I’m going to start out this time with response to Doug before going on to the next section of the Joint Statement. I intend to address all of Doug’s concerns, as well as the part of my post that he forgot to address. Firstly, and most importantly:
And I respond to it this way — the reprobate covenant member is unforgiven. He does not have the root of the matter in him. He is a tare, not wheat. He is a cleaned-up pig, not a lamb. He is son of Belial and the devil too, not in that order. He is damned and going to hell. His baptism places greater covenantal condemnation on him, not lesser. The only kind of forgivenness he could possibly have is a forgiveness that is consistent with the common operations of the Spirit, whatever those are.
I agree with all this except the last sentence, since the common operations of the Spirit do not include any kind of forgiveness. But the point is this: there is an unresolvable contradiction here between the position of Wilson and the position of Wilkins. Here is Wilkins (AATPAC, pp. 262ff): “Because being in covenant with God means being in Christ, those who are in covenant have all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Union with Christ means that all that is true of Christ is true of us…(lists blessings at the bottom of the page)…All this was true of each of the members, but, like Israel, the were required to persevere in faith. If they departed from Christ, they would perish like Israel of old. All their privileges and blessings would become like so many anchors to sink them into the lake of fire…All in covenant are give all that is true of Christ…Thus, when one breaks covenant, it can be truly said that he has turned away from grace and forfeited life, forgiveness, and salvation” (emphasis added). It should be further noted that in both lists (pg. 262 and 264), the forgiveness of sins is listed (in the first list by justification and sanctification, and in the second list on pg 264 by “cleansed from former sins,” which is certainly a twisting of 2 Peter 1:9).
So, clearly, we have Wilson denying that non-elect visible church members (I do not use the term “non-elect covenant members,” as the term is confusing) are forgiven in any sense except possibly the common operations of the Spirit, and we have Wilkins affirming that non-elect church members have their sins forgiven. Which one of them is correct? I would certainly go with Doug here, except, again, that last sentence of his, through which hole one could conceivably drive a semi packed with ninjas. Even if one accepted Wilson’s last sentence, the “common operations of the Spirit” is certainly NOT what Wilkins is talking about in justification and sanctification being accorded to the non-elect visible church member. On to the IOAC.
The disconnect that Lane is struggling with is, I believe, this. I believe that it is fair to say that all FVers affirm the heart of imputation, and the substance of what is aimed at with the IAOC. Where we have our intramural disagreements and discussions is over the mechanisms by which this forensic reality might be accomplished. What we all agree on is that the mechanism is not God infusing righteousness into us, and then pronouncing that He finds that it has been infused to adequate levels.
This is as clear as mud. What does “substance of what is aimed at with the IAOC” mean? To my mind, this is a bit like saying that so and so is more pregnant than someone else. The fact of pregnancy does not exist in degrees, even if the visual evidence does. Similarly, one either holds to the IAOC or not. There are no degrees. As I said and made quite clear, my issue here is NOT with imputation per se, but with the IAOC. Wilson still seems to think that I am denying any FV’ers’ adherence to imputation. I am well aware that, at the very least, many FV’ers state that they hold to imputation. That is NOT the issue here. The issue here is the apparent contradiction between the Joint Statement seeming to imply the IAOC, and then denying that it does. The above is not an answer to this, in my mind.
Lastly, I suppose I must respond to the charge that republication mixes law and gospel. It does no such thing. For one thing, such a charge flattens out redemptive history, since folk who hold to republication almost to a man also hold that there is no overlap whatsoever between the CoW and the CoG in the New Testament period. I am certainly one of these. Thus, there is a progressive separation of the CoW strands and the CoG strands, in general. The Abrahamic covenant is an exception to this, but it is an exception that proves the point regarding the Mosaic. Folk who do not hold to the republication theory cannot make sense of Galatians 4:21ff, where the Sinai covenant is explicitly said to be the covenant bearing children for slavery. In fact, I would very much like to see Doug exegete said Galatians passage. Nevertheless, to the extent that OT Israelites had the faith of Abraham, they belonged to the CoG. The CoW was an overlay in the Mosaic economy. And the WCF supports this position in chapter 7, chapter 19, and the interpretation of WLC 99. Yes, I know, Pete, I have yet to answer your concerns regarding the interpretations of these passages, but I do intend to get to it at some point. The point is that distinguishing the strands highlights the law/gospel distinction rather than undermining it. Advocates of republication have never asserted that the Mosaic economy becomes a tertium quid like sodium and chloride becoming salt. Rather, the elements of each covenant are distinguishable in the Mosaic economy.
And the last issue is my rhetoric regarding the first use 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 Doug.
The only real question regarding the section on justification in the Joint Declaration is this, which has been hashed and rehashed many times: does faith justify because it is alive? To use some scholastic language here, I distinguish. Justifying faith is, of course, alive. But justification is not dependent in any way upon this fact. Justification is solely because of faith’s laying hold of Christ. In other words, the aliveness of faith is an always accompanying aspect of faith, but it does not factor into justification proper. This is because the aliveness of faith has to do with sanctification, which always accompanies justification. Someone might respond this way: “but how can any faith lay hold of Christ if it is not alive?” Well, a dead faith doesn’t lay hold of Christ. Only a live faith does. However, the aliveness of faith is not the reason that it lays hold of Christ. It is rather the definition of faith proper that it lays hold of Christ. That is what faith does. So, the distinction amounts to this: the nature of faith is that it lays hold of Christ; the aliveness of faith is because of sanctification.