I will follow the same format by looking at a new section, and then responding to Doug’s post.
The next section of the joint statement is on baptism. I will start with a question: what does “formally” mean? In the first sentence of the section in question, the sentence reads “We affirm that God formally unites a person to Christ and to His covenant people through baptism into the triune Name…” (italics original). “Formally” as opposed to what? Vitally? If all is meant here is that baptism puts one into the visible community of the people of God, I agree. However, there are less confusing ways of saying it than “unites a person to Christ,” however qualified. I agree that baptism obliges a person to covenant loyalty to God, which does mean repentance and trust in Christ, as the statement says.
However, the last statement of the paragraph is problematic. For one thing, baptism is nowhere in the context of Matthew 19:28 (which is the only time παλιγγενεσίᾳ is used in this way; cf. BDAG). If anything, faith is the context in the story of the rich young ruler. Entrance into the kingdom is surely described in terms of repentance (repenting of idolatry of wealth) and faith. Baptism is thus not in view here. Therefore I conclude that the Joint Statement illegitimately uses Matthew 19:28 to make its point, which is hence unbiblical. I would only add that the Joint Statement puts a division between the time of Regeneration (or eschatological Regeneration) and personal Regeneration, which is actually refuted by other Scriptures, most notably 2 Corinthians 5:17a, which reads thusly: ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις: The translation should go something like this: “If anyone is in Christ, new creation!” The phrase καινὴ κτίσις (“new creation”) indicates not so much the individual aspect of regeneration, but the global re-creation that comes with the person and work of Christ. Thus, the first part of the quotation indicates the personal aspect of renewal, and the second part of the phrase indicates the global aspect of renewal. The train of thought runs thus: if someone is in Christ, then that is part and parcel (and proof!) of the new creation that Jesus brings. That this interpretation is correct is born out by the second half of the verse: τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά. Translated “the old things are gone; look! the new things have arrived!” So there is an inseparable relationship between the individual and the global aspects of renewal.
What does this mean for the Joint Statement’s take? It means that it is self-contradictory. In the second paragraph, the statement rightly says that baptism does not automatically result in an “effectual call” or rebirth. This would be the individual ordo salutis aspect of baptism being discussed here. However, such an individual aspect must be divorced from the historia salutis, if baptism does in fact initiate one into the eschatological age of renewal of which Matthew 19:28 speaks. In other words, according to this statement, baptism initiates one into the historia salutis, but not into the ordo salutis, according to the Joint Statement.
Lastly, this statement is rather puzzling: “But we deny that trusting God’s promise through baptism elevates baptism to a human work” (italics original). Firstly, why would saying that baptism is a human work elevate baptism? Wouldn’t that rather denigrate baptism? Secondly, is this denial prompted by a critic claiming that the FV’ers are “elevating” baptism to a human work, or is it merely a forestalling of a possible criticism that hasn’t actually been levelled at them?
The statement says absolutely nothing about baptism being a sign and seal of renewal. Rather, it speaks of actual initiation into the historia salutis. See, this is the language of WCF 28.1, which says not that baptism actually ingrafts one into Christ, but that baptism is a sign and seal of a person being ingrafted into Christ. This is clear from the commas and the “of’s.” Thus, the grammar clearly states that baptism is to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, a sign and seal of his ingrafting into Christ, a sign and seal of regeneration, a sign and seal of remission of sins, and a sign and seal of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. So baptism in the WCF is a sign and seal. That is the nature of its grace. Its grace is of a signing and sealing nature. That contextualizes 28.6 which states that the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred. Notice the qualifiers of this statement: 1. only to those to whom the grace belongs; 2. in His appointed time (which means that God’s timing indicates when the grace will take effect). This last phrase gives the lie to the FV interpretation of the first part of the same section. That FV interpretation says that when the WCF says that the efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered, it means not a “delayed reaction” type of thing, but rather a “continuous effect” type of action. It is clear from “in His appointed time” that a delayed reaction type of grace is indicated here, since it is grammatically related to the same grace being conferred. This whole section is a necessary prophylactic against charges which are sure to come that I have abandoned the Westminster Standards in my view of baptism. Rather, it is the FV which has abandoned the confessional understanding of baptism as signs and seals.
