Moving On

Doug has answered my post here. I am not going to answer every point. If he wants to think that he has checkmated me on certain issues, he can think that way. He has never answered my exegesis, nor has he shown how my alternatives to obedience/disobedience description of faith are not to the point. He has claimed that they are not to the point, but that is not the same as proving it. Quite simply put, our response to God’s command to come to faith is God’s doing, and therefore of grace, and therefore cannot be put in the same category as obedience. Obedience and grace are antithetical when it comes to justification, because of the law/gospel hermeneutic (which of course, Doug and I disagree on). I think that Doug would agree with parts of that formulation, at least, and I am content to leave it there. If Doug wants to reply further on this issue, he can have the last word. I have played chess since I was 4 years old, and have some talents in it. At any rate, I can recognize checkmate when I see it, and this isn’t it.   

One more comment on the aliveness of faith in justification. No Reformed author of which I am aware advocates justification by a dead faith. Of course faith must be alive in order to be instrumental in justification. But that is not the point I am raising. The point I am raising is that the aliveness of faith is not part of the justification mechanism itself. It is a sine qua non, but not a part of the cause. David McCrory stated it well, I though in the first comment under Doug’s post, although I still would not use the term obedience in reference to justification.  

Regeneration happens simultaneously with justification, not before it. I have excellent antecedents in the Reformed faith for thinking so: John Calvin, Richard Gaffin, Sinclair Ferguson, and the entire WTS faculty. Calvin believes that union with Christ is the basic soteric category in which all other things are comprehended. Within that broad category, there are justification type benefits and sanctification type benefits that occur simultaneously with God’s gift of faith to the believer. On this basis, I reject utterly the view that justification depends on a prior infusion of grace in regeneration. The infusion and the imputation occur simultaneously, neither one dependent on the other, neither one separated from the other in any way, including time. The mechanism of justification differs radically from the mechanism of sanctification. This simultaneity is at the very least hinted at in WLC 77. I realize that some Reformed authors place regeneration before faith in time. I do not see any biblical passages that teach this. On the contrary, when regeneration happens, faith is present. Similarly, when faith is present, justification has also happened. Hence, faith lays hold passively (because the righteousness is extra nos, although ours by right of union) of Christ’s righteousness in justification, and actively (because it includes a real, actual righteousness in the believer) lays hold of Christ in sanctification by the power of the Spirit.  

On Romans 6, is Doug seriously suggesting that “dikaisunen” means “justification?” He needs to look up the word in BDAG. When he does, he will find out that the vast majority of the uses of the term simply mean “righteousness.” It is by extension that the term means righteousness judicially by divine declaration. The word by no means automatically implies justification. Justification is the meaning of the word when the context demands it. Since Romans 6 is clearly talking about sanctification, not justification, then the meaning of righteousness is determined accordingly. Hence the obedience of faith also has to do with sanctification in that passage, not with justification. I noticed that Doug only engaged about 1/5 of my arguments on the passage. Furthermore, just because one word has an interesting semantic range has nothing to do with whether another word has an interesting semantic range. Just because dessert has a wide semantic range does not mean that cookie also has a wide semantic range. There are limits to the analogy, including the fact that righteousness and obedience both have narrower semantic ranges than “dessert” has. The point is simply that the semantic range of one word does not determine the semantic range of another word.

Finally moving on to the next section of the Joint Statement. My previous response is here. I invite Doug primarily to respond to that. What does constitute a hermeneutical grid not derived from the Scriptures themselves? More importantly, who or what gets to determine what would fall into such a category? How does the analogy of faith enter into this discussion? This statement is so vague that anyone can interpret the phrase “non-Scriptural hermeneutical grid” to exclude just about anything they want to exclude. Is the Trinity a non-Scriptural hermeneutical grid? How about the Westminster Confession? This statement masks disagreement among the FV’ers on this very point: Wilson wants to uphold the Confessions, verbally at least. Jeff Meyers thinks that the standards are not sufficient for the 21st century. Norman Shepherd thinks that the PCA should just chuck the Westminster Standards entirely (as if the 3FU are any more conducive to his views than the WS are!). This is a fairly broad range of opinion on the churchly standards. In my opinion, such a statement allows any FV’er to say anything they want about the confessional standards of the church. Let me repeat myself from my earlier post on this subject: good and necessary consequence has the same authority as Scripture itself, according to WCF 1.6. Speaking in the abstract, then, whatever in the Westminster Standards is, in fact, good and necessary consequence does have the authority of Scripture itself. Whatever is not of good and necessary consequence does not. In the latter statement lies the qualification that one does not make in regard to Scripture itself. It is possible that the standards are wrong. But whatever is correct in the Standards by good and necessary consequence has the authority of Scripture, since it is simply a summary of Scripture. Many people are uncomfortable with saying this. They rightly point out that the words of men do not have the same authority as the Word of God. But that is not what we are saying here. What we are saying is that, to the extent that the Westminster Standards accurately summarize Scripture, it has the authority of Scripture, since it is good and necessary consequence to the extent that it is accurate. Such summaries can be amended to be even more accurate. And there might be errors in the WCF. It is fallible in the sense that it can err. But that is not the same as saying that it is in error. I believe it to be an accurate summary of Scripture. As we will see, the joint FV statement does not hold the WS in the same regard as this paragraph does.     

How to Avoid a Recession

Compare this as an analogy. You are sitting in your agrarian home with a stockpile of wheat. This is your food. You know that a famine is coming. What do you do? Do you say, “Well, let’s eat all our wheat now, because there won’t be any more later”? This is idiotic. What you do is tighten your belt, ration the wheat, eat less, and grit your teeth while plowing on (literally). 

Similarly, when the nation is facing a recession or worse, the government should not go on spending like there is no tomorrow. It has been far worse than this before. Our current economic woes are nothing compared to the Great Depression. The problems happened when government soared it to take control, slapped a wage-price freeze, and everything disappeared. More government control is a sure way to ensure that our economic woes last as long as possible, and are as bad as possible.

What the government should do is drastically cut spending (as in, all pork barrel spending, special projects, etc.), and then cut taxes. The government should cut spending by about 50%, and then cut taxes by about 30%. These are just round figures, of course. Everyone should be paid their wages, but all excess spending should be cut. Of course, in my opinion, that also means that government should get out of schooling, Social Security, and welfare. However, that doesn’t look very likely in the near future. What they can do is to halt excess spending in the short-term projects, thereby tightening their girths.

The problem here is that many people, seeing a recession coming, think that government should get bigger so as to solve all the problems of the people. Government becoming bigger is called tyranny. It will always result in more control and less accountability. Government does not have a good track record of solving economic problems by becoming larger. Every time that happens, the economy goes down the tubes. 

Whatever one thinks of R.J. Rushdoony (and I am no theonomist), he certainly got this one right: unbelievers hate freedom, because they do not want the responsibility that goes with it. They want the credit when things go right. However, they do not want the blame when things go wrong. So is it with government and with individuals. Freedom requires responsibility. It also requires constant vigilance, lest those freedoms gradually be eroded. I am not saying that our woes can all be solved by cutting taxes. The ultimate problem is human sin, to which the solution is the gospel. What I am saying is that there is a measure of wisdom that the government needs to exercise right now if the economy is not going to melt down completely.