An Answer to TE Rayburn, part 2

In this post, I will deal with TE Rayburn’s claims concerning a quotation of Leithart that TE Rayburn feels was dealt with unfairly. The quotation is Leithart, “The baptized are implanted into Christ’s body, and in Him share in all that he has to give.” The quotation is from page 78 of The Baptized Body.

A word here on the nature of published materials. One would assume that a Ph.D. of Leithart’s caliber would have his work peer-reviewed, and not just by people who agree with him. If this statement were in a more occasional document, TE Rayburn (and TE Leithart!) would have some occasion to gripe about the quotation. However, the quotation comes from a published work of TE Leithart. If the book doesn’t publish what TE Leithart means, that is TE Leithart’s fault, not the SJC’s. It is the responsibility of the author to prevent any and all misunderstandings of his work when publishing a book. It is his responsibility to ensure that there is no other way to understand his published book than the meaning he intends. What’s more, there are several other quotations that say the same thing as the above quotation in The Baptized Body. For instance, take this statement from page 73:

The historical church, the visible church, is the bride of the Son and one flesh with Him, which Jesus treats as “His own body.” (paragraph break, LK) If this is true, then again we are left with some profound consequences for membership in the visible church. Baptism joins us to the church, and I have argued that the church is the body of Christ, not merely in some “honorific” or secondary sense, but in a real sense. Those who are baptized into the church share in Jesus Christ, and in Him they are introduced into the Triune fellowship of Father, Son, and Spirit. If the church is the body of Christ, the humanity of the Son of God, then this conclusion is inevitable. (emphasis mine)

The context of this statement is vital to understanding Leithart’s point. His main point here is that the visible church is the body of Christ in a real sense. In this section, he is not denying that the invisible church is the body of Christ, but he is asserting that the visible church is the body of Christ in a very real sense. In that context he makes the claim that members in this visible body of Christ “share in Jesus Christ,” and are “introduced into the Triune fellowship.” If anything, this is a much stronger statement than the one Leithart retracted. Would he retract this statement as well? Baptism into the visible church introduces a person into Triune fellowship, and gives them a share in Jesus Christ? It should be noted here the equivalency of expression: “share in Jesus Christ” is surely a significant overlap of meaning to “implanted into Christ’s body.” And it is not a huge stretch to conclude that “share in all that He has to give” is very similar in meaning (or at least has a huge overlap, given, for instance, Ralph Smith’s definitions of covenant fellowship with the Trinity) to “introduced into the Triune fellowship.”

Both of these statements in The Baptized Body, in turn, match up quite nicely with the Joint Federal Vision Statement, in the section on baptism:

We affirm that God formally unites a person to Christ and to His covenant people through baptism into the triune Name, and that this baptism obligates such a one to lifelong covenant loyalty to the triune God, each baptized person repenting of his sins and trusting in Christ alone for his salvation. Baptism formally engrafts a person into the Church, which means that baptism is into the Regeneration, that time when the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne (Matt. 19:28).

One could wonder what the term “formally” means here, but the idea is substantially the same as what Leithart has professed, and his name is attached to the document. I can only conclude at this juncture that, despite TE Leithart’s retraction of a statement in a book, this is in fact what he believes, since it is confirmed elsewhere in the same book, and in the Joint Statement.


  1. andrew voelkel said,

    January 27, 2010 at 11:41 am

    A couple of things:
    1) All of us are people in process. So when determining someones views we need to consider their current views. If a man is challenged about a statement, and then retracts the statement, the statement should not be presented as his current view.
    2) Are we in the PCA to believe that the visible church is not the body of Christ? The apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians acknowledges that some members may not be genuine, yet he refers to them all as members of the body. He calls them to recognize one another as such and to wait for one another at the Lord’s Table.

  2. greenbaggins said,

    January 27, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Andrew, my response to 1 is simple: I have proven that they are his views, unless he intends to retract both his other statements in the book, plus the views of the Joint Statement. That we are all works in progress does not excuse a writer from being clear, either. Furthermore, if the basis of Leithart’s retraction was that it was unclear, it would not be sufficient. He would have to retract in the sense of repentance.

    I have zero problem saying that the visible church is Christ’s body. It is the implications that Leithart and Rayburn draw from that fact that I do not agree with.

  3. pduggie said,

    January 27, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    “I have zero problem saying that the visible church is Christ’s body. It is the implications that Leithart and Rayburn draw from that fact that I do not agree with.”

    That’s what I think is absurd in your position.

    What is Christ’s body? Is Christ divided?

    I thought originally the WCF was rather reticent to identify the visible church with the body of Christ. The visible is the “kingdom”, but not the bride.

    That the PCA says it up front in the BCO is startling to me.

    You add

    “he is asserting that the visible church is the body of Christ in a very real sense.”

    But then you say that you have ZERO problem with saying that? So then?

  4. pduggie said,

    January 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    In L’s response, he clarifies that the problem with the retracted statement is that it implied equality of sharing, which is against his personalist views as being too mechanical,

    “Fellowship” with the triune God is not mechanical or identical in every person (even among the elect), and I think citing that as “stronger” or the same thing as “sharing [equally] all he has to give” is incorrect.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    January 27, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I hold to the natural assertions that there is an outer administration and an inner essence with regard to the covenant of grace. This corresponds to the visible/invisible church distinction. There is one church, but there is a distinction between the visible and the invisible. Some things belong to the one, and some belong to the other. Some things that TE Leithart says belong to the visible church, I believe only belong to the invisible church. TE Leithart’s statements go along with the mixup of the sign with the thing signified. One can say that the sign of baptism corresponds with the visible church, and the thing signified in baptism belongs with the invisible church. TE Leithart implies that at least some of the thing signified occurs in the visible church. And it is that with which I disagree.

  6. pduggie said,

    January 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    So the visible church is the body of Christ.

    Is the visible church the bride of Christ?

    Is the visible church the fullness of him who fills all in all?

    As long as I understand the last two in an “outer administration” way?

    Then can I understand “fellowship with the triune God” in an outer administration way too?

    The one think I think is really great in Leithart is his idea that salvation has and has to have a community form. We are not saved as individuals with no relation to others but only to God. We are saved as persons-in-relation.

    We are a redeemed community. Where does the redeemed community live things out? Only in the ‘outer administration’ realm? maybe. But then the redeemed community is something that the visible church really has.

    Anyway, the WCF, which still distinguishes the visible as not-the-body, it seems to me, also says that the visible church is the family of God.

    Does someone in the family of god not have fellowship with God? What’s the point of saying “you are in the family of God” if the person is not introduced into the triune fellowship?

  7. January 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm


    Well said. Would you shoot me an email or call me? I left my number on a voicemail. Then delete this comment (or I can). Thanks!


  8. Martin Bucer said,

    January 27, 2010 at 1:13 pm


    Are you suggesting that Paul really meant “To the invisible church at Corinth” when he composed his letters (three perhaps, two of which are inerrant/canonical ones) to a congregation, which, among other things, tolerated heresy re the resurrection, whose members sued one another in pagan courts, who reverted at times back to their prior sexual perversions, who schismatically named themselves after this or that Christian leader, who turned the Lord’s Supper into a delta house, bacchinalian bash – Are you suggesting that Paul (at least as far as the testimony of Scripture allows you to answer this question, not a 17th century scholastic tome allows you to answer it) had as working categories in his mind, the notion that there were really two churches at Corinth, and – again – that his letter really was being addressed to an invisible one?

    Interestingly, not once does Paul play the part of the “Puritan” and reason: “I see by your behavior that you have no grounds to believe you are truly, really, united to Christ – ERGO – are not part of the ‘invisible’ church.” He addresses, in fact, the whole church en toto in I Cor. 10 and warns them NOT to be like their Israelite fathers, LEST GOD ALSO DESTROY THEM (THE CHURCH) for their unfaithfulness.

    Now press the dichotomy of two churches into I Cor. 10:1-14 and the entire passage is turned on its head and robbed off its obvious force (ie, “these were merely hypothetical warnings given to hypothetically-prospective apostates”).

    And, um, how do you send letters to invisible churches? Do you utilize the angelic messengers in Revelation (but wait, I thought those were, with RH Charles, and other commentators, Presbyters and/or Bishops) ala special delivery. What is the charge for such flights?

    Seriously, it seems to at least to this observer that these kinds of qualifications you cite, and from there pivot off of, blaming Leithart for not casting things in such terms, really need some tight exegetical defense.

    Perhaps there is such a plausible defense, but frankly, I’ve not really seen it offered by various members of the JV team of Presbyterianism, present-hour.

    Simply saying that a Leithart or Rayburn mix up sign with thing signified doesn’t really advance your case, insofar as 1/3 of the delegates at Dordt (please read Letham’s recent work) held to the notion that regeneration was defectible. So impactful was their minority position, that the majority delegates removed the anathema of that position, while disagreeing with it nonetheless.

    These KINDS of considerations are basically lost on today’s TULIP crowd, jousting at various bogeymen whose books/writings the churches will be reading for decades to come (Leithart, Rayburn, Wilson – let’s bless God for each of them), and to great edification, for the most part. As a particularly telling sign of the extent of this problem, consider the various country-club PCA guys who deny that “water baptism” is in view in Romans 6. An absurd, laughable position, not fitting for anyone who would claim to be a minister of Jesus Christ, a position wildly out of step with virtually the entire history of exegesis save for either Baptists or the Socinians who predated them. But, many have come to expect such blunders from the JV team, who after all, have far more affinity with men who strike at the very heart of the covenant (as Calvin described the Anabaptists) than with those who are seeking to work out the implications of the covenant through the further light of historical-theological and exegetical development since 1643 (or should I say, 1783, given today’s Presbies affinity for a revised/amended Confession of Faith?).

