Mark Horne’s Essay, part 1

In this post I aim to take up Mark Horne’s essay in the book A Faith That Is Never Alone. The article is entitled “Reformed Covenant Theology and Its Discontents.” This article is a response to Michael Horton’s essay “Which Covenant Theology?” in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry. I aim to address Mark’s article in three parts, corresponding roughly to the sections on Ursinus, Turretin, and the more direct response to Horton.

Horne states that this essay is “about the whole of mainstream covenant theology” (p. 74, emphasis original). The thesis of the article can fairly be stated in this way: the Federal Vision’s view of covenant theology fits into the Reformed mainstream, and has antecedents in Ursinus, Turretin, and the Westminster Standards (see p. 74). The impression that the first part of the article gives is that it is not a direct response to Horton (at least not right away; the latter part of the article deals more directly with Horton’s arguments), but is rather claiming that Horton portrays a somewhat reduced view of Reformed covenant theology, the gaps of which Horne intends to fill. This is an important point to consider, as the intention of the author is not (right away, at least) to answer Horton directly.

Horne starts the bulk of his article with some quotations from the Shorter Catechism, Larger Catechism, and John Owen’s “lesser catechism.” These quotations are intended to prove that there are necessary requirements that humans must fulfill in order to escape judgment on the Final Day. This is further clear in Horne’s section on Ursinus, where the conditions are those “conditions that members of the covenant of grace, not their mediator, must meet” (p. 78, emphasis original). The consequence of these conditions not being met is that “the person will fail to ‘escape’ God’s ‘wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law'” (p. 77). It would be simplistic to urge that the conditions are to be met by us, that therefore Horne is legalistic (in other words, I would argue it on other grounds). Horne qualifies his statement by saying

But when mainstream Reformed Covenant theology refers to the “conditions of the covenant,” it is not referring to those unique and essential works done by Jesus. The term is used for those who are saved by grace alone- a grace that is precisely the only reason why anyone fulfills the conditions of faith and the commencement of new obedience and thus benefits from Christ’s (sic) mediatorial office (p. 78).

So, Horne would probably agree that the conditions are to be met in humans, but can only be met by grace.

My criticism of Horne’s position here lies not so much in the nature of conditions. Of course there are conditions for salvation. Without faith being present, no one will be justified. Without works faith is dead. But the definitions of salvation and justification are slippery here. For instance, Horne states, in relation to the LC and SC and Owen’s catechism that “faith is only one of several other requirements” (p. 77). But for what? Justification? Salvation meant as the turning from darkness to light? Salvation as meaning the entire course of the Christian life? What? The ambiguity is not relieved by mentioning God’s wrath, since justification is an escape from God’s wrath. Indeed, the ambiguity allows for the possibility that holiness is a requirement for justification. I would hope that Horne does not mean that. So, if these things are required of us, and I agree that they are, the question is “For what are they required?” This is the whole question. Some are required for one thing, and others are required for something else, even if all these things are part of salvation as defined as the entirety of the Christian life. Faith only is required for justification. But justification is part of the larger whole of salvation as defined as the entirety of the Christian life, in which case works are said to be necessary (as a consequent of justification). This ambiguity threads its way through virtually the entire article.  

