First I will examine the section of the Joint Statement concerning the covenant of life, and then I will answer Doug’s last post.
My previous statement concerning this section is something to which I still hold, although it needs to be qualified. I am more willing to speak of Adam’s needing to believe God. What I really object to is language that implies that Adam’s obtaining eternal life (or maintaining eternal life, which is a contradiction in terms) is the same instrumentality as we have today. The instrumentality of obtaining the glorified state was works in the first covenant, and faith in the second covenant. This is non-negotiable. This is why I utterly reject this statement: “Adam was created to progress from immature glory to mature glory, but that glorification too would have been a gift of grace, received by faith alone.” Of course, the main part to which I object in this statement is the second half of the sentence, not so much the first half, although I reject James Jordan’s view of maturity.
First of all, eternal life is by definition eternal and immutable. Therefore it is something Adam did not possess. One cannot have eternal life but lose it. Adam possessed innocence, of course. But he did not possess the glorified body, which is immutably glorified in eternal life. Does this in any way deny the וְהִנֵּה־טוֹב מְאֹד of Genesis 1:31? Of course not. The description “very good” does not imply that it is as good as it could possibly be. “Very good” is different from “best.” So, when the WCF says that life was promised to Adam, it is talking about the immutable, glorified state, which Adam most certainly did not possess. A careful exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15 and Genesis 2 will bear out this claim.
Secondly, to say that Adam would have obtained the highest state by faith alone (indicating instrumentality) contradicts utterly the WCF 7, which explicitly says “upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.” As I said in the previous treatment, the moral law was given to Adam as a covenant of works (WCF 19.1). As such, the commands given to Adam are subject to the same interpretive procedures that govern the Ten Commandments (see WLC 99). FV interpretations of Genesis 2:16-17 tend to be very minimalistic. However, aside from the cultural mandate commands, which clearly indicate the moral law, what is behind the forbidding of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the first table of the law. Adam was being tested as to whether he would honor his liege-lord (the cultural mandate commands imply that Adam was vice-regent under God, a vassal to the Lord’s Suzerainty) or not.
Thirdly, as has been said by myself and many others ad nauseum, if God binds Himself to reward Adam’s obedience with something, that neither contradicts the sonship aspects of Adam in the Garden (in the same way that the forensic does not contradict the participatory in the ordo salutis), nor reduces the Garden to a cold business, any more than the legal aspects of marriage are cold and lifeless. Fathers can make legal agreements with their sons, the last time I checked. So, in saying that “the gift or continued possession of that gift was not offered by God to Adam conditioned upon Adam’s moral exertions or achievements,” the statement takes direct aim at WCF 7.2, which says that eternal life was offered on condition of Adam’s obedience (or moral exertions). This section of the Joint Statement is the most problematic of all the sections, in my opinion, as it guts WCF 7 of practically everything important. I would direct readers’ attention again to my previous handling of it (the very last quotation) where a’Brakel anticipated by three hundred years the kind of thing the FV would try, and already answered it decisively.
Now, to move on to Doug’s post. Doug says this, “The reason I said that Lane was (unwittingly) messing around with sola fide is that he was talking about something that saving faith had to go and do.” This involves a gross misunderstanding of my position, and a misunderstanding of what belief entails. First of all, my position is that saving faith has to know something. Notitia is an all-important aspect of faith. We cannot leave it behind. As I said in the post to which Doug was responding, I do not believe that one has to understand Bavinck in order to be saved! But one does have to understand forgiveness on the basis of grace, grasped by faith. This is perhaps the most bare-boned understanding of justification that it is possible to have. And I also argued that the disposition of infants was such that the minds of saved infants are changed by God such that they will grow up into a clearer understanding (after all, why underestimate what babies can actually know?). The other misunderstanding that Doug evidences here is a misunderstanding of what belief entails. He seems to think that knowing something is equivalent to a work, such that if faith has to know anything, then we are making faith into a work, and thus denying sola fide. The only way this argument works is if one rips out notitia from the definition of faith, which is tantamount to mysticism. But if notitia is an essential element in faith, then the argument fails utterly. Obviously, then, notitia is not in the same category as works.
The distinction in this image is fruit-bearing vs. fruitless, and abiding vs. not abiding. That is all Jesus says about it. He does not equate death and fruitlessness or death with not abiding. To bring those terms in is eisegesis.
Continuing our discussion of John 15, I would direct the readers to the excellent comments on Doug’s post. If Doug is right, then allowing Ephesians 2 into the discussion (in that most eisegetical Reformed practice of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture) is not allowed. In the passage, if a branch is fruitless, it is dead (verse 5 is clear: if fruitless, then not-abiding. Not-abiding equals death). Period. A fruitless branch never was alive spiritually, according to Ephesians 2. James is also crystal clear: faith without works is dead. I find it highly ironic that a passage upon which the FV’ers love to harp because they think it means that we are justified by the instrumentality of faith’s aliveness actually destroys their interpretation of John 15. I feel that I have beat John 15 to death now, so Doug can have the last word on this passage if he wants.