  9. Tim Vaughan said,

    January 27, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    What’s the point of saying “you are in the family of God” if the person is not introduced into the triune fellowship?”

    To help me understand this issue could you please list some specific things all baptised persons receive due to this fellowship?

  10. ray said,

    January 27, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    I agree with Rev.L.K. in that only the elect make up Christ’s body … elect precious stones fitted together. The reprobate do not make up Christ’s body, they are not elect … they are not precious.
    The visible church throughout history has always consisted of both the elect and the reprobate … heretics who are ravenous wolves seeking to devour the sheep … the elect sheep. Both are found within the visible church.

    The invisible church are the elect alone for whom Christ and Him crucified died and atoned for … and them alone. The reprobate have no fellowship with Christ within the invisible church … or the covenant of grace. Christ did not die for them and neither did he atone for them, and neither was that His purpose and determinate counsel from before the foundation of the world.

    This is both Scriptural and confessional. This… we are and have been taught in our youth in catechetical instruction … and this is why there is no excuse for men like Leithart and other FV adherants … or for men as Rayburn who maintain injustice to men’s statements as Leithart’s.

    These men SHOULD know better … they are ministers and elders … this is why it is so important that they be disciplined, and if they remain steadfast in their vanity … then they must be put out of the church … for then 2 things will happen … either they will continue in their blindness … or they will see the error of their ways and repent. This as anything else in salvation … is strictly the work of the Lord alone. Our hope in discipline should always be the latter … and for the sake of the flock of Christ … we must and are duty bound to do the prior.

    I get upset at the confusion, the contradiction, the babbling … of the FV advocate. It’s bound to happen after so many years … look at how long it took the reformers to get the remonstrants to the synod of Dort. The remonstrants had a joint statement put together as well.

    It’s time for polemics … then you will find out if these men with their statements…. have the glory of God as their axiom … or the glory of men as their axiom … regardless of their pious claims that they heartedly adhere to the reformed confessions … or that they know of no FV advocate who holds to such a stand of the latest critique volleyed at them.

    “And a stone of stumbling……… After having comforted the faithful, that they would have in Christ a firm and permanent foundation, though the greater part, and even the chief men, allowed him no place in the building, he now denounces the punishment which awaits all the unbelieving, in order that they might be terrified by their example. For this purpose he quotes the testimony of Isaiah 8:14. The Prophet there declares that the Lord would be to the Jews a stone of stumbling and rock of offense. This properly refers to Christ, as it may be seen from the context; and Paul applies it to Christ, (Romans 9:32.) For in him the God of hosts has plainly manifested himself.

    Here, then, the terrible vengeance of God is denounced on all the ungodly, because Christ would be to them an offense and a stumbling, inasmuch as they refused to make him their foundation. For as the firmness and stability of Christ is such that it can sustain all who by faith recumb on him; so his hardness is so great that it will break and tear in pieces all who resist him. For there is no medium between these two things, — we must either build on him, or be dashed against him.” John Calvin – commentary on 1st Peter 2:8

  11. pduggie said,

    January 27, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    8@ Here is a specific list:

    1. The Father

    2. The Son

    3. The Holy Spirit.

  12. January 27, 2010 at 2:10 pm


    See WLC Q.63.

  13. Andy Gilman said,

    January 27, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Paul,

    A baby was born to a couple in our church about a month ago. She has not yet been baptized. Is she therefore a stranger to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit until the day she is baptized? Is she not yet “engrafted into the church,” “into the regeneration?”

  14. jcurt said,

    January 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    “It is the responsibility of the author to prevent any and all misunderstandings of his work when publishing a book. It is his responsibility to ensure that there is no other way to understand his published book than the meaning he intends.”

    This is an impossible standard to meet. Are you saying Scripture meets this standard? Do we not misunderstand and misinterpret His Word? I’m sure you agree we do and we do because we are fallen. To establish this as the standard that you yourself can’t meet is specious and not worthy of this blog. That standard is something to strive for, but to criticize anyone’s work on this basis is beside the point. We wrestle with meaning always. Good debate clarifies and enlightens. I don’t begrudge anyone who asks questions about someone’s words. I expect them to do this and so should you. Hold them accountable, of course. Graciously accept their clarification, always, then judge what he NOW says he meant.

  15. Andrew Voelkel said,

    January 27, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks for your work on this Rev. Lane.

    I agree with your response to my #1 above.
    As you point out, Leithart still affirms many controversial statements; therefore, I simply think it best for the PCA to focus on what he is affirming. Highlighting his retracted statement(s) may put an unnecessary cloud of suspicion over the proceedings, and that seems to be a main concern in Rayburn’s section entitled “The Impression of a Prevailing Bias”. Holding Leithart to retracted statement seems totally unnecessary in light of his other statements.

    In reference to Leithart’s need to “repent”, wouldn’t we all agree that Leithart is faithfully submitting to his brethren thus far? No court has judged his particular views to be unacceptable (yet). He has been receptive to criticism (as seen in his willingness to retract statements), and he continues to abide by the decisions of his Presbytery (at least as far as I can tell from the public record).

    This FV controversy provides a great opportunity for the Reformed Community to address, head on, some legitimate theological questions that are not dealt with explicitly in our standards. I hope we don’t miss the opportunity, and I hope we don’t run off some of the guys most interested in wrestling with the questions. In my opinion, the PCA should do all it can to keep guys like Leithart (& Rayburn) around, providing him/them with all the encouragement and correction needed to work on answering the legitimate questions of our day.

  16. pduggie said,

    January 27, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    @12: good question but not easily answered. It seems there are 2 schools, 1 emphasizing the federally holy nature of the pre-baptized baby and another emphasizing the “born in trespasses and sin” biblical truth.

    There’s also the question of what I might say now, in expectation of the kid making it to baptism, and what I would say if the baby dies in 2 days.

    I think the only original thought I had on this (and I actually expressed this to some FV men before FV became so controversial) is that the pre-baptized is analogous to the engaged couple. the kid is a stranger in one sense, because she hasn’t received the full token of the Father’s love (baptism). But not in another sense, since she’s in a context (engagement) where the token is soon to be deployed.

    And that’s not to say that the same analogy can’t work afterwards, where the baptized baby is now analogous to an engaged person, and the flowering of the seed faith of the child and fuller fellowship is the marriage.

    That might seem like special pleading, but those kind of multi-layered analogies are all over the bible.

    From one view, Israel is priest and gentiles are ‘peoples’. from another, the Levites are ‘priest’ and non-israelite jew and gentile are peoples.. From another, the High Priest is priest, and all others below him the peoples for whom he mediates. Does that analogy make sense? Maybe it’s like a ‘parable’ or something.

    The basic point is you have all kinds of levels of fellowship in your life, with strangers, acquaintances, enemies, friends, etc. Jesus loved John best, had James and Peter lower down, and chose the 12 out of the 70 though one was a devil. Why should it not be so with God. The baby doesn’t have to be a “stranger” to god per se to say that baptism is a bringing of that child into fellowship.

    The just born baby hears her mother’s heart beat, and is no “stranger” but when she suckles at the breast for the first time the relationship deepens in a new exciting way.

  17. tim prussic said,

    January 27, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    Pr. Lane, have I read you correctly? Have you defended the SJC’s quote of a retracted statement by proffering similar(ish) statements?

    1) If so, that’s bad form. You’re essentially diverting attention from a blunder. It appears that you’re simply changing the subject.

    2) Even if #1 weren’t true, you haven’t accomplished anything above beyond showing that he’s used similar language more than once. From that you asserted “a huge overlap,” but didn’t demonstrate the nature or specifics of the overlap, especially relative to the offending language of the retracted passage.

    3) If we were to look at the “huge” overlap, we’d see that the non-retracted statement is a good deal more general than the retracted one. One can certainly affirm that one validly baptized shares in Christ and is introduced into Triune fellowship without affirming that the baptized shares “in all that He has to give.” To share him and share in all that he as to give are quite distinct from each other. You said the passage from pg 73 is stronger. It may be, but it’s certainly less specific and drops the terribly unfortunate language of the retracted statement.

  18. January 27, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Even though he has retracted it, it is still what he believes – really.


    So if Augustine retracts certain statements – he did – and I then quote those statements suggesting that they represent what the mature Augustine held as opposed to what he once held and then repudiated, and I do this as part of my dissertation’s defense before a PhD committee at a reasonably vigorous university or seminary, I will receive applause? Probably not.

    I am all for the Presbytery doing just what the SJC demands – follow the process; that said, the process demands that we actually hear what men really say, including the corrections they wish to make about statements previously made.

  19. January 27, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    […] Here’s part 2. […]

  20. Reed Here said,

    January 27, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    Paul: your response to Lane ignores his essential premise concerning the outward/inward distinction of the administration of the covenant of grace. This is, of course, consistent with the FV position.

    Yet in doing so, your criticisms are directed at a caricature of Lane’s point. Thus they fall flat and are essential worthless in critiquing Lane’s point.