In the same manner, when we come to Ursinus on the question of the necessity of good works, we can level the same criticism against Horne. Plainly, Ursinus means justification when he excludes works from justification. He says rather that they are necessarily present in those who are justified. When Ursinus says that good works are an antecedent to the consequent of being saved, he is saying that they are a necessary part of the Christian life, if the Christian is to be saved (future tense). Salvation here has the whole encompassing reference of the entirety of the Christian life. Good works are a sine qua non, but not the cause of salvation. Indeed, as Ursinus says (and Horne seems to have missed the significance of this), they are part of salvation itself. In other words, one of the benefits of regeneration (which exists in inseperable connection with justification) is good works. But Ursinus clearly does NOT say that good works are necessary in order to be justified. Horne leaves out the clarifying part of the sentence, when he quotes Ursinus as saying, “In the same way we may also say, that good works are necessary to righteousness or justification, with which regeneration is inseparably connected” (Ursinus, p. 485). This is absolutely inexcusable neglect of context here. Ursinus goes on to say, “viz: as a consequence of justification, with which regeneration is inseperably connected” (emphasis added) as an explanation of what Horne quoted him as saying. The explanation is essential, since Ursinus is not saying that good works are necessary as an antecedent condition in order to be justified. Rather, as Turretin will also say, good works are necessary as a consequent (following) condition. And this, in turn, does not mean that God justifies us as long as we promise afterwards to obey. It means that good works will simply always follow justification. The further qualification is also necessary, viz., that God produces those good works in us. Now, to be fair to Horne, he does go on to quote the section dealing with Ursinus’ rejection of works as being required before justification.

I do not think that Horne has understood Ursinus when he speaks about good works being done to escape temporal and eternal punishment. The blessings in mind for doing good works are NOT salvation. They are the rewards over and above salvation which God gives to us. This is evident in the plural “rewards.” The escape from judgment is qualified in the context by the statement that our faith is exercised, nourished, strengthened and increased by good works (p. 484 of Ursinus’ commentary). In other words, we do good works to make sure that our faith is a live faith.

It is difficult to see the relevance of Ursinus’ teaching on sin to the above points. It is not good works (unless Horne is calling repentance a work) that lead us back into a consciousness of God’s acceptance of us, but rather the grace of God in turning us around in repentance through the use of warnings and promises.

Finally, Horne’s discussion of merit is flawed (as it always is) by his consistent rejection of the term pactum merit, which to Horne is a contradiction in terms. He defines merit roughly closely to what I would call condign merit, and then says that everything else that even has the word “merit” in it must be defined by this definition of merit. Hence, there can be no such thing as pactum merit, since it isn’t “merit.” Neither I, nor anyone else on the TR side of the debate, would have the slightest trouble saying what Ursinus says on page 335 of the commentary. 

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40 Comments

  1. Josh Walker said,

    May 21, 2008 at 7:29 am

    I recently wrote a blog article addressing the issue of why those in the FV think they are mainstream Reformed, while most of the Reformed camp views them outside of the camp. The article can be found here: http://www.bringthebooks.org/2008/05/federal-visions-trajectory.html

  2. Roger Mann said,

    May 21, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Finally, Horne’s discussion of merit is flawed (as it always is) by his consistent rejection of the term pactum merit, which to Horne is a contradiction in terms…Hence, there can be no such thing as pactum merit, since it isn’t “merit.”

    If Calvin is not teaching “pactum merit” in the following quotes (which would apply equally to the “covenant of works” with Adam), then I’d love for Mark Horne or anyone else to explain what the difference is. The explanatory comments in brackets are mine:

    “Moses there pronounces that the life of man rests on the observance of the law; that is,- life was surely to be expected through satisfying the law. Some think this absurd, and so restrict what is said to the present life, taking ‘he shall live in them’ politically or civilly: but this is a cold and trifling comment…Since, then, it pleased God to descend so far as to promise life to men if they kept his law, they ought to accept this offer as springing from his liberality. There is no absurdity, then, if men do live, that is, if they deserve eternal life according to agreement [i.e., covenant]. (Calvin’s Commentaries, Ezek. 20:11)

    “The contradiction between the law and faith lies in the matter of justification. You will more easily unite fire and water, than reconcile these two statements, that men are justified by faith, and that they are justified by the law. “The law is not of faith;” that is, it has a method of justifying a man which is wholly at variance with faith. But the man who shall do these things. The difference lies in this, that man, when he fulfils the law, is reckoned righteous by a legal righteousness, which he proves by a quotation from Moses. (Leviticus 18:5.)…We admit that the doers of the law, if there were any such, are righteous; but since that is a conditional agreement [i.e., covenant], all are excluded from life, because no man performs that righteousness which he ought.” (Calvin’s Commentaries, Gal. 3:12)

