Law and Gospel or Golawspel?

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.

114 Comments

  1. Reed Here said,

    January 2, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Lane: good stuff.

    It would be valuable, at least from a discussion point for a point-by-point affirmation, adjustment, or refutation of you logic chain on forgiveness.

    My sense is that in doing so, the very kinds of unclarity and equivocation might be more or less revealed, possibly even to Doug himself. We’ll wait and see.

  2. Vern Crisler said,

    January 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    I don’t think it’s metonymy, but rather an ironic trope. Paul was being hammered by legalists about the necessity of obedience to the Mosaic law, so that law-keeping was the only proper type of obedience for the legalists. Using an ironic expression, Paul speaks instead of the obedience of faith vis-a-vis the obedience of law.

    Still, I agree with your larger point that Paul was not thereby turning faith into a work, or teaching salvation by works.

    Vern

  3. greenbaggins said,

    January 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Vern, you may very well have a good exposition of Paul’s use of the expression. However, there are several other uses of the phrase (again, see the comment linked in the post) or its equivalent that probably can’t be explained that way.

  4. Pete Myers said,

    January 2, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Lane,

    Excellent stuff. Read through the previous three posts also. This is all very helpful.

    I have a question: Can you summarise for me what you think the distinction is between the Lutheran and the Reformed view of the Law/Gospel antithesis?

    I was given/fed a Modified Lutheran/New Covenant Theology line where I did some pre-seminary training. I put my mind to it, but really didn’t like it… as an alternative, I stumbled across Doug’s writings, among other things, which is the main reason I first got into all this FV stuff.

    I don’t need an essay or anything, just a few pointers as to your view on the dinstinction between Lutheran/Reformed view of the Law would be very helpful.

  5. January 2, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    On an earlier post I made a comment about banging your head against the wall because the FV consistently deny or equivocate re the internal/external distinction.

    Doug writes to say, “Hey, I affirm the internal/external distinction.” Now we have the clear example above of what FV writers do with union.

    This is not an unequivocal use of union or the internal/external distinction.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    January 2, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Pete, there is significant debate right now over whether and/or what the differences are between the Lutherans and the Reformed on this distinction. In my opinion, the differences among *confessional* Lutherans and Reformed have been greatly exaggerated. On the one hand, the confessional Lutherans affirm the third use of the law (contrary to many people’s assertions today). You can see this clearly in the Formula of Concord, article 6, which *explicitly* affirms the third use of the law. And, on the other hand, you find almost all confessional Reformed folk (at least of the Reformation and immediate post-Reformation period) affirming the law/Gospel distinction and hermeneutic. So my opinion is that the Lutherans and the Reformed, in their confessional documents, basically agree about this. The Modified Lutheran/New Covenant Theology is quite a different thing from confessional Lutheranism. Check out the Augsburg Confession and the Formula of Concord on these issues and compare them to the 3FU and the WS, and I think you will find that they agree on the essentials with regard to law/Gospel.

  7. greenbaggins said,

    January 2, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Scott, exactly. It was just what I was thinking myself. In fact, I had your earlier comment in mind as I was writing this post!

  8. Zrim said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    If Pete changes his mind and wants more of an essay, J. V. Fesko has a nice piece in the CPJ (Volume 3, 2007) called, The Westminster Standards and Confessional Lutheranism on Justification.

    http://www.cpjournal.com/subscribe.htm

  9. January 2, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    Reply to Reed Here @ 1.

    Logical analysis of Lane’s logic chain on forgiveness, assuming there is no equivocation anywhere in the argument.

    3. most definitely follows from 1. and 2.

    5. most definitely follows from 3. and 4.

    6. is actually an instantiation or re-statement of 5.

    7. most definitely follows from 6.

    9. most definitely follows from 7. and 8.

    From this, we can see that if anyone was to attack Lane’s argument (which it should be noted that I am NOT),
    he would have to attack the fundamental premises, which appear to be the following:

    1. Forgiveness of sins requires the forgiveness of all sins.
    2. Original sin is part of all sin.
    4. Forgiveness of original sin implies regeneration.
    8. The non-decretally-elect are never regenerated.

    If anyone accepts all these premises, then I conclude it would be a sin of the mind not to accept the conclusion 9.

  10. Reed Here said,

    January 2, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Thanks Adrian (Lane’s brother?). Now let’s see if our FV proponents want to reach the same conclusion – without equivocation ;-)

  11. Pete Myers said,

    January 2, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    #8 Zrim,

    I have indeed subscribed, but probably won’t be seeing my copy any time soon… getting stuff airmailed over here from over there can take time. I’m hopefully going to be in Seminary from September, where they will have such lovely publications available for everyone.

    #6 Lane,

    Yeah the ML/NCT is a slightly odd baptist response to the NPP.

    Yup… I think the line in the sand seems to be drawn differently over my side of the pond. At least as far as I can read it. Or bare minimum, we have respected men telling people that the Reformed view of the Law is distinct from the Lutheran. Part of my confusion, then, is that you do appear to sound “Lutheran”, and Doug does appear to sound “Reformed” to my ears. Would you go so far as to pick out all the “Law” verses, and pick out all the “gospel” verses from scripture?

    Neither is it fashionable to talk about the 3 categories of Law anymore… or at least, not to do so for exegetical purposes, purely for applicatory and systematic purposes. I’m currently being blown with the fashion on that one.

    Forgive me if this is a “grandmother-suck-eggs” type of question (most of mine are…), but what may help to flush this issue out for me is what significance you make of Exodus 20v2, and what implications that has for what follows?

  12. greenbaggins said,

    January 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Reed, yes, he’s my twin brother.

    Pete, I believe that there are passages where it is very difficult to determine whether it is law or gospel, but I do believe that it is the biblical hermeneutic. And, by the way, so does the entire Reformed magisterium. It is not just Lutheran!

    The 3 uses of the law, as well as the 3 divisions of the law is a confessional point. The Westminster Standards, for instance, affirm both.

    Exodus 20:2 is certainly gospel. However, that does not prevent the Ten Commandments from being law, which would actually be kind of silly: “the 10 Commandments, being the law, are not law, but golawspel!” Nor does it prevent the 10 C from being a republication of the Covenant of Works. There is an overlap between the CoW and the CoG in the Mosaic economy.

  13. January 2, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    re #11
    Pete,
    Don’t normally conduct business in the open, but since it came up…. Thanks for subscribing; steep for overseas but a deal in this dollar economy I guess. I think you will be pleased. Package was mailed global priority via USPS on Dec 23rd, and I expect it will take another 7 or 10 working days to get to you. Since we are now “4” a set makes a sizable package to send overseas. Will be interesting when we are “5” (D.V.).

  14. Pete Myers said,

    January 2, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    “There is an overlap between the CoW and the CoG in the Mosaic economy.”

    Wow… that’s what I just can’t buy – well not at the moment. Bolton smashes that idea in his treatise “The True Bounds of Christian Freedom”.

    And to say that Ex 20v2 is gospel, but Ex 20v3 is Law… I’m still that guy in Mark 8 here, I can see what you’re saying, and why you say it, but a trees a tree to me.

    The 3 uses – I buy that. The 3 divisions – I do struggle with this, I guess this is our backgrounds really coming to the fore here, but, I just haven’t been convinced exegetically that it’s ok to read Paul in different places on the Law, and, say that “here he’s talking about the civil, there the ceremonial.”

  15. Pete Myers said,

    January 2, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    #13, Chris, thanks

    “but a deal in this dollar economy I guess”
    – actually no, the pound is weak against the dollar. We’ve had a socialist government for nearly a decade masquerading as leftiest who “now understand economics” – and we’re in massive debt as a country, forcing the pound down to the dollar the euro.

    “Package was mailed global priority via USPS on Dec 23rd…”
    Thanks for keeping me posted. I wasn’t intending to moan! I’ve ordered a lot of stuff from the States over the last 6 months or so, and have found, on the whole, that it’s really random when I can expect to see it.

  16. Reed Here said,

    January 2, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Pete:

    It helps to recognize the relationship between law and gospel. Noting this (the law is the tutor to the gospel), we can understand from one perspective how Ex 20:2 is gospel, Ex 20:3 is law, and both are related one to the other. More needs to be said in fleshing out the distinctions, but the basic pricinple maintains their relationship.

  17. Reed Here said,

    January 2, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Twin? There’s two of you? what were you parents thinking? (I speak as an arminian of course ;-p ).

  18. greenbaggins said,

    January 2, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Pete, what Reed said in 16 concerning Exodus is really where it’s at.

    I should note that the idea that the covenant of grace and the covenant of works overlap in the Mosaic economy is a disputed one in Reformed theology. However, a close comparison of WCF 19 with WCF 7, with a pinch of WLC 99 will just about do the trick.

    Reed, thubdthdthdthdth!

  19. Reed Here said,

    January 2, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Lane: exceptional use of onomonopia. Now I need to go wipe my face off. ;-)

  20. January 2, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Everybody, lest Scott bang his head against the wall unnecessarily, let me clarify something that I wrote that was misunderstood. And in saying this, I am not blaming the readers — I did not anticipate another ordinary reading of what I wrote. I did not mean that every person is union with Christ has both senses of union, salvific and covenantal. I meant that both senses were encompassed by the statement — salvific and covenantal for the regenerate elect guy, and covenantal only for the reprobate covenant member. Sorry for the confusion, and sorry also for taking away a sure proof of my secret “dark ale” sentiments. More in my response at my blog, but in the meantime, my apologies. Where words are many, sin is not absent.

  21. Pete Myers said,

    January 3, 2009 at 4:48 am

    Doug,

    Thanks for clarifying. Can I take the opportunity to ask you what you think of the “dark ale” FV position? Most of the FV stuff I’ve read is you and David Field. Both of whom I’ve found exceedingly helpful in many ways.

    This “dark ale” stuff, though, seems to be what’s riling people here. Not knowing much about it (aside from the web, haven’t read Wilkins, only read bits of Leithart and Lusk) I don’t have strong opinions… but it would be good to hear why you don’t feel so concerned about it as others?

  22. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 3, 2009 at 8:36 am

    It strikes me that #9 possibly reflects a very long history of one brother logically analyzing the arguments of the other.

    :)

  23. Danny said,

    January 3, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Lane,

    I’m interested to hear you explain a little bit more your comment, “The law still condemns Christians even as the Gospel still saves them.” Perhaps I’m a little too sensitive regarding the controversies swirling around regarding justification, but saying the Christian is condemned by the law seems to stand in opposition to our doctrine of justification. Now, if you qualify this and say that outside of Christ the Christian is condemned by the law (which you may have intimated), I think I would be a little more comfortable with that.

  24. Danny said,

    January 3, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Lane,

    One more thought that maybe you can help me with. Even if we consider the Christian condemned outside of Christ, isn’t that very scenario an impossibility? A true believer can never be outside of Christ. Though he may contemplate such, and though the contemplation of such and of his continued sinfulness drive him to Christ for grace and forgiveness he is still not condemned. In other words, though the first use of the law drives many condemned unbelievers ultimately to faith in Christ, when a Christian is driven to Christ by the 1st use of the law, can we say there is condemnation there, or is conviction a better word?

  25. Michael said,

    January 3, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Lane,

    “The law still condemns Christians even as the Gospel still saves them.”

    This seems to be somewhat of an overstatement.