    This is old ground for you, Lane, and the rest of us who’ve been talking for sometime about this, I know. It is most certainly not helpful for others who might be knew to the conversation for you to ignore and then criticize based on that ignoring.

    You can helpful when you want to be. How about now?

  21. Reed Here said,

    January 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Tim, #17: I forget since it is a while since we’ve talked on this subject, but are you concerned at all about the significance of the act of someone in Leithart’s position to say something “unfortunate” in the first place, and then the need to retract? Are you concerned that this appears to be a pattern with pro-FV men, over-speaking, then re-tracting (not as often as we’d like of course)?

    If so, do you approve of Lane’s main point, that Rayburn is wrong in his criticism of the SJC panel, that indeed Leithart was treated fairly?

    Assume for a second you are correct and that the SJC used a retracted comment (it is not clear to me yet, but I’m willing to bend). Such a comment is not made once by Leithart, but at least twice (I bet more often that this). Further such comment is actually essential to his system, and consistent with the whole FV project.

    So on this set of assumptions, the SJC panel may be guilty of failure to rightly reference. Whereas Leithart may be guilty of what, poor expression, first yielding equivocation, then requiring selected retraction?

    C’mon, we’re not talking apples and apples here.

  22. Tim Vaughan said,

    January 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    See WLC Q.63.”

    Thanks, RM. Is there any way I can interpret WLC Q. 63 to mean that unregenerate baptised persons have in some sense received new life, forgiveness of sins, adoption, and union with Christ?

  23. January 27, 2010 at 5:37 pm


    Is there any way I can interpret WLC Q. 63 to mean that unregenerate baptised persons have in some sense received new life, forgiveness of sins, adoption, and union with Christ?

    Not while sober. For that particular description, you’d have to proceed on to the succeeding questions concerning the elect in the invisible church – in all senses.

  24. Tim Vaughan said,

    January 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks, that’s what I thought.

    pduggie, when you say

    “What’s the point of saying “you are in the family of God” if the person is not introduced into the triune fellowship?”

    What would this Triune fellowship look like, specifically?

  25. January 27, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    This whole ordeal is quite interesting. I really don’t understand what Rev. Rayburn is seeing. All you have to do is go to the federal vision website:

    First post, there it is, Rayburn’s response. Why is it there, because he defends one of their own (Peter Leithart). Note again, this is the FV website. Many of the articles found on this site are Leithart’s. Guilt by association? Sure. Guilt by one’s own words? Most definitely.

    Now before Mark Horne gets a hold of this saying that I am saying that is someone is guilty before he goes through the court system. Let me just say, this is my own opinion. I do respect presbyterian polity. I will let it go through the process. It is just what I think should be done.

  26. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Mr. Bucer,

    It is a mistake, I think (and Murray thought), to try to divide the visible church from the invisible, as if they were two separate entities. We can, of course, construct two separate sets of people. But the membership of the first set, the invisible church, is known only to God; the membership of the second church is known to man. But both are called “the church” without qualification in Scripture.

    Murray dealt with this in terms of aspects: there is “the church” as we see it, and there is “the church” as God sees it (Murray was actually following Calvin in this, near as I can tell: Inst. 4.1.7-8).

    So the letters were written to “the church” (in Rome, Corinth, etc.). Paul wrote them to the church in its visible aspect, since he could do nothing else, but he spoke (generally) of things that were true of the church in its invisible aspect.

    With some exceptions: Rom. 11.17 – 24 comes immediately to mind.

    The mistake I perceive in the Leithart quote, which is part and parcel of the Federal Vision Joint Statement, is to merge the visible and invisible aspects of the church. He and the FVJS associate the current, historical church with the visible church. This forces them to read out all statements (in, say, Ephesians) to the church as applicable “head-for-head” (Wilkins) to each member of the visible church.

    In the FVJS, the invisible church is pushed out of history and into the eschaton, so that even those who are not currently Christians (but will become so) are considered “members of the invisible church.” (Horne). That is, the invisible church is identified with the elect, regardless of their current state of regeneration.

    That’s the error: over-realizing the ecclesiology so that “the current church as man sees it” (visible) becomes identical to “the current church as God sees it” (which now has no place, since the invisible church is eschatological, and there is no distinction between regenerate and unregenerate elect).

    And this error forces them to then attribute things like salvation and sealing of the holy Spirit and justification “in some sense” to each member of the visible church — but of course, not being able to attribute the perseverance that the holy Spirit brings to each member.

    If you would like more exegetical detail, we could take this elsewhere.

    Jeff Cagle

  27. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 27, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Lane: If this statement were in a more occasional document, TE Rayburn (and TE Leithart!) would have some occasion to gripe about the quotation. However, the quotation comes from a published work of TE Leithart. If the book doesn’t publish what TE Leithart means, that is TE Leithart’s fault, not the SJC’s. It is the responsibility of the author to prevent any and all misunderstandings of his work when publishing a book. It is his responsibility to ensure that there is no other way to understand his published book than the meaning he intends.

    You are correct, but the implication of your position is that even if a man’s views change, he can still be tried for his old views.

    If that’s the case, then I need to demit, since I used to be Baptist.

    It has to be the case that Leithart can come back and say, “I don’t believe that. I retract it.”

  28. pduggie said,

    January 27, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    @20 reed: I’m rather stuck because frankly I’m surprised to find putatively non-FV people arguing that the Body of Christ has an outward administration vs an inward essence.

    I know the PCA BCO inks the Body to the Visible church but it still surprises me. It seems like nonsense to say: “yep, that guy is IN the body, but only in the outward administration of the body, not in the inward essence of the body”

  29. Vern Crisler said,

    January 28, 2010 at 12:01 am

    “One could wonder what the term “formally” means here….”

    Hi Lane,

    I think “formally” united means “officially” united — i.e., as opposed to “materially” united (i.e., in reality)

    In order to understand the FV, one needs continually to translate their theological vocabulary into a sociological vocabulary. FVists are not really interested in theology — rather, they are interested in sociology. Or I should say they reduce theology to sociology, viz. to the sociology of the church.


  30. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 28, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Pduggie (#27):

    Different people make their peace differently with this idea, but AFAICT Calvin deals with it by saying that there is one body, but two different views: The way God sees it and the way man sees it.

    So *of course* we could talk about the visible Church as the Body of Christ. In terms of that “which we are to believe” (Calvin again), we must treat the visible church as the Church.

    But *of course*, because man’s knowledge is fallible, we cannot attribute for certain all of the benefits of belonging to Christ to each member of the Body “head for head” — because our view of the Body is not God’s view.

    So think of the paradox not as a genuine contradiction, but as a function of the limitations of our knowledge.

    Jeff Cagle

  31. Ron Henzel said,

    January 28, 2010 at 7:55 am


    RE #28: Are you saying that you think the statement is using “formally” in the philosophical sense in which “formal” means belonging to or constituting the essence of something? If so, I think that would make this text a “smoking gun” exposing the FV’s contradiction of WCF 27.3 and 28.5-6, since it would make baptism the formal cause of union with Christ, union with Christ, and apparently regeneration itself.

  32. Wes White said,

    January 28, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Read Lane’s response to Rob Rayburn’s son-in-law, TE Josh Moon, here:

  33. S. A. Sipe said,

    January 28, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Forgive this query, but I am new to these discussions and the Reformed faith. I would like to know what “TE” represents. (I expect to be embarrassed, but I simply cannot decipher it.)

  34. greenbaggins said,

    January 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

    SAS, “TE” stands for “teaching elder.” It’s our way of identifying pastors in our denomination.

  35. Ron Jung said,

    January 28, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Did Judas have fellowship with Jesus? What part did he share with him? Did he not have his feet washed? Was there SOME benefit to him, even though he is not elect in the end? Or, I should say he was never elect in the positive sense, yet he enjoyed three years of fellowship, ministry, inclusion before he betrayed our Lord.

  36. January 28, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Ron, RE #35,

    See WLC Q.63. It answers your question nicely.

  37. Ron Jung said,

    January 28, 2010 at 10:37 am

    So baptism puts one in the visible church? Yes- WLC #165
    Is being in the visible church mean you are a part of the communion of saints (WLC #63 says “enjoying the communion of saints”)?
    What does “enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s” mean? WLC #165

    I need to say that I am not defending any position. I am learning for myself what the confessions really mean through your discussions.

  38. Vern Crisler said,

    January 28, 2010 at 10:41 am


    Hi Ron,

    No in FV-speak, formally means officially. It’s a sociological category.

    Remember, FVists are “objectivists” or proponents of “raging objectivism” as someone once described mediaevalism. Since Christians cannot know the decree of God, all they have left is the objective and external. (This is the old Kantian noumenal/phenomenal distinction come back to haunt us.)

    I take it that in the FV vocabulary, formally is the antonym of decretally. They are saying Christians at baptism are objectively united to Christ. Since Christians cannot know (due to the Kantian epistemological limitation) whether they are decretally united to Christ, they must be satisfied with phenomenal knowing.

    Thus a formal uniting with Christ is all that Christians can hope for. Anything more is attempting to have insight into the decree.

    Remember, Jim Jordan’s opus on ecclesiology was named The Sociology of the Church, not The Theology of the Church. And I think it’s a telling distinction about where the mind of FVism really is.


  39. January 28, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Ron, RE #37,

    Speaking from the underlying Bible text, Rom 6:4, it means that the baptized should walk openly in the world in a way that glorifies Christ. If we raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, they should be learning to conduct themselves in a manner glorifying to God. Growing up as a covenant child in a godly home give such children a massive advantage over children who don’t, just as Israel had every advantage over the gentiles by possessing the law in the old days.