    Or how about this quote from Theodore Beza:

    “For, since eternal life is due to those who have obeyed the Law perfectly, and Jesus Christ has fulfilled all righteousness in the name of those who should believe in Him and take hold of Him by faith (1 Cor. 1:30; Phil. 3:9), it follows that, even according to the rigour of the Law, salvation cannot fail those who, by faith, have become united and incorporated with Jesus Christ.” (The Christian Faith, chp. 4, sect. 23)

  3. May 21, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Maybe the driving issue here for the FV is their “head for head” view of baptismal efficacy. I mean, once you allow that all baptized infants are thereby made partakers of all of Christ’s benefits (like union and regeneration), then the soteriological cart must follow the ecclesiological horse.

    So to protect their view of baptism they must argue against things like the active obedience of Christ being given to the sinner and, more to Lane’s point about Horne, the idea that our justification is grounded solely upon Jesus’ meriting the Father’s saving smile for his people.

  4. Grover Gunn said,

    May 22, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    #2
    Easy believism says that sanctification is optional. Romanism says that justication and santification are not distinct. In contrast to both, the WLC teaches that justification and sanctification are distinct and yet inseparable: “Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, yet they differ, …” WLC 77 There is no need to deny that justification and sanctification are distinct in order to avoid easy believism.

    Also, see http://jacksongrace.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/conditions-obligations-and-the-center-of-the-road/

  5. Mark Horne said,

    May 22, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    #3 would mean that Christ’s work only gave us life by “pactum merit” by the liberality of God’s willingness to agree to honor obedience rather than strict justice.

    I wonder if Roger meant to go there.

    But the fact remains that all this would prove that “pactum merit” is also appropriate to describe our faith in the New Covenant. Since I don’t think that is a correct way of speaking of the Christian covenant, I won’t do it for Adam.

  6. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 22, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    #3 would mean that Christ’s work only gave us life by “pactum merit” by the liberality of God’s willingness to agree to honor obedience rather than strict justice.

    Are these distinguishable?

    Consider: to “be righteous” means, for us, to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength; and to love neighbor as self. To love God means to obey him whole-heartedly, to fulfill the terms of His covenant.

    And then again: God’s own character defines what “righteousness” is. So if He requires obedience to X, then being righteous means loving God, means doing X. Obedience is in that sense righteous by definition.

    Thus Kline:

    We can avoid blasphemous charges against the Father only if we recognize that God’s justice must be defined and judged in terms of what he stipulates in his covenants. Thus, the specific commitment of the Father in the eternal covenant was to give the Son the elect as the reward of his obedience, and that is precisely what the Son receives, not one missing. Judged by the stipulated terms of their covenant, there was no injustice but rather perfect justice. By the same token there was no grace in the Father’s reward to the Son. It was a case of simple justice. The Son earned that reward. It was a covenant of works and the obedience of the Son (passive and active) was meritorious. — Covenant Theology Under Attack

    So to my mind, “honoring obedience rather than strict justice” is like saying, “loving dogs rather than canines.”

    Jeff Cagle

  7. Roger Mann said,

    May 22, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    6: Mark Horne wrote,

    #3 would mean that Christ’s work only gave us life by “pactum merit” by the liberality of God’s willingness to agree to honor obedience rather than strict justice. I wonder if Roger meant to go there.

    Of course I meant to go there — and your response makes no sense. The “merit” involved in a legal covenant or pact accords with “strict justice.” Thus, what Jesus earned by His obedience to the Law was “strict” merit according to the stipulations of the covenant. As Jeff’s quote from Kline points out, “there was no grace in the Father’s reward to the Son. It was a case of simple justice. The Son earned that reward. It was a covenant of works and the obedience of the Son (passive and active) was meritorious.”

