TE Keister’s Reply to TE Moon’s Defense of TE Lawrence – Part 3

Posted by Wes White

II. Exegetical Arguments

A. TE Moon argues (p. 2) that TE Lawrence’s view of the term is in accord with the NT understanding of the term “Christian.” However, the context of each of the three uses of the term in the NT does not support this claim, which depends on baptism being the marker or identifier of who is a Christian. The first instance of its use is Acts 11:26. Baptism is nowhere mentioned in the context, but believing and turning to the Lord certainly is (vs. 21). They were marked by their beliefs, primarily. At the very least, if baptism was supposed to be the marker of the Christian, it should have been present in this context, and yet it is absent. If a Christian is one who identifies with Christ, then in this passage the way one is identified with Christ is if a person believed and turned to the Lord. This is very similar to the common way of using “Christian” today to refer to someone who believes in Christ. The second occurrence of this word is even stronger against TE Moon’s assertion. The context is Paul’s defense before King Agrippa. Paul gives a detailed defense of what he believes. In short, he preached the Word to King Agrippa. King Agrippa responds eventually by saying, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28). King Agrippa was obviously thinking that Paul intended to persuade by his words, not by baptism. At the very least, in King Agrippa’s mind, to be a Christian was to believe what Paul said about the Christ. The means of becoming one, for King Agrippa, was persuasion by words. The last instance of the word occurs in 1 Peter 4:16. In my opinion, this verse does not point in any particular way, except that it is contrasted with “murderer, thief, evildoer, and meddler” (vs. 15). In this context, therefore, it is primarily what a Christian does that is marking him out for persecution, since he is not doing any of those wrong things. The passage is not really about how one becomes a Christian. The context is certainly delimited by the closing “Amen” of verse 11. Therefore, verse 12 starts a new subject. This is why the end of chapter 3 would not be pertinent to the discussion, as it is not in the immediate context. The conclusion of this study of the contexts of the three occurrences of “Christian” in the New Testament point rather strongly against TE Moon’s assertion that the “Christian” was deemed so by baptism. So, the issue is not whether “Christian” means “elect,” but rather whether “Christian” means “believer.” I would argue that it means the latter. And a true believer is one of the elect.

The next section will take quite some time to unpack, since TE Lawrence quotes a variety of Scriptures to prove his point, and TE Moon simply asserts that TE Lawrence’s statement is a paraphrase of Scripture. As a result, we must exegete every single one of these passages to prove that they do not advocate undifferentiated benefits given to the elect and the non-elect in baptism.

B. First up is Matthew 28:18-20, which is said by TE Lawrence to be a proof text for the assertion, “Baptism is the initiatory rite by which we are united to christ and thus granted new life.” It is difficult to see how union with Christ language is even present in the Great Commission. No doubt TE Lawrence interprets the participial clause “baptizing them” to be explanatory of “make disciples.” However, there are two participial clauses that modify “make disciples” in this context. Baptizing is one of those clauses, but in verse 20, we see that “teaching them to observe” is parallel with “baptizing them.” So, making disciples, or, literally, “discipling all the nations” has to do with two things, not just one. It has to do with baptizing and teaching. In any case, union with Christ is not present in the passage. Being a disciple is present. But being a disciple means being baptized and being taught. The baptism is not defined in relation to union with Christ in this passage. Neither is new life present in this passage. So, this passage cannot be used to buttress the claim that baptism gives new life and union with Christ.