    Of course, such a walk comes with great difficulty until the Spirit eventually calls us effectually and regenerates our hearts in God’s perfect timing. Nobody promised that parenting would be easy. :-)

  40. January 28, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Vern, RE #38,

    Very astute observation. Thanks for that.

  41. Reed Here said,

    January 28, 2010 at 11:01 am

    Paul, # 27: you’re being anachronistic. You know the background of the convictions in view to some depth. Stop trying to be pithy cute and offer a cogent criticism, something to which the response does not need to be multiple questions to draw out your meaning.

  42. Ron Jung said,

    January 28, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Thank you for your responses.
    Vern, I tend to see this not as a Kantian limitation, but more of a Lutheran position. I don’t know what God decreed for me before the foundations of the world, but hold by faith the promises of God given in baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

  43. pduggie said,

    January 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I will try to do better Reed. :) But I’m just one (lay)man!

    I agree with Lane that there are internal and externals ways of looking at the covenant of grace. It would be better to speak of what the members of the covenant hold in common, and what the elect don’t hold in common. Certainly the externals are in common, but I think SOME of the internals are too. And I think what is held in common includes some kind of triune communion.

    I’ve been asked for specifics from others, and I’ll try. the WCF is rather reticent on what the specific common operations of the Spirit are, but I think it should be clear that, as operations of the Spirit, there must needs be some communion or fellowship WITH the Spirit (and thus the trinity) for him to so operate. If even the whole world “lives and moves and has its being” in the triune God, how much more the visible community of the church.

    The Galatians “began in the Spirit” but that doesn’t seem to have been enough to stay the possibility of their apostasy. But the Galatians were, as much as any baptized member of the church, affiliated with a visible institution that had the presence of the Spirit in her midst, even visibly on Pentecost. Rather than being consumed by fire from God for her sins, the visible church visibly stood accepted in his presence. Could someone conclude that every person who had a tongue of fire was a member of the ‘invisible church’ and was undefectable? I think not (maybe so?) and if not then there still is a common and visible experience of communion with the Spirit.

    WLC 63 has been touched on as teaching that a privilege common to all in the visible church is the enjoyment of the ‘communion of the saints’

    The doctrine of the communion of saints implies (or should imply, or needs to be rewritten so it doesn’t imply, if false) that the reprobate within the church have communion with the triune God. Saints are united to Jesus in a unique way. But saints are also united to each other. And saints have communion to all “saints by profession”, who “call upon the name of the Lord Jesus” whether reprobate or not.

    An elect person has gifts and graces from the Trinue God. His new life in Christ takes the form of a communion with other saints as well. All saints by profession also have communion with that elect person. That, I submit, is a form of limited covenantal communion with the triune God. It is a privilege and grace won by Christ on the cross and bestowed on those who proclaim faith in him. It isn’t an abstract quality, physical goo, or mechanical operation, its a real relationship.

    Her is a list of common operations from John Downame.

    – being “received into the Lord’s house”

    – being “made partakers of many goodly graces and benefits, which God pours upon his Church, even upon the reprobate and wicked, for the elects’ sake”

    – embracing the Gospel so far as to “taste the sweetness and excellency that is in Christ”

    – having “temporary faith,” which is “a peculiar work of Christ and comes not but from him and the Spirit of his grace”

    – temporary faith, moreover, “is not a counterfeit show of holiness or in hypocrisy only, but a matter of truth and an excellent grace of God wrought indeed in them, touching and affecting their hearts”

    – temporary faith also produces “fruits and effects” so that “a great and wonderful change is wrought” in the temporary believer “in all their part and power, their understanding, will, affections, ways”

    And whether you agree with Leithart or not, his arguments (below) need to be engaged before it would be clear that the kind of triune fellowship he discusses is unbiblical

    Leithart: “The systematic argument begins with the premise that biblical religion is centrally an historical religion. Our Scripture is framed as an account of history from creation to consummation, and our catholic creeds are largely recitals of past events of the gospels and Acts and a confession of hope in future events. One of the wonderful emphases of Reformed theology is its insistence that redemption is the renewal of creation rather than a cancellation of or escape from creation. If, as I have argued above, man is a being-in-relation and salvation involves the restoration of human life (including social life), and if salvation, biblically speaking, is realized in history, then this restoration of social life must be historically manifest in a saved society. God’s saving acts must produce a visible and historical community, and “salvation” must be a description of the condition and life-together of this visible community.”

    “Exegetically, John 17 again comes to our aid. To reiterate, Jesus there prays that the renewed humanity of the church would be a human image of inter-Trinitarian life rooted in participation in inter-Trinitarian life. And it is clear from Jesus’ prayer that He is talking about a visible human community. The unity of the church makes manifest to the world the unity of the Father and the Son (v. 21) and the perfection of this unity makes it evident to the world that the Father sent and loves the Son (v. 23). If the world is drawing these conclusions from the unity of the church, this unity must be apparent to the world and the church must likewise be a visible church. In short, Jesus here prays that the visible church would be the unified race reflecting to the world the unity and harmony of the Triune life.

    Entry into the church is always a soteriological fact for the person who enters. This is pretty clearly stated in various places in the NT, in passages that describe the falling away of some who have been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the powers of the age to come, or the cutting off of branches that were once in the vine, or the withering of grain that once grew from the seed of the word. The church is the location where the salvation of humanity is already being worked (though not yet consummated), where humanity is being restored to harmony with the Triune God and where men are being restored to fellowship with one another. Anyone who enters the church participates in that salvation, just as anyone who joined the community of Israel participated in the saving exodus from Egypt.”


  44. Reed Here said,

    January 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Paul: thank you. As this post demonstrates, you are too modest in your “layman” comment. Thanks for the efforts.

    I agree there is some communion. The question is the necessity of distinguishing. This, as you know, is one of the problems many of us have with the FV. There is a distinct lack (and often refusal) to distinguish as the Bible does. The refusal on some FV’ers (and reticence leading to ignoring on the part of others) of the inward/outward distinction is critical in this regard. Refusing (ignoring) this distinction results in the kinds of errors we protest against.

    Appreciating your affirmation of the inward/outward distinction (I assume you mean you believe the Bible teaches this), I must nevertheless disagree with your effort to distinguish the application of this to the issue of “communion.”

    I particularly disagree with your “temporary faith” references. (BTW, those in quote marks before you state Leithart’s name, those are from Leithart as well?)

    I find that Turretin’s discussion of this subject is very helpful. Thinking through his comments helped me substantially coordinate the various strains of biblical data in a manner I believe is more consistent that what you list here. (You may remember the series of posts where this was discussed here at some length).

    Temporary faith has as its source the same as permanent faith, the work of the Spirit. TF, however, is not a “taste” of the real thing temporarily to be removed. This is Arminianism, regardless that it only applies to the non-elect.

    The communion of the saints experienced by the non-elect in the visible Church via the common operations of the Spirit is solely external. Maybe it is helpful to note this key distinction:

    The elect experience faith of regeneration. It is a faith altogether alien to their being. It is their possession solely by the permanent inward presence of the Spirit. It is faith of new life, the new nature, of the age to come.

    The non-elect (in the visible church) experience faith of reprobation. It is a faith altogether ordinary to the fallen human condition. It is their possession because the Spirit worked on their ordinary human faculties (thoughts, desires, will) and persuaded them to temporarily profess faith in Christ. It is faith of old life, the old nature, of the age that is passing away.

    Maybe it helps to consider it via John 1:12-13:

    For the elect, the decision to believe/receive Christ is ultimately the work of God.

    For the non-elect (in the visible Church) the decision to believe/receive Christ is ultimately the work of the flesh/blood/will of man.

    I think your definition of temporary faith, assuming it is a taste of true faith, is wrong. This leads to the failure to properly distinguish.

    Assume for the moment that the non-elect (in the visible Church) do have some experience of the various graces you list. These cannot be temporary experiences of the real because these folks do not have the Spirit’s ministry in the same way as the elect.

    The Spirit ministers to the elect in the most transformative of manners, literally creating new beings. The Spirit ministers to the non-elect (in the visible Church) in the ordinary (i.e., common) fallen human manner, literally leaving them as fallen beings still in their sins. Any experience of any graces then is merely and exclusively external.

    To posit a temporary, losable version of the permanent ministry of the Spirit contradicts Scripture.

    And again, sincerely, thanks for the response. I do appreciate the interaction at this level.

  45. January 28, 2010 at 1:12 pm


    We’ve addressed these issues at length in the past. There’s nothing new in what you cite. These FV errors have been rejected in Reformed denominational reports, presbytery reports, seminary reports, SJC cases, blog posts, etc. The more I read this stuff, the more Arminian it sounds. It is also (and obviously) incompatible with the Westminster Standards and 3FU.

    As to John 17, may I draw your attention to verse 9:

    I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours

    them/they = the elect (look at the context for crying out loud)
    world = reprobates

    Follow that down through verse 20. Jesus is praying for his immediate company (the 11 remaining apostles) and the elect.yet regenerated. That would be the invisible church in our language. Leithart is committing the standard FV error of conflating narratives concerning the elect of the invisible church and applying them to the visible church at large. Nothing new.