  8. tim prussic said,

    May 22, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    #7 – justification and salvation are NOT distinct?? I think the Bible teaches that justification is part of the overall salvation purchased by Christ. Along with other parts (e.g., regeneration, faith, repentance, adoption, sanctification, resurrection, glorification), the whole of salvation is composed. Rey, are you with me on that, or do you think I’m in left field?

    Further, you’ve identified what you call “an arbitrary and manmade distinction that sends men to hell by giving them the impression that easy beleivism will save them” in the distinction of justification. Easy believism is a real problem, but it doesn’t flow from a biblical articulation of sola-fide justification. Most Reformed chaps that I’ve read are very careful to articulate it biblically: A man is justified apart from his works, but he’s redeemed unto good works (Eph 2:8-10). A man cannot be justified without being also born again, sanctified and all the rest. Thus, there’s no room for easy believism. With me or left field?

  9. synthesizer said,

    May 22, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Rey,
    What does Romans say about the Law? The Law was a guide to Christ by pointing out man’s sin and need for redemption. The fact is that no man could keep the Law, not that the Law was somehow morally deficient. Please do not confuse the Jewish case law with the ten commanments. After all, what was Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler when he inquired about eternal life?

  10. tim prussic said,

    May 22, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    #11 – The “Jewish” case law can’t be so easily divided from the 10 Commandments – after all the Westminster Standards use many case laws to help explain the 10 Commandments. The case laws simply apply the “Jewish” 10 Commandments to, well, cases. Maybe we should rather distinguish between different *aspects* and *uses* of the law than try to distinguish between the 10 Words and the rest of the Torah. The whole law of God and the many parts of it function in many different ways. I fear we too often have a truncated view of God’s law. Maybe Psalm 119’s a good place to start.

  11. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 22, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”

    But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.

    I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;

    and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me;

    for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

    So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

    Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.

    For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

    For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,

    so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

  12. Tom Wenger said,

    May 22, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    Mark,
    In reference to #6 can you clarify your comparison of the believer’s experience in the New Covenant with Adam’s experience in the Covenant of Works? I’m not clear on what you are arguing there.

  13. synthesizer said,

    May 23, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Thanks for the scriptures on the law, Jeff. The law is holy, and good and righteous. The “weakness” is in that it cannot save, not that it is morally deficient. Jesus makes it clear when he says that Moses permitted divorce because of the hardness of heart. Jesus makes it clear that He is always opposed to divorce. His standard never changed. Man has compromised God’s law. Rey, are you saying that God contradicts Himself? As I read the scriptures cited by Jeff it is clear to me that the law reveals our sin and need for Christ. When Jesus sums up the whole law with the two great commandments, what is He saying about the law? He is saying that this is God’s righteous standard and no man can keep it. Except for our perfect law-keeping Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

  14. Mark Horne said,

    May 23, 2008 at 9:18 am

    #15 re #6

    I am saying that all the justifications for claiming that Adam’s work “merited” reward apply equally well to saying that faith is “meritorious” to sinner for salvation.

    Even though this “pactum merit” is admittedly non-meritorious, I still object to using such language of the New Covenant.

    The other problem, is that it means that Christ’s essential work is also non-meritorious. I simply can’t believe that.

    In fact, the admission of condescension in the covenant (i.e. grace, as the term is used in the Bible if one takes charis as a translation) is used to make both the promised blessing and the promised curse all a matter of “agreement.” But that denies that sin is simply deadly,period–apart from any stipulated arrangement between God and man. Adam’s demerit was real. He really deserved Hell. Jesus really took on the curse that Adam deserved so that we are now really justified. If we say this is all by “pactum merit” we will have to follow the younger Owen and deny that the cross of Christ was even necessary for the forgiveness of sins.

  15. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Mark, I’m not comfortable with something I’m sensing here. Perhaps you aren’t saying it? But if not, then I’m having trouble understanding what you mean.

