The next section of the Joint Statement deals with the Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately, I am not going to be able to discuss this one very much, since it is necessary to say either nothing, or else an entire book. I have no disagreement with this section except with the issue of paedo-communion, into which topic I shall not foray at this time. I have only one question regarding it: I would assume that affirming the real presence of Christ in the Supper but denying the local presence of Christ means that Christ is present in (or “by”) the Holy Spirit. While this is not stated (and I think it might have been just a little clearer had they done that), it seems to me to be implied. It would be nice to have that confirmed, I suppose. Maybe at a point after this second critique of the joint statement, Doug and I could start on a debate about paedo-communion. Just a thought.
On to Doug’s last reply to me. First issue: is the visible church connected to Christ? In the sense that it is the body of those who profess faith in Christ, it is connected to Christ. But what in the world is meant by “connected” in Doug’s post? I confess to being unable to answer his query unless that word is more carefully defined. It is similar to “formally united.” What does that mean? I could think of ways it could be taken that are orthodox, and ways it could be taken that are heterodox.
Second point: regeneration. I have to admit to being utterly confused by Doug’s second paragraph. For one thing, baptism is spoken of in the WCF as a sign and seal of regeneration in the ordo sense, not in the historia sense. That is because WCF 28.1 (which Doug referenced) never refers to Matthew 19, but only to Titus 3:5 in the proof texts. Titus 3:5 is obviously referring to the ordo salutis when it speaks of “not because of works…but by mercy,” and then in verse 7 talking of justification. Verse 6 is the clincher here: the Holy Spirit is poured out on us in regeneration, clearly referring to the ordo salutis. So, I am still at a loss as to how baptism initiates us into the historia salutis, but not into the ordo salutis, and how it initiates us into the Regeneration (understood redemptive-historically) when there is zero biblical evidence to support that conclusion. I don’t find that in Matthew 19, Titus 3, or WCF 28. Part of the problem here also is the term “into” in the Joint Statement. The Statement says “baptism is into the Regeneration.” If it had said that baptism was a sign and seal not only of a believer’s regeneration, but also of the transition from death to life, which is in turn part of a greater renewal, and that the sacraments remain signs and seals, and that baptism is not necessarily actually initiating us into that renewal, but is rather a sign and seal of it, I could go along with it. But again, the language of sign and seal, which is not only confessional but biblical is nowhere present in the Joint Statement’s treatment of baptism (or the Lord’s Supper, for that matter).
Third point: concerning misrepresentation of the phrase “efficacy not limited to the point of administration.” Let me clarify. Having looked over what I said, I realize that I wasn’t clear. I did not mean that all FV’ers maintain the position that I said was “the FV interpretation.” It was simply an FV interpretation that I had seen. I don’t ever remember Doug advocating it. And I don’t actually remember which FV’er advocated it. I think it was Barach, Meyers, or Horne, one of the three.
But I was heartened to see Lane move closer to the Westminsterian position on baptism than other FV critics have been thus far willing to do. He repeats some of the qualifiers that the Confession gives (those to whom the grace belongs, in His appointed time), but he does appear to acknowledge that this baptismal grace is saving grace, and not just sanctifying grace. It is hard to do otherwise when the Confession says that the grace promised in the sign and seal of baptism (covenant of grace, ingrafting, regeneration, remission of sins, and commitment to walk in newness of life) is really exhibited and conferred on that group of people demarked by all the qualifiers. And for the record, I agree with all those qualifiers. I also agree with exhibited and conferred. Me and the Westminster divines, we’re like that.
This would be amusing if I weren’t banging my head on the wall, which hurts. First is the suggestion that FV critics are by and large nowhere near the Westminster Standards when it comes to baptism, which is frankly ludicrous. Secondly, it is plain as a pikestaff to me that Doug hasn’t understood my position in the slightest. My position is that the grace conferred in baptism is a signing and sealing grace, not a saving grace (if “saving” is understood in the narrower ordo salutis sense of the Philippian jailor’s question). It is a saving grace (in the sense of means of grace) in the sanctificatory sense. That was the whole point of my grammatical analysis of 28.1. WCF 28.1 does NOT say that the grace exhibited and conferred is equal to ingrafting, regeneration, remission, etc. Rather, the grace exhibited and conferred is that the person now has a sign and a seal of all those things. The sign and the seal is not equal to those things. Rather, baptism is a sign and seal of those things. This is how the grammar of the passage works. It says that baptism is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, a sign and seal of ingrafting, a sign and seal of regeneration, a sign and seal of remission of sins, etc. Signs and seals are not equal to the things they sign and seal. Doug needs to reread section 5 of chapter 28 to assure himself that baptism does not equal regeneration, even in those who use the sacrament properly! Regeneration can happen without baptism. And if baptism can be a delayed reaction type of thing (which Doug admits), then baptism does not confer regeneration on people. What baptism represents confers regeneration on people. A very common criticism of the FV is that it ties way too closely together the sign and the thing signified. They must not be separated, or confused. Sacramental language is possible (WCF 27.2). But with the FV, it is usually difficult to know when they are using sacramental language and when they are not. They are not clear.
Lastly, faith once more. The problem that I have always had with the FV position on things is that it flattens out the distinctions among Adam, Christ, and us. I have heard things like this from at least some FV’ers: Adam was saved by faith, Christ was saved by faith, and we are saved by faith. It is as if everything Adam did or believed had to have been the same as what Christ did and believed, which is also the same for us. I was happy to see that Doug agrees that Adam’s object of faith is different from ours. However, problems arise when we start talking about faithful obedience. If Adam would have inherited eternal life on the basis of faithful obedience, and we can only inherit eternal life on the basis of faithful obedience, then there really isn’t any difference between Adam and us except that the object of faith is different. The point I wish to make here is that the Covenant of Works means that Adam would have inherited eternal life on the works principle, in contrast to us, who inherit eternal life on the faith principle, and NOT on the works principle (unless you are talking about Christ’s works). But if one starts talking about faithful obedience, then the categories start to get muddied.