    What I also see in Leithart’s words that you cite is a sociological treatise, to use Vern’s words, rather than theology. Leithart seems to be saving people by association with the church just as NPP does. More of the same.

  46. Ron Jung said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    So there is a communion, albiet temporary grace or working of the Spirit in the non-elect who are baptized? This “experience” just needs to be distinguished from the experience of the elect? Is this the heart of the problem?

  47. pduggie said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I don’t think temp faith is a taste of true faith. Downame correlates/identifies it with knowledge, that is common Spiritual operation,

    Downame claims its not a work of man.

  48. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    I think your post argues for distinguishing between things that are true according to our appearance, vs. things that are true as God sees them. Both might be called “true”, but the first is (much) less true and certain than the second.

    Take a look at Romans 11. In previous chapters, Paul has argued that the Romans in the church are loved by God and called to be saints, justified and at peace with God, no longer under condemnation, filled with the Spirit and no longer controlled by the sin nature, etc. Ephesians is even stronger: they have been chosen from before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.

    Now here in ch. 11, he warns the Romans that if they do not continue in God’s kindness, they will be cut off. How can this be? We really have two basic options:

    (1) There is a kind of being justified, no longer under condemnation, etc. that one can be cut off from, or
    (2) Paul is speaking generally, to the group, about what *appears* to be true of them according to the information he knows … but he is *qualifying* his view with the knowledge of his limitations.

    Both options have been taken — the Catholics and Arminians take (1) — but (2) is the direction that the Reformers went with it.

    There is a line to walk here. If we split the invisible from the visible too broadly, then we become unable to handle the passages you cite. But if we merge them into one with no distinction, we become unable to discern apostasy (“they went out from us, but they were not of us…”) from straight-up loss of salvation.

  49. Ron Jung said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Count Lutherans in with #1

  50. Ron Jung said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Except, Lutherans would say this is apostasy.

  51. pduggie said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    RM: what’s wrong with your view is that if John 17:20 is only speaking of the invisible elect, it makes no sense of Jesus claim that the unity of the invisible elect is something that the world will see and “believe that you have sent me”

  52. Reed Here said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Ron, #46: no, I wouldn’t want to say thisis the essence of the problem with the FV. It is fundamental. The FV is a project however that transcends this key error. It might better be called a complex of errors with multiple co-inhering starting points.

  53. January 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm


    I disagree. Though elect, effectually called, and regenerated, we still sin – simul justus et peccator. That’s a core Biblical doctrine. It makes perfect sense to pray for the unity of those who can choose either to sin or not to sin, the latter in the power of the Spirit. We’ll never achieve perfection in this side of His return.

    And the elect aren’t invisible in the daily, practical sense (but we do make movies about the possibility.) At least I’m not, or else I could take the money from my wardrobe budget and buy more ammo. The world sees us every day – individually and in small groups if not as a whole. We still serve as an example to the world, although there are tares mixed in with the wheat to complicate things. But, the wheat isn’t invisible.

  54. Ron Jung said,

    January 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Sorry, I meant the essence of the problem with TE Leithart.

  55. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 28, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Ron (#49): Yes, agreed. This was a point of departure of Calvin from Luther.

  56. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Or to say more, WCoF 17.1 is in direct conflict with the Formula of Concord 11.11 on Election. It would be worth comparing ch. 11 of the Formula of Concord with Wilkins’ teachings on temporary benefits.

  57. Reed Here said,

    January 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Ron: I’m not well enough versed on Leithart to say. I would say that he is one of the more thoughtful and cogent of those engaging in the FV project. So in that sense, I’d apply my previous comment to him as well.

    Clearly in terms of this particular issue, the failure to distinguish between inward/outward and the oprations of the Spirit in that regard, is key.

    See Lane’s latest post (Rayburn 3), where I think I saw a link to the index of his responses to Leithart at length. At least starting there will give you a good handle on the scope and contour of Leithart and the critique of him.

  58. Andy Gilman said,

    January 28, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I’ve been asked for specifics from others, and I’ll try. the WCF is rather reticent on what the specific common operations of the Spirit are, but I think it should be clear that, as operations of the Spirit, there must needs be some communion or fellowship WITH the Spirit (and thus the trinity) for him to so operate. If even the whole world “lives and moves and has its being” in the triune God, how much more the visible community of the church.

    Paul, I believe you significantly modify or destroy your own argument in this paragraph. Your argument here seems to be that the whole world has SOME communion and fellowship with the triune God; reprobates in the visible church have MORE communion and fellowship with the triune God; and the elect have MOST communion and fellowship with the triune God. Is that the argument? If so, then the difference between the communion and fellowship with the triune God enjoyed by the elect, and the communion and fellowship enjoyed by Baal worshipers is only a matter of degree.

    WLC Q.27 says that “the fall brought upon mankind the loss of communion with God…”

    WLC Q.63 states that the reprobates in the visible church enjoy the “communion of saints.”

    WLC Q.65 and 66 make it clear that only the elect have “union and communion” with Christ.

    Reprobates within or without the visible church are just as dead in their trespasses and sins as the Baal worshiper, unless you are positing a new category of the “temporary living.” The difference between the reprobate’s and the elect’s “communion and fellowship with God” is not merely a matter of degree, it is the difference between the living and the dead.

    The doctrine of the communion of saints implies (or should imply, or needs to be rewritten so it doesn’t imply, if false) that the reprobate within the church have communion with the triune God….

    I don’t follow you. Are you saying it is implied, or that it should be implied? I don’t see any such implication, and I’m wondering where you see it (if you do)?

  59. tim prussic said,

    January 28, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Reed #21 – yup, WAAAAY back up there!

    I am unhappy with certain among FV and their propensity to overstatement. Though not case with every FV man, the FV seems to have started with a good deal of this problem. Schlissel, Wilkins, Horne, and maybe some others seem to have a tendency to overstate. Leithart, on the other hand, seems to be more careful and judicious. He’s a scholar, not a ranter – he’s not a table-pounder.

    In any event, (so far as I know) he’s retracted the statement and said it was overreaching. Is this a common practice of his? If so, maybe THAT should be a charge against him. But, and here’s the thing, that’s not the charge against him. Once again, it’s a change of subject. And the reality is that every point I made back up in post #17 still stands.

    FWIW, I think there’s just as much overreaching going on in the opposition to FV ideas as there is in the FV itself (and that from the beginning). Overstatement is not at all peculiar to the FV.

  60. pduggie said,

    January 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I don’t have to posit a category of the ‘temporary living” because the bible already did: some seed does sprout up, but is rootless, and some seed does sprout up, but is choked by the thorns.

    That’s not a matter of degree either, but it is a form of life that doesn’t last.

  61. Ginger Zagnoli said,

    January 28, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Not a pastor but very informed of this controversy both in intellect and personal experience. Our church split about three years back over this very real issue. Splitting Hairs they called it when we “supposedly” ran our church plant pastor “candidate” out of the PCA.

    I personally know four pastors that left to follow the FV. They are each, arrogant as individuals, and after leaving our church each blogged with malice and bitterness, even though they were now pastoring their own churches.

    Doesn’t God’s word tell us that we naturally love novelty, and doesn’t Paul in Galatians speak in tones of thunder regarding this very issue of adding anything to the gospel of grace.

    When I read that I am “obligated to a lifelong convenant of loyalty”, doesn’t that just return to the mosaic covenant again? Isn’t this exactly saying “After believing in Jesus Christ, I now must be circumsised?”

    It is a good thing that this teaching has gathered so much visibility so that it can be properly and adequately put to death again. I say again, because this is only new to us, however nothing new in our history of the church.

  62. Andy Gilman said,

    January 28, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    The context was of reprobates “being dead in trespasses and sins.” Are you arguing in #60 that the degree of “communion and fellowship,” which you say is enjoyed by the reprobate within the visible church, is such that the reprobate are, for a time, NOT dead in trespasses and sins?

  63. todd said,

    January 28, 2010 at 7:20 pm


    Amen – you get it.

  64. Andrew Duggan said,

    January 28, 2010 at 7:26 pm


    Hi Again Paul, but when it comes to salvation, there is no temporary life. Salvation is about everlasting or eternal life. (cf John 3:16). The parable of the sower is teaching something, but it is not an idea of temporary life. Saying “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might still perish, after some temporary life.” is simply not good news.

  65. reedhere said,

    January 28, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Paul: what do you think of my distingusihing between real faith and temporary faith (#44).? Do you agree/disagree, where/why? Do you think Leithart is saying the same thing? Why?

  66. Martin Bucer said,

    January 28, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Jeff Cagle,

    “The head for head” position, of which you speak, is (as I hope you realize) one that is maintained by a number of Reformed Christians. R.S. Clark seems to believe it a near immoveable impediment to communion between the URC and Canadian Reformed (but have most people here even read Schilder, or Jelle Faber?). Some of the Canadian Reformed brethren read the depiction of them by some URC brethren and wonder who in the world is being spoken about – not uncommon,. and so it is in much of the TR/FV disputes. It seems that the presence of divergence among Reformed Christians presents too much existential turmoil and cognitive dissonance for the members of JV Team Presbyterianism in the United States, and so, the standard response is to utilize the term “heresy” (note the left hand column of this blog, and where, in particular the Federal Vision is bed-fellowed with the followers of Trent).