    But that denies that sin is simply deadly,period–apart from any stipulated arrangement between God and man. Adam’s demerit was real. He really deserved Hell. Jesus really took on the curse that Adam deserved so that we are now really justified. If we say this is all by “pactum merit” we will have to follow the younger Owen and deny that the cross of Christ was even necessary for the forgiveness of sins.

    It seems to me that the terms “sin” and “righteousness” have no meaning apart from a reference to God’s nature. What God sees as righteous, is righteous.

    If we understand righteousness in this way, then pactum merit is in fact merit — of the only kind that there can be: obedience to God out of love.

    Sin then is really deadly, precisely because it severs relationship with God and engenders His wrath thereby.

    And Jesus’ death on the cross satisfies God’s wrath, simultaneously just and personal wrath, at our disobedience.

    What I’m arguing for is a uniting of what we call “righteous” and what we call “relationship”, according to Jesus’ definition of righteousness: love for God, love for neighbor. If we do that, then pactum merit is exactly as Kline posits: both “according to the stipulated terms of the covenant” and “strict justice.”

    So I’m confused by the “sin is simply deadly, period, apart from any agreement between God and man” — is there any such thing as “is” apart from what God declares it to be? I would say No. Your comment seems to assume Yes. That’s what’s troubling me.

    Jeff Cagle

  16. greenbaggins said,

    May 23, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Mark, the CoW and the CoG do not have to work in precisely the same fashion with regard to merit, pactum merit, or whatever. This is because Adam is not God, whereas Jesus is the God-Man. What is the same between the covenants is that the covenant head needed to come up to snuff. What is not the same is the nature of the covenant head in each case. Your argument is not allowing for this difference.

  17. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    …either (1) that God gave Moses his perfect morality but Moses corrupted it and therefore the Torah is imperfect by Moses was dishonest or (2) that God did not give Moses his perfect morality, and therefore although Moses himself wrote the precept Moses wrote it because God himself gave it to him, that is, that God himself gave Moses an imperfect Law – which of these two is it?

    Or (3), that God’s Law included both the perfect standard of righteousness (“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh”) AND civil statutes to regulate peoples’ bad behavior.

  18. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Rey, how can you reconcile your view of the Law with David’s:

    Ps. 1.1-2:

    1 Blessed is the man
    who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
    or stand in the way of sinners
    or sit in the seat of mockers.

    2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

    Ps. 19.7

    7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
    reviving the soul.
    The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.

    Ps. 119 excerpt:

    89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
    it stands firm in the heavens.

    90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
    you established the earth, and it endures.

    91 Your laws endure to this day,
    for all things serve you.

    92 If your law had not been my delight,
    I would have perished in my affliction.

    93 I will never forget your precepts,
    for by them you have preserved my life.

    94 Save me, for I am yours;
    I have sought out your precepts.

    95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
    but I will ponder your statutes.

    96 To all perfection I see a limit;
    but your commands are boundless.

    David’s sees the Law as trustworthy, perfect, enduring. I’m hearing you say that the Law itself is corrupt.

    I have trouble accepting that view. As I see it, the divorce example you give simply proves that divorce was regulated, not that God allowed it.

    Jeff Cagle

  19. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    s/”allowed”/”approved.”

    Of course God allowed it; it doesn’t follow that He approved of it.

  20. synthesizer said,

    May 23, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Jeff Cagle,
    Amen to #23 and #24 and again i say amen. Rey, I am not saying that Moses himself corrupted God’s law, all of mankind has broken His law. (Even Moses) Moses was just the instrument that God used to do the writing. Again the purpose of the Law (i.e., ten commandments) was to show man his sin and need for redemption. I find it troubling that you think that a man might be able to keep it. I think that Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 on the commandments reveals that God’s concern was always with man’s sinful heart and his inability apart from Christ to obey.

