who was not willing to join with the Reformed. The Roman Catholic Church is the one who excommunicated the Reformed church, furthermore. So, purity of doctrine has always been important to the Reformed church.

Sandlin goes on to assert that the Reformed world has been the most theologically oriented of all the sectors of Christianity. Furthermore, he describes this orientation as “articulated rationality” (pg. vii, quoting Thomas Sowell). What Sandlin means by this is “rational propositions…that tend to generate a worldview.” After locating the basis of truth among various groups within Christendom, he says of the Reformed tradition that the Reformed affirmation of truth “is, practically if not theoretically, a matter of fidelity to a system of propositions” (viii, having specific reference to the confessions). Now, it is easy, on the one hand, to see why Sandlin might say this. Certainly, the Reformed tradition has always been “brainy.” Look at the Reformed scholastic tradition, for instance. However, even there we must be cautious. Many of the Reformed scholastics defined theology in a holistic way, such as “the science of living to God” (Ames, in his Medulla). Furthermore, other traditions have plenty of braininess as well. Look at Robert Bellarmine, for the Roman Catholics, for instance. And Gerhard, for the Lutherans; Episcopius for the Arminians (not to mention Arminius himself!), and the Socini brothers for the Socinians. There were plenty of brainy men in those days, who were not afraid of propositions. The same is true today. Look at Karl Rahner for the Catholics, Pieper for the Lutherans, Norman Geisler for the Arminians. Still, the basic point of the Reformed being more concerned about such things can be granted. However, the conclusions that he draws from this can certainly be debated. Sandlin argues that the current controversy “is fueled by just such a commitment to theological precision” (viii). Of course, one must ask what the meaning of “fueled” is. Does he mean that this is the main reason why the controversy got started? Is he basically accusing the CJPM folk of “nit-picking?” I would certainly not want to deny that a concern for theological precision is related to the controversy. However, the critics of the FV and NPP would maintain that the issues are concerning justification itself, the very basis of the Gospel, indeed, a large part of the Gospel. These are fundamentals, not fine scholastic distinctions.

Sandlin then gives a basic definition of justification which is mostly unexceptionable. One must ask, however, what he means by “For most Protestants, justification is an act, not a process” (ix). Does this mean the 16th-18th century Protestant tradition (which has never, to my knowledge, described justification as a process)? Or does he mean many of today’s confused Protestants? If the former, then obviously I deny. If the latter, then yes, some have mistakenly assumed justification to be a process. The last paragraph of this section is puzzling. The relationship of faith and works in general is a different question that the relationship of faith and works within the doctrine of justification. We will return to this theme quite a bit in future posts on this book.

Sandlin briefly describes the Lordship Controversy (ix-x), ending with this helpful comment: “The ‘Lordship Salvation’ controversy uncovered a deep cleavage just under the surface of evangelical consensus, a cleavage that touched the very heart of evangelical conviction- salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ” (x). However, one must ask this question: is this cleavage the same cleavage that we have now, or has it morphed into something else? For instance, Sproul was on the right side of the controversy, by everyone’s admission. But now is he on the side that is driving a wedge between faith and works? I am puzzled about this. How is Sandlin sketching the battle grounds here?

Next follows a discussion of Fuller’s book Gospel and Law: Contrast or Continuum?, a book that attacks the traditional law/Gospel distinction. Particularly problematic is Fuller’s contention that “Faith is not passive but active, grasping the promises of God and following Him throughout our lives” (xi). This is not problematic as a description of faith as it occurs throughout sanctification. But the statement is ambiguous: what about faith in justification? He quotes Bullinger as holding a position quite close to this. In the bibliography at the end of the preface, he references Bullinger’s book A Brief Exposition of the One and Eternal Testament or Covenant of God. One would have liked a bit more argumentation about this point.

The claim that traditional Reformed covenant theology is the precursor of dispensationalism (made by Barth and Fuller; it is unclear if Sandlin agrees with this assessment) is utterly ludicrous to anyone who knows the sources. The pre-lapsarian way of obtaining eternal life in Scripture is by no means the same as the dispensational system. Furthermore, Scofield did not reference a’Brakel, Witsius, Turretin, Calvin, or any other Reformed covenantal theologian in the piecing together of his system. It is further ludicrous to assert that the law/Gospel distinction is an invention (xi) of the Reformed covenantal theologians. See CJPM, pp. 333ff.

A very short description of the Shepherd controversy follows, where Sandlin does not seem to see any problem with Shepherd’s formulations with regard to justification. The description of the NPP outlines some of its basic tenets, as well as some of the critics’ problems with it. Finally, the Federal Vision is addressed. Several things are appropriate to bring up here. 1. What does Sandlin mean by “legitimate theological paradigm?” Does he mean that the system is legitimate in the sense of biblical, or does he mean that it actually is a system, not just a pastoral question? I have a hunch that it is the latter. However, it is not entirely clear. Understatement is certainly present in its saying that “its proponents are not averse to all innovation” (xiv). The critics have said that the entire system is innovative.

Lastly, Sandlin cautions readers that the authors are not from one perspective. Some are favorable to the NPP, others are not. Each author must be judged on his own work. This is a fair request, although I notice that none of the authors of CJPM were asked to write! It is probably safe to say that what unites these authors together is their fundamental disagreement with CJPM.

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84 Comments

  1. February 3, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    I’m glad you are not willing to dismiss Sandlin’s book without thoughtful commentary. But a few thoughts on this first post:

    1) Is this all you are willing to concede by the nature of theological battles in the reformed camp the last couple of decades? This would have been the most immediate point of reference for Sandlin’s comment, right? Has the strife and combativeness been a fruit of the gospel/Spirit, a necessary stand for eternal truth? If so, wouldn’t we see the fruit of this ‘combat’ to be peace, holiness, and love within the reformed camp outside of the disputes merely protecting the boarders of the simple gospel message? Is this what we see? Certainly not. I am surprised that this concern would be dismissed so easily when it has now been made by so many even within the Reformed tradition.

    2) It seems you missed Sandlin’s point about articulated rationality. Many within the contemporary reformed tradition have a very demarcated rationalistic approach to theology and religious language in general; as Leithart argues, even ‘worldview’ itself is a concept antithetical to the approach biblical writers had to ‘doing theology’. Certainly, the criticism is more specific than referring to the “brainy” nature of reformed thinkers. The problem is with respect to how words are used in natural language, the nature of meaning, the importance of literary/cultural context, the roll of emotion and imagination in human thought, the artificial precision in our technical terms, and the problem with ‘worldview’ or ‘system’ qua timeless propositions. Not to say that having merely “brainy” writing is not also a possible problem.

    3) I was surprised by your complete dismissal of Fuller’s book while just wading into Sandlin. “Ludicrous”? It is has been a while since I read Fuller’s popular book, but wasn’t his argument primarily historical? Why would Fuller’s argument entail that both approaches would be the same with respect to the prelapsarian way of obtaining eternal life?

    Thanks
    Michael

  2. barlow said,

    February 4, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Are you distinguishing two aspects of genuine faith, or are you distinguishing two types of faith?