    I don’t suggest, by typing out this section of the WCF, that you need to see it, but it’s helpful to me. I understand the uses of the law, but even with them in view I cannot see that we would be justified in saying, “The law still condemns Christians even as the Gospel still saves them.” The Scripture proofs for, “Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned;” (Romans 6:14, Romans 7:4, Galatians 2:16, Galatians 3:13, Galatians 4:4-5, Acts 13:38-39, Romans 8:1,33) seem very clear that we are neither justified or condemned by the Law.

    Maybe I’m simply not following your logic, but to state that the Law in any way condemns the regenerate appears to me, again, to be at the very least an overstatement, if not completely out of accord with our standards and the Scriptures.

    WCF 19:6 – “Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace.

    Maybe some clarification is needed, if only for my benefit.

  26. greenbaggins said,

    January 3, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Doug, I was not reading you as saying that the two unions were identical. I was reading you as saying that both unions partake of the benefits of Christ’s death, resurrection, etc., and that you had not made any distinction as to which benefits one type of union gets, and which type of benefits the other type of union gets. Boil it down to this question: what benefits precisely and exactly do non-decretally-elect members of the visible church receive? If they receive stuff that normally goes by the name of ordo salutis benefits, then what is the categorical distinction between the ordo as the elect receives it, and the ordo as the non-elect receives it? THIS is the question that has bothered critics since 2001, and which I have yet to see any modicum of satisfactory answer on.

  27. greenbaggins said,

    January 3, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    Danny, all I wish to affirm by my statement is that the law still functions in its first use for the Christian. The law is no longer our enemy when we are in Christ. It is our friend. But that is because we see its first use as continually driving us back to Christ, in addition to its third use.

  28. greenbaggins said,

    January 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Jeff, bdthdthdthdthdth!

  29. Danny said,

    January 3, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks Lane…this clears things up for me.

  30. Pete Myers said,

    January 3, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Lane,

    In full recognition of my miserable spiritual idiocy by comparison to you guys (I mean that with sincerity), I have looked very carefully at the WCF 7, 19 and WLC 99, and am not convinced Lane… perhaps you can help?

    Aside from many of the excellent arguments Samuel Bolton gives against this idea in his little treatise “The True Bounds of Christian Freedom”, I just can’t see how your confession allows you to say that the Mosaic Economy was a mixture of the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.

    WCF chapter 7
    Sections 2 and 3 very clearly seem to distinguish between the CoW and the CoG, as being two periods in history.
    Section 5 seems to very clearly state that “the time of the law” was an administration of the CoG… this is absolutely where I would expect the Confession to state that the CoW had been mixed with the CoG – but it doesn’t.

    WCF chapter 19
    Section 1: The Law seems to me to be a distinct category from the CoW here:
    “God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works…”
    The Law is not in itself a Covenant of Works – but it was given to Adam as a Covenant of Works.
    Section 2: The Law didn’t continue as a Covenant of Works, but, “continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness”… it was in this capacity that it was delivered at Sinai.

    This seems to be explicitly stated in section 6: “Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned;” Which is why Exodus 20v2 is of such crucial importance – the fact that Israel are being treated as a saved, believing, people, means that they’re being given the Law as a rule of righteousness, not as a Covenant of Works.

    WLC chapter 99
    I can’t see how this supports the thesis that the 10 commandments are the Covenant of Works – the simplest and most basic reason is, that nothing, either blessing or curse, is described in this chapter. It’s simply stating the fixed and abiding requirement that God’s Law puts on all men.

    I may have got muddled somewhere (I have lots already), but this is the way things appear to me:

    1) Everything the CoW promised, is actually delivered in the CoG.
    2) The “Law of God” – i.e. the righteous requirement that stems from God’s nature is the same in the CoW and the CoG.
    3) The difference between the CoW and the CoG is the way that righteous requirement is met in each instance, in order for what’s promised to be delivered.

    You can’t possibly have the CoW without the Law of God… but that doesn’t mean that the Law of God is the CoW, because neither can you have the CoG without the Law of God.

    A really poor illustration of this, but which may help to communicate what I’m saying, would be that the Law of God is the design of the chassis for my Vauxhall Zafira. The CoW is a petrol engine that drives the chassis, the CoG is a hydrogen fuel cell electric motor that drives the chassis. If I have a petrol Zafira, and Reed has a hydrogen Zafira, … you can’t look at my car first, and then at Reed’s, and conclude that Reed’s car is a mixture of petrol and hydrogen, because it shares the same chassis.

    How am I misreading the confession?

    (Oh, and, a happy new year to everyone!)

  31. rfwhite said,

    January 3, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Pete Myers, what do you hear being said when someone says that Israel was under a covenant of works (modified to be compatible with the covenant of grace)?

  32. Pete Myers said,

    January 4, 2009 at 8:21 am

    #31,

    These aren’t complete or perfect definitions, but they get to the substance for this particular issue, I think:

    By CoW, I hear: “A covenant whereby God graciously promises to give man blessing, if man truly obeys in his nature, from the heart, in perfection, forever.”

    By CoG, I hear: “A covenant whereby God graciously promises to give man blessing, if someone else on behalf of man, truly obeys in his nature, from the heart, in perfection, forever.”

    So, as Bolton points out: never, ever, ever, could a fallen human being, or people, be married to God in a Covenant of Works – it just wouldn’t be possible.

    So, to illustrate some of my confusion… over here in the UK, people who have no connection with the Federal Vision in any way, who think of themselves as “Reformed” would exegete Leviticus 18v5 by saying that the verse isn’t holding out the promise of eternal life for a strict 100% obedience to God’s Law. Rather, v3 and v4 are used in distinction from each other and are describing those who are repentant – i.e. trying to live by God’s statutes and rules, not by Egypt’s, or Canaan’s.

    Similar reasoning applies to Deuteronomy 28v1… being called to “faithfully obey” is not being called to “live perfectly”, it’s describing the obedience that comes from faith. Hence – when the prophets called down the judgement of the Mosaic covenant on the people of Israel – it was not because, despite their best efforts, they weren’t obeying God perfectly, it was always because they’d abandoned God completely – and were clearly, visibly, demonstrating a total lack of faith in God.

    The example of David is a good one – God says this to Solomon: “And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.” (1 Kings 3v14)

    David was a murderer, serial adulterer, liar, …. and obviously he was by nature sinful every day of his life. There’s simply no way he could be described as “keeping God’s statutes and commandments” if God’s “statutes and commandments” was a Covenant of Works.

    Now, please don’t shout me down, call me a heretic, tell me that what I’ve said is the theological equivalent of “trying to kiss your wife”, or some of the other absurd stuff I’ve heard here… this is what some influential conservative evangelical people are teaching in the UK with – I’ll say it again – no connection with the FV in any way.

    That’s what I’m “hearing” by Covenant of Works, and that’s why it doesn’t ring true with what had understood to be Reformed theology.

    I’m very willing – and glad – to be shown where I’m wrong and put right.

  33. rfwhite said,

    January 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    32 Pete Myers, it seems to me that the confusion you describe arises because of the need to distinguish between giving blessings and keeping blessings. Israel was given the blessings of residence in the land according to the exemplary obedience of another (namely, Abraham), not an obedience of their own. Israel kept or lost those blessings of residence in the land according to their own obedience. There was an analogy between Israel and Adam in that the nation received blessings at their creation, but they would have retained those blessings by standing their probation in the land.

    The question that arises is, how, then, do sinners like Adam and Israel both receive and retain the blessings of God? They must find that seed of the woman who is the Last Adam, that seed of Abraham who is the true Israel. As many as believed as father Abraham had believed would receive and retain a better inheritance always and solely on the same basis as he did, namely, Christ’s righteousness imputed to them through faith.

  34. Xon said,

    January 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Lane, it is not entirely accurate to say that your forgiveness of sins argument has gone “unanswered by any FVer.” Admittedly, I am no leader but simply a lowly sympathizer, but I was the best you had to talk to back then. :-)

    http://afterdarkness.blogspot.com/2007/04/anti-fv-challenge-part-vi.html

    As to your use of perichoresis language for the first and third uses of the law, okay. That sounds good. I love me some perichoresis. But Wilson’s own statement that you are criticizing can also be read perichoretically, and so this seems like much ado about nothing.

    I hope all is well with you and yours. (And sorry, but I haven’t read any of the previous comments)

  35. Pete Myers said,

    January 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    #33 rfwhite,

    Thanks for your answer. It brings some light, but some confusion. I think I understand more clearly your case for the analogy between Adam and Israel, but the analogy seems limited… let me briefly explain

    The question that arises is, how, then, do sinners like Adam and Israel both receive and retain the blessings of God? They must find that seed of the woman who is the Last Adam, that seed of Abraham who is the true Israel. As many as believed as father Abraham had believed would receive and retain a better inheritance always and solely on the same basis as he did, namely, Christ’s righteousness imputed to them through faith.

    I completely agree with this. But I am left confused by how David, and Abraham, can be described in scripture as obeying the statutes and commands of God if the Law is a Covenant of Works?

    Precisely because I agree with this paragraph of yours, it seems to me that Abraham and David both had the righteousness of Christ attributed to them by faith, which is why they are described as fulfilling the law.

    This is why the analogy between Adam and Israel seems limited. Adam’s probation was dependent on his obedience – that’s how you fulfill a covenant of works, but Israel’s probation was dependent on their faith – that’s how you fulfill a covenant of grace.

  36. greenbaggins said,

    January 4, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Xon, long time, no see! Where in the world have you been?

    Yes, you gave an answer. I guess I was referring to full refutation, rather than a mere questioning of one of my premises. There doesn’t appear to be any basis whereby you can question the particular premise. Let’s put it this way. In order for any forgiveness to happen at all, there has to be some sort of relationship that is positive between forgiver and forgivee. The breach *is* original sin. Original sin is the sin nature inherited from Adam because of his sin, which is the sin that broke the relationship between God and man. There can therefore be no healing of the breach without dealing with the breach. This is why no actual sins can be forgiven without original sin also being forgiven. It is as if God and man are on opposite sides of a huge chasm. Our actual sins are on our side of the chasm. God needs actually to get over to our side of the chasm before he can deal with those sins.

    The delay of punishment cannot be expressed in terms of forgiveness. Hitler lived for several decades, piling up sin upon sin. Was he forgiven simply because he was not summarily executed by God earlier in his life? Of course not. Delay of punishment is not the same as pardon and forgiveness.

  37. rfwhite said,

    January 4, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    35 Pete Myers, the point I am arguing is that Israel’s probation in the land (retention of the land) was not by faith, but according to their works. Faith did not exempt the remnant from exile under the Law.

  38. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 4, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Xon! Good to hear from you. I hope you are well.

    Jeff

  39. Pete Myers said,

    January 4, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    #36 Lane and Xon,

    Comment that I made on Xon’s blog was that there can’t be any legal basis for a temporary forgiveness… regardless of how much is forgiven.

    If Jesus intentionally died for those sins, then, the price is paid forever. If Jesus didn’t intentionally die for them, then, the price is not paid, and there’s no foundation for the forgiveness – at least not the sort of forgiveness you get in the Covenant of Grace.

    So, even if it’s possible to have particular sins forgiven without your original sin being forgiven, you’ve got to move your soteriology into the sort of fudgy indefinite atonement area to make any sense of it. So bare minimum you have to ditch the L in TULIP, and you end up an Amyraldian.

    Xon and I have swapped emails to discuss that, but, I throw it out there for others to chew on.

    #37 rfwhite,

    hmmm… [strokes beard]… ok, I think I’m understanding you.