  21. tim prussic said,

    May 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    I’ve tried to engage with what I think is an inadequate understanding of divine law without much interaction, but I’ll take another shot at it. God seems to have many concerns with regard to his law, which comprises much MORE than the 10 Commandments, which themselves, are a summary of the law, especially the moral aspect of the law. To say that God’s concern with the law is *simply* to drive folks to Christ is very narrow. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a major function of the law, but even then I think that’s to be seen as much in historical/administrational terms (Gal 3:24), as individualistic ones (Rom 7).

    Beyond that, there is blessing in the keeping the law, is there not? Does not the Bible speak again and again about that? Are not good works (WCF XVI) occasional means of covenantal blessings? Does not Moses say that the words of the law are LIFE to the people of God? Behold: “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess” (Deut 32:46-7).

    Can a man, in the power of Christ keep the law? Yes and no. We still live in this body of death and are subject to sin and corruption. No doubt. However, Christ himself says that anyone breaking the law and teaching folks to do likewise will be least in the kingdom of heaven, but those who DO and TEACH the law will be the greatest. That’s right, antinomians are in the back of the heavenly bus. Wanna be great in the kingdom? Then, in Christ (that is, in the context of the gospel of free grace to sinners through the person and work of Christ Jesus alone), keep God’s commandments and teach others to do the same.

  22. David Gadbois said,

    May 23, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Tim, I’m baffled. You have to ignore a whole lot of unpleasantness that came after Deuteronomy 32 for the people of Israel. That should clue us in – that is the harsh schoolmaster driving us to Christ that Paul speaks of in Galatians.

    Otherwise doesn’t this principle express an “in by grace, stay in by works” covenental nomism?

  23. tim prussic said,

    May 23, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    David, I don’t for a minute think that the covenantal curses are fake – they are real and really fall on covenant breakers. That’s the unpleasantness that I suppose I’ve ignored. Very few evangelicals have to be told that the law is death to unbelief. Almost all of them have to be told that, in Christ, the law becomes our guide and standard and *dare I say* a means of blessing to us.

    The “we” of Paul’s schoolmaster would be the Jews as a people before the coming of Messiah, not Joe Camel-smokin’ American as an individual – though there is an analogy there.

    What I ACTUALLY expressed was that God blesses those who, in Christ, do and teach his commandments. I didn’t mention anything about “staying in” by keeping the law or any of that nonsense… it’s impressive that you thought I expressed such a principle. (That’s clear evidence of anti-FV blinders, I think. Everything starts looking like Shepherd.) God promises blessing to those who do what he says to do. Faithful Christians should, looking to Christ as their all in all, endeavor to do what God says to do and seek his blessings because they’re good and we’re suppose to seek them!

  24. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 23, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    I wasn’t hearing “in by grace, stay by works” in Tim, but rather “in by grace, blessed by works.”

    Which is true in a sense.

    I spent some time hashing this out with Dr. Futato in his Wisdom Lit class. Coming out of a heavily Sonship-laden perspective, I was resistant to the notion that God blesses our works, as that seemed to me to imply that God is better-pleased with us because of our works, or that we are using the Law as a means of blessing (and implicitly therefore, cursing). Both of those latter I reject. To my mind, we are blessed in Christ by grace, period.

    Dr. Futato’s point was that we *are* blessed in Christ by grace. But also, the perspective of Proverbs and certain Psalms is that God’s world has a moral orientation to it, and those who act according to wisdom — which is obedience to the command — profit thereby.

    So how to reconcile those? My own peace with it is this: God’s decree to bless comes prior to (and NOT in response to) my obedience. Then, His working out of that decree can and often does operate by first working obedience in me. And then as a consequence of obedience, blessing will often occur.

    (And sometimes the opposite in the temporal realm, thinking of the Sermon on the Mount!)

    David, does that answer your concern?

    Jeff Cagle

  25. Mark Horne said,

    May 24, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    How about this as a statement?

    Jeff, it strikes me that the issue you’re wrestling with bears similarity to the question, “Does God answer prayer.”