  3. February 4, 2008 at 12:34 am

    […] response to the WSCAL faculty’s book, Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry. (Click here for Lane’s first […]

  4. Gabe Martini said,

    February 4, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Lane wrote, Sandlin then gives a basic definition of justification which is mostly unexceptionable. One must ask, however, what he means by “For most Protestants, justification is an act, not a process” (ix). Does this mean the 16th-18th century Protestant tradition (which has never, to my knowledge, described justification as a process)? Or does he mean many of today’s confused Protestants?

    He probably meant John Calvin, e.g. “THE BEGINNING OF JUSTIFICATION. IN WHAT SENSE PROGRESSIVE.” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 14.

    Gabe Martini

  5. William Hill said,

    February 4, 2008 at 5:11 am

    Covenant Radio spoke with Sandlin and Lusk about this book in a 1 HR 47 MIN broadcast. You can get more information at http://www.covenantradio.com or you can listen directly at: http://www.blubrry.com/player/?e=165168&p=2840

    I look forward to what Lane will hav to say, especially as we get into those areas we discussed on the program.

  6. GLW Johnson said,

    February 4, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Gabe M.
    That entire section of Calvin poses a major road block to Norman Shepherd, NT Wright and the folks articulating the Federal Vision.Note Calvin’s repeated denial of works serving as the basis or grounds or in anyway being instrumental in justification.He does not use the word ‘progressive’ to imply that there is a two-fold justification, the last being on the basis of the totality of the life lived.Here and elsewhere in his writings, Calvin catagorically affirmed Luther’s doctrine of sola fide, and as such on the doctrine of justification there is no divide between the two Reformers. I am curious why you, one of the more vocal defenders of the FV, would reference this section of the Institues.

  7. February 4, 2008 at 8:38 am

    […] A Faith That Is Never Alone Lane Keister has begun a serial critic of A Faith That Is Never Alone at Green Baggins. A Faith That Is Never Alone was in answer to Dr. Clark et al’s Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral […]

  8. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 4, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Gabe (#4):

    I agree in the main with GLWJ on this. Recall that Calvin is responding to scholastic arguments against justification through faith alone; the prime argument was that faith must be joined with works according to James; hence, “justification by faith alone” is incorrect, QED.

    Calvin’s response was this:

    Let us now see what kind of righteousness belongs to those persons whom we have placed in the fourth class. We admit that when God reconciles us to himself by the intervention of the righteousness of Christ, and bestowing upon us the free pardon of sins regards us as righteous, his goodness is at the same time conjoined with mercy, so that he dwells in us by means of his Holy Spirit, by whose agency the lusts of our flesh are every day more and more mortified while that we ourselves are sanctified; that is consecrated to the Lord for true purity of life, our hearts being trained to the obedience of the law. It thus becomes our leading desire to obey his will, and in all things advance his glory only. — Inst. 2.14.9

    Clearly, he argues what I argued over in the Turretin thread: that faith brings about union with Christ, which then brings about the various works. (Oddly enough, I borrowed this argument from Calvin. ;) ).

    Gabe, I wonder whether there is not a substantial amount of “talking past” going on here.

    Jeff Cagle

  9. Gabe Martini said,

    February 4, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Yeah, I guess that would pose a problem for me, if I believed in “works serving as the basis or grounds or in anyway being instrumental in justification” … but I don’t. In fact, I’ve explicitly stated that on this blog in the past.

    I know we’re not allowed to use the mis-understanding plea anymore, so I’ll just say you’re wrong.

    Gabe Martini

  10. greenbaggins said,

    February 4, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Michael, Reformed folk are always going to be fighting, because even the scope of the battles is disputed. Some think that such and such battle is over a fundamental issue of religion. Others think it is on the side. Reformed folk have always been fighting, and probably always will fight. The difference is that these fights are usually over doctrinal matters. Most other churches fight about the color of the carpeting in the sanctuary. There isn’t less fighting in other denoms. It’s just about different things. This is not to justify all the fighting that Reformed folk have done. However, the idea that we are somehow worse than other denominations in the area of fighting is not so clear.

    Your second point: I would strongly dispute the claim that many Reformed theologians today have a rationalistic approach to theology, if by that you mean that human reason is autonomous. Propositional truth is not rationalistic. The bifurcation between head and heart is part of the Enlightenment, not part of Reformed theology, which sees a person as a whole. Who do you see today as being rationalistic? Some names, please.

    Your third point: I did *not* call Fuller’s book ludicrous (I haven’t read the book: how could I?). I called the claim that Reformed covenant theology is the precursor of dispensationalism ludicrous. And it is. If that claim is not in Barth and Fuller, then Sandlin’s assessment is wrong. But if Sandlin is right about Barth and Fuller, then I am saying that the claim is ludicrous. And by the way, my answer to that argument was historical in nature, if you read it closely.

    Barlow, I’m not quite sure what you are referring to. If you mean what I think you mean, then I would argue that faith’s receptivity with regard to justification and faith’s aliveness with regard to sanctification are two aspects of the same faith, not two different faiths. Don’t know if this answers your question or not.

    Gabe, I think that Gary knows more about Calvin on this one. I’m going with him. ;-)

  11. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 4, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Gabe (#9):

    Yeah, I guess that would pose a problem for me, if I believed in “works serving as the basis or grounds or in anyway being instrumental in justification” … but I don’t. In fact, I’ve explicitly stated that on this blog in the past.

    Yes, you have, and I accept that at face value.

    At the same time, you’ve explicitly labeled the view that I’ve articulated as “anti-nomian”, which (false) charge is similar to the one that Calvin wishes to repudiate.

    So I freely admit: I don’t understand your view. Here’s what I think I know so far:

    (1) You deny that faith is a receptive instrument that unites us to Christ, which produces obedience in us.
    (2) You affirm that faith is an active instrument that both receives the grace of Christ and also obeys the commands of God.
    (3) You deny that obedience to the commands of God is the grounds, basis, or instrument of justification, BUT
    (4) You affirm that we are justified through faith.

    My problems are two-fold: I can’t understand why it would be important to deny (1), and I can’t understand how to put (2) – (4) together without contradiction.

    Over on the Turretin threads, Joshua did it by saying that there are different aspects of faith, but only the receptive aspect justifies. In which case, what’s the point of (2) (especially over against (1))?

    Any clarity you can bring to the position would be helpful.

    Jeff Cagle

  12. Gabe Martini said,

    February 4, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Okay, Jeff. Here goes:

    We’re justified by a living, active faith. Dead faith cannot justify. God never justifies anyone with a dead faith, or with a dis-obedient faith. Our good works do not contribute to or add to our “right” standing before God, but they are necessary for salvation (ordinarily — elect infants dying in infancy would be an obvious exception), because Christ is Lord, not merely our Savior.

    Justification by Faith Alone means we are alone justified by faith, not justified by a faith that is “alone” in the person justified.

    Gabe Martini

  13. Gabe Martini said,

    February 4, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    In other words, we don’t do good works in order to be saved.