    I guess there’s still problems I have with this.
    – The prophets, when announcing God’s judgement on the nation as a whole, still seem to be announcing God’s judgement for lack of faith
    – Even if Israel did have to remain in the land by “works”, where is the “standard” set? Actually this alone is a major reason why Bolton doesn’t like the CoW idea in the Mosaic economy.
    – This still doesn’t explain why Abraham and David “walked in the statutes and commandments of God”.

  40. rfwhite said,

    January 4, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    39 Pete Myers, thanks for the interaction. Here are some more thoughts.

    You say, “the prophets, when announcing God’s judgement on the nation as a whole, still seem to be announcing God’s judgement for lack of faith.” My response: What prophet do you have in mind? Even so, the point I am arguing is that under the law faith was necessary but it was not sufficient to keep residence in the land–else believing Moses would not have been excluded from Canaan, nor the believing remnant sent into exile (as believing Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden).

    You ask, “Even if Israel did have to remain in the land by ‘works’, where is the ‘standard’ set?” — My response: Your comment is a bit too brief for me to be assured of what you mean to say, so grant me some latitude here. As I see it, the standard was set at Sinai (in the book of the covenant), requiring obedience that is personal, perpetual, and perfect.

    As for Bolton’s misgivings, the nation of Israel was itself a fulfillment of God’s promise to bless Abraham with seed, and the nation’s king was a fulfillment of His promise to bless Abraham with rule, all–please note–as a reward for his exemplary obedience (aka works) (Deut 4:37-38; 7:6-8; 9:4-6; 10:14-15; cf. Gen 22:16-18; 26:4-5; 35:11-12). Moreover, in those same texts, Israel is said to have been given the blessings of exodus from Egypt and entry into Canaan, not because of their own merits, but because of the merits of the fathers, principally Abraham. Simply put, the nation was granted the blessings of exodus and entry initially despite their sin and for the fathers’ sake–not for their own sake. The nation was blessed because of the obedience of one.

    You say, “This still doesn’t explain why Abraham and David ‘walked in the statutes and commandments of God’”. — My response: Bear with me because I need more context to be assured of what you’re looking for, but here’s how I see Abraham and David (and Noah, for that matter). They were covenant representatives whom God constituted as shadows of Christ. As such, the (exemplary) obedience of Abraham and David to the commandments of God brought temporal blessings to each of them and to their posterity.

    For both Abraham and David and their seeds the temporal blessings as rewards for obedience and the temporal curses as punishments for disobedience, not only express the principle of inheritance by personal merit (aka works) but also go beyond it to express the principle of inheritance by representative merit (aka grace).

    It is certainly true that, when considered apart from Christ and the typological revelation of His person and work before His incarnation, even the best of a sinner’s (e.g., Abraham’s, David’s) works are but filthy rags and so merit not reward but punishment, while the worst of his works merit punishment far beyond that meted out for them in this world. Nevertheless, God dispensed temporal blessings and curses to certain believers–namely, Abraham and David–and their seeds according to the principles of personal and representative merit. These covenantal transactions with Abraham and David foreshadowed to us the benefits of Christ’s administration of the Covenant of Grace.

  41. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 4:52 am

    #40 rfwhite,

    Sorry for being brief, but I’m trying not to post to many irritatingly long comments, usually that doesn’t help in discussion anyway, I’ve found.

    Thanks for your answers. There’s lots I’d like to affirm, and lots of stuff that would be interesting to pick up on and discuss in more detail. Just to assure you – I don’t have any kind of “agenda” here, which you seemed slightly worried about.

    I can’t see the consistency in what you’re saying, so, let me try and highlight a few things you say to illustrate one big way that I’m struggling to harmonise your comments:

    As I see it, the standard was set at Sinai (in the book of the covenant), requiring obedience that is personal, perpetual, and perfect.

    This is the thing I just find hard to swallow. If we take simply your assert that the requirement at Sinai was “perfect” obedience, then there’s lots of ways this doesn’t work out:

    – Why aren’t they thrown out of the land as soon as they’ve settled there?
    – The prophets (by this I mean all of them) rebuked the people and the kings for a lack of fidelity, not for a lack of strict obedience. To put this negatively, it seems that when a king’s “heart was in the right place”, the prophets had nothing to say, and the nation was being blessed – clearly, since all the kings were sinners, the blessing could not be on the basis of perfect obedience then.
    – Another illustration – the Judges cycle. When the people turn away from God, then, he curses them, but when they turn back in faith (e.g. Judges 3v9), he blesses them… again God doesn’t seem to be dealing with the nation on the basis of strict justice here.
    – Abraham and David – if the requirement at Sinai is perfect obedience, then there is no sense in which these two ever came close to “walking in the statutes and commandments of the Lord”. Maybe I misunderstood your point about this?

    Maybe to put my point of view on the front foot a little – because it sounds like you’d appreciate interacting with it. But I can’t see how the way God deals with the nation of Israel is much different to the way Jesus deals with the 7 churches of Revelation 1-2. Jesus is calling the churches back to corporate faithfulness, just like the prophets called the nation of Israel back to corporate faithfulness.

    I admit to being a little confused by Moses not entering the Land. But even then, this seems to be due to a lack of faith, not a failure to be “perfectly obedient”. In fact, that’s the analogy that the writer to the Hebrews draws of the whole generation who died in the wilderness in Hebrews 3-4 – they failed to enter because of unbelief.

  42. rfwhite said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:13 am

    41 Pete Myers, thanks again for the interaction. I’m back to my normal routine, so I may not be able to continue our interaction as readily as I have in recent weeks. Don’t mistake this for lack of interest, etc.; just as lack of time for extended give-and-take. Thanks.

  43. greenbaggins said,

    January 5, 2009 at 11:35 am

    39, Pete, very interesting, and, I think, convincing arguments against any kind of temporary forgiveness. To me it seems to draw out the implications of my position and argument.

  44. January 5, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    […] of the law. In the comments to the previous post, several asked me about what I meant. I will let that reply be my reply to […]

  45. rfwhite said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Pete Myers, you asked, “Why aren’t they thrown out of the land as soon as they’ve settled there?” My response: Because their entry into Canaan was based on the obedience of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not the obedience of the nation. Gen 22:16-18; 26:4-5; 35:11-12; Deut 4:37-38; 7:6-8; 9:4-6; 10:14-15.

    You cite the Judges cycle as indicating that God doesn’t require a perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience. — My response: Actually, in my view, it is quite the opposite. In His commandments, especially as given just before the conquest (in Deut), the Lord had set before Israel the alternative issues of life and death, prosperity and adversity, victory and defeat, possession and dispossession, and He made those issues explicitly dependent on the nation’s own righteousness and unrighteousness (e.g., Deut 30:15-20 with Lev 18:5). The book of Judges shows that the nation, blessed but sinful, did not enjoy a successful probation in the land under the judges because the nation and their leaders were unable to learn obedience as the Law required (Deut 5:1; 6:1-2). Ignorance provoked habitual disobedience. By its demonstration of the progressive “Canaanization” of Israel and the land under the covenant-breaking judges, then, the book confirms that, though blessed in Abraham, the nation and its premonarchical leaders were not morally competent to serve their God and to keep His commandments. Though disqualified from being the righteous seed who would render to God the active and passive obedience that satisfied His Law’s requirements, the Judges cycle shows the Mosaic Covenant functioning as God’s pedagogue to reveal the people’s spiritual inability, while shutting the people up to faith in the redemptive work of a king who will do what that the nation and the judges could not, a king who would be the one true Seed of Abraham from the tribe of Judah.

    More if/as time allows.

  46. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Here are my textual sticking-points for why Israel did not hold the land by a Covenant of Works:

    1. The self-maledictory oath of Gen. 15 was to confirm the possession of the land by Abraham’s seed (who was first and foremost Christ, Gal. 3:16).

    2. The inheritance never came by the law (Gal. 3:18), and that inheritance is the “land,” because a) it is the inheritance that was promised to the seed, and b) in every text where “and to his seed” is used, the land is what is in view.

    3. The righteousness of faith is expressed by exactly the Deuteronomic ratification passage (30:11-14, cf. Rom. 10:6ff).

    Also, I don’t see how the Mosaic economy requires “perfect, personal, and perpetual” obedience, since integral to the Mosaic economy is the sacrifical system, which included, for example, the Day of Atonement, on which the High Priest offered a sacrifice for the since of the nation. So, national Israel received atonement, which is foreign to the CoW.

  47. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    #43 Lane,

    Thanks, the more I interact with you guys, the more I move towards you.

    Ho hum, and onto:
    rfwhite

    #42
    So what you’re implying is – you’re not accountable for my soul, but for the souls of your family and congregation? Now what kind of an attitude is that

    ;)

    #45
    You’re saying lots of stuff I agree with here, actually.

    My issue isn’t them getting into the land, but how they can possibly remain in it for so long (or at all), if their remaining there is on the basis of works?

    The Covenant of Works says

    1 – “when you sin, you die that day”, and
    2 – “unless obedience is perfect, it is no obedience at all”

    But, contra 1 – the Israelites wait generations to see judgement fall.
    And, contra 2 – the Israelites receive some blessings from the Mosaic Economy after their entry into the land… blessings that are because of something in the people of Israel, and not because of Abraham.

    If sinful people are blessed by the Mosaic Covenant at all (I agree that some blessings they receive – e.g. entering the land – are Abrahamic, not Mosaic), then the Mosaic Covenant cannot have the Covenant of Works annexed to it.

    The CoW only brings curse to sinful people.

    Thanks for your interaction on this rfwhite – if someone else wants to pick it up, I’d be all ears.

  48. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    #46,

    since integral to the Mosaic economy is the sacrifical system, which included, for example, the Day of Atonement, on which the High Priest offered a sacrifice for the since of the nation. So, national Israel received atonement, which is foreign to the CoW.

    Amen, and, Amen.

  49. David R. said,

    January 5, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Pete Myers,

    I think this essay would be very helpful to you:

    http://www.crossway.org/product/1581348401/browse/147

  50. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    #49 Thank you David.

    Pete

  51. rfwhite said,

    January 5, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    49 David R., thanks for finding that essay online. Didn’t know it was there. Pete, even if you don’t agree with it, I hope you’ll read it and at least understand where I’m coming from.

  52. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    #51 rfwhite, thanks for your time. It’s really appreciated.

  53. rfwhite said,

    January 5, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    46 Joshua W D Smith, thanks for the good interaction. Here are some thoughts.

    You say, “1. The self-maledictory oath of Gen. 15 was to confirm the possession of the land by Abraham’s seed (who was first and foremost Christ, Gal. 3:16).” — My response: The oath of Gen 15 confirms God’s grant of the land to Abe’s seed. The Mosaic covenant, however, was enacted on the oath of Israel to the Lord (Exod 20:18-21; Deut 5:2-5. The land of Canaan was granted to Israel, as Abe’s physical seed, for the sake of Abraham. That land was a shadow of the heavenly homeland, which was granted to Abe’s righteous seed, one (Christ) and many (His seed, the elect in Him), for the sake of Christ.

    You say, “2. The inheritance never came by the law (Gal. 3:18), and that inheritance is the “land,” because a) it is the inheritance that was promised to the seed, and b) in every text where “and to his seed” is used, the land is what is in view.” — My response: I don’t disagree. The land of Canaan was granted to Israel for the sake of Abe and not for their own sake. As I mentioned above, the land of Canaan, as Abe understood it, was but a shadow of the heavenly homeland granted to him and his sons and daughters in faith, not flesh, for Christ’s sake and not his (Abe’s) own or their own sake.