    As for Murray, I’m not sure that citing him helps you, in that Murray is viewed by a host of country club Presbyterians in the USA as imperiling Reformed confessionalism for arguing, among other things, that “covenant theology must be completely recast”, that there is no covenant of works (or a covenant at all) in the Garden, for staking out a position (helpful in many respects) on the Sabbath which would likely prevent him from approving the ordination of what, 75% of today’s PCA “ministers”.

    In brief, the kind of response to Rayburn and others is either symptomatic of Presbyterians’ burning zeal for the purity of God’s truth, OR, it is indicative of a more nefarious tendency (trait?) plaguing contemporary, nouvo riche Calvinists who in their zeal to find heretics under every rock, unwittingly cut themselves off from what, 95% of the “visible” church (remember Letham and his commentary on the minority positions at Dordt and Westminster – The divines in the majority within both bodies/assemblies showed far more restraint in regard to divergent views than one finds on the part of contemporary Presbies.

    As a final thought (I’ll cede you the last word Jeff), someone shared with me papers presented several years ago at a major PCA Presbytery meeting on the East Coast. One of the men spoke at length about the warring tendencies of Zwinglian vs. Calvinistic approaches to the faith. He proceeded to utilize the analogy of soldiers, in the fog of war, mistakenly firing on their own. I would suggest Christ the King hates that.

  67. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Mr. Bucer,

    Thank you for your zeal to preserve the unity of the larger Body. Maranatha. If I may, I would encourage less contempt for brothers you perceive as weaker in the faith.

    Your perspective on the “head-for-head” question is interesting; but how does one subscribe to Dort and maintain head-for-head at the same time? I would have to know a lot more before commenting.

    As for Murray, I’m not sure that citing him helps you, in that Murray is viewed by a host of country club Presbyterians in the USA as imperiling Reformed confessionalism for arguing…

    If his argument is good, then it’s good.

    IMO, Murray’s view of the Church would be of substantial help to the FV in providing an alternate solution to some of the difficulties that drive them: Not one church now, one church later, but one church now, viewed by two different observers.

    To my mind, this makes more sense of warnings and “temporary faith” and such, than the (limited exposure I’ve had to the) head-for-head view. In the end, WCoF 17 and the corresponding parts of Dort and the Institutes loom large in my thoughts.

    Mr. Bucer, it’s the fog of war that’s the problem, isn’t it?

    Jeff Cagle

  68. January 29, 2010 at 8:17 am


    I don’t have to posit a category of the ‘temporary living” because the bible already did: some seed does sprout up, but is rootless, and some seed does sprout up, but is choked by the thorns.

    There is no warrant for “temporary life” in the saving sense in that parable. Mat 13:18-23 makes it clear that only those who were characterized by the good ground understood the word and yielded fruit. The rest never understood, i.e., were illumined by the Holy Spirit in regeneration. The first three were reprobates at all times, though some appeared promising to men for a time.

    In the context of Mat 13, this parable is followed immediately by the parable of the wheat and tares, which models and characterizes the presence of reprobates in the visible church.

  69. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 8:54 am

    My basic point is that in asking the question

    “what advantage hath the operations of the Spirit which are common to elect and reprobate”

    The answer should be “much in every way”

    Not “this is all really worthless”

    Reed: your statement about *faith* being something totally alien to the human condition seems a bit strong, though I’m sure the presence of the Spirit is something “new”, though not totally alien.

    I’ll also admit my heart is strangely warmed by the Lutheran doctrine of universal objective justification, though I don’t profess it, and think it works better on a covenantal basis w.r.t. the visible church than the whole world, though I don’t profess that either.

  70. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Reed: Is the faith that Adam would have needed to resist the temptations of Satan been totally alien to his nature?

  71. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Pduggie: (#69):

    I’ll also admit my heart is strangely warmed by the Lutheran doctrine of universal objective justification, though I don’t profess it, and think it works better on a covenantal basis w.r.t. the visible church than the whole world, though I don’t profess that either.

    Mine, too. I think of it in these familiar-sounding terms:

    Dort 3/4.8,9: Nevertheless, all who are called through the gospel are called seriously. …Some in self-assurance do not even entertain the Word of life; others do entertain it but do not take it to heart, and for that reason, after the fleeting joy of a temporary faith, they relapse; others choke the seed of the Word with the thorns of life’s cares and with the pleasures of the world and bring forth no fruits. This our Savior teaches in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13).

    On this basis, I would say, from man’s fallible perspective, we must assume that anyone at all could well be elect; and that the offer of the gospel is for him. We recognize that this may not be the case, but we preach contingently in this manner, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” (NOT, “if you are elect, believe and be saved.”)

    And the contingency shades into something stronger when speaking to the visible church, as WLC 63 makes clear.

    So bring on the objective universal justification! But qualify it to mean, not in reality (in the sight of God), but in the sight of men only. We don’t know for whom Christ died; but the man before me is seriously offered the gospel.

    Jeff Cagle

  72. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Paul, #70 (with possible reflections to 9, we’ll see :)):

    The faith that is alien to fallen man is that faith which is only received by the effectual operations of the Spirit.

    There is a faith with is natural to fallen man. It is the faith he exercises through the function of his own fallible faculties. It is a fatally deficient faith in the end. Yet it is also a faith which for a time gives external evidences akin to the alien Spirit-wrought faith.

    As to Adam, I would say (I’m open to correction): that he indeed would have related to God by faith (in the broadest of terms). This faith would not be the alien Spirit-wrought faith. Nor would it be the fallible fallen-faith.

    It would, nevertheless, be a faith that was natural to Adam, and in this sense sharing this characteristic with the fallible fallen-faith. That is, it was natural in that it was the expression of the capacity which God had created Adam with. It was constituently a part of his being as created. Further, we could say this faith was the antecedant to the fallible fallen-faith. It was this potential-for-falling faith that experienced, along with the rest of Adam’s being, the Curse of the Fall. This is not saying these are the same faiths, merely organically related.

    The faith that God gives the elect has no such similar organic relation. This is just another way of saying it is wholly alien.

  73. Reed Here said,

    January 29, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Paul, # 69 (last post too long for more):

    If I might adjust your expression of discomfort, I too feel this, but attribute this factor to the weakness of our language to fully and adequately express what the Spirit does in the common operations of the Spirit.

    If we begin with what I think is biblically necessary, i.e., the alien distinction, then we can consider the evidence found in Scripture and begin to build a case that holds the strength of expression found in such passages as the Seeds Parable (Mt 13), while maintaining the sacrosanctity of the Bible’s expression of the doctrine of election.

    One example, consider Saul among the prophets. I think we can get some insight from considering the Psalms’ and Proverbs’ teaching about the Spirit’s rule over the affairs of rulers (i.e., civil magistrates). The “hearts,” the decision making faculty (at least) of these unregenerate are directed by the Spirit. Similar examples are seen in Pharaoh choosing/God choosing in the Exodus, and by the Jews/Romans choosing to crucify Christ by the determination of God.

    In all these examples we see the Spirit operating on the unregenerate in such a manner that a few things are clear: 1) the Spirit influenced their immaterial faculties, 2) they nevertheless freely exercised their own volition, and 3) there was not in any sense a temporary experience of any grace that the elect experience in redemption.

    The discomfort for me comes in relation to the fact of the analogous nature of someone like Saul’s action when among the prophets. He appears to be a prophet because at a distance (note the Bible is very general in its description of Saul’s behavior). The discomfort is particularly focused on the meaning of the Spirit’s influencing Saul.

    I hear the FV saying that this influencing is a temporary (a covenantal if you will) experience of the alien faith given to the elect (i.e., decretal as opposed to covenantal). This contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. The FV in this regard fractures the analogy of the relationship, and posits an organic quality to that relationship that the Bible does not support.

    Maintain the alien distinction and then delve deeper to understand the analogous nature of the Spirit’s influencing, and I do not think you need recourse to the FV errors. As I said quite a while ago here (and elsewhere) I have sympathy for the FV’s questions, just not their formulations.

    So yes, I share your discomfort. Yet I appear to disagree with you as to the source of that discomfort.

  74. Ron Jung said,

    January 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    The vine and the branches have been used to show the organic quality. The branches in the fire used to be attached to the vine. I know this has been brought up before. You may want to disregard, but the FV, Arminians, Lutherans, Catholics don’t see it as clear cut biblically as you. I think there needs to be distictions in our categorizing of faith, but it is really difficult to say Judas never had a communion with Christ. Distinction of communion is what it seems the FV is trying to due. Perhaps dialogue with the hope to find acceptable language would be great, but I don’t think that is the spirit of our age.

  75. Martin Bucer said,

    January 29, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Jeff – As a clarifier/post-script, “weaker in the faith” brethren are those whose scruples prevent them from say, indulging in things (or observing others indulging in things) which, in themselves are not sinful, but which for them, cause stumbling. They are not those who find heretics under every rock, often without taking the time to actually work through, in any meaningful sense, what a Leithart writes.

    “Hey Joe, I kinda, um, think like, that Leithart might be failing to er, distinguish between ordo and visible church benefits – But, being that I’ve never taken the time to read him (I’m more conversant with Van Halen than Van Til, since I went to public school and all), or for that matter, never really read anyone really, in the history of the church before Calvin, what should I do”?

    Hence, the JV, or travelling team, the priesthood of the idiots continues on. LET THEM READ LETHAM, who again, notes that upwards of 1/3 of the participants at Dordt believed that regeneration and justification could be forfeited (and yet curiously, though there view as the MINORITY view, it was not anathematized by the majority therein). Uncomfortable road blocks standing in the way of the JV team’s Big Wheels, but so it goes.