  26. Jeff Cagle said,

    May 24, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Yes, it is in fact very parallel. God answers our prayers, but moves in our hearts to pray them in order to fulfill His decrees.

  27. Ron Henzel said,

    May 24, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Mark,

    The statement to which you refer in Vos’s Biblical Theology is one of my favorites. I’ve had it marked in my copy for quite some time (although it’s on page 127 of my Banner of Truth reprint, rather than page 143 in the edition you cite). However, to really understand Vos’s reason for making law-keeping the ground for retaining the blessings of the covenant you must also read Vos’s subsequent paragraphs. It boils down to this: Israel’s dwelling in the land bore a “symbolico-typical” (Vos’s term) significance that does not obtain under the New Covenant.

  28. GLW Johnson said,

    May 25, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Thanks so very much Ron for pointing that out to Mark. This seems to be a reoccurring problem with many of those in the Federal Vision- a failure to read the context. I have seen them do this with Calvin, Turretin, Murray- Andy Webb rightly called it ‘ cherry picking’.

  29. Mark said,

    May 25, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    Actually (and somewhat sadly) I had no edition of Vos but rather this great essay by John Murray which I loved.

    So my question is: do you think Murray has misunderstood Vos in context? Because if he has done so, then so have I because I’m relying on him in this. Or at least, if you disagree with Murray’s take, then that would explain you disagreeing with mine.

    Or alternatively, do you think I misunderstand Murray?

    Thanks.

  30. Mark said,

    May 25, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    test

  31. Mark said,

    May 25, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    OK, in case the spam filter is delaying my comment, please follow the link in my name to the John Murray essay which appeals to Vos to make an argument. Has Murray misunderstood or misused the Vos quotation? Have I misunderstood Murray?

    Thanks.

  32. May 26, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Mark,

    What Vos seems to be saying, in context, is that Israel was given the land out of God’s grace, and they were then called to typologically retain that land through their faithfulness to the covenant. This is not to be considered strict merit, but there is an “appropriateness of expression” between their faithfulness and their retension of the land, as between their sin and eventual exile.

    Kline is helpful here. He says that Israel was called to offer a “relative national fidelity” to God’s covenant in order to stay in the land. Otherwise, they would have marched straight across the Jordan into Babylon. So in order for the typology to work, God had to make it possible for Israel to remain in the land somehow. This he did by instituting the sacrificial system, as well as by accepting the nation’s relative obedience as a whole.

    Under the New Covenant, of course, the obedience that secures the inheritance is not just relative but perfect (Christ’s).

    But in all three “works covenants” (the Adamic, the Mosaic, and the Pactum Salutis) the inheritance is directly tied to the fulfillment of covenant obligations by the would-be heir. Unlike the Covenant of Grace, according to which we reveive the inheritance through the works of Another.

  33. Mark said,

    May 26, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Israel was called not to worship other gods. That is exactly what professing Christians are called to do. Paul views the Corinthians as capable of the same sin and the same punishment as the Israelites who died in the wilderness. There is nothing typlogical about it. It is exactly what we do with Church discipline–people who by impenitent sin cease to have a credible profession of faith are put out of the Church.

    And back to my original question: has Murray understood Vos or is he misusing the quotation.

  34. Mark Horne said,

    May 27, 2008 at 7:46 am

    test again

  35. greenbaggins said,

    May 27, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Mark, I’m not sure why your comments are getting held in the Spam filter. However, rest assured that I am going through the spam filter every day and rescuing any of yours that somehow manage to wind up there. I don’t think any have been lost. It seems completely arbitrary to me why the spam filter works the way it does, sometimes.

  36. May 27, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Maybe the committee to review comments for spam is stacked in opposition to the Federal Vision?