    You say, “3. The righteousness of faith is expressed by exactly the Deuteronomic ratification passage (30:11-14, cf. Rom. 10:6ff).” — My response: To be sure, Moses did speak of the righteousness of faith in Deut 30, but Paul also teaches that Moses spoke of the righteousness of the law in Lev 18. As I understand it, Paul’s point is that Moses taught the righteousness of the law and the righteousness of faith, knowing that it is the Man who satisfied the Law’s demands who is the true Heir of Abraham. Until such a Man was sent by God, the Law justified no one according to his own works, and the many seed of Abraham came under the Law’s curse and forfeited the earthly inheritance. At the same time, while waiting for God’s Man to come, no one in Israel needed to despair of either justification or inheritance. They needed only to follow in the footsteps of father Abraham who looked to heaven and found a righteousness better than his own and an inheritance better than Canaan.

    You say, “Also, I don’t see how the Mosaic economy requires ‘perfect, personal, and perpetual’ obedience, since integral to the Mosaic economy is the sacrifical system, which included, for example, the Day of Atonement, on which the High Priest offered a sacrifice for the since of the nation. So, national Israel received atonement, which is foreign to the CoW.” — My response: Certainly, you are right that the sacrificial system was integral to the Mosaic economy. If, however, the obedience required by the Law was not to be perfect, perpetual, and personal, I don’t know what to make of all the prescriptions and proscriptions on the worshippers, the priests, the sacrifices, the feasts, and the sanctuary. In other words, it seems evident, to me at least, that the obedience required by the Law after the fall was never merely active but was also passive, and, whether active or passive, it was to be obedience that was personal, perfect, and perpetual.

  54. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    rfwhite, David,

    That essay was one of the most remarkable pieces of Biblical Theology I have ever read. Thank you.

    The writers are in fare more substantial agreement with Samuel Bolton than I would have expected. Bolton is defining terms differently… describing the Covenant of Works as adapted then recapitulated is actually precisely what Bolton means by the Mosaic Covenant being a subservient covenant.

    I now have a myriad of questions though…

    As a British Evangelical Anglican, I feel impoverished theologically, and long for the sweet land of milk and honey that is American Presbyterianism.

  55. Vern Crisler said,

    January 5, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Re: 54

    Pete is learning satire. ;-)

  56. Pete Myers said,

    January 5, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    #55,

    hehe… no seriously, I mean that.

  57. Vern Crisler said,

    January 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    #56,

    Hey, Pete you had J C Ryle, who battled the FVism of his time, the Tractarians. And you had the incomparable Spurgeon, the “Mark Twain” of preaching. (Of course, we had Warfield and Van Til, but that just shows that things even out over time.)

    No need to feel impoverished, except maybe politically, but we’re evening that out too, it seems (sigh).

    Vern

  58. Pete Myers said,

    January 6, 2009 at 4:50 am

    #57, Vern,

    I could have just misunderstood people over here (I seem to do that a lot)…

    But the sort of scholarship you guys are producing is phenomenal, lucid, and clear. I guess the point is, that, I feel I’ve made more theological process by talking to you guys over the internet in the last month, than I have in the last year.

    And the Confession Presbyterian Journal is just like the theological equivalent of freshly ground dark roasted Java.

  59. rfwhite said,

    January 6, 2009 at 8:06 am

    54 Pete Myers, with regard to Samuel Bolton, I must admit that I didn’t interact with your earlier Bolton comments because I couldn’t remember that or how Beisner and I differed significantly from him! I’m glad you saw the likeness too.

  60. David R. said,

    January 6, 2009 at 9:38 am

    #51 Dr. White, I’m glad it’s okay with you that I posted that – it’s one of my favorite essays on the subject. Pete, I’m glad it helped!

  61. Pete Myers said,

    January 6, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Ok…

    I’m back on this Mosaic Economy issue. Can anybody help me with Deuteronomy 30??

    I’m buying lots of this case for the republication position. However… Deuteronomy 30 is one of the biggest bug bears in the back of my mind whenever I flirt with the thought of saying out loud “I hold to the republication position.”

    Clearly 30v1 refers to the blessings that are from the “adapted” CoW.
    1) How does 30v2-10 fit with the CoW republication principle?
    2) What is the “commandment” in Deuteronomy 30v11-14?

    Deuteronomy 30v11-14 feels very much life a proof-text for saying that the commandments are not CoW republished, but CoG.

  62. rfwhite said,

    January 6, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    61 Pete Myers, here is some interaction with your thoughts.

    Moses has just finished preaching on the curses for disobedience in Deut 27 and the blessings for obedience in Deut 28, culminating is an extended warning (“beware,” 29:18-19) about the curses that will come if they continue in the covenant without a new heart. To that audience/generation Moses declared, “to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear” (29.4). Deut 30 begins by contemplating a nation in exile to whom the Law had proven to be a covenant of condemnation, death, and bondage. In other words, Deut 30 reflects on the effects that the administration of the Sinai covenant will have on the people. In summary, the theological portrait that Moses paints is of a people to whom the Law became a pedagogue that revealed their spiritual inability (bondage, incompetence) and that drove them in repentance to the Lord, the God of their fathers. To them, Moses says, the Lord will have given a new (circumcised) heart. It is that remnant, freed from the bondage of sin to serve the Lord their God and to keep His commandments, who will obey God’s law from the heart because that law is in fact in/on their heart, even as Moses had taught (Deut 6:6). It is this (many) seed in whom the Promise of the Abrahamic covenant is fulfilled. The burden of the prophets after Moses is to fill in the portrait of the Prophet, greater than Moses (Deut 18), who would lead God’s people to the spiritual liberty of Deut 30:6-10 and who, according to the promise of a better covenant than that which Moses mediated, would write His laws on their hearts and thus provide them the enablement that Moses and the Law could not (Jer 31:31-33; Heb 8:10; 10:16).

  63. rfwhite said,

    January 6, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    61 Pete Myers, a bit more. Deut 30:11ff is thus Moses speaking of the Law as the pedagogue who leads the people to find in the word of Promise/faith the spiritual liberty that he and the Law could not provide. In this way, Moses preaches the righteousness of the law, which is the pedagogue leading us to the righteousness of faith. Or, stated differently, Moses preaches the righteousness of faith as the proper fruit of the pedagogy of the righteousness of the law.

  64. Xon said,

    January 7, 2009 at 12:01 am

    36 Lane and 38 Jeff Cagle, yes, I’ve been busy working a “day” job, pastoring a church, and finishing up my dissertation. I am now “Dr. Xon,” though, so that’s good!

    36 Lane, I add numbers to your argument and quote it below:

    There doesn’t appear to be any basis whereby you can question the particular premise. Let’s put it this way. (1) In order for any forgiveness to happen at all, there has to be some sort of relationship that is positive between forgiver and forgivee. (2) The breach *is* original sin. Original sin is the sin nature inherited from Adam because of his sin, which is the sin that broke the relationship between God and man. (3) There can therefore be no healing of the breach without dealing with the breach. (4) This is why no actual sins can be forgiven without original sin also being forgiven. (5) It is as if God and man are on opposite sides of a huge chasm. Our actual sins are on our side of the chasm. God needs actually to get over to our side of the chasm before he can deal with those sins.

    Now, some thoughts about these, if I may.

    (1) I think this is correct as a principle. But what kind / how much of a “positive” relationship is needed for there to be forgiveness? When a POW forgives his Vietnamese captors, what kind of “positive” relationship do they have? It seems that a positive disposition is sufficient. Some sort of forgiveness is possible so long as the forgiver adopts a positive disposition toward the forgivee, regardless of the forgivee deserving it and regardless of the forgivee having “taken care” of all his other problems or even his deepest problems.

    But this is not just a human realm issue, for God adopts gracious (favorable) dispositions toward creatures, and in fact He even does this for the non-elect (common grace).

    God in fact never “deals with the breach” in an absolute sense for the non-elect, and yet He does adopt a favorable disposition towards them in some sense. If this favorable disposition is not sufficient for God to be able to forgive them of some of their actual sins, then it is not clear why not. In any case, more needs to be said specifying the KIND of favorable disposition (or the something else that must be present in addition to a favorable disposition) in order for forgiveness to become possible.

    Put differently, it is not clear why forgiveness requires the “breach” to be completely healed, when it is certainly possible (in the human realm, even, so how much more must it be possible for God?) to adopt a favorable disposition towards a person sufficient to forgive them for some particular wrong-doing they commit against you, while the major breach for a fully fulfilling relationship remains.

    The problem with (2) – (4) is that the chain of reasoning requires an absolute interpretation at every step in order to be valid. Really, the argument is (1), (2), and (4).

    (I leave (5) off as a separate assertion because it really is simply a re-explanation of the argument already represented by (1) – (4). I leave off (3) because it is not clear how to take it, and it doesn’t seem necessary to the logic of the argument. It is likely also a restatement rather than a premise all its own?).

    In any case, the argument has to work something like this, making (1) – (2) premises and (4) the main conclusion:

    (P1) Forgiveness requires a positive relationship between forgiver and forgivee.
    (P2) Original Sin is a breach between every person and God which cuts off ANY positive relationship between them. (note the absolute interpretation)
    (C1) Therefore, original sin makes it impossible for God to forgive any of a person’s sins, so long as it is not “dealt” with.

    First, it is ambiguous what it meas to “deal with” original sin. Does it mean (a) that original sin is completely removed/disabled? Does it mean (b) that original sin is lessened in its effects, but it can still be present? Then why can’t the NON-ELECT be forgiven, too? Does it mean something else? What?

    Second, if we go with (a), then the argument is not valid–the conclusion does not follow from the premises. For the fact that original sin cuts off all positive relationship with God does not mean that it has to be completely removed/disabled in order for SOME positive relationship with God to be restored. Furthermore, the conclusion is costly if it means (a). For if Original Sin has to be completely removed/disabled then the ELECT are not forgiven in the here and now.

    But if we go with (b) then the argument doesn’t work, either. Now it does have the virtue of being valid–the conclusion does follow from the premises. If Original Sin destoys all positive relationship with God, then in order to get even SOME positive relationship back Original Sin must be weakened/lessened somehow. But, on this argument, it is not clear why the NON-ELECT cannot have their original sin weakend/lessened, too. Not as much as the elect, perhaps, but enough to be forgiven for some of their actual sins. Why not? It’s not in the logic of the argument.

    The delay of punishment cannot be expressed in terms of forgiveness. Hitler lived for several decades, piling up sin upon sin. Was he forgiven simply because he was not summarily executed by God earlier in his life? Of course not. Delay of punishment is not the same as pardon and forgiveness.

    But of course, I agreed in my blog comment back then that a repreive and forgiveness are not identical concepts. But I also said that Biblically these things don’t come to us that clearly distinguished, and in any case they are of a similar KIND which is really the primary thrust of my point. When God allows a non-elect sinner to live one more day, that might not be forgiveness but it is at least a reprieve, an unmerited suspension of God’s full justice on that person. It is not clear why this would be possible without first “dealing” with original sin, but forgiveness would be impossible. What is the difference between one form of suspension of divine justice on an unworhty sinner and another, in regards to the lingering presence and effects of original sin?