C. The second passage quoted is Titus 3:5. The text itself is complicated and fraught with exegetical difficulties. Basically, the question can be boiled down to this: what does “laver, or washing of regeneration” mean? Several commentators argue that the primary meaning is a spiritual washing (see  Towner, 781; Marshall, 318; Mounce, 448; and Knight, 350). These commentators do not deny an allusion to baptism. However, the primary reference for them is to a spiritual cleansing of regeneration, which is invisible, a visible sign of which we receive in baptism. This is also the position of Calvin (pp. 332-334). Calvin carefully distinguishes between sign and thing signified even while connecting them together. What belongs to the sign stays with the sign (p. 333), and what belongs to the Spirit belongs to the Spirit. He states categorically that wicked men are neither washed nor renewed by baptism, even if the grace is offered to them. This is a far cry from what TE Lawrence is claiming. Also, it has been objected that discussing the distinction between sign and thing signified in relation to various passages is not exegetically helpful. Calvin, then, must be terribly unhelpful on page 334 of his commentary, when he claims that verse 6 refers not to the sign, but rather of the thing signified, in which the truth of the sign exists. Let me repeat, the distinction between sign and thing signified was not viewed by Calvin as relevant only to the concerns about Roman Catholics and Lutherans. He clearly saw the distinction as an exegetically helpful category for explaining the text. Calvin, then, is saying that the efficacy of baptism applies only to the elect (p. 333), and that wicked men get nothing good out of baptism. In fact, the efficacy of baptism towards the non-elect is said to be retained only in the hand of God who offers grace. That grace never reaches the non-elect. And, as we will see in Calvin’s comments on Romans 6, the efficacy is tied to Spirit-wrought faith.

D. The third passage quoted is Romans 6:3-4. Several key points are raised by TE Moon in this section (p. 4). First of all, TE Moon makes the claim that if the accusers are correct, then Paul should not have spoken the way he did about the instrumentality of baptism. Secondly, TE Moon argues that the distinction between sign and thing signified primarily relates to arguments that the Reformed have had with Catholic and Lutheran theology, and that such a distinction should not be used as a hermeneutical tool to understand Romans 6, at least not if it is used to say that Paul is not speaking of water baptism. If such a claim were made, says TE Moon, it would come near to violating what the Confession says about sacramental union, and the nature of how sacramental language can function. Lastly, he says that TE Lawrence was asked to divorce the sign from the thing signified. Let’s take these in order.

Firstly, how does Paul speak in Romans 6? One really cannot do better than John Calvin at this point. I, for one, do not believe that the rite of baptism is absent from Romans 6. Therefore, TE Moon’s rhetoric concerning the violation of every exegetical rule does not apply (although I think his comment is still off-base, as there are several well-respected scholars who do not hold that water baptism is in view at all, Lloyd-Jones being one of them. We would not want to accuse Lloyd-Jones of thereby violating every exegetical rule. Nor would such a position violate the Standards on the union of sign and thing signified, since one can legitimately speak of the sign or the thing signified without automatically including the other). Notice Calvin’s careful balance and qualifications:

For Paul, according to his usual manner, where he speaks of the faithful, connects the reality and the effect with the outward sign; for we know that whatever the Lord offers by the visible symbol is confirmed and ratified by their faith. In short, he teaches what is the real character of baptism when rightly received. So he testifies to the Galatians, that all who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. (Gal iii.27.) Thus indeed must we speak, as long as the institution of the Lord and the faith of the godly unite together; for we never have naked and empty symbols, except when our ingratitude and wickedness hinder the working of divine beneficence (emphasis added, p. 221 of his commentary on Romans, which is on Romans 6:4).

Notice here that baptism can be an empty and naked sign. It happens when ingratitude and wickedness prevent the thing signified from being present.

