One Last Response to Dr. Clark

I think it has been a fruitful discussion, and I hope Dr. Clark thinks so, too. I have learned a lot from Dr. Clark, even in these exchanges.

On the historical point, Dr. Clark has convinced me that the problem I am seeking to avoid is not a pitfall into which he has fallen. The problem I was mainly seeking to avoid is the fragmentation of knowledge that has been brought to us by our own, friendly, neighborhood Enlightenment. To my satisfaction, anyway, Dr. Clark has proven that one can ask different questions distinguishing history and theology without compromising the unity of truth. I do question whether such a complete objectivity is possible (not merely difficult!). My only last question is this: when engaging in historical analysis, does one have a thesis or not? Should a person have a position which they should argue? If so, how does one avoid subjectivity while simultaneously arguing for a position? Do unbelievers, for instance, have the same view of cause and effect with regard to God’s providence that believers do? Of course, Dr. Clark has made a distinction here regarding secondary and primary causality, which is important, since an unbeliever can, of course, describe secondary causality just as well as a Christian can. but is the historical task done then? Or do we have then to go on to point out how God’s providence has been working? It would seem to me that on the level of secondary causality, the believer and the non-believer could reach the same conclusions. However, it is on the level of primary causality (which is surely still a part of history!) that the believer and the non-believer will come to radically different conclusions.

I accept Dr. Clark’s distinction between Scripture and what follows after. But I have this question of him: how does one engage in historical analysis of Scripture itself? Is that a valid enterprise? If so, do we check our presuppositions at the door? Will not an unbeliever’s historical analysis of the Bible be radically different than a believer’s historical analysis of the Bible?

Secondly, on the theological issue, I have held to this position on union in relationship to justification and sanctification since seminary. It has not stopped me from attacking the FV over the course of several years now. It seems to me that the far more crucial question here is keeping justification and sanctification distinct, which is something about which Dr. Clark and I are equally concerned. Union with Christ does not compromise this in any way that I can see. For it is in confusing justification and sanctification that we confuse law and gospel. The law gospel distinction was as important to the Reformed as it was to the Lutherans. And that is a hill on which I will die. By all means, let’s have the third use of the law (which at least some Lutherans also held to in the Formula of Concord, article VI, an inconvenient fact for the FV crowd, as well as for N.T. Wright, who seems to think that the Lutherans have a truncated view of the law).

And it seems to me that the Gaffin/Garcia thesis (I don’t know that I would attach my name to it as an originator of it!) does have difficulties in dealing with the passage “God justified the ungodly,” since, although we are always ungodly in one sense, the sense in which Paul uses it in Romans 4:5 might seem to exclude any sense of renovation happening before or even at the same time. I would love to see Dr. Gaffin’s interpretation of that verse. Jeff, maybe you can step in here with some thoughts on this passage?