  65. David Gadbois said,

    January 7, 2009 at 2:56 am

    Xon said But what kind / how much of a “positive” relationship is needed for there to be forgiveness? When a POW forgives his Vietnamese captors, what kind of “positive” relationship do they have? It seems that a positive disposition is sufficient. Some sort of forgiveness is possible so long as the forgiver adopts a positive disposition toward the forgivee

    But it is not necessarily true that a positive disposition proves, presupposes, or entails the existence of forgiveness. I may have other legitimate motivations behind my positive disposition toward someone who has sinned against me other than forgiveness. So this, alone, can’t prove anything.

    If this favorable disposition is not sufficient for God to be able to forgive them of some of their actual sins, then it is not clear why not.

    Just as a simple matter of fact, God does not forgive the sins because the just punishment due those sins is not taken away, only postponed for a later time. Unless we are Open Theists and we believe that this is just God changing his mind. That is why we know God *does not* forgive the nonelect.

    God is just, so cannot forgive by fiat or whim. There must be a *legal basis* for forgiveness. That is how we know God *cannot* forgive the nonelect.

    t is not clear why forgiveness requires the “breach” to be completely healed, when it is certainly possible (in the human realm, even, so how much more must it be possible for God?) to adopt a favorable disposition towards a person sufficient to forgive them for some particular wrong-doing they commit against you, while the major breach for a fully fulfilling relationship remains.

    But our inability to fill the ‘major breach for a fully fulfilling relationship’ is a creaturely weakness. Both our indwelling sin and finitude play into it. Our forgiveness will always be half-cocked, feeble, and a pale reflection of divine forgiveness. We do not always act consistently with forgiveness we give others, while God does. Otherwise there would be no impediment to a ‘fully fulfilling relationship.’

    We also don’t need a legal basis for our forgiveness of others, since we can set aside the sins of others knowing that God is the one to repay them (either on the cross or by temporal curses and/or damnation). ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay.’ God’s execution of justice is sufficient legal basis for us to forgive others.

    It is also a little unclear how you would characterize human forgiveness of ‘particular’ offense vs. forgiveness of the ‘fully restored’ variety. Wouldn’t it be sin to selectively forgive only some of the offenses of another? Or to ‘forgive’ in a half-hearted, inconsistent, or incomplete way? What, then is the distinction here?

    (P2) Original Sin is a breach between every person and God which cuts off ANY positive relationship between them. (note the absolute interpretation)

    This is both a false and unnecessary interpretation of Lane’s premise. Original sin is a breach which cuts off a *right* relationship with God. You are substituting relational issues for the legal/moral issue. How very postmodern of you, Xon. No one who affirms common grace would say there is no positive relationship between God and the nonelect sinner.

    First, it is ambiguous what it meas to “deal with” original sin. Does it mean (a) that original sin is completely removed/disabled? Does it mean (b) that original sin is lessened in its effects, but it can still be present? Then why can’t the NON-ELECT be forgiven, too? Does it mean something else? What?

    Since you have apparently been spending more time imbibing Wittgenstein rather than Reformed theologians, it is no wonder you are so lost. Lane means that original sin needs to be judicially paid for, by the blood of the Lamb, in the divine courtroom. Justification. So neither your (a) nor (b), so let’s skip ahead a few paragraphs.

    I agreed in my blog comment back then that a repreive and forgiveness are not identical concepts. But I also said that Biblically these things don’t come to us that clearly distinguished

    Distinguished ontologically or epistemologically (our human recognition of ontological realities in particular instances and people)? You will have to provide an argument if you mean the former.

    in any case they are of a similar KIND which is really the primary thrust of my point.

    Everyone would admit of similarities between the two, but what does it mean to be a similar ‘kind’? Forgiveness is an apple and reprieve is an orange. They are the same ‘kind’ in that they are both fruit. So, what is this overarching category (‘fruit’) that both subcategories belong to? What are the key continuities that justify placing both into this overarching category?

    When God allows a non-elect sinner to live one more day, that might not be forgiveness but it is at least a reprieve, an unmerited suspension of God’s full justice on that person. It is not clear why this would be possible without first “dealing” with original sin, but forgiveness would be impossible. What is the difference between one form of suspension of divine justice on an unworhty sinner and another

    It is not ‘suspension’ in the case of the elect. A thoroughgoing payment of a debt does not mean the debt is ‘suspended.’ It is *satisfied*.

    Xon, while you were gone I think you forgot all the basics of the Gospel of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, and justification of sinners.

    As for the reprieve given to the nonelect, why does this require a legal basis (as the case of forgiveness would)? You are not clear on how or why you think the original sin of the non-elect needs to be ‘dealt with.’ It is dealt with, only at a later time. The just reward due to their sin still stands, and will be completely repayed by their future suffering. There is no violence done to the demands of divine justice by the execution of retributive justice on God’s timetable. There is nothing fundamental to divine justice that says that retribution must be immediate.

    You say that the suspension of justice to the nonelect is an ‘unmerited suspension’, which is true. But it is unclear to me what that buys you. That does not mean the suspension was either motivated by or constituted by forgiveness, or some nebulous notion of quasi-forgiveness you may have.

  66. Pete Myers said,

    January 7, 2009 at 4:53 am

    #62, #63, Dr White,

    Thank you, that’s very helpful. I feel a bit of an idiot, now, as all you’ve just done is apply the categories that I know exist to the text in order to explain it. But why I didn’t do that myself I don’t know.

    Deuteronomy 30v1-10 while being “eschatological” for the Israelites, is presumably also “immediate”. In other words – by describing what the Law is going to do as a pedagogue in generations to come, Moses is telling them to learn the lesson themselves, right now, and have faith/repentance now… and it is this immediacy of the chance for faith-righteousness, which he then presses home in 30v11-14.

    “Therefore,” says Moses (to paraphrase 30v15), “See, I have set before you today life and good – life and good that can be obtained by simple repentance and faith, bringing you into the righteousness of the Law in spite of your hard and obstinate hearts. I have also set before you death and evil – a death and evil that you will fall into if you don’t demonstrate the righteousness of this law by your actions (which you won’t and can’t, therefore, have life through faith)”

    Am I on the right lines now? Thanks for your interaction with me on this.

  67. Xon said,

    January 7, 2009 at 8:25 am

    62 David G., I wasn’t talking about what would GUARANTEE forgiveness happening. I was talking about what was prerequisite for it to become POSSIBLE. This was the way Lane framed things in his own argument, and I was responding in the same terms. Lane says there must be some kind of “positive relationship” for forgiveness to happen (notice, this does not have to be read as the former guaranteeing or entailing that forgiveness happens, but simply that it makes forgiveness possible). I then explored a bit what kind of “positive relationship” is sufficient to render forgiveness possible, and it seems to me that a positive disposition does the trick. It certainly does in various human-human cases of forgiveness. And so God surely shouldn’t have any trouble forgiving with the same prerequisite being met.

    As to nitpicking “suspension,” you can choose another word if you like but clearly they are similar in kind regardless. God holds back the flood waters of His righteous justice on both elect and non-elect. For the non-elect, He does not hold them back forever, and for the elect He does. On this we all agree. But the question is, on what basis can God hold back the flood waters for EITHER person (elect or non-elect), whether permanently or only temporarily, whether the flood waters are disappeared altogether or whether they eventually crash down on the person at a later time, if original sin has not been “dealt with?”

  68. rfwhite said,

    January 7, 2009 at 9:59 am

    66 Pete Myers, fundamentally, I would agree: though Moses was reflecting in Deut 30 on a generation of the nation in exile, his lesson for the conquest generation in front of him would be essentially the same. The lesson might be summarized like this: “The law, with its requirement of righteousness, is a pedagogue that the Lord gave us to teach us sinners about the righteousness of faith. He who has the ears, eyes, and heart, let him hear, see, and understand what the Spirit says through the pedagogue appointed for us.” It seems to me that this is suggestive as to how the Mosaic covenant, though it is (arguably at least) a modified covenant of works, is an administration of the covenant of grace.

  69. Pete Myers said,

    January 7, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Xon,

    Can I push you for some sort of answer to the question I had about temporary forgiveness?

    If temporary forgiveness really is forgiveness, then, on what basis does that forgiveness stand? For God to “forgive” does not mean to “leave unpunished”. If these sins of non-elect visible covenant members are paid for by Jesus on the cross – then why aren’t they forgiven eternally? It these sins of non-elect visible covenant members are not paid for by Jesus on the cross, then we’re no longer talking about forgiveness here – but a temporary reprieve.

    Can I also push you on your answer to Lane?

    You have said to Lane, that, NEVCMs have some sins forgiven, but not their sinful nature. The flow of the discussion between the two of you has been whether it’s possible to have some sins forgiven, without your original sinful nature being forgiven.

    But, aside from whether it’s possible… I simply can’t see, in any of the passages that you would use to show that NECVMs that there is any qualification about the type, or amount, of sin being forgiven. No matter the particular distinction that you’re drawing. Take the (now seemingly infamous, hehe) way of arguing this from Ephesians 1. If I say this is true of all the members of the covenant:

    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, – Eph 1v7

    Then:
    (a) either it means what it says – “our trespasses are forgiven” (i.e. all of our trespasses) – for everyone.
    (b) or it only means the acts of trespass, but not our sinful nature for everyone.
    (c) or it means (a) for the ECM, and (b) for the NEVCM.

    I would say that (b) and (c) are the only options you can take here if you want to say that the NEVCMs have what Ephesians 1 says everyone in the covenant has. But (b) is quite troublesome, and means that this passage isn’t offering assurance for anyone in the church, and (c) is inconsistent – it’s special pleading.

  70. Pete Myers said,

    January 7, 2009 at 10:18 am

    #68 Dr White,

    Thanks.

    I think I’m getting to grips with the position then. I’m still at the stage where I haven’t bitten down on it hard. Let me just run something else by you. When we think about what the Law requires, is it possible to distinguish:

    1) The pedagogical goal of the Mosaic Law.
    2) The legal requirement of the Mosaic Law for eternal life.
    3) The legal requirement of the Mosaic Law for temporary blessing.

    Clearly (1) is faith in Jesus Christ. And (2) must be perfect, persistent pervasive obedience from the nature of my heart to every action and thought. However (3) does not have to be a standard set at (2).

    In fact, as long as (3) is a standard which is not obtainable, then, the Law still serves it’s function of (1) by showing us that (2) is impossible. In the way the Law works out through history, (3) feels more like “essentially faithful obedience”. Which would explain why Israel do receive some temporal blessings from the Law, despite the fact that nobody in Israel ever performed one truly righteous work.

  71. Stephen Welch said,

    January 9, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Pete, in # 30 regarding Westminster Confession chapter 7 and 19 you stated to Lane that you were not convinced. Can you elaborate for me what the disagreement is with him. I am asking for my own clarification. Thank you, I appreciate it.

  72. Stephen Welch said,

    January 9, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    By the way, Pete I concur with your assesment of the covenant of works in # 30. The covenant of works is distinct from the covenant of grace. The covenant of works is not the same thing as the law, which was given at Sinai. I believe this is where the confusion lies in this discussion.

  73. Pete Myers said,

    January 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    #71, Stephen,

    Lane is arguing that the WCF, and WLC teach a republication position of the CoW in the Mosaic Law.

    I’m agnostic, having decided that this is the single hardest and most complicated area of Biblical Theology I’ve ever discovered. For years I’ve equivocated on the issue of the Mosaic Law. Partly because I don’t feel lots of the different sides really appreciate the weaknesses in their own positions.

    To totally misquote a well know saying “I’m keeping my mind open for the same reason I keep my mouth open – waiting for something solid to enter for me to close it upon.”