It is possible to err on two sides on this question of how Paul speaks. The first is to say that Paul refers only to water baptism in Romans 6. The other error to say that Paul refers only to what baptism signifies (though, as I said earlier, this hardly breaks every exegetical rule). For now, we need to explore the former error. If one says that Paul is only speaking of water baptism, then one might also be tempted to say that everything Paul describes happens at water baptism. But if Paul does not have only water baptism in view, but the entire sacrament (sign, thing signified, and Spiritual relation of the two), then nothing concerning the time point of when the thing signified comes to pass may be inferred from this passage. Paul is talking about the whole picture of baptism. He is not talking only about water baptism. This means that we cannot say when the thing signified comes to a person. Romans 6 presupposes Romans 4-5, as several authors have noted (see Shedd, pp. 150-152 of his Romans commentary, and Moo, p. 366, quoting Dunn, who seems to have this issue right, even if he is off on other things, although he seems to have backed off from his earlier position in his later commentary). If the thing signified came at the same time as the sign, then Romans 4-5 would make no sense in the flow of Paul’s argument, since the whole argument is that we have been freed from sin’s guilt by justification by faith alone. Abraham’s example in Romans 4 is conclusive on this point, since Paul pointedly reminds us in Romans 4:10 that justification happened before circumcision. The remainder of the passage hints that those who come to faith after circumcision are also the children of Abraham (v. 12). However, if all these benefits come to a person simply by virtue of the water rite (as TE Lawrence explicitly claims), then such a theology must narrowly tie faith down in the point of its inception to the moment of baptism. Otherwise, no sense at all could be made of Romans 4-5, which explicitly ties saving benefits to faith, and not to baptism.

E. The fourth passage adduced by TE Lawrence is Ephesians 4:4-6. TE Lawrence claims that this passage proves that baptism brings a person into the fellowship of the church. However, the items in a series, which strongly emphasize the oneness of the church, are not causally related to each other. They are simply items in a series: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.  How these things relate is not developed in Ephesians 4. Now, we do believe that baptism brings one into the visible church (as WCF 28.1 says). However, notice that the Westminster divines were very careful to summarize the Bible’s teaching on this as the “visible” church. They do not say that baptism gives the benefits it signs and seals, thus making a person a member of the invisible church. Of course, the minute such a distinction is made, the objection usually arises that this distinction bifurcates the church into two. It does not. There is a visible aspect and an invisible aspect to the church. There are distinct properties to each aspect. Both aspects put together constitute the church in the largest sense of the term.

F. Brief Excursus on the language of “sign and seal.”

1. A brief digression is necessary here in order to deal with the language of “sign” and “seal.” With regard to the language of “sign,” and analogy is helpful. Suppose a person is wandering around in his car, looking for Bismarck. He doesn’t really know where he is or where he is going. However, then he runs across a sign that says “Bismarck 22 miles.” He can then infer from this sign that if he continues on that road another 22 miles, he will be in Bismarck. The sign is no empty sign, for it points in the right direction. One would not expect to continue 22 miles in that direction, after having seen that sign, only to arrive in Minneapolis. However, it is easy to see that the sign is not Bismarck itself. One could extend the analogy to say that the spiritual relation between the two is the road connecting the sign with the city. One may choose not to go to Bismarck after all, in which case one does not get the thing signified. Seeing the sign does not give one access to the city. But when one comes to Bismarck, one is assured that he is there, because he remembers the sign that he saw. Similarly, if he had already been in Bismarck, and was leaving, but couldn’t quite remember what city it was he had just passed through, he could theoretically look at the sign backwards as he passed, and would be confirmed in his belief that it was Bismarck he had just been in. So the thing signified could come before, during, or after the sign. We must not tie down the thing signified to the time of the sign. Otherwise, we put God’s grace in a very small box indeed, and ascribe too much to the sign.

2. The language of “seal” is a bit trickier, since it sounds more efficacious. However, the language of seal functions very similarly, although we must use a different analogy. A letter from a king needed to have a confirmation that it was from the king. Therefore, there was wax that was used in connection with a signet ring to put a particular stamp upon the wax. This would guarantee to the reader that the message inside the letter was genuinely from the king. But the seal is not the letter itself. The letter could very well exist without the seal, although that would be unusual. Nor does a seal deliver the letter to anyone. What the seal says is that the letter is genuine to anyone who reads the letter. In the same way, baptism functions as a seal for our faith. It is faith that is the letter, faith that God gives us in order that we might be justified, sanctified, etc. When the letter is opened is not set at the time that the seal is placed on the letter. The letter might be opened later. One might already have the letter opened, and the king places his seal upon it afterward in order to confirm its genuineness. So the analogy works well whether faith comes before or after baptism. But someone who does not open the letter can see that the wax is genuine, but does not have the substance of the letter in his possession, and thus indeed does possess an empty sign, as Calvin noted above.