    God has saved us, therefore we perform good works. God has redeemed me, therefore I am obedient to his commandments. This was the same for Israel. God saved them out of the land of Egypt, and then he gave them the Ten Words. Not to be justified, but because they were justified.

    Gabe Martini

  14. greenbaggins said,

    February 4, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    Gabe, your formulation needs a bit of tweaking. We are justified by faith alone, not “alone justified by faith.” And, though our faith which is instrumental in justification is an alive faith, it does not justify because it is alive, but because it lays hold of Christ in a receptive way. The faith that justifies is alive, but it does not justify because it is alive, but because of faith’s object: Jesus Christ. This is 100% of what *all* the Reformers would say. You are right to say that we do good works because we are justified. When faith is taken as regarding justification, it is receptive and passive, since all it does is lay hold of the One Who justifies. When justification turns and looks towards sanctification, it is active and obedient. This does not describe a two-faith system, but rather a one-faith with two rigidly distinct but never separable aspects. Hope this is clear.

  15. February 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Gabe,

    Didn’t God give Israel the law (partly) in order to enable them to retain their blessed state in the land? Is that position replicated under the New Covenant?

  16. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 4, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Gabe (#12,13):

    Thank you. I can affirm, line-by-line, each of the points you affirm in #12 and #13.

    However, with Lane, I feel as if more needs to be said. It’s because of this: despite the fact that I agree with each point in #12 and #13, I find that my proposition (1) above, “Faith is a receptive instrument that unites us to Christ, who produces obedience in us”, is unacceptable to you and others.

    Why?

    Jeff Cagle

  17. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 4, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Lane (#14):

    When faith is taken as regarding justification, it is receptive and passive, since all it does is lay hold of the One Who justifies. When justification turns and looks towards sanctification, it is active and obedient.

    I’ve been thinking in the shower about the active/passive thing, wondering whether this controversy might not turn on a distinction between “active and passive” v. “receptive and generative.”

    Here’s what I mean: At certain points in the Scriptures, faith is clearly and obviously passive. These points include the faith that John the Baptist exhibited in the womb, the “faith like a child” that Jesus tells his disciples to have, the faith that brings us from death to life in Eph. 2.

    And at other points, faith is clearly and obviously active. These points include the woman who grabs ahold of Jesus’ cloak and is healed, the one single Samaritan who returns to Jesus after he is healed, and faith in general as it is portrayed in the books of Hebrews and James.

    And yet at any point where there is sufficient evidence to discern, faith is always receptive. That is, it does not generate its own righteousness, but looks to its object — Jesus — for an alien righteousness so that “the righteous requirements of the Law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8.4).

    Again, at times that receptiveness is more passive; at other times, we actively receive Christ’s righteousness:

    There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
    Jesus the Great High Priest. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

    Without getting into whether the “rest” is purely eschatological as in Gaffin or now/not-yet, still, the rest is entered into by a faith that “approaches” and “clings fast.”

    But NEVER by a faith that produces ones own works as a basis for righteousness; from those, we must rest.

    So anyways, I’ve been wondering whether it’s even helpful to debate whether faith is “active” or “passive.” It seems that it can be either according to the need of the moment; but in all things, it is receptive and fully reliant on the righteousness of Christ.

    Thoughts?

    Jeff Cagle

  18. Gabe Martini said,

    February 4, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Gabe (#12,13):

    Thank you. I can affirm, line-by-line, each of the points you affirm in #12 and #13.

    However, with Lane, I feel as if more needs to be said. It’s because of this: despite the fact that I agree with each point in #12 and #13, I find that my proposition (1) above, “Faith is a receptive instrument that unites us to Christ, who produces obedience in us”, is unacceptable to you and others.

    Why?

    Because that is the view of the Council of Trent; i.e. that Justification begins by a faith that is alone, and that subsequent obedience is the result of a different aspect or dimension of that original faith.

    Gabe Martini

  19. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 4, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Re #17

    Thanks, Jeff. I like this. Notice that I talked about faith as “actual” vs. “potential” over on the one of the threads about the definition of faith–I was a little worried that I was going to run afoul of the active/passive distinction as it is commonly understood. But my point was the same as yours, I think: faith always looks to the other, but it is exercised–we have to actually believe, not just have the ability to believe, in order to be justified, so “passive” doesn’t seem to fit well.

    On that note, re #14:

    “And, though our faith which is instrumental in justification is an alive faith, it does not justify because it is alive, but because it lays hold of Christ in a receptive way.”

    May I distinguish sense of “because” here? The living faith does not justify on the grounds that it is alive, but I would say that in only justifies in the circumstances in which it is alive. Analogy: if someone is saved from drowning, they may have grasped the life preserver, but it was not their act of grasping that kept them afloat–if the life preserver wasn’t there, they could grasp all they wanted and still sink. If they are already unconscious, however, or already dead, they cannot grasp anything. So, they are in one sense saved because the life preserver was thrown to them, but in another sense because they were still alive enough to grasp it. Nota bene: the person in the analogy is the faith, not the person–working faith in a sinner is a species of resurrection, in which the sinner is entirely passive, having no faith to exercise. But once that faith is created, it is living, and that vitality is a necessary–but absolutely non-meritorious–precondition for it clinging to Christ.

  20. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 4, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Re #18:

    Gabe, what part of Trent are you referring to? This, from the 6th session, chapter VII (emphasis added)?

    “For faith, unless hope and charity be *added* thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of His body.”

    May I just say that I find reading Trent annoyingly difficult, because they tangle up justification with “definitive sanctification,” regeneration, and sanctification, and take what is clearly legal, forensic language and talk about its “increase” (how do you increase a “not guilty” verdict?), then cap it off with the final canon, that if we suggest that Trent at all derogates from Christ and doesn’t rather glorify Christ more than every other formulation, we’re anathema.

  21. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 4, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Trent also anathematized so many specific details: e.g., if you say that the grace by which we are saved is only the favor of God, then you’re anathema.

    But I have rediscovered Canon IV, which talks about the question of passivity– they anathematize anyone who says that the will is inanimate or passive in justification, which I suppose is the concern here about how the liveliness of faith relates to its justifying. But is this a good criterion for being Reformed: that everything you believe about justification must be anathematized by Trent?

  22. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 4, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Grace means the favor of God, not a substance that is poured into us, transforming us.

    Trent does not render the glory of God more illustrious, and does derogate from the merits of Christ.

    There is no debt of temporal punishment that remains after justification, either in this life or in Purgatory.

    Is three strikes according to Trent enough to be considered not heading for Rome (to say nothing of Vatican I)?

    Found a definite fourth: the sacrament of Penance is not necessary to recover after sin.

    And a fifth: justification does not admit of increase, so it certainly cannot be increased by good works.

    Okay, I’m tired of this game!