    Truly my last note, Jeff. I promise. And, lest my characterizations be too strong, let it be said that it is far worse for me to call a man a heretic than for me to say he abides among the priesthood of the idiots.

  76. January 29, 2010 at 11:12 pm


    You may want to disregard, but the FV, Arminians, Lutherans, Catholics don’t see it as clear cut biblically as you.

    The point is not just that we disagree with them, but none of them should be officers in the PCA. That’s the real point. I don’t think that anyone is necessarily going to hell if they are Lutheran, but neither will they be ordained in the PCA and visa versa.

    it is really difficult to say Judas never had a communion with Christ

    Not in a saving way. Judas had the privilege of hearing Jesus teach, see Him heal, etc. But that didn’t provide any saving graces, as his fall clearly showed him reprobate all along. As John said in 1 Jn 2:19, they never were of us. Who do you think John had in mind? I’ll bet Judas fit the mold nicely.

    Perhaps dialogue with the hope to find acceptable language would be great

    Although language use is definitely an issue, it isn’t the core issue. Imprecise and fuzzy language is how FV covers up the cancerous core. It’s the FV theological constructs that seven orthodox Reformed denominations rejected, not just the fuzzy language.

  77. January 30, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Thanks for this resource.

  78. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Ron, #74:

    It may not be the Spirit of the age, but I can’t help but consider it to be the Spirit of Christ. I’m preaching on 1Co 2:6-16 tomorrow. Interesting connection here.

    Bob’s response to you about ministry is spot on. If those who were FV’ers were in a different denomination my conversation with them over our differences would be the same as my conversations with baptist brethren over baptism, or Methodist brethren over prevenient grace. Such conversations are filled with a freedom to seek to sharpen one another while respecting the differences.

    The issue at hand is those within the PCA who approve the FV formulations. I believe such formulations necessarily lead to misunderstanding the nature of our relationship with Christ such that believers are left devoid of real strength in Christ, and must resort to more walking by sight. I know the FV men disagree, but I believe their positions necessarily will reinforce the tendencies of Christians to be works/performance oriented.

    I’m not saying their helping people on the path to Hell like some who call themselves Christian ministers today. I am saying they are at least retarding the Christian’s walk of faith. As such is always potentially ultimately dangerous, I can’t leave this as a minor disagreement.

    Our standards do not support the FV position. If you believe the FV is more biblically consistent, then seek to properly change the standards, or find a place of ministry where we both can serve with integrity.

  79. Towne said,

    January 30, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Mr. “Bucer”:

    How can anyone take you seriously, when you live and speak in such utter disregard of our Lord’s teaching in Mt. 5:21-22?

    Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill ; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say , Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

    Several times you have pulled out the term “idiots” and used it as a slur against those you oppose. Our Lord says there is murder in your heart.

    Let me unpack this for you. The Aramaic term Raca means “empty headed”. It was one of their descriptive terms for the mentally retarded. Likewise, in English, “moron”, “imbecile” and “idiot” were once properly descriptive terms for gradations of retardation. But all too easily these words are picked up to be sinfully used as course slurs.

    What happens when you pick up that verbal stone? Your intent is to label your enemy as worthless, without intelligence, undeserving of any respect. But in doing so, you also strike out against those whom God in His providence has created with profound physical and mental defects. God made them this way for a purpose, yet you would deny their worth as well by your slander. And ultimately your slander is a strike against the God who made us all in His image, whether whole or infirm.

    By your slander, you seek to murder your brother, you seek to murder the helpless, and you seek to murder God Himself. I fear for your eternal soul. Repent of your arrogance and your hatred before it is too late. And no, I am not joking.

  80. Martin Bucer said,

    January 30, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Towne – Two final thoughts:

    1. Far better to be called one who dwells among the priesthood of the idiots, than a heretic.

    There are plenty of shall we say, mentally flummoxed brethren who are in the kingdom of God (“members of the invisible church”, if you prefer). Heretics are cast out, either in history, or at the eschaton.

    How ’bout I drop the terminology “JV team”, “practice squad”, “priesthood of the idiots”, when some of the same heresy-mongers drop the promiscuous use of the “H” bomb, often without even reading the very guys they seek to tar and feather (or saying things like “um, I’ve not really read anything by James Jordan, but a kinda sorta feel like he’s too ‘different’ and what not”).

    Until such volte face occurs on a wide scale among not a few Presbies, I see every exegetical reason to answer fools according to their folly.

    But again, better to be a saved idiot than an informed, condemned, heteric. I’d take the former any day….

    2. As for your exegesis of the SMT, our Lord also tells His people to cut off arms, not to take oaths, etc. Surely you can’t put forth as meaningful exegesis such ham-fisted literalism as undergirds your rebuke, unless you would argue that the poor young teenager in San Francisco who cut off his arm with a chainsaw out of a misguided (or shall we say, “idiotic”) desire to mortify lust, was actually, reading our Lord’s admonition correctly.

  81. Reed Here said,

    January 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Mr. Bucer, #80 (and previous): two comments that I ask you to abide by while here at GB:

    1. Lane does provide some leeway in terms of annonymity for posters. Ordinarily as long as they’re not engaging in any extended manner, he pretty much lets them go. However, when a poster makes substantial posts and/or repeated participation, for the sake of Christian behavior he asks that posters not maintain annonymity behind a screen name.

    I note this because I’m not sure if yours is merely a screen name, or is your actual given name. Would you please clarify? By way of example, my name is Reed DePace, and I am pastor of 1st PCA in Montgomery, AL, USA.

    2. Lane allows leeway in terms of the heat of conversation. He does not allow name calling. I understand that some nuancing is sometimes necessary. I note however that your initial comments to Jeff C. were disparaging and belittling in a manner that offered no real substantive argument to prove your point. You assumed ignorance or nefariousness on the part of those you oppose, inferring even Lane himself (your reference to the category list on the left side). This is particularly myopic on your part, but I’ll not suggest a motive as to why you chose to do this.

    You will kindly cease from such behavior or cease to post.


    Reed DePace
    (sub) Moderator

  82. Martin Bucer said,

    January 31, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Reed – Have you taken the time to carefully read Peter Leithart, James Jordan, or Klaas Schilder?

    Just curious….

  83. Reed Here said,

    January 31, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Martin: all three yes. Leithart and Jordan more, Schilder representative pieces that those who favor the FV put forth in support of their arguments.

    Please kindly asnwer my query as to your identity.

  84. Martin Bucer said,

    January 31, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Reed – I confess that I don’t understand your grammar (this last response, or other responses). You also seem to more solicitous about my identity than you do about the fact that ministers-in-good standing are referred to here at this particular website as “heretics”. However, I’m apparently the one guilty of myopia….

  85. todd said,

    January 31, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Could Martin Bucer be the new “Elder Hoss?”

  86. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 31, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    His writing has a familiar ring (and not EH’s, either).

  87. Reed Here said,

    February 1, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Martin: there is nothing wrnong with my grammar. I offered A “short hand” response that more than adequately answered. Quit playing games.

    I explained Lane’s policy concerning annonymous posting. Why the recalcitrance to abide by the owner of this blog’s wishes.

    Last request. Identify yourself and your church affiliation, or please do not come back here.

  88. Martin Bucer said,

    February 2, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Brother Reed,

    If I had good reason to believe that divulging my name would not eventuate in unwarranted (not to mention, unfruitfully time-consuming) attacks on the ministry the Lord has entrusted to me, or – more importantly – attacks on friends laboring in the field who, like 1/3 of the contingent at Dordt, or the minority brethren at Westminster Assembly (see below), hold to things like baptismal grace, universal redemption, and the fact that the Scriptures teach that men most certainly fall from grace (it’s called apostasy), I would gladly divulge my identity. However, judging from the classification of a number of fine Christian men here (who in fact are actually more traditionalist than some of the minority Dordtian and Westminsterian brethren cited by Robert Letham), as “heretics”, I believe that sharing my identity with you would be exceedingly injudicious, and flat out stupid.

    But then again, even apart from the issue of ministerial recriminations, I fail to see how my telling you my name is “Elihu Smails,” or “Chuck Jones, PCA RUF Minister”, helps or hinders what I’ve written here, the substance of which is that both Dordt and Westminster were consensus documents, many of the participants of which would be spiritually lynched and cast-out by not a few NAPARC devotees, and that the various chest-pounding which passes for a commitment to the “faith once for all delivered for the saints”, never would’ve been recognized by the very men instrumental in producing these documents.

    This is terribly ironic, and – more to the point – doesn’t bode well for the state of the Reformed and Presbyterian churches in our degenerate nation, notwithstanding all the neat parachurch conferences about the solas, and such. And, we can add to the irony, hilarity, when we consider some of the same men with guns drawn lament the absence of godly male leadership in their Maranathan-suffused PCA churches and in turn send their daughters to NSA or various other CREC conferences with the hopes of finding a godly husband for them, right dab smack in the middle of “heretical” FV territory…

    As I said before, both you and the wider coterie here may deem this “zeal for the purity of the true faith”. I choose to deem it the height of American Presbyterian parochialism, often put forth by relative youngsters whose libraries are only about 360 years old (if that) — youngsters seemingly as eager to engage in heresy hunts against fellow Calvinsts as are Necons are with their interventionist wars.