G. A fifth passage that TE Lawrence adduces is Galatians 3:26-27, which he argues proves that baptism brings one into fellowship with Christ and also brings adoption as sons of God. However, the text explicitly states that everyone who is a son of God is a son of God through faith (vs 26), not through baptism. The “for” in verse 27 does not explain something that is epexegetical to verse 26. Rather, verse 27 describes the sign, the reason they may have assurance that they are the sons of God. And the thing signified is here viewed as connected with the sign for those who have what verse 26 says. Again, Calvin is helpful and worth quoting at length, for his insight into the two ways Paul speaks (this is from his commentary on the passage):

But the argument, that, because they have been baptized, they have put on Christ, appears weak; for how far is baptism from being efficacious in all? Is it reasonable that the grace of the Holy Spirit should be so closely linked to an external symbol? Does not the uniform doctrine of Scripture, as well as experience, appear to confute this statement? I answer, it is customary with Paul to treat of the sacraments in two points of view. When he is dealing with hypocrites, in whom the mere symbol awakens pride, he then proclaims loudly the emptiness and worthlessness of the outward symbol, and denounces, in strong terms, their foolish confidence. In such cases he contemplates not the ordinance of God, but the corruption of wicked men. When, on the other hand, he addresses believers, who make a proper use of the symbols, he then views them in connexion with the truth- which they represent. In this case, he makes no boast of any false splendour as belonging to the sacraments, but calls our attention to the actual fact represented by the outward ceremony. Thus, agreeably to the Divine appointment, the truth comes to be associated with the symbols.

But perhaps some person will ask, Is it then possible that, through the fault of men, a sacrament shall cease to bear a figurative meaning? The reply is easy. Though wicked men may derive no advantage from the sacraments, they still retain undiminised their nature and force. The sacraments present, both to good and to bad men, the grace of God. No falsehood attaches to the promises which they exhibit of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Believers receive what is offered; and if wicked men, by rejecting it, render the offer unprofitable to themselves, their conduct cannot destroy the faithfulness of God, or the true meaning of the sacrament…(after quoting Romans 6:5, LK) In this way, the symbol and the Divine operation are kept distinct, and yet the meaning of the sacraments is manifest; so that they cannot be regarded as empty and trivial exhibitions (emphasis added, pp. 111-112 of Calvin’s Galatians commentary).

Calvin’s sermons are even more plain on this matter:

Baptism then maketh us not all Christians, and again we know, that to be made the child of God, is too great a benefit to be fathered upon a corruptible element (Sermons, p. 484).

And again:

But first of all let us mark here, that when Saint Paul speaketh of Baptism, he presupposeth that we receive the thing that is offered unto us in it. Many that are baptized do wipe away the grace of God: and notwithstanding that it be offered them, yet they make themselves unworthy of ir through their unbelief, lewdness, and rebellion. Thus ye see that the power of baptism is defeated in many men. But when there happeneth a mutual agreement and melody between God and us: then has baptism the effect whereof Saint Paul treateth and discourseth in this text (Sermons, p. 485).

Peter Barnes, in his excellent recent commentary on Galatians (p. 178), says much the same:

Surely, Paul is referring to water baptism. It is true that external baptism does not unite us to Christ. Paul is hardly saying that the rite of circumcision does not save or add to savlation, but the rite of baptism does! As John Stott puts it, “Faith secures the union; baptism signifies it outwardly and visibly.”