  23. Tom Wenger said,

    February 4, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I think that Calvin, (as usual) says it clearer and better than anyone. Addressing this specific issue in his comments on Gal. 5:6 he said,

    “There would be no difficulty in this passage, were it not for the dishonest manner in which it has been tortured by the Papists to uphold the righteousness of works. When they attempt to refute our doctrine, that we are justified by faith alone, they take this line of argument. If the faith which justifies us be that “which worketh by love,” then faith alone does not justify. I answer, they do not comprehend their own silly talk; still less do they comprehend our statements. It is not our doctrine that the faith which justifies is alone; we maintain that it is invariably accompanied by good works; only we contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification. The Papists themselves are accustomed to tear faith after a murderous fashion, sometimes presenting it out of all shape and unaccompanied by love, and at other times, in its true character. We, again, refuse to admit that, in any case, faith can be separated from the Spirit of regeneration; BUT WHEN THE QUESTION COMES TO BE IN WHAT MANNER WE ARE JUSTIFIED, WE THEN SET ASIDE ALL WORKS.
    With respect to the present passage, Paul enters into no dispute whether love cooperates with faith in justification; but, in order to avoid the appearance of representing Christians as idle and as resembling blocks of wood, he points out what are the true exercises of believers. WHEN YOU ARE ENGAGED IN DISCUSSING THE QUESTION OF JUSTIFICATION, BEWARE OF ALLOWING ANY MENTION TO BE MADE OF LOVE OR OF WORKS, BUT RESOLUTELY ADHERE TO THE EXCLUSIVE PARTICLE.”

  24. pandrewsandlin said,

    February 4, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Tom, your caps in Calvin’s quote erect a theological standard that even St. James, under divine inspiration, fails to meet.

  25. February 4, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    Andrew,

    Or, James is speaking of something different by “justification” than Paul was.

    The two different examples from Abraham’s life suggest this, do they not? Paul speaks of Abraham’s initial response to God’s promises, while James refers to his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, which happened many years later.

    Or would you prefer to just pit Calvin against James and leave it at that?

  26. pandrewsandlin said,

    February 4, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Jason, I would prefer to suggest that Calvin had included a proviso rather than verbally conflicting with James (“any mention”; any?), which Calvin plainly did not intend.

  27. Tom Wenger said,

    February 4, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Andrew,

    I’m not sure what your problem could be with the Calvin quotation. I’m clearly not quoting only the capitalized portions to the exclusion of the rest, but was merely helping those like Gabe who are confused about the Refomed position on the matter. Clearly there is a “proviso”, as it were, in the quote I provided, when Calvin says, “It is not our doctrine that the faith which justifies is alone; we maintain that it is invariably accompanied by good works; only we contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification.”

    But the FV and others like them seem to think (and it appears that you do as well) that if we claim that the faith that justifies is never alone, then we can’t make comments like the ones I bolded.

    Is it improper for Calvin to speak that way? It’s a free country, and you’re more than welcome to disagree with him.

    I’m just curious how you can even make the assertion that you made.

  28. Gabe Martini said,

    February 4, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Wait, you mean the Bible uses a word in different senses? Isn’t that the error of the Federal Visionists on election, regeneration, and so on? Hmmm… If James is using justification to mean something other than the “doctrine of justification,” the door has been swung wide open for the poison of the Federal Vision to take hold.

    Gabe Martini

  29. Roger Mann said,

    February 4, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    “It is not our doctrine that the faith which justifies is alone; we maintain that it is invariably accompanied by good works; only we contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification.”

    “We, again, refuse to admit that, in any case, faith can be separated from the Spirit of regeneration; but when the question comes to be in what manner we are justified, we then set aside all works.”

    “When you are engaged in discussing the question of justification, beware of allowing any mention to be made of love or of works, but resolutely adhere to the exclusive particle.”

    Anyone who rejects the truths expressed in the above quotes hates the gospel, plain and simple! Let Andrew Sandlin come down where he may.

  30. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Gabe (#18):

    JRC:
    I find that my proposition (1) above, “Faith is a receptive instrument that unites us to Christ, who produces obedience in us”, is unacceptable to you and others.

    Why?

    GM:
    Because that is the view of the Council of Trent; i.e. that Justification begins by a faith that is alone, and that subsequent obedience is the result of a different aspect or dimension of that original faith.

    I don’t mean to be nit-picky, but I’m confused. I’ve not been lumped together with the Roman Catholics on justification in — well, ever, actually. So it’s a new experience. :)

    I’ve not argued that subsequent obedience is the result of a different aspect of that original faith; rather, that subsequent obedience is the result of our union with Christ and reception of His sanctifying righteousness.

    And second, Trent argues for an ongoing justification, which is certainly out-of-court for me.

    And third, Trent argues that faith that is alone does *not* justify by itself, but only when combined with love (Tom Wenger’s cite of Gal. 5.6 was spot-on); and of course, that’s not my position at all.

    So is it possible that you reject (1) because it sounds (to you) like something else?

    Jeff Cagle

  31. Tom Wenger said,

    February 5, 2008 at 12:20 am

    I thought it would be helpful for those, like Andrew, who struggle to accept the traditional Reformed language, to see just how differently the FV interprets James 2 compared to Calvin.

    Here’s Rich Lusk’s take on James 2:

    “In James 2, “justification” cannot be referring to a demonstration of justification, e.g., justification does and cannot mean something like “show to be justified.” Rather, James has in view the same kind of justification as Paul — forensic, soteric justification. Good works justify persons in James 2, not faith or one’s status as a justified sinner. James is not telling his readers how to “justify their justification” or how to “give evidence of a true and lively faith”. Instead he says their persons will not be justified by faith alone, but also by good works of obedience they have done. The use of the preposition “by” is important since it indicates a sort of dual instrumentality in justification. In other words, in some sense, James is speaking of a justification in which faith and works combine together to justify Future justification is according to one’s life pattern.” [Lusk, “Future Justification to the Doers of the Law”]

    Now look at Calvin. On James 2 he says,

    “The Sophists lay hold on the word justified, and then they cry out as being victorious, that justification is partly by works. But we ought to seek out a right interpretation according to the general drift of the whole passage. We have already said that James does not speak here of the cause of justification, or of the manner how men obtain righteousness, and this is plain to every one; but that his object was only to show that good works are always connected with faith; and, therefore, since he declares that Abraham was justified by works, he is speaking of the proof he gave of his justification…. When Paul says that we are justified by faith, he means no other thing than that by faith we are counted righteous before God. But James has quite another thing in view, even to show that he who professes that he has faith, must prove the reality of his faith by his works. Doubtless James did not mean to teach us here the ground on which our hope of salvation ought to rest; and it is this alone that Paul dwells upon.
    That we may not then fall into that false reasoning which has deceived the Sophists, we must take notice of the two fold meaning, of the word justified. Paul means by it the gratuitous imputation of righteousness before the tribunal of God; and James, the manifestation of righteousness by the conduct, and that before men, as we may gather from the preceding words, ‘Show to me thy faith,’ etc…They who seek to prove from this passage of James that the works of Abraham were imputed for righteousness, must necessarily confess that Scripture is perverted by him; for however they may turn and twist, they can never make the effect to be its own cause.” [Calvin, Commentary on James, 2:21, 23]

    This is exaclty the view that Lusk condemns and Calvin rightly attributes it to the Sophists (who were papists).