  37. greenbaggins said,

    May 27, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I’m afraid that argument’s totally bogus, Jason, since lots of critics’ comments have been held in the spam filter as well. ;-)

  38. May 27, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    [quote]But for what? Justification? Salvation meant as the turning from darkness to light? Salvation as meaning the entire course of the Christian life? What? The ambiguity is not relieved by mentioning God’s wrath, since justification is an escape from God’s wrath. Indeed, the ambiguity allows for the possibility that holiness is a requirement for justification. I would hope that Horne does not mean that. So, if these things are required of us, and I agree that they are, the question is “For what are they required?” This is the whole question. Some are required for one thing, and others are required for something else, even if all these things are part of salvation as defined as the entirety of the Christian life. Faith only is required for justification. But justification is part of the larger whole of salvation as defined as the entirety of the Christian life, in which case works are said to be necessary (as a consequent of justification). This ambiguity threads its way through virtually the entire article.[/quote]

    Hi Lane,

    First off, you won’t get any disagreement from me that Mark can be ambiguous; or at least side with some who are clearly ambiguous. Notwithstanding, if we allow “requirement” to mean “necessary condition”, which is most reasonable I think, then Mark stays in the clear on this one.

    You say that faith “only” is required for justification, yet you are speaking causally and not in terms of conditions. Walk with me through a pass I trust you appreciate. “Necessary conditions” is a philosophical phrase that deals with states of affairs. Take, If Y then X: That X is a necessary condition for Y means that Y cannot exist without X also existing, since Y is a sufficient condition for X.

    1. If I’m regenerate, then I’m united to the risen Christ.

    2. If I’m united to the risen Christ, then I’m regenerate.

    Both 1 & 2 are true, yet neither proposition implies the logical order of union with Christ and regeneration. Nonetheless, in both cases the consequent is a necessary condition for the antecedent; so in 1 what is indexed to the necessary condition, namely union with Christ, is that which logically follows its sufficient condition, regeneration. Most Reformed Christians do not have a conceptual problem thinking in terms of regeneration as being a “condition” for union with Christ (since they appreciate that regeneration is logically prior to union with Christ, or the means by which one becomes united to Christ). In 1, what type of “condition” is regeneration? Well, it’s a sufficient condition in 1. Accordingly, if in 1 regeneration is a sufficient condition for union with Christ, then that which follows in the proposition, namely union with Christ, must be a necessary condition for regeneration – since the state of affairs of regeneration cannot exist without union with Christ. It is necessary, in other words, that union with Christ exist if regeneration exists. Causality and logical order is not even in view.

    Now let’s take this train of thought to the doctrine of justification. If I’m justified, then I have good works. That’s what “faith without works is dead” means, right? Good works are a necessary condition for (one who is in a state of) justification. Such a statement, although true, would be rather uninteresting to one who is inquiring as to whether another believes that good works are the instrumental cause or grounds of his justification, because that query is concerned with logical order not conditions.

    I say all that to say this. Your statement, “Faith only is required for justification” is not true if we translate “required” to “necessary condition”, indeed a reasonable translation. If by “required” you mean “instrumental cause”, then of course you are correct. I would not assume what Mark means, but I think it’s a reasonable hope that he means “necessary condition” if for no other reason than any other translation seems contrived.

    In the end, what have the FV folks brought the church other than at best confusion and division?

    Ron

  39. June 2, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    […] Lane writes: I do not think that Horne has understood Ursinus when he speaks about good works being done to escape temporal and eternal punishment. The blessings in mind for doing good works are NOT salvation. They are the rewards over and above salvation which God gives to us. This is evident in the plural “rewards.” The escape from judgment is qualified in the context by the statement that our faith is exercised, nourished, strengthened and increased by good works (p. 484 of Ursinus’ commentary). In other words, we do good works to make sure that our faith is a live faith. […]

  40. June 2, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    […] 2, 2008 at 3:26 pm (Federal Vision, Heresy) Mark Horne has “responded” to my post here. The scare quotes are necessary, because Mark took a small sliver of the argument, reacted to […]


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