Plainly the views of Calvin and Barnes are not the views of TE Lawrence or of TE Moon. For TE’s Moon and Lawrence plainly say that even wicked men gain at least some advantage from the sacrament, even if it is a lesser version than what the elect receive (although such a two-tiered reception of the benefits of baptism is certainly nowhere taught in Scripture). Again, Calvin says that there is nothing signified present unless the sacrament be received in faith. Calvin says that wicked men gain no advantage from the sacrament whatsoever. Only believers get the thing signified, and they have to be believers (meaning that they must have true faith) to receive those benefits. Calvin says that baptism does not make us Christians, whereas TE Lawrence says that it does make us Christians. Calvin says, in effect, that a person is a Christian when sign and thing signified are both present. TE Lawrence says, in effect, that it comes in the water rite regardless of faith, or that faith itself comes in the water rite.

H. A sixth passage is Leviticus 8-9. It is difficult to know how TE Lawrence applies this to baptism and the benefits surrounding baptism. He says that it proves that a baptized person is brought into the fellowship of the church. I will be content on this passage simply to say that more work would need to be done on TE Lawrence’s part to prove his case. The consecration of Aaron and his sons might have relevance to one of the possible modes of baptism (sprinkling), but it is difficult to see how it relates to the efficacy of baptism, especially when circumcision would seem a much more direct place to go in the Old Testament for the theology of baptism.

I. A seventh passage is 1 Corinthians 12:13. Again, this passage is referenced by TE Lawrence to prove that baptism brings a person into the fellowship of the body, the church. The statement is vague in and of itself. It is true that baptism is a sign of joining the visible church, as has been said before. However, this passage is not talking about water baptism. Charles Hodge notes that water baptism and Spirit baptism are clearly distinguished in Matthew 3:11, John 1:33, Acts 1:5. He says further:

It is not denied that the one is sacramentally connected with the other; or that the baptism of the Spirit often attends the baptism of water; but they are not inseparably connected. The one may be without the other. And in the present passage there does not seem to be even an allusion to water baptism, and more than in Acts 1:5. Paul does not say that we are made one body by baptism, but by the baptism of the Holy Ghost; that is, by spiritual regeneration. Any communication of the Holy Spirit is called a baptism, because the Spirit is said to be poured out (p. 254 of his commentary).

Notice especially those important words about any outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We must not make the word-concept fallacy: that just because a word is present, that therefore a particular concept must be present. Just because the word “baptism” is present does not mean that water baptism is present. Peter  Naylor, in his recent commentary on the epistle, also does not believe that water baptism is referred to here. His argument is that if water baptism was meant, Paul would left out the qualifying phrase “in the Spirit” (p. 327). There is, however, a very recent commentary with whom the views of Moon and Lawrence agree. He writes this:

This verse is one of the fundamental Pauline texts that teach the incorporation of baptized believers into Christ.

The author is Joseph Fitzmyer, a Roman Catholic theologian (see p. 478 of his commentary).

J. The eighth passage referenced is 1 Corinthians 6:11, which does not have the word “baptized” in it. Now this does not mean that baptism is automatically excluded (otherwise we would be committing the word-concept fallacy described above). However, the verb “washed” is not usually connected with baptism in the New Testament (see Fee, p. 246). The phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ” refers to all three verbs (wash, sanctify, and justify, all in the aorist tense), not just to washing. Furthermore, the preposition “en” is not Paul’s usual preposition to use when saying “baptize into the name of.” That verb is usually “eis.” It is more likely that Paul has in mind an inward washing from the guilt and power of the sins mentioned in the previous verses. Certainly, this verse does NOT say that baptism cleanses us from our sins, as TE Lawrence claims it says. The commentaries of Naylor (p. 144), Barrett (p. 141, who acknowledges an indirect reference to baptism, but says that it is “the inward meaning rather than the outward circumstances of the rite that is important to Paul”), Hodge (p. 100), and Thiselton (pp. 453-455 for a very nuanced version of what Barrett also said) also bear this out. Calvin says that the term “washing” is metaphorical, Christ’s blood being likened to water. But Calvin nowhere mentions baptism in connection with this text.

To be continued…

Posted by Wes White


  1. March 1, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Thanks so much, everyone. This step by step breaking down of FV theory is really helpful.