  74. Reed Here said,

    January 9, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    No. 68, Dr. White, appreciate the way you put this. Thanks.

  75. Stephen Welch said,

    January 9, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Pete in reference to number 73 I would disagree with Lane. The confession of faith teaches no such thing. I graduated from a reformed seminary and never heard this taught by my professors. I never heard this view until recently and find it to be confusing and problematic. It is being promoted in a book written by two professors.

  76. Stephen Welch said,

    January 9, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Correction on my last entry: three professors not two.

  77. Stephen Welch said,

    January 9, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Quesion 99 of the Larger Catechism is dealing with the moral law, not the covennant of works. Chapters 7 and 19 of the catechism are dealing with the administration of the covenant of grace. Their was no provision for blessing under the covenant of works or mediator; therefore God brought in a 2nd covenant the covenant of grace.

  78. Pete Myers said,

    January 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    #77, Stephen,

    I, also, had been working with a paradigm that saw the “Moral Law” as an entity that could be distinguished from the “Covenant of Works” and the “Mosaic Covenant”.

    Clearly the “Moral Law” is tightly interconnected and involved in these covenants. But I too find it problematic to conflate the different categories.

  79. Todd said,

    January 9, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    Some of the confusion here is not distinguishing true saving grace from a simple gracious act of providence, or in other words, a picture (typology) of saving grace (Exodus) verses actual saving grace (gospel). Though God in his good and gracious providence and power saved Israel from Egypt, that is not saving grace. The indicative/imperative pattern in the Ten Commandments is a picture of the gospel, but it is not the gospel. There is no true grace to obey where the Spirit is not poured out. It is not true saving grace to command stiff-necked people to circumcise their own hearts (Deut 10:16), when they are unable to do so. They could not obey the Law out of grace because the Law itself did not give true saving grace, nor could the animal sacrifices. And when the Apostles summarized the Law’s effect on them, the Law wasn’t seen as a grateful, joyous response to salvation, but a burden too great to bear.

    “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10)

    If you say the Law’s purpose was to drive people to Christ to fulfill it for them, then you are saying the Law is a covenant of works. If the Law was only an administration of grace, there is no first purpose of the Law, and then Rom 7 and Gal 3 make no sense, as well as the imputation of the active obedience of Christ.

    Todd

  80. Lauren Kuo said,

    January 9, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    I observed in the Joint Statement on the Law and the Gospel that the writers refer to the time of the law as the old covenant era and the gospel as the time when “we enter our maturity as God’s people”. What this implies to me is that there is no “second or new birth” that Jesus requires in John 3 – only a maturity of the old – which is more obedience to the law.

    Jesus said you can’t put a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment and a worse tear results. Nor can you put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wineskins burst, and the new wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined. But that is what FV theology does with the Law and the Gospel. They view the Gospel as the old wine coming to maturity (greater obedience to the law) instead of the Gospel being the new wine requiring a new birth.

    Paul states in 2 Cor. 5:17 that if anyone is in Christ he is NOT A PERSON WHO HAS COME TO MATURITY but A NEW CREATURE; the OLD HAS PASSED AWAY; BEHOLD NEW THINGS HAVE COME.

    The Federal Vision is just another form of Judaism. They cannot acknowledge the Covenant of Works in the OT; they only acknowledge their own form of the Covenant of Grace for both Old and New Testament – a form which is another gospel. The FV is in reality Judaism dressed up in New Testament clothes. It’s a failed attempt to put old wine (the Law and works) into new wineskins (the Gospel and grace); the result is the new wine pours out and you are left with nothing but ruined wineskins – no grace – no forgiveness – no Spirit- no new life – no Christ.

  81. jared said,

    January 10, 2009 at 12:29 am

    So, the FV is arminian-like, and now it’s “dressed up Judaism”? Good grief.

  82. Elder Hoss said,

    January 10, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Charles Haddon Spurgeon once stated that faithful gospel preaching will sound Calvinistic one Lord’s Day, and Arminian another. Lloyd-Jones himself chose to co-pastor with his Arminian brother G. Campbell Morgan, reasoning that “Calvinism is NOT the gospel” but rather explains why anyone believes the gospel, ultimately.

    The fact of the matter is, contra the TULIP warpath crowd, faithful preaching and theologizing will have equivocation, in some instances, glaringly so (note Dabney’s article “God’s Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy…”).

    This is all part of the now/not yet dynamic, intrinsic to our limitations as creatures, and also attributable to the fact that the very FORM of the Scriptures themselves is not one of a Dutch Algebra textbook.

    This ruffles the hen feathers of some litigious, contemporary Calvinists seeking heretics under very rock.

    So be it.

  83. Vern Crisler said,

    January 10, 2009 at 11:04 am

    #79
    Ditto, Todd.

    It’s nice to hear good Reformed SYSTEMATIC theology, rather than equivocal, unsystematic FV theology.

    Vern

  84. Stephen Welch said,

    January 10, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Let me assure brothers that I do sympathize with FV or affirm its view of the covenants. Perhaps if we could stick to one topic and define our terms it would be helpful.

  85. Stephen Welch said,

    January 10, 2009 at 11:41 am

    Todd are you saying that their was no mediator under the covenant of grace? What about under the covenant of works? Certainly the law is not the gospel, they are two distinct things but there are promises in the law. Yes as the WCOF teaches the law drives us to Christ, but the law is not the covenant of works or we would be justified by works.

  86. Lauren Kuo said,

    January 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    #82 Elder Hoss,

    Are you saying that there is no difference between a “Calvinist seeking heretics under every rock” and a “Spirit filled Christian who is directed by God to test and prove all things and hold fast to that what is true “? Can you show me in Scripture where that is true?

    Are you also saying that in this life we can never really know the Truth because we all are part of what you call the “now/not yet dynamic”? Jesus said we could know the Truth and by knowing the Truth, we would be set free. According to your “dynamic”, is Jesus saying you can’t know the truth now – maybe some but not all – but you will when you get to Heaven? So, right now we have to live in bondage?

    You seem to think that I am part of the “TULIP warpath crowd”. How do you know? Because I attempt to base my views on Scripture?

    #81 My answer is yes. Besides good grief, can you show me in Scripture where I am wrong?

  87. Todd said,

    January 10, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Stephen,

    Wow – someone actually admitting they affirm FV, it is actually refreshing.

    You asked, “are you saying that their was no mediator under the covenant of grace?”

    Christ was the mediator of the Covenant of grace, Moses was the mediator of the Law to Israel, but I assume you are asking more.

    “the law is not the covenant of works or we would be justified by works.”

    The Law is not *the* original covenant of works, which could save if fulfilled by Adam, but it is a covenant of works to demonstrate to Israel their utter sinfulness and need for a righteousness outside of themselves. To say the Law was meant to drive them to Christ is to say it was a works arrangement that they could not fulfill.

    Todd

  88. jared said,

    January 10, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Lauren Kuo (#86),

    No, I can’t. Scripture only talks about Christianity and Judaism, not Calvinism or FV. But if you want to bring up a particular Scriptural point rather than just make broad and baseless generalizations, then maybe we can see where that leads.

    I noticed that you quoted 2 Cor. 5:17 but this was on account of what the Joint Statement implies to you rather than what it actually says or means. So, again, if you care to have any sort of meaningful or fruitful discussion then I am all ears and eyes. Perhaps you should try engaging the FV without putting on your FV-is-heretical-no-matter-what-they-say glasses? Just a thought, I completely understand if you don’t want to.

  89. Stephen Welch said,

    January 10, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    My apologies. I made a huge error in # 84. It was my intention to say, “I do not sympathize with or affirm the Federal Vision.” I sometimes have difficulty with the small print (yes I am over 40 and so are some of you) and I did not see the “no” missing, so the jokes on me. What a real mistake to make. :-)

  90. Ron Henzel said,

    January 10, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Elder Hoss,

    Long time, no see. About this “TULIP warpath crowd”: do they wear any special face paint or have any ceremonial dances that might tip us off on their identity?

    You wrote (contra whoever they are): “…faithful preaching and theologizing will have equivocation, in some instances, glaringly so.” You make that sound like a good thing. I didn’t quite get that out of Dabney’s article.

    But it’s nice to know you’re still around to occasionally lob one of your hand grenades of wisdom into an otherwise candidness-challenged discussion. I miss that sometimes. Really.

  91. Pete Myers said,

    January 10, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    People!!!!

    Can we please keep away from the FV mud slinging? In both directions?

    On the Law/Gospel discussion, let’s see a fuzzy grey line from:

    1) People who affirm that the Mosaic Law is purely the Covenant of Works
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    2) People who think the Mosaic Law is purely the Covenant of Grace

    Let me say, that, There aren’t just two positions. For starters, the non-FV here are actually at a range of different positions toward the (1) end (with nobody actually at 1, though I could be wrong). While the FV are at the (2) end (with some at 2, I think).

    Having said that: Stephen is not FV, but is closer to 2 than to 1. Lots of Reformed Evangelical Anglicans in the UK, who have read nothing of the FV are closer to 2 than to 1.

    The discussion between Lane and Doug at this particular point, is – it seems to me – a discussion where lots of traditionally Reformed people would not necessarily agree with Lane. So let’s be careful here. The lines aren’t drawn as clearly as they are in other parts of the discussion.

    Aside from the fact that, just making assertions about the FV achieves nothing, other than possibly making yourself feel a little better, and maybe making Jared (and sometimes me) feel a little beaten up.

  92. Ron Henzel said,

    January 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Stephen,

    I am reminded of the famous “Wicked Bible” of 1631, which got its name when the royal printers in London accidentally left the word “not” out of Exodus 20:14. That little omission cost them a £300 fine and their printer’s license. I think that the embarrassment of having to admit you’re over 40, however, will be punishment enough for you.

  93. Ron Henzel said,

    January 10, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Pete,

    Fuzzy doesn’t work for me. If it did, I’d be able to drive without my glasses.

  94. Stephen Welch said,

    January 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks, Ron for your gracious spirit. Yes, what an expensive error to make. The kind of print that is used here will cause us all to go blind, :-)

  95. Pete Myers said,

    January 10, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    #93,

    Fuzzy doesn’t work for me either, but the world isn’t the black and white place I’d like it to be.

    Shame…

  96. Lauren Kuo said,

    January 10, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Jared #88,

    Are you saying that Scripture has nothing to say about FV theology?! That we are not to put its teaching up to the light of Scripture? Are you saying that FV theology and Calvinism are not Christianity? If neither one is Christian theology, then, what are they? If neither one of these systems of theology is Christian, then why should I subscribe or defend either one of them?

    Do you see the problem many of us have with the Federal Vision? It claims to be biblical doctrine in harmony with both Scripture and the Confession, and yet we are supposed to just take the word of a few men without any proof from Scripture. Why should we? Is that reasonable?

    To be charitable, let me quote 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV and NIV without the FV addition. If you want other English translations, I can give those at your request:

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come.

    Now here is what I believe is the special FV translation, using their own words from the Joint Statement on the Federal Vision:
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a person who has come to maturity as one of God’s people; the old is not gone, it has just reached its maturity in the Gospel.

    Please note that the FV never appears to use the term “new” to refer to the New Covenant or the New Testament. Because if they did, that would topple their house of theological cards. In their view, there is only one covenant that they believe reaches its maturity in the Gospel. There is no covenant of works in their system.

    It seems to me that you want me to instead engage the FV with “the FV-is-not-heretical-no-matter-what-they-say glasses”. Yet, you give me no Biblical basis for doing so.

