Doug and I have gone around a few times on law and gospel. My last treatment of this section of the Joint Statement is here. Doug’s position is this: law and gospel work just fine as categories for application to the human heart, but that they do not work just fine as a hermeneutic for understanding Scripture. In other words, according to Doug (and I presume the undersigned FV’ers, since this is certainly clear in the second paragraph of the Joint Statement’s section on law and gospel), Scripture does not divide itself into two categories of statements, one law and one gospel. The usual evidence put forward in support of this is statements that talk about the “obedience of faith.” We’ll get to those passages in just a minute. For now, the three posts ending with this one (and the first two posts are linked there) show, I believe decisively) that the law/gospel distinction as a hermeneutic is something Reformed, and not just Lutheran. See also Scott Clark’s excellent collection of sources on this question. These constitute a large part of my answer to this section of the Joint Statement, and so it would be helpful for Doug to respond to that admittedly sizable chunk of material.
I do continue to have the concern about the first use of the law in the FV formulation. In the comments to the previous treatment of the law/gospel distinction, Doug said this (comment 12) in response to Chris Hutchinson’s remarks:
Chris, who says that the law does not convict Christians? That is not our point at all. If the law says not to lie, and I lie, then I am cut to the heart by the law. Of course. The point we are making is that to be convicted like this is part of my life as a Christian — God’s rebukes are always oil on my head. Conviction is not an end in itself. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but rather painful. Of course, and the law is God’s paddle for spanking His children. But He does not spank us as an end in itself. It is part of a story, and that story is the peaceful fruit of an upright life. That story’s ending makes the painful chapters part of a comedy — it is good news.
In response to this, I would say that this is still not a formulation of the first use of the law for the Christian. The point is that the third use of the law does not exclude a continuing first use of the law even for the believer. On the one hand, there is no condemnation for the believer who is in Christ. On the other hand, outside of Christ he is still condemned. As Q 97 of the WLC specifically states, the first use of the law is common to the regenerate as well as to the unregenerate. The law still condemns Christians even as the Gospel still saves them. This does not exclude, negate, or undermine the third use of the law in any way, since the first use and the third use interconnect and interpenetrate one another for the believer in a sort of perichoretic way.
The passages that speak of the “obedience of faith” (see comment 17 for a list of passages) are to be understood this way: 1. the command to believe is law, even though it is an invitation to the Gospel, since it is a command/invitation to love the Lord our God, which is a summary of the first table of the law; 2. the statement that we obey the law when we believe is Gospel (and this is to be understood as given below in 4). 3. The ability given to us (regeneration) to “obey” the Gospel is Gospel. 4. “obedience” in relation to faith is a metaphor, a figure of speech called “metonymy,” wherein the effect is put for the cause, and the adjunct for the thing itself. The obedience in such phrases is Christ’s obedience, which we lay hold of by faith. Therefore, when we believe, we are reckoned to be in the position of having obeyed because Christ has obeyed. Faith itself is not a work in any sense. So, the phrase “obedience of faith” CANNOT mean that faith is somehow an obedience in the sense of fulfilling the law. These distinctions may seem fine to some. But they are necessary if we are to keep Paul’s injunctions of distinguishing between faith and works. We cannot make faith into a work.
On to Doug’s last reply to me. I am dumbfounded by his reply. This is what he says:
On “union,” the word refers both to salvific union, only for those with true evangelical faith, and covenant union, for those who merely belong to the visible church.
Make no mistake about this reply to my question, which was this: “What precisely is meant by union with Christ in these two paragraphs? Absolute saving faith-union that is irrevocable? Or baptismal union that is losable?” Doug has answered these questions with a thoroughly dark-aled FV answer. It is salvific union and covenant union, the latter belonging to those merely in the visible church that is the union that brings us to partaking of the “benefits of His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement at the right hand of God the Father,” to quote the Joint Statement. In other words, both salvific union and covenant union (to use his words) bring the benefits of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement to those partaking of them. There is no distinction here among the benefits as to which are eternally saving and which are only temporarily saving. This has been my entire complaint with the FV: what “saving” benefits to the non–decretally-elect receive if they are members of the visible church?
Let Doug respond to this argument (as a test case for one of the saving benefits) that so far has gone unanswered by any FV’er: 1. Forgiveness of sins requires the forgiveness of all sins. 2. Original sin is part of all sin. 3. Therefore the forgiveness of sins requires the forgiveness of original sin. The two are inseparable. 4. Forgiveness of original sin implies regeneration. 5. Therefore forgiveness of sins implies regeneration. 6. Therefore, anyone who has their sins forgiven is also regenerated. 7. Therefore, anyone who is not regenerated does not have their sins forgiven. 8. The non-decretally-elect are never regenerated. 9. Therefore the non-decretally-elect never have their sins forgiven, even temporarily. Thus, there are no temporary forgiveness benefits for the non-decretally-elect. They never have their sins forgiven in any sense of the word. What more important benefit is there of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement than forgiveness?
Secondly, I do not feel that my question concerning the IAOC has been adequately answered. Doug answered whether the FV’ers believe in imputation versus infusion. Fine. But there were actually two questions in my post concerning imputation. The question that is still unanswered is this: how come the first paragraph seems to affirm the IAOC (which is more specific than imputation in general), while the second paragraph and the “Some Points of Intramural Disagreement” seems to disaffirm the IAOC? It feels a bit like doubletalk here.