  2. March 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Yes. I think Lane did a fine job. I’m glad that it was helpful to you.

  3. Reed Here said,

    March 2, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Observation on Rom. 6:

    I’ve sought to touch on this a number of times, and am grateful for Lane’s extended statement here. The sign, the thing, and the relationship; the water, the Spirit’s baptism, and their sacramental union – all are in view in their proper relation.

    The FV seems to me to fail in terms of the necessary distiguishing and relating. It ends up with a flattening of distinction between sign and thing, and thus attributing to the sign effects of which it is only a marker.

    Of course, this error seems to be one of eisegesis, the bringing of an a priori conviction about the sign of baptism, and using this passage to support the error. But doing this fractures the rest of Paul’s arguments. I appreciate Lane’s pointing to the prior context, Rom 4-5. Try also reading the following context and see how this error introduces flaws into Paul’s arguments. What can only be described as decretally secured results now must be understood to be unsecured covenantal results.

  4. Reed Here said,

    March 2, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Observation on the sealing function of baptism:

    It is important to note that this too is “empty” apart from the Spirit’s use. Bring into view Eph 1:13-14, in which Paul states that the Spirit is the one who effects the seal’s result. Baptism is only a seal which instrumentally mediates grace to the extent of the use of it by the Spirit.

    I.e., like the sign, it too is empty, a naked seal if you will, meaningless apart from the Spirit’s effectuating.

    Here too the FV appears to miss or ignore this critical nuance, and ends up proposing a view of baptism that has an ex opera aura to it. Theoretical boundary lines to protect from this are not effective in light of the FV’s over-realized objectified covenantal nature of baptism. Thus the error that reception of the sign is in some sense to really and truly posess the thing signified.

    Again, an error that flows from the a priori flattening of seal and Spirit.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    March 2, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Reed, good thoughts here. Write this up into a post of your own. I think it is very helpful and necessary to stress these points.

  6. David deJong said,

    March 2, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Reed says that the sign is “meaningless apart from the Spirit’s effectuating.” In the original post Lane says: “a two-tiered reception of the benefits of baptism is certainly nowhere taught in Scripture.” These points are substantially in agreement, and imply that baptism in only effective in the elect.

    Paul however raises the very question of the efficacy of the covenant sign in Romans 3, and does not say it is “meaningless.” As he says:

    Rom 3:1-2: What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

    Just wondering: how would you reconcile this text to your understanding of baptism? Is it inadmissible b/c Paul is dealing with circumcision? But surely you accept the analogous relationship b/w circumcision and baptism?

    Scripture in fact repeatedly teaches that there is a “two-tiered” reception of covenantal benefits; see the “reduced blessings” given to Lot, Ishmael, and Esau in the Genesis narrative. Because of Abraham, God shows them some favor. Also, if baptism is only meaningful in the elect, it’s hard to see how the concept of a covenant breaker is meaningful.

    I have further issues with Lane’s post. Matt 28 may not be about “union with Christ” but it certainly is about identification with the Triune God! Which is pretty close.

    And if Paul was appealing to a Spirit baptism in 1 Cor 12, as opposed to the literal baptism with water, how would this help his call to unity? How would the Corinthians know who had been Spirit-baptized? The entire chapter is a call to the church to act as a body – as a unit – and to support that Paul appeals to their common experience of baptism. The sort of exegesis advocated here would perpetuate division in the church, as it would make the Corinthians more introspective than they already were, seeing who had the ‘Spirit-baptism’ and who didn’t! This is ironically exactly what Paul is opposing.


    David DeJong



    Hard to see how this lines up with your assertion that baptism w/o the Spirit (i.e. baptism of a non-elect person) is meaningless.

  7. David deJong said,

    March 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Sorry about the double ending. Didn’t edit carefully. :)

    And in the first paragraph, “in” should be “is” (“baptism is only effective in the elect”).


  8. March 2, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    David, I think meaningless is an overstatement. However, the point is that it does not in any way unite anyone but the elect to the death and resurrection of Christ so that they walk in newness of life.