    Is the Federal Vision heretical? Yes, I believe it is. Why? Because when I hold up its teachings through the “lens” of Scripture, I see another gospel which Paul says is no gospel at all. Does the emperor really have new clothes? This little child of God says no – the emperor is naked – not only does he not have new clothes – he doesn’t have any clothes on at all.

    “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7a).
    “You say ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:17-18).

  97. Ron Henzel said,

    January 10, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Pete,

    On your comment #95: regardless of where various people are on this issue—be they Reformed Evangelical Anglicans or whatever—there is a well-established, historic Reformed position on this issue that goes back to the early years of covenant theology. I thought this was rendered obvious in the comments to Lane’s “Finally, a Contradiction!” post, but if you’re looking for clearly-drawn lines I highly recommend beginning with a careful reading of Herman Witsius’s (1636-1708) discussion of the relationship between the Mosaic Law and the Covenant of Works that kicked off the comments section there. You can follow the very un-fuzzy black-and-white line from Witsius, through Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758; see his “History of Redemption,” IV.III in Works, 1:547-548), Charles Hodge (1797-1878; see his Systematic Theology, 2:374-376), Herman Bavinck (1854-1921; see his Reformed Dogmatics, 3:219-228), and Louis Berkhof (1873-1957; see his Systematic Theology, 297-299). People who think either that the Mosaic Law is “purely” CoW or “purely” CoG are outside the Reformed tradition and are (whether they realize it or not) ultimately opponents of covenant theology.

    So I disagree with your assertion that “traditionally Reformed people” would disagree with Lane on this point, unless you define “traditionally Reformed” in some sense other than those who adhere to tradition Reformed doctrine (e.g.: people who attend traditional Reformed churches, etc.). In that case, I suppose anything goes. None of this was done in a corner, and it is a sad testimony to the neglect of historical theology that so many today find the notion that the Mosaic Law was an administration of the Covenant of Grace that contained a republication of the Covenant of Works “controversial.”

    Just because a lot of people like to color outside the lines doesn’t meant printers must stop making coloring books with lines in them. And just because a lot of people have chosen to disagree with the clear black-and-white lines of the classic Reformed teaching doesn’t mean we must now blur our vision and pretend it’s fuzzy. The lines we’ve been discussing have existed for centuries. If they hadn’t this entire discussion would have been purely theoretical and probably fictional. Of course, that would suit some folks just fine.

  98. Todd said,

    January 10, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Pete, regarding # 91

    First, Lauren has a right to express her opinion that FV is heresy. Look up the definition of heresy in a dictionary. You may not agree FV fits, but it is a valid view. Among us non-FVers, some believe it is error, some heresy, though the line between the two isn’t always clear.

    Secondly, no non-FVer here has claimed that the Mosaic law is purely a covenant of works. Only a classic dispensationalist like Scofield would claim such a thing. We all (bi-covenantalists) believe that the OT believer was saved by faith alone via the covenant of grace, and also that the Mosaic covenant served as a temporary administration to advance the purposes of the covenant of grace. There is only debate what to call it and if it worked on the typological level also.

    The question is – did the Law require perfect obedience? The classic reformed answer is “yes.” Thus it was a works arrangement laid upon Israel to drive her to Christ

    John Murray explained it well here:

    “Christ was born under the Mosaic Law. He was subjected to its conditions and fulfilled its terms…consequently he redeemed from the relative and provisional bondage of which the Mosaic economy was the instrument…In other words, it is the active and passive obedience of Christ that is the price of this redemption; active and passive obedience because he was made under law, fulfilled all the requirements of righteousness and met all the sanctions of justice.
    (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, pg.45)

  99. Reed Here said,

    January 10, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Peter: does this summary help?

    1. The Mosaic Law is not formally the CoW. It was not intended as a second “bite at the apple” (i.e., the CoW pre-fall), as if it really were the intention that it could be satisfied.

    2. Rather it is a re-publication of the terms of the CoW. That is, it is an expression of the structure, conditions, and rewards of the CoW, but not for the purpose of setting forth another formal opportunity for man to pursue blessing under the CoW.

    3. The Mosaic Law was an administration of the CoG. This is not to say it was co-extensive with the structure, conditions and terms of the CoG. It itself was not equal, on a point by point basis, with the CoG. It was an aspect, an expression intended to serve a particular function in the CoG.

    4. That is, it served the pedagogic purpose, that of showing one his utter helplessness and sin, and thereby drive him to express faith in the Promised Redeemer.

    I think, more or less, most of the FV critics here agree with this summary.

    One of the problems we have with the FV is that while it will agree with no. 1, may disagree with no. 2, accepts no. 4, it adjusts no. 3 so as to flatten the distinctions. That is, the FV tends to absolutive the ML, making it co-extensive with the CoG.

    In this sense, the FV looks as the ML as an expression of the CoG, whose terms could be fulfilled. Influences of Norm Shepherd come in here, and the problems with what faithful obedience is rise up.

    (Some critics will observe some influence of NT Wright here as well, the ML being a gracious covenant whose terms could be fulfilled by faith, but said faith being defined as “obedience.” This influence may be there, but I’m not so sure).

  100. rfwhite said,

    January 10, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    No. 99, Reed, I hope those comments are useful. Reading them made me think that it might help to add comments on the CoG. Here’s a summary: The CoG was instituted by God with His people through Christ as mediator. The CoG incorporates two contrasting but compatible principles of inheritance, one for Christ, the other for God’s people. On the one hand, the CoG incorporates a principle of inheritance by personal obedience insofar as — but only insofar as — Christ’s role as mediator in the CoG is founded on His obedience to the Lord’s will, on His faithfulness in serving His God and Father and keeping His commandments. On the other hand, the CoG incorporates a principle of inheritance by representative merit in that Christ administers to the elect the everlasting inheritance on account of His obedience imputed to them.

    It seems to me that part of the challenge we have is to do justice to both the continuity of the one CoG and the discontinuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. The words/concepts “contrasting but compatible” are intended to express these two interests. Moreover, continuity and discontinuity should be accented as context requires, but neither should be accented at the expense of the other.

  101. Reed Here said,

    January 10, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    Dr. White: yes, they do help quite a bit. I especially appreciate your noting of contrasting but compatible, and continuity-discontinuity. It was these tools that were of immense help to me in coming out of the fractured landscape of the dispensational literalist hermeneutic. I find it interesting and hoepeful that they continue to so serve.

  102. Ron Henzel said,

    January 10, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Comment bump notice: my comment #97 included 3 hyperlinks. This apparently caused it to get stuck in the moderator’s queue. Once it was released (apparently after Dr. White posted his comment, now #100), it bumped Todd’s to #98, and Reed’s to #99.

  103. jared said,

    January 10, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Lauren Kuo (#96),

    I think Scripture has a lot to say about (1) Calvinism, (2) Federal Vision and (3) Confessionalism. I think some of it is critical and some of it is not. I believe I do see the problem many have with the Federal Vision, but it certainly isn’t the problem most seem to be highlighting. You say,

    Now here is what I believe is the special FV translation, using their own words from the Joint Statement on the Federal Vision:
    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a person who has come to maturity as one of God’s people; the old is not gone, it has just reached its maturity in the Gospel.

    And this is precisely my point. The FV doesn’t have a “special FV translation”; that isn’t the problem. You see, the FV’s talk about maturity is from within the life one has as a covenant member. The “new creation” you are talking about is the transition from being outside the covenant to being inside the covenant. Once you are in, maturity is the direction in which things proceed. And if it isn’t, well then the only other direction is apostasy. The language of maturity is not to be put in contrast with the language of old and new. It doesn’t make any sense to say that old can mature into new. What the FV is referencing here with the language of maturity is Paul’s language in Galatians 3 where he explains the purpose of the law as a “tutor” that points us to Jesus. You’re “re-reading” of 2 Cor. 5 demonstrates how grossly you don’t understand the FV. I know people are tired of hearing that charge thrown around, but as long as it keeps being true it won’t be going away.

    By the way, I’m not saying that every single member of the covenant community has been made a new creation; but we are to treat them as such until discovered otherwise. You go on,

    Is the Federal Vision heretical? Yes, I believe it is. Why? Because when I hold up its teachings through the “lens” of Scripture, I see another gospel which Paul says is no gospel at all. Does the emperor really have new clothes? This little child of God says no – the emperor is naked – not only does he not have new clothes – he doesn’t have any clothes on at all.

    What you mean is, when you hold up your understanding of its teachings to your understanding of the lens of Scripture you, thus, see another gospel. And why shouldn’t you? This is no different than expecting to find equivocation in someone’s view and then reading their views as equivocation. Your re-reading of 2 Cor. 5 is a perfect example of this; the emperor you’re looking at may not have any clothes, but neither is he a representative of the FV. So while I don’t think your Scriptural lens is necessarily colored (no more than mine is, if you’re Reformed) your FV lens is pretty much opaque. If you want to be a useful critic you might want to fix that, you’ll want to see very clearly what they are saying before you start pronouncing Pauline anathemas. This is one thing I’m grateful that the PCA report didn’t do.

  104. Pete Myers said,

    January 11, 2009 at 10:07 am

    #97 and #98,

    I don’t think any “Reformed” person is at either extreme end of the line. But there is a line. I don’t think the “Reformed” position can be put as a single point. Bolton’s little treatise on this is a perfect case in point – when he lists all the “Reformed” positions on the issue.

    I don’t want to “defend” or to “attack” the FV. When I first arrived on the blog, in all honesty I came to “defend the FV from being treated unfairly, and understand the anti-FV position.”

    Now, I simply want to “understand Reformed Theology from an American Presbyterian perspective”. But anti-FV flame is still saddening, because: (a) Sometimes it’s not fair, (b) Even when it is fair (i.e. there’s a pastorally unhelpful FV view it’s targetted against), it doesn’t actually move anyone away from the FV position, and (c) it stops really helpful interaction on the issues – helpful interaction on this very blog has helped me move away from the FV – but that’s only happened when people have been irenic, or, when I had the time to invest more heavily than usual in reading Witsius & Calvin over the holidays.

    #99-101, yes that is all very helpful.

    Reed, on your point (3): I’ve heard it taught over here that it’s possible to fulfil the Mosaic Law, because it’s requiring faith… this is what David and Abraham did. All the stuff about the law being an alternative means to righteousness, is using the Law in a CoW way – which is not the way it was set up in the MC.

    Now – I understand that you’ll think that’s incorrect. But, what I’d be very interested to know, is, how serious you think that error is. (Appeal to the wider audience reading this: PLEASE! can I have a sensible answer from people on this, and not just anti-FV flame… because a lot of people I know in the UK take this position – or at least I think so.)

  105. Ron Henzel said,

    January 11, 2009 at 11:22 am

    Pete,

    I don’t know how long you’ve been commenting here, but it seems to me that only about six months ago the vast majority of the flaming came from general direction of Monroe, Louisiana (the FV capital) and parts associated with it. I think it’s basically true that, as Billy Joel sang, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Sometimes the drive-by FV commentators became so heated it was downright embarrassing, as they (and I won’t name names here, but others will know who I’m talking about) hurled volley after volley of virtual anathemas in our direction. I think a lot of that had to do with their frustration over being rejected by yet another Reformed denomination’s General Assembly (this time the PCA’s).

