Thanks for steering us to that post. It is clear that merit can apply to no one else except the Lord Jesus Christ. It is impossible for any mere human being to merit his own salvation.
This is why I would expect all FV people to be using Excel spreadsheets. If they are going to collapse sanctification into justification, a la the Roman Catholic Church, they’re going to need Excel in order to keep track of their good works, don’t you think? Of course, by wanting to shove good works into the act of justification, they have two problems: (1) a quantity problem: “How many good works must I do to merit salvation?” and (2) a quality problem: “How do I know that all these good works are good enough to merit salvation?”
The quality “problem” is taken care of by the fact that they are from the Holy Spirit, insofar as they are acceptable to God at the last judgment. But FV people don’t collapse J and S like that, and don’t believe that their works “merit” salvation at all.
Just so you know, J. Mark Beach’s book, ‘Christ and the Covenant: Francis Turretin’s Federal Theology as a Defense of the Doctrine of Grace’ (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht) has a discussion on this subject that is well worth considering. The book looks good, though I would have liked to have seen more interaction with the wider interpretive tradition. He also (rightly) accuses Lillback of over-reading Calvin and commends, instead, Venema’s treatment of Calvin on good works. See pages 196-202 in Beach’s work.
I think Lane should make it against the rules for anyone to call me “brilliant” as a stumbling-block to a brother. I have enough struggles with pride as it is!
As for Beach’s book, I have been meaning to post this on my own blog for a while. It is now available through the MARS bookstore at the discounted cost of $59 plus shipping! If that doesn’t sound like a discount, try it to buy it elsewhwere.
At any rate, this book is great. It explains all the issues on the covenant of works and covenant of grace superbly. It also introduces you to the astonishing world of academic misunderstanding. He goes through the major scholarship on the covenant of works and shows how faulty most of it is.
Call me a cynic, but why is/has the majority of scholarship on the covenant of works “faulty?” What precisely is the problem? Is it one of bias, method, were new sources discovered that were unknown to previous generations of scholars?
As much as I like aspects of the new stuff on Paul, I’m very slow-moving when it comes to discarding theological paradigms that very godly men worked with for hundreds of years… how did we (all) miss this one?
The scholarship that I’m referring to is basically the mid-19th century through the present. There are, of course, some good works out there, but Beach illustrates how much of the scholarship on 17th century theology has simply not grasped the source material. He falls in line with recent critiques of the same scholarship by Richard Muller. His works are well worth reading, as well. Beach simply tries to represent the views of Turretin clearly and accurately and, in so doing, IMHO helps us to shed light on many common disagreements and misunderstandings of the Reformed doctrine of the covenant.
I will be reviewing the book in the upcoming Southern Baptist Theological Journal. I’m sure some will wonder why a Presbyterian is reviewing a book on covenant theology in a Baptist journal …
I would suggest that Beach could have possibly done more work interacting with other c16-17th Reformed theologians; there is a strong (over?) emphasis on Turretin. It’s a great read, but sometimes the shortcoming in evaluating a single figure is the lack of wider interaction. Rehnman’s book on Owen is a good example of wider interaction, esp. with the likes of Turretin, for example.
Michael Haykin asked for it for the July edition, I think. It wont be as substantial as my review of Trueman’s book on Owen which will be a critical review. I’m also reviewing Jeff Jue’s (excellent) book on Mede! The more you review, the more free books you get …
Perhaps you, Lane and I should get together at GA this year for a drink or two?
Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens; Justification, by John Fesko; The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan; Recovering the Reformed Confessions, by Scott Clark; Brief Outline of Theology, by Friedrich Schleiermacher; Principles of Sacred Theology, by Abraham Kuyper
Books I am now reading
Exodus commentaries; Matthew commentaries; Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology; Baker's new history of the church
Books for future reading
Turretin's Institutes; Joseph Caryl on Job, German encyclopedias of theology