    With the following perspective from Dr. Leithart, I bid you God-speed, as I do understand the blogging policy to which you have referred, and will certainly comply with it, this being my final comment.

    Thank you for your time.

    Brother Martin Bucer


    Reading Robert Letham’s excellent recent book on the Westminster Assembly (P&R Publishing, 2009) reminded me again of the variety of the Reformed tradition. By Letham’s lights, the Assembly aimed to produce a Confession that summed up “generic Calvinism.”
    During one session of the Assembly, for instance, Edmund Calamy defended the position known as “hypothetical universalism.” He argued that “Christ did pay a price for all, absolute for the elect, conditionall for the reprobate, in case they doe believe.” Thus, “Christ in giving himselfe did intend to put all men in a state of salvation in case they doe believe.” Christ’s death was “hypothetically” salvific for all men, though effective only for the elect. About one-third of the delegates who participated in the debate took Calamy’s side.
    Though the majority decided against this view, yet, Letham writes, “Calamy and his supporters continued to play their part in the Assembly.” The Assembly opposed Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and antinomian theologies, but was not a “partisan body.” Within the framework of Reformed teaching, the Assembly “allowed differing views to coexist.”
    Not-blackballing was the Reformed way. It had been for a long time.
    Reformed theologians differed on the related issues of temporary faith and temporary enjoyment of the benefits of salvation. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, some in the Protestant church of England held to what they described as the “Augustinian” view that some reprobates could temporarily enjoy soteriological benefits. The English delegation to the Synod of Dort (1618) submitted a request that the Synod remove its condemnation of the view that some reprobates may be regenerated and justified for a time. High as high Calvinism can get, the Synod of Dort accepted the petition and removed the condemnation.
    According to Samuel Ward’s account, the English delegation’s argument was threefold:
    We ourselves think that this doctrine is contrary to Holy Scriptures, but whether it is expedient to condemn it in these our canons needs great deliberation. On the contrary, it would appear
    1. That Augustine, Prosper and the other Fathers who propounded the doctrine of absolute predestination and who opposed the Pelagians, seem to have conceded that certain of those who are not predestinated can attain the state of regeneration and justification. . . .
    2. That we ought not without grave cause to give offence to the Lutheran churches, who in this matter, it is clear, think differently.
    3. That (which is of greater significance) in the Reformed churches themselves, many learned and saintly men who are at one with us in defending absolute predestination, nevertheless think that certain of those who are truly regenerated and justified, are able to fall from that state and to perish and that this happens eventually to all those, whom God has not ordained in the decree of election infallibly to eternal life. Finally we cannot deny that there are some places in Scripture which apparently support this opinion, and which have persuaded learned and pious men, not without great probability.
    This is an altogether remarkable statement. It views Reformed theology as a continuation of a tradition going back to Augustine, continuing through the middle ages, and strives to maintain continuity with that tradition: Any confession that excludes Augustine, they implied, can’t be good. It worries about offending Lutherans. It advocates a Reformed confession that expresses the views of the “saintly men” who serve as ministers of the Reformed churches, rather than an impersonal confession that reflects the views of only one segment of the church. Substantively, it defends the Reformed credentials of a view that would summarily be excluded from nearly every Reformed church today.
    As Letham makes clear, Barth was wrong in thinking that the Assembly was the death sentence for Reformed theology. Yet, the Confession can do real damage in the hands of zealous defenders who have whittled the Assembly’s “generic Calvinism” into a bludgeon to impose a sectarian version of Reformed theology, who convert a Confession produced by an Assembly with an admirable habit of not-blackballing into an instrument for just the opposite.

  89. todd said,

    February 2, 2010 at 11:04 pm


    Read A.A. Hodge on baptism (below) and note how the FVers are actually arguing for Lutheran baptism.

    36. What is the Lutheran doctrine on this subject ?

    The Lutherans agreed with the Reformed churches in repudiating the Romish doctrine of the magical efficacy of this sacrament as an opus operatum. But they went much further than the Reformed in maintaining the sacramental union between the sign and the grace signified. Luther, in his “Small Cat.,” Pt. 4., sec. 2, says baptism, “worketh forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and confers everlasting salvation on all who believe” and, in sec. 3, that “it is not the water indeed which produces these effects, but the word of God which accompanies, and is connected with the water, and our faith, which relies on the word of God connected with the water. For the water without the word is simply water and no baptism. But when connected with the word of God, it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life, and a washing of regeneration.” This efficacy depends upon true saving faith in the adult subject:” Moreover, faith being absent, it remains only a naked and inoperative sign.”

    Hence they hold––lst. Baptism is an efficient means of conferring the forgiveness of sins and the grace of Christ. 2nd. It contains the grace it confers. 3rd. Its efficacy resides not in the water but in the word and in the Holy Spirit in the word. 4th. Its efficacy, in the case of the adult, depends upon the faith of the subject.

    37. What was the Zwinglian doctrine on this subject ?

    That the outward rite is a mere sign, an objective representation by symbol of the truth, having no efficacy whatever beyond that due to the truth represented.

    38. What is the doctrine of the Reformed churches, and of our own among the number, on this subject ?

    They all agree,1st, that the Zwinglian view is incomplete.

    2nd. That besides being a sign, baptism is also the seal of grace, and therefore a present and sensible conveyance and confirmation of grace to the believer who has the witness in himself, and to all the elect a seal of the benefits of the covenant of grace, to be sooner or later conveyed in God’s good time.

    3rd. That this conveyance is effected, not by the bare operation of the sacramental action, but by the Holy Ghost, which accompanies his own ordinance.

    4th. That in the adult the reception of the blessing depends upon faith.

    5th. That the benefits conveyed by baptism are not peculiar to it, but belong to the believer before or without baptism, and are often renewed to him afterwards.

    Our ” Confession of Faith,” Chap. 28., sections 5 and 6, affirms, “1st. That by the right use of this ordinance the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such (whether of age or infants), as that grace belongeth unto.”

    2nd. That baptism does not in all cases secure the blessings of the covenant.

    3rd. That in the cases in which it does the gift is not connected necessarily in time with the administration of the ordinance.

    4th. “That these blessings depend upon two things:(1) the right use of the ordinance; (2) the secret purpose of God.”–Dr. Hodge.

    39. What in general is the doctrine known as Baptismal Regeneration ? On what ground does it rest ? and how can it be shown to be false ?

    The Protestant advocates of Baptismal Regeneration, without committing themselves to the Romish theory of an opus operatum, hold that baptism is God’s ordained instrument of communicating the benefits of redemption in the first instance. That whatever gracious experiences may be enjoyed by the unbaptized, are uncovenanted mercies. That by baptism the guilt of original sin is removed, and the Holy Ghost is given, whose effects remain like a seed in the soul, to be actualized by the free–will of the subject, or neglected and hence rendered abortive. Every infant is regenerated when baptized. If he dies in infancy the seed is actualized in paradise. If he lives to adult age, its result depends upon his use of it (Blunt’s “Dict. of Theology,” Art. Baptism). See above, Ch. 29., Question 4.

    They rest their doctrine on a large class of Scripture passages like the following, “Christ gave himself for the church that he might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water, by the word” Ephesians 5:26, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins.”––Acts 22:16. Also John 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21; Galatians 3:27, etc.

    The Reformed explain these passages on the following principles. 1st. In every sacrament there are two things (a) an outward visible sign, and (b) an inward invisible grace thereby signified. There is between these a sacramental or symbolical relation that naturally gives rise to a usus loquendi (meaning of words by usage), whereby the properties and effects of the grace are attributed to the sign. Yet it never follows that the two are inseparable, any more than it proves the absurdity that the two are identical.

    2nd. The sacraments are badges of religious faith, and necessarily involve the profession of that faith. In all ordinary language, therefore, that faith is presumed to be present, and to be genuine, in which case the grace signified by the sacrament is, of course, always not only offered but conveyed (“Shorter Catechism,” Ques. 91 and. 92).

    That baptism can not be the only or even the ordinary means of conveying the grace of regeneration (i.e., for initiating the soul into a state of grace) is plain.––1st. Faith and repentance are the fruits of regeneration. But faith and repentance are required as conditions prerequisite to baptism.— Acts 2:38;8:37;10:47, and 11:17.

    2nd. This doctrine is identical with that of the Pharisees, which Christ and his apostles constantly rebuked.––Matthew 23:23–26. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith that worketh by love––but a new creature.”––Galatians 5:6, and 6:15; Romans 2:25–29. Faith alone is said to save, the absence of faith alone to damn.––Acts 16:31, and Mark 16:16.

    3rd. The entire spirit and method of the gospel is ethical not magical. The great instrument of the Holy Ghost is the TRUTH, and all that is ever said of the efficacy of the sacraments is said of the efficacy of the truth. They are means of grace therefore in common with the word and as they contain and seal it (1 Peter 1:23, and John 17:17,19). Our Saviour says “by their fruits ye shall know them.”––(Matthew 7:20).

    4th. This doctrine is disproved by experience. Vast multitudes of the baptized of all ages and nations bring forth none of the fruits of regeneration. Multitudes who were never baptized have produced these fruits. The ages and communities in which this doctrine has been most strictly held have been conspicuous for spiritual barrenness.

    5th. The great evil of the system of which the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is a part, is that it tends to make religion a matter of external and magical forms, and hence to promote rationalistic skepticism among the intelligent, and superstition among the ignorant and morbid, and to dissociate among all classes religion and morality.

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