    Now I know that Lusk and his FV confederates will right away try to vindicate themselves by saying that Calvin here is only referring to the first of the two alleged justifications that a Christian experiences. However, Calvin elsewhere shows just how opposed to that view he is. Arguing against Trent about the language of 2 Cor 5, he says,

    … (Paul) without appealing to the testimony of another, elsewhere says, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto men their trespasses.” Immediately after, he adds, “He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:19.) Can anything be clearer than that we are regarded as righteous in the sight of God, because our sins have been expiated by Christ, and no longer hold us under liability?

    THERE IS NO ROOM FOR THE VULGAR QUIBBLE THAT PAUL IS SPEAKING OF THE BEGINNING OF JUSTIFICATION; for in both places he is showing, not how men who had hitherto been unbelievers begin to be righteous, BUT HOW THEY RETAIN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH THEY HAVE ONCE PROCURED DURING THE WHOLE COURSE OF LIFE; for David speaks of himself after he had been adopted among the children of God; and Paul asserts that this is the perpetual message which is daily heard in the Church. In the same sense also he says, “Moses describeth the righteousness of the law, that he who doeth these things shall live in them, (Leviticus 18:5;) but the righteousness of faith thus speaketh, He that believeth,” etc. (Romans 10:5.) We thus see that THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH, WHICH BY NO MEANS CONSISTS OF WORKS, IS OPPOSED TO THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE LAW, WHICH SO CONSISTS. [Calvin, “Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote,” in Tracts and Treatises in Defense of the Reformed Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 114-115]

  32. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2008 at 12:29 am

    Andrew/JJS (#24/25):

    PAS:
    Tom, your caps in Calvin’s quote erect a theological standard that even St. James, under divine inspiration, fails to meet.

    JJS:
    Or, James is speaking of something different by “justification” than Paul was.

    The two different examples from Abraham’s life suggest this, do they not? Paul speaks of Abraham’s initial response to God’s promises, while James refers to his willingness to sacrifice Isaac, which happened many years later.

    Or even, that he means something different by the phrase “by works” than Paul does. I mean, it’s clear that James 2.14 refers to the same kind of salvation that Paul speaks of; so the two are not entirely on different pages with their term “justified.”

    BUT

    The way that works function in James is absurd. The ‘faith’ in v. 22 that was ‘credited to him as righteousness’ works together with the ‘works’ in v. 22 that occurred 30+ years later.

    I think we need to consider the possibility that James is being deliberately provocative on a couple of levels:

    (1) He takes on the Pauline formulation in v. 24 — I would argue, a distortion of the genuine Pauline formulation

    (2) He appeals to the same example that Paul used in Rom 4, but argues absurdly to a seemingly opposite conclusion

    (3) He (deliberately, I think) overreaches in his argument. The thesis: faith without works is dead. But by the time he gets to the conclusion, he arrives at “You see, a man is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”

    To me, the evidence strongly suggests that James is using wisdom-lit-style rhetoric to prove the central thesis that “faith without works is dead.” The use of “by works” is rhetorical flourish, not a description of salvific mechanisms.

    Unless we really want to say that Genesis 15 is incorrect in saying that Abraham was considered righteous when he trusted God, not later; or that Abraham was righteous in Genesis 15, but even *more* righteous when he almost sacrificed Isaac.

    Just throwing that into the mix. At minimum, I would want to insist that any exegesis of James 2.14ff not stray far from James’ oft-repeated thesis, that faith without works is dead. To use James as proof-text (as Trent does) for good works being justificatory is to argue from the unclear to the clear. IMO.

    Jeff Cagle

  33. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Tom (#31):

    Now, I would differ only slightly with Calvin here. Lusk has a point when he says that James’ “justify” does not mean “justifying our justification.” To whom? God already knew; and Isaac was the only other person present.

    And, James clearly has in mind a faith that “saves” — which must entail forensic justification.

    On the other hand, Calvin is also correct: James is concerned with self-knowledge — how do I know my faith is genuine?

    Where I think Lusk runs off the rails is here: The use of the preposition “by” is important since it indicates a sort of dual instrumentality in justification.

    For James, we aren’t justified “by works” like we are justified “by faith” for Paul. Instead, “justified by works” serves as a rhetorical way of driving home the point about self-knowledge: real faith produces works.

    Well, I’ve said that bit already. Anyways, I do think “justified” means “justified”; it’s just the rest of Lusk’s analysis that I differ with. He makes too much of “by.”

    Jeff Cagle

  34. pandrewsandlin said,

    February 5, 2008 at 2:58 am

    “Justified by works” in James is shorthand for “justified by a living, active faith.”

    The issue is not whether faith and works are coefficient causes (they are not); the issue is not whether faith alone is instrumentally causative of justification (it is); the issue is not whether justification is processional (it is not); the issue is not whether justification is exclusively forensic (it is). The issue is the nature of the faith that justifies. According to James, a faith that is not living and active (= trusting in Jesus alone, repentant, and submissive) is spurious and demonic.

  35. Ron Henzel said,

    February 5, 2008 at 3:05 am

    Gabe,

    You wrote in comment 18:

    Because that is the view of the Council of Trent; i.e. that Justification begins by a faith that is alone, and that subsequent obedience is the result of a different aspect or dimension of that original faith.

    Josh responded to your bizarre and inexplicable statement in comments 20-22. I will take his good comments one step further by saying that it is utter nonsense to interpret Trent in this manner. Trent explicitly denied that the faith that justifies is alone at any point in time:

    Canon IX.—If any one saith, that by faith alone [sola fide] the impious is justified, in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will: let him be anathema.

    Canon XI.—If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favor of God: let him be anathema.

    Canon XII.—If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified: let him be anathema.

    Canon XIV.—If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone [hac sola fide], absolution and justification are effected: let him be anathema.

    [Philip Schaff and David S. Schaff, eds., “The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent,” Sixth Session, Chapter XVI, in The Creeds of Christendom, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Book House, reprinted 1985), 112-113. Emphasis in Canon XI the original, to show a citation of Romans 5:5. Cf. the “Decree on Justification,” Chapter XI, ibid., 101.]

    Contrary to what you write, since Trent Roman Catholicism has consistently taught that (a) faith itself is an act, to be defined strictly in terms of mental assent (per Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, Q. iv, art. 2), (b) it is the result of human free will cooperating with infused grace (cf. Trent, Canons III and IV “On Justification”), (c) the act of faith cannot justify unless and until becomes “the virtue of faith” (i.e., fides formata) by “working through charity,” (i.e., good works; sometimes clarified further in Catholic writings as “charity and good works”) and (d) justification itself is not the act of God declaring sinners righteous, but the process of making them righteous. In other words, with the possible exception of points (a) and (d) above, the Tridentine bishops were the first Federal Visionists. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that Federal Visionists are Roman Catholics in utero.

    Furthermore, to say as you do, that in Tridentine teaching “subsequent obedience is the result of a different aspect or dimension of that original faith” is also nonsensical, since Trent’s “Decree on Justification,” Chapter X, “On the increase of Justification received,” taken in context, makes it clear that subsequent obedience does not result from any aspect of faith, but rather, consistent with everything else Trent said, derives from man’s free will cooperating with faith.