Now, to respond to Doug’s post:
Suppose I were to say something like this — would Lane find it acceptable or not? I am honestly asking. “The instrumentality of obtaining the glorified state was faith resulting in staying away from the forbidden tree in the first covenant, and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus in the second covenant. This is non-negotiable.” Of course I agree that the first covenant was conditioned on Adam’s obedience. Of course, just as our salvation is conditioned on Christ’s obedience. But obedience is a human action, and therefore requires human intentionality. That intentionality will either exhibit faith in God or it will not.
I am uncomfortable with this expression for a number of reasons. The most important reason is that is blends together the pre-Fall state of mind of Adam and the post-Fall necessity of saving faith. Whatever one might want to call what Adam knew before the Fall, “saving faith” cannot be it, since Adam needed no saving. Secondly, I still find problematic the idea that Adam had “faith” in the first covenant. Again, if one means notitia, assent, and trust, then Adam had faith. If one means faith as an instrument of laying hold of the righteousness of another, then Adam did not have faith. David Gadbois made a good point in the comments to the previous section. The ground of Adam’s obtaining the final glorified state is his own righteousness. When that failed, Christ obtained it for us. And therefore Christ’s obedience is the ground of our salvation now, and our faith lays hold of it. If the parallel were exact, then Adam would have to have faith in his own works, which simply doesn’t compute.
For the life of me, I cannot see the cash value of insisting that Adam had to have the opportunity of obeying God without an attitude of faith. I just don’t get it.
This is an extension of what I said, not what I said, or even implied. I have already outlined how Adam had “faith,” and how he did not have faith, and why I think saying that Adam would have obtained the glorified state by faith is misleading in the extreme. The question here that I am concerned with is this: on what basis would Adam have obtained the glorified state? Faith isn’t the ground. Adam’s obedience was. That is the material point, because of Christ’s work in the second covenant, securing our glorification NOT by faith, but by works. So, this formulation by no means forbids us from saying that Adam had “faith” in the sense of knowledge, assent, and trust. I merely deny that faith was in any sense the ground of his elevation to the glorified state. The Belgic Confession is helpful here: “Jesus Christ, imputing to us all His merits, and so many holy works which He has done for us and in our stead, is our righteousness. And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with Him in all His benefits, which, when they become ours, are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins” (BC, article 22).
On notitia, Lane wants to insist on its necessary presence, while at the same time leaving room for the salvation of infants. And he says, quite rightly, that we frequently underestimate what infants can know. But I want to insist on the salvation of fertilized eggs, as well as infants, and I am quite interested in hearing Lane explain the “non-Bavinck-level” of understanding exhibited by such. I have no trouble saying that incipient faith has the characteristics of incipient notitia, assensus, and fiducia. Emphasis here on incipient, with gratitude that God is the one who judges these things. But if, as Lane insists, some recognizable form of notitia must be present, then he must say that all fertilized eggs, dying at that stage, are damned because they don’t have the intellectual wherewithal. And if these people are saved by some other extraordinary exception, then this means that the rest of us have to “get notitia,” making it something we do, which was my point.
I think this would be my answer to this: notitia develops organically. In a saved person, whether egg or adult, it is present. It is an egg notitia in an egg person, and it is a chicken notitia in a chicken person (by which I mean an adult, of course, not a coward). Here’s why I say this: notitia is part of the image of God. Everyone knows that God exists. That is implanted in the very nature that we possess. Therefore, an egg can have that as well. And a regenerated egg has that as part of his egg-like faith. A non-regenerated egg has notitia as something it is already trying to suppress in unrighteousness. A notitia that is connected to trust is something that God provides. So, it is not something that we go out and do.
One note on John 15. I do not believe that Doug has answered any of my exegetical points. I am therefore content to let it lie there and in the judgment of the readers as to which one of us has a more biblical understanding of the passage.