    Yes, all the baptized receive some external benefits. But that is mere shell of baptism. The heart of it is as a confirmation of the righteousness that one has by faith. Apart from that faith, it simply does not confirm that.

    Thus, the central purpose of baptism is completely lacking in the unregenerate.

  9. David deJong said,

    March 2, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    >I think meaningless is an overstatement.

    My point exactly.

    >all the baptized receive some external benefits.

    Not sure if external/internal is the best way to characterize the difference between what elect and non-elect receive (though it certainly is one possible way), but I’m glad to see you don’t agree with Lane’s rejection of a “two-tiered reception of benefits.”

  10. David deJong said,

    March 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Wes #8

    Don’t you think that “overstatement” on both sides has caused all the trouble with FV? If Reed if overstating his case by calling baptism w/o the Spirit “meaningless,” how is that going to help the dialogue along? It’s that kind of overstatement that an FV writer might find frustrating.

    I see more overstatement in Lane’s post. For example, he quotes Calvin as saying: “Many that are baptized do wipe away the grace of God. . . the power of baptism is defeated in many men.” Lane summarizes Calvin’s view by saying: “Calvin says that there is nothing signified present unless the sacrament be received in faith” – which isn’t quite what Calvin says above.


    Dave deJong

    There seems to be a (subtle) distinction here.

  11. David deJong said,

    March 2, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Did it again. Sorry. Ignore the line after my name.

  12. March 2, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    David, read Calvin on the baptismal verses. You’ll see that he states many things similar to what Reed says. So does Paul. He says, “He is not a Jew who is one outwardly.” So does Jesus. “The devil is your father” (Jn. 8). So does John, “They were not of us.”

    The point is that what they get is so different from the elect both qualitatively and quantitatively. It is so much not salvation that we can generally say, “They get nothing.”

    However, we can also say that the external means and participation in them is not inherently unprofitable or not a blessing. It is a blessing, but it doesn’t profit them because they do not combine it with faith (Heb. 4:2).

  13. David deJong said,

    March 3, 2010 at 9:12 am

    No, we can’t say “they get nothing.” You quote the end of Rom 2: “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly.” Paul realizes that a possible conclusion from that, which he wants to ward off, is “they get nothing.” That is why he explicitly denies that the Jews get nothing in Rom 3:1-2, which I quoted above.

    Paul is clearly aware of the logical conclusion that Reed/Lane are drawing, and denies it.


    David DeJong

  14. David deJong said,

    March 3, 2010 at 9:15 am

    A further comment: I agree fully with your final paragraph. It is, however, different than what Reed and Lane are saying. I’m not sure why you don’t see that. Look at my quotations from Reed and Lane above (#6).


    David DeJong

  15. Reed Here said,

    March 3, 2010 at 11:32 am

    David: no disrespect, but you are really quite wrong in your reading of Paul.

    In Rom 3:1-1 Paul is beginning to answer the question, “well if all are under the judgment of sin, and the Jews receive no benefit from the mere outward ministry, then what advantage does the Jew have?”

    Paul’s answer is not as you seem to be reading, benefits giving to the Invisible Church. Rather, as you note, the Jew has an advanted because he was the recipient of the “oracles of God.,” that is the Bible. In other words, it was in the nation of Israel, the OT Visible Church, that the word of God was given birth.

    Lane offered this explanation to you in his response to your comment. In view in the outward Jew’s advantage in Rom 3:1-2 is the external/outward ministry of the covenant of grace to the Visible Church. This does not contradict the point Lane or I am making, but rather supports it.

    Lane’s point “they get nothing” is nothing internal. More specifically, they get nothing that the FV two-tiered system proposes. Lane’s in not an argument against the outward benefits. Lane’s is an argument against the FV two-tiered inward benefits system.

    Hope I’ve been clear enough.

  16. David deJong said,

    March 3, 2010 at 11:53 am

    “Paul’s answer is not as you seem to be reading