    Not to change the subject, but Federal Visionists really ought to look into adopting Trent’s Canon XVII on justification as part of their new confession of faith, when they come out with it. That canon anathematizes those who declare that “the grace of Justification is only attained to by those who are predestined unto life” (ibid. 114). Think about it.

  36. Ron Henzel said,

    February 5, 2008 at 3:36 am

    Gabe,

    In comment 28 you belched,

    Wait, you mean the Bible uses a word in different senses? Isn’t that the error of the Federal Visionists on election, regeneration, and so on? Hmmm… If James is using justification to mean something other than the “doctrine of justification,” the door has been swung wide open for the poison of the Federal Vision to take hold.

    No, the error of the Federal Visionists is not that they are so utterly deaf to the fact that biblical theology and systematic theology (or as Carson puts it, exegesis and theology) use biblical words in different senses that they fail to understand what systematicians are saying. In his excellent essay Carson wrote:

    For clarity of thought and expression, it is important to distinguish between two domains of discourse, viz. exegesis and theology. Of course, for those who want the “norming norm” of their theology to be Scripture, the links between the two disciplines must be much more than casual. Nevertheless, not only their respective methods, but even their respective vocabularies, can be very different.

    [D.A. Carson, “The Vindication of Imputation,” in Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Trier, Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, (Downers Grove, IL, USA: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 47-48.]

    The words “justify,” “justification,” and so on have a broader semantic range in Scripture than they do in systematic theology, particularly Reformed systematic theology, and for very good historic reasons. It does not mean and has never meant that Reformed theology has simply ignored the other biblical uses of those words. They have simply chosen a biblical word as a shorthand designation for a biblical doctrine, taking all relevant Scriptural data in the formulating of that doctrine. But now that FVers, glorying in their own self-assessed brilliance, have discovered what previous theologians have known all along (that words used as names for doctrines can have other referents in Scripture), they think they are entitled to rewrite Reformed theology on the basis of their “discovery.”

    As you would say, “Hmmm…”

  37. Ron Henzel said,

    February 5, 2008 at 3:39 am

    Oops! In the previous comment I wrote:

    No, the error of the Federal Visionists is not that they are so utterly deaf to the fact that biblical theology and systematic theology…use biblical words in different senses

    Please drop the word “not” when you read it. I meant to affirm the FVers deafness, not deny it. Sorry!

  38. Ron Henzel said,

    February 5, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Lane,

    When I got home last night I hauled out my old copy of Fuller’s Gospel and Law: Contrast or Continuum? I couldn’t find any place where Fuller says that Covenant Theology is the precursor of Dispensationalism, at least not in so many words. Fuller’s main point is that a central concern for both Covenant and Dispensationalist theology is the dichotomy between law and gospel. Covenant Theology’s solution is via the covenant of works/covenant of grace distinction; Dispensationalism’s is via the Israel/Church distinction.

    Fuller had rejected the Dispensationalist approach back in the late ’50s in his doctoral dissertation. He rejected the Covenant Theology approach in the ’70s by essentially declaring that there was no law/gospel dichotomy to be found in Scripture in the first place, and he traced the error of creating one all the way back to the beginning of the Reformation. So if anything Fuller would probably say that the Reformation was the precursor of both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, rather than that Covenant Theology was the precursor of Dispensationalism.

  39. Ronnie said,

    February 5, 2008 at 7:49 am


    Andrew Sandlin said:
    The issue is not whether faith and works are coefficient causes (they are not); the issue is not whether faith alone is instrumentally causative of justification (it is); the issue is not whether justification is processional (it is not); the issue is not whether justification is exclusively forensic (it is). The issue is the nature of the faith that justifies. According to James, a faith that is not living and active (= trusting in Jesus alone, repentant, and submissive) is spurious and demonic.

    You stopped too quickly in your clarifying of what the issue is. To continue, the issue is not over if justifying faith is living ( it is ). The issue is what aspect of faith is the instrumental cause of its justification. The answer is faith in its trusting, receptive, or passive sense not in its active or doing(i.e. repentant, obeying the law, submitting to the law or works ).

  40. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Andrew (#34):

    “Justified by works” in James is shorthand for “justified by a living, active faith.”

    Right, I think that’s what I’m getting at. Note however that this is different from Lusk’s formulation as stated.

    Do you agree or disagree with Ronnie’s caveat (#39)?

    Jeff Cagle

  41. Bret McAtee said,

    February 5, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Pandrewsandlin,

    The issue is the nature of the faith that justifies. According to James, a faith that is not living and active (= trusting in Jesus alone, repentant, and submissive) is spurious and demonic.

    Justifying faith shows its living and active nature and works properly when it rests in Christ alone, instrumentally receiving all of the righteousness of Christ, which alone alone is sufficient for acceptability before a Holy and Just God.

    I listened to the interview that Bill Hill linked to and it suffers from all the usual problems that the Federal Visionists have consistently been hobbled with.

    Bret

  42. greenbaggins said,

    February 5, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Ron, thanks for looking that up for me. It appears that Sandlin has misinterpreted Fuller, then. Sandlin clearly states that Fuller believes that Reformed covenant theology classically defined is the precursor of dispensationalism. Kudos to Fuller if he does not claim that.

  43. Gabe Martini said,

    February 5, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Ron, I tried to read what you said, but the gongs and cymbals distracted me. Sorry.

    Gabe Martini

  44. Ron Henzel said,

    February 5, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Gabe,

    I understand they now have medication for that.

  45. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 5, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I’m still genuinely curious, Gabe, what part of Trent you were thinking of in #18. Is it the part I quoted in #20? Or something else?

  46. Ron Henzel said,

    February 5, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Josh,

    According to a post on his blog ominously titled “Justification by Alone?“, it seems that Gabe is of the impression that Canon VIII of the council’s “Decree on Justification” said essentially the same thing that Presbyterians today mean when they talk about justification by faith alone. I left a comment indicating that he was misinterpreting the language of the Tridentine bishops. He blew off my comments and is apparently now blocking my rejoinders.

  47. Ron Henzel said,

    February 5, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    I’m sorry: in comment 46 I meant Chapter VIII, not Canon VIII.

  48. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 5, 2008 at 11:17 pm

    Andrew, I listened to your Covenant Radio broadcast from #5 above, and I have a couple of questions, if you’re willing.

    Jeff Cagle

  49. GLW Johnson said,

    February 6, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Reading Gabe M. take on justification ought to make anyone sympathetic to the FV shudder. Gabe’s fellow FVers have probably already contacted him and given him a good tongue lashing for being so blatant outspoken about the family secret.

  50. Ron Henzel said,

    February 6, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Gary,

    The irony here is palpable: Gabe confusedly thinks he can tar Reformed Presbyterians with Tridentine theology, but in reality the more one reads Trent the more Federal Visionism one finds in it, and the more one reads Federal Vision books, articles and web sites, the more one finds Trent in them.

  51. curate said,

    February 6, 2008 at 11:18 am

    Andrew, congratulations on a fine book.

  52. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 6, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    One thing to be considered in comparing the FV with Trent, however, is that they have very different beginning points: the FV’s definition of justification–whether initial, subsequent, or final–is a chiefly forensic one, rather than an “infusion of grace” one. This sets them on two different vectors from the beginning…

  53. Ron Henzel said,

    February 6, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Josh,

    You wrote in comment 52: “This sets them [FV and Trent] on two different vectors from the beginning…” True. But having two different starting points and two different vectors does not necessarily mean having two different destinations. Ask any air traffic controller.

  54. pandrewsandlin said,

    February 11, 2008 at 12:24 am

    # 48.

    Sure, go ahead and ask, Jeff.

  55. Ron Henzel said,

    February 11, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Andrew,

    I have a question for you: it seems to me that even as CJPM was on its way to bookstores for the first time you had already lined up writers and announced that your book would be a response to it. Is this an accurate impression, and if not, how so?

  56. February 12, 2008 at 1:43 am

    Ron, the book was based on lectures delivered a year or two before. We essentially knew what was coming and enlisted writers competent to address the various authors/chapters. The positions in their chapters were articulated at the earlier conference, which grew into their book.

  57. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 17, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Hi Andrew,

    I just noticed #54, so sorry for being dilatory. This post will give you an idea of where I’m coming from. Some of these questions are more “critical” in nature than others; that doesn’t indicate that I’m gunning for you, just that I learn by probing boundaries.

    Also, the tape markers are +/- 30 sec or so because the controls were clumsy. Sorry.

    (1) I was pleased to hear the plug (marker 41.40) for Hoekema’s Saved by Grace. What points in particular would you say that you agree or disagree with him on?

    (2) 42.00 (in reference to opponents) “Sounding as antinomian as possible becomes a test of orthodoxy.” This leads me to two questions:

    (a) Is it never permissible to sound antinomian, as in “you are not under law, but under grace”?

    (b) Clearly, the quote above had an element of rhetorical flourish. Can you give some examples of quotes in CJPM that struck you as sounding antinomian?

    (3) 27.30: You said, “I think the real part of the answer comes down to the definition of faith itself.” And the you quote Horton: “Faith is active, active, active all the time except when it’s actually justifying.”

    This is the burden of your book, of course, but it strikes me that there are at least two ways to get away from issues of antinomianism. The first is to equate faith with faithfulness, so that justifying faith is obedient by definition.

    The second is to stipulate that faith necessarily leads to faithfulness because of the guaranteed work of God through the agency of faith. This is how I understand Hoekema, BTW.

    So what would lead you to reject the second solution? Or, if the second solution is acceptable to you, what leads you to see Horton and Godfrey as not fitting within the bounds of that solution?

    (4) 47.00 You or Rich said, “My guess is that in our preaching, we sound a lot more similar than we do when we are writing our academic books.” I liked that quote a lot, and I appreciated the thought behind it.

    Supposing for the moment that your teaching on justification “sounds like” an invitation to legalism, which is the central concern that folk have raised — what do you do in your own preaching to guard against peoples’ tendency to obey the law out of the power of the flesh as a means of righteousness?

    (5) 55.00, Rich said, “What is the function of that obedience in terms of His saving work? I think that the Imputation of Active Obedience doctrine, it solves a problem created by the Covenant of Meritorious Works doctrine…”

    Do you agree that IAOX was invented to solve a problem with the Covenant of Works?

    (6) 56.00 — “I take it as a given that the Old Testament provides the matrix, the backdrop for understanding the New.”

    I’ve heard this idea before, and it strikes me as a bit backwards. Didn’t the Emmaus disciples have to have their eyes opened to the meaning of the Scriptures? And does not Hebrews provide the proper framework for understanding the OT sacrifices and forms? And did not the reading of the Law pull a veil over the eyes of the (unbelieving) Jews?

    I guess the question is, could you flesh out a bit more the proper roles of the two testaments in explicating each other?

    (7) It was a bit disheartening that almost a full hour of the interview was spent discussing the nature of the controversy, and that much of that discussion placed the blame for it squarely at the feet of your opponents. Granted, the sharpest rhetoric came from the interviewer. But still: what is your plan for rapprochement with those who currently oppose you?

    Thanks for your time, patience, and efforts,
    Jeff Cagle

  58. February 18, 2008 at 2:39 am

    Thank you, Jeff. I will try to get to this soon.

  59. February 18, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Jeff, to save time, I’ll nibble at your fine questions rather than get them in one big gobble:

    (1) I don’t hold the HH and the PRC’s distinctive view of the (impoverished) call of the Gospel and common grace, but I do support their stalwart “Five-Point Calvinism” and opposition to the CoW.

    (2) I don’t recall whether it was Rich or I that said of the WTS folks: “Sounding as antinomian as possible becomes a test of orthodoxy.” I believe it was Rich. Bob G. does brag a little about talking this way in his chapter on Norm S.

    I believe that in the interview I noted that even though I would not frame the issue such that obedience is the result of faith rather than an aspect of faith, I did not have a huge problem with that construction. The problem is that my opponents charge me with heresy for my definition; I do not charge them with heresy for theirs.

  60. greenbaggins said,

    February 18, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Andrew, so the definition of orthodoxy is whether or not one charges someone else with heresy?

  61. GLW Johnson said,

    February 18, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    Andy
    Are you conversant with the leading Arminian theologians of the 19th. century like Watson,Pope and Miley? Pope’s statement is typical-“Methodism has always maintained a firm protest against the distinct imputation of the active obedience of the Substitute of man:but has been reluctant to give up altogether the thought of an imputation of Christ righteousness generally.” Elsewhere he wrote,” Is the personal righteousness of Christ Himself reckoned to the believer as his own? Assuredly not:anymore than the personal sin of the sinner was reckoned tobe Christ’s”.These Arminians contended ,much like you, Lusk and Shepherd do,that the whole concept of the imputation of the Active obedience of Christ led to antinomianism since it appeared to relief the necessity of faithful and continual obedience on the part of the believer. Most interesting.

  62. Chris Poe said,

    February 18, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Re: 61: The parallels between some of the emphases of the FV and Arminianism in its historic paedobaptist form should be obvious i.e. corporate justification, denial of IAO, and a conditional union with Christ via baptism that can later be lost.

  63. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 18, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Andrew (#59):

    I’m sorry, I was unclear. (1) was with reference to Anthony Hoekema’s “Saved By Grace”, which emphasizes the centrality of union with Christ and takes a vastly simplified ordo salutis:

    regeneration –> faith –> union w/ X = everything at once.

    Jeff Cagle

  64. February 20, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Jeff,

    Yes, indeed. If anything I see the ordo salutis as a pedagogical construct and not divine revelation. Frame is right about this.

    GreenBaggins,

    No.

    Gary,

    We need to decide what Paul et al. taught about the IOAO and CoW, not Watson or Calvin.

    This issue will be decided by exegetes and theologians, not historians.

  65. GLW Johnson said,

    February 20, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Andy
    You are stuck in an embarassing and very awkward situation ,much like the Open theists were when their veiws were shown to have had a striking parallel to that of the Socinians. They didn’t like that being pointed out and ,guess what they said something along the lines….”the only thing that matters is not what so and so said but what the Bible says!” Turns out the Socinians claimed Biblical support for thier position!

  66. GLW Johnson said,

    February 20, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Hey- I just realized Andy took a shot at historians! Godfrey warned me about this- when I told him I intended to channel my interest in my ThM and PhD programs in historical studies. ” I hope you are prepared” he warned me, ” to be held in complete contempt by Biblical experts and not a few theologians who look distainfully on our discipline the same way that the French look at American wines.

  67. Tim Harris said,

    February 20, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Well it reminds me of the Sproul-Bahnsen debate on apologetics. At one point, Sproul triumphantly asks, “So do you admit, Dr Bahnsen, that your theory of knowledge is a radical departure from Calvin?”

    Bahnsen: “Well, I don’t think so… but that would be an interesting question for the church history department to debate. Now can we get back to the subject?”

  68. GLW Johnson said,

    February 20, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Tim
    Huh, No. I pointed out that what Shepherd, Lusk, Sandlin & co. – who continue to flash their Reformed badges -are none the less advocating what is at the very heart of what the Arminians have been saying all along. Yes, I am sure this is something that they would not like to have posted on the community board for all to see, but as a lowly historian I can’t help but point out the obvious.

  69. February 20, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Gary, I’m afraid I’m not afraid of your classifications. If the Bible does not teach (e.g.) the CoW, I could not care less if I line up with the Arminians on that issue. I refuse to commit the genetic fallacy. In my investigation, the first-century Reformers were uncommitted to or ambivalent about what came to be known as the IOAO and the CoW, but even if they were not, I must stand with the Word of God.

    I am very happy publicly to stand with the Bible, even if the Arminians agree with me and I them.

    Godfrey is correct in what he told you: Bible-believers believe the Bible trumps tradition, even Reformed Tradition. The Word of God, not Tradition, is finally authoritative.

    Question: Would you be very happy publicly to stand with the Bible if it conflicted with The Tradition?

  70. GLW Johnson said,

    February 20, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Andy
    You and your friends claim to stand in the Reformed tradition- you don’t.
    That was my point, and you just acknowledged it.

  71. Tom Wenger said,

    February 20, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I think that it is interesting that we see Andrew fleeing to one of the two poles that the FV frequently seek shelter in (Biblicism and Revisionism).

    He said in #69, “I am very happy publicly to stand with the Bible, even if the Arminians agree with me and I them”.

    This is the Biblicist pole, and is the one they always go to when we irrefutably show them that the Reformed tradition is against them. Once we then corner them, or in this case Andrew, on exegetical grounds, he’ll go back to the Revisionist pole and twist quotes from various Reformed theologians to make them fit his already twisted exegesis.

    Doesn’t that get tiring? Why don’t the FV adherents make life way easier for themselves and just join non-confessional churches? Then they would all have so much more time for the finer things in life. You know, like… uh, growing beards and taking dominion over stuff.

  72. Ron Henzel said,

    February 20, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Andrew,

    You wrote:

    In my investigation, the first-century Reformers were uncommitted to or ambivalent about what came to be known as the IOAO and the CoW…

    As far as the imputation of the active obedience of Christ is concerned, your investigation must not have included the works of Martin Luther.

  73. Ron Henzel said,

    February 20, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Errata: the final paragraph above (#72) is my response to Andrew, not a quote from him.

  74. Tom Wenger said,

    February 20, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Or Calvin

  75. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 20, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Andrew (#69):

    I am very happy publicly to stand with the Bible, even if the Arminians agree with me and I them.

    Full agreement. I’ve heard that Arminians believe in the Trinity and stuff.

    But seriously, yes, we can’t condemn a doctrine according to who happens to believe it.

    Godfrey is correct in what he told you: Bible-believers believe the Bible trumps tradition, even Reformed Tradition. The Word of God, not Tradition, is finally authoritative.

    Question: Would you be very happy publicly to stand with the Bible if it conflicted with The Tradition?

    Well now, I’m very persuaded by Mathison’s work The Shape of Sola Scriptura that there is a distinction between affirming Scripture as the sole authority (YES) and rejecting therefore the interpretive traditions of the Church (NO).

    The main reason we might not wish to do so is out of respect for the noetic effects of sin in ourselves and also respect for the collective wisdom of many counselors.

    Do you agree?

    Jeff Cagle

  76. February 20, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Ron, the issue isn’t ML’s view of Christic obedience but a CoW construction.

  77. February 20, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    Jeff, yes of course. Sola, not Nuda, Scriptura. See my 1999 essay on primitivism in Keeping Our Sacred Trust.

  78. February 20, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Tom writes:

    Doesn’t that get tiring? Why don’t the FV adherents make life way easier for themselves and just join non-confessional churches? Then they would all have so much more time for the finer things in life. You know, like… uh, growing beards and taking dominion over stuff.

    Right, which is one reason I am not FV.

  79. February 20, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Gary,

    Part of the Reformed tradition is questioning the Tradition. We lose the Tradition when we refuse to question the Tradition. The Tradition was possible only because the Reformers questioned the Tradition. Refusing to question the Tradition subverts the Tradition. There is no Tradition without questioning the Tradition.

    Read Pelikan’s Obedient Rebels. The delicate complexity of the interplay between these dialectical forces is no reason to abandon one for the other.

  80. Ron Henzel said,

    February 20, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Andrew,

    Meanwhile, you lose the tradition by contradicting it.

  81. Ron Henzel said,

    February 20, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Andrew,

    Regarding your comment #76—you previously wrote in #69:

    In my investigation, the first-century Reformers were uncommitted to or ambivalent about what came to be known as the IOAO and the CoW…

    I responded in #72:

    As far as the imputation of the active obedience of Christ is concerned, your investigation must not have included the works of Martin Luther.

    And now you write in #76:

    Ron, the issue isn’t ML’s view of Christic obedience but a CoW construction.

    Your remark is slipperier than snot on a red herring! First of all, your original comment (#69) was not limited to the covenant of works, and second of all, Luther was silent on that subject since it was not an issue in his theology. You will not find that phrase anywhere in his works (at least not in the American edition, and I would be dumbfounded if you found it in the Weimar Ausgabe).

  82. February 20, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Ron, #80

    Precisely. This is how we got the Protestant Reformation.

  83. GLW Johnson said,

    February 20, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Andy
    Amazing. When you can’t find support for your ‘Arminian’ position , your suddenly claim the Reformed tradition is out of whack. Amazing.

  84. Ron Henzel said,

    February 20, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Andrew,

    Regarding #82:

    You have a propensity for capitalizing the “t” in “tradition.” It makes me think I’m corresponding with an adherent of Eastern Orthodoxy. Just to clarify: the tradition that we’ve been discussing is the Reformed tradition.

    And now, building on your comments #79 and #82: since by contradicting the medieval Roman Catholic tradition the Reformers broke with it, you are now apparently admitting to breaking with the Reformed tradition by contradicting it.


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