    Now, this is not to excuse any genuinely unfair treatment they have received by anti-FV people here or anywhere else. But I think you’ll find that Lane has bent over backwards to be more than fair, and has, in fact, been extremely patient with the kind of vitriol some FV proponents have unleashed here. He and the other moderators try to promote the irenic spirit you credit with helping to move you away from the FV, and despite occasional lapses I think most of us here are in line with that approach.

    As for your question about whether, as some hold, it’s possible to fulfill the Mosaic Law due to its requirement of faith, and how serious an error that is, my answer is that any system that says the Mosaic Law can be fulfilled by fallen human beings (in this case, humans who are simply exercising faith) instantly (not eventually) undercuts all of Reformed theology, and inevitably leads to some form of justification by works. It does this by (1) failing to grasp the significance of Paul’s teaching in Galatians 3:10-14, and thus (2) blurring the all-important Law-Gospel distinction that lies at the root of the theology of the Reformation.

  106. rfwhite said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    104 Pete Meyers, to crystallize Ron Henzel’s remark about Gal 3.10-14, perhaps it would be useful to hear what you have been taught about Gal 3.12: “But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’” The premise you express–namely, that “it’s possible to fulfill the Mosaic Law”–seems to be crucial in your thinking; at least it has surfaced several times in your comments. Do you mean to affirm this: saying that David and Abraham believed is the same as saying that David and Abraham fulfilled the Law?

  107. Pete Myers said,

    January 11, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    #105, Ron,

    I’ve found Lane and Reed and Dr White to be particularly helpful and irenic. But, just because Lane is working really really hard to “hear” the FV well, and be generous with them, doesn’t whitewash the way the rest of us speak.

    My context is, that, I suspected an unfair reading of the FV by the anti-FV people before I arrived. I’d been reading GB since last summer, and felt that slightly confirmed, then, when I started commenting in December, I found that genuine questions I had would be met with sillyness. This was irritating, as they were genuine questions. More irritating, when, stuff that I believed simply because of my UK Reformed Evangelical context was labelled FV and flamed – actually this was slightly funny, as some things people have said here, at times, have inadvertantly been a judgement on a lot of really good orthodox guys in the UK.

    This particular comment thread felt like it was very, very helpful (at least for me), but then the “The FV is terrible… etc. etc” comments began – which I lament simply for the fact that it becomes impossible to ask the kind of questions I’d want to ask and get decent replies.

    #105 & #106,

    OK, let me try and summarise:
    1 – what respected Reformed guys teach over hear (at least that I’ve heard)
    2 – where the self confessed holes are
    3 – why, knowing my own position has holes, I don’t just automatically adopt your view (which is attractive)

    This summary isn’t comprehensive. Doesn’t even cover all the things we’ve discussed, Dr White… but summarises the biggest issues in my head right now.

    1) The Mosaic Law is:

    a) Impossible to perfectly obey to achieve righteousness through my obedience.
    b) But! It’s asking people to trust in God – therefore possible to fulfil through faith. Yes, this is Abraham and David… and every faithful Israelite under the Mosaic Covenant.
    c) Much of the Law includes a concession to the weakness of people’s sin. E.g. slave laws, divorce laws. If God were to apply his perfect righteous standard in a strictly perfect sense, then, there would be no slavery, no divorce, etc. (these laws set a minimum standard, rather than describing God’s perfect standard – floor laws, not ceiling laws… this isn’t my illustration guys.)

    2) The self confessed holes are:

    Galatians 3v10… I can accept just about every explanation for the other verses that would appear to cause problems, bar this one. The best explanation I have for this verse at the moment, is, that Paul is dealing with a misunderstanding of the Law – a misunderstanding where someone “uses the law to achieve their own righteousness” (Romans 9v30-32).

    Moses not entering the land.

    3) Why, then, don’t I just adopt your view?:

    a) Law makes allowances for sin, implying faith.
    b) When the prophets convict God’s people as being cursed by the Law, it’s because they’re unfaithful, not because they’re disobedient.
    c) David should have been (explicitly) executed under the Law, if it was by works, but he wasn’t (implying fulfillment is by faith).
    d) The floor laws.

    It’s quite late my part of the world… sorry if some of that doesn’t make sense.

  108. Brian said,

    January 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    To add an historical perspective to this debate I found this note on Genesis 26:5 by Matthew Poole (from Volume 3 of The Exegetical Labors of the Reverend Matthew Poole pg. 79) interesting:

    Here was a covenant made between God and Abraham; and as, if Abraham had broken the condition of walking before God required on his part, God had been discharged from the promise made on his part; so contrarily, because Abraham performed his condition, God engageth himself to perform his promise to him, and to his seed. But as that promise and covenant was made by God of mere grace, as is evident and confessed; so the mercies promised and performed to him and his are so great and vast, that it is an idle thing to think they could be merited by so mean a compensation as Abraham’s obedience, which was a debt he owed to God, had there been no such covenant or promise made by God, and which also was an effect of God’s graces to him and in him

    The perspective here is clear, obedience arising out of faith is acceptable to God, and is rewarded without there being any reference to any sort of a covenant of works (real, typological, hypothetical, or otherwise). This fulfillment by imperfect obedience (Moses doesn’t hide Abraham’s sins from us) can only function in the context of a covenant of grace where grace and not the law is the principle of life.

    Galatians 3 is interpreted in the same vein. Paul is not addressing the MC in itself but rather the MC as abused by those who would seek life by the law. And again, if the MC is an actual covenant of works that condemned the Galatians who sought life by it, how can it condemn the Gentiles who were never under its administration?

  109. Todd said,

    January 11, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Brian wrote: “Galatians 3 is interpreted in the same vein. Paul is not addressing the MC in itself but rather the MC as abused by those who would seek life by the law. And again, if the MC is an actual covenant of works that condemned the Galatians who sought life by it, how can it condemn the Gentiles who were never under its administration?”

    Can you produce any exegetical evidence for this claim? Where in Gal 3 at all do you find the caveat that these statements on the law are not really about the law, but only clearing up a misinterpretation? And when Paul speaks negatively about the Law in Rom 7 and II Co 3, that it is a ministry of death that kills, is it only a ministry of death to those who misunderstood its purpose? And why did the Apostles use the first person plural in Acts 15:10 as those who could not live up to the burden of the Law? Did they misunderstand the Law also? If it was all of grace, why did they call it a burden? I think Bunyan had it right in Pilgrim’s Progress:

    Faith. But, good brother, hear me out. So soon as the man overtook me, he was but a word and a blow, for down he knocked me, and laid me for dead. But when I was a little come to myself again, I asked him wherefore he served me so. He said, because of my secret inclining to Adam the First; and with that he struck me another deadly blow on the breast, and beat me down backward; so I lay at his foot as dead as before. So, when I came to myself again, I cried him mercy; but he said, I know not how to shew mercy; and with that he knocked me down again. He had doubtless made an end of me, but that one came by, and bid him forbear.

    Chr. Who was that that bid him forbear?

    Faith. I did not know him at first, but as he went by, I perceived the holes in his hands and in his side; then I concluded that he was our Lord. So I went up the hill.

    Chr. That man that overtook you was Moses. He spareth none, neither knoweth he how to shew mercy to those that transgress his law.

  110. rfwhite said,

    January 11, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    107 Pete M, here are some thoughts.

    You say, “The Mosaic Law is: a) Impossible to perfectly obey to achieve righteousness through my obedience.” — My response: You won’t get any disagreement from any critic of the FV on this statement. It applies to each and every sinner without exception. That is not an issue over which we differ with you. I hasten to add, however, that it is possible for a man without sin to obey the Mosaic Law perfectly to establish his righteousness through his own obedience. We do agree about this, right? We would also agree that Christ is that one man without sin, right? What I am arguing for is that Christ is the man whom the Law anticipates in Lev 18.5.

    You say, “b) But! It’s [the Mosaic Law is ] asking people to trust in God – therefore possible to fulfil through faith. Yes, this is Abraham and David… and every faithful Israelite under the Mosaic Covenant.” — My response: If you mean here that the Mosaic Law, as God’s pedagogue, admonishes sinners to seek the righteousness that God requires from God by faith and not by works since sinners cannot establish their righteousness on their own obedience, then we won’t disagree. The point we would press is this: the Mosaic Law does not and cannot provide the righteousnes that it requires: it justifies no sinner. (Acts 13.38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.) It is this truth that Abe and Dave learned. Only the Promise justifies sinners. The Mosaic Law points sinners to the Promise, but it provides no justification for sinners, not even in the sacrifices (see Heb 8-10).

    You say, “Paul is dealing with a misunderstanding of the Law – a misunderstanding where someone ‘uses the law to achieve their own righteousness.’” — My response: We don’t disagree with this claim. Paul’s opponents did misunderstand Moses and did misuse the Law, but that misunderstanding and misuse did not come about because Moses had not write about the righteousness of the law. To the contrary, Paul says that they misunderstood Moses in that they did not listen to Moses when he contrasted the righteousness of the Law with the righteousness of faith, as he argues in Rom 9.30-10.11.

  111. Pete Myers said,

    January 12, 2009 at 1:43 am

    #110, Dr White,

    Thanks for your responses. There are many places where what seems to be popular over here is very close to the position that you put forward.

    I agree that the sacrifices don’t actual atone for anything… however, they are indication that the substance of the Law isn’t inheritance by personal obedience (to use your terms).

    So, Abe and Dave made right use of the pedagogical purpose of the Law by coming to faith – on that we’re agreed. However, once they’d made right use of it, they could then be described as having walked in God’s statutes and commandments.

    The way in which you talk about the strict personal obedience principle of the Law, makes it sound like we could never say of anyone (other than Christ), that they walked in God’s statutes and commandments.

    Errr. Oh hang on…

    I may have just had an epiphany mid-comment. Respond to what I’ve said if you wish, I’ll get back to you in a day or so, and may … well… we’ll see. I need to do some reading.

  112. rfwhite said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    111 Pete, I will only add these thoughts. The point I’m urging about the sacrifices might be elaborated by saying that the sacrifices, priests, and sanctuary appointed by the law could not and did not provide that which the Law requires. That which the Law requires was to be provided by the Melchizedekal priest, sacrifice, and sanctuary. In other words, that which the Law requires would come by the Promise through Judah (David), not Levi (Moses).

    As for whether the right use of the pedagogical purpose of the Law would mean that believers like Abe and Dave would be described as having walked in God’s statutes and commandments, I think we have to answer with a qualified yes. I presume that you have in mind passages such as Deut 30.1-10 and Ezek 36. A qualification has to be added, in my view, in that these texts presume that the people enjoy spiritual benefits (heart-circumcision, new heart, indwelling Spirit, etc.) that the Law did not provide and that Moses could not mediate. They presume a better covenant and a better mediator.

  113. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    January 12, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Re #109:

    I would say that v. 18 indicates that there is a serious misunderstanding: the Galatians seemed to acting as though the inheritance came by the law, while Paul’s point is that they are exactly wrong.

    And in Rom. 7, it is not the Law that is responsible for death, but sin (v. 13). Notice that sin “deceived” the narrator and killed him through the law. So, what sin says about the Law is not correct–but sin says that we can do it, that we can treat good and evil the way God does, but choosing freely without any commandment to guide us…

  114. pduggie said,

    January 13, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Hey everybody!

    Here’s a quote from a reformed worthy: Is it golawspel?

    “In the state of original righteousness, man was bound to seek God…according to the tenor of the covenant of works. His seeking of God consisted in the faith and works of obedience required in that covenant. And there is now no way to seek God but according to the revelation that he has made of himself in the covenant of grace, and the terms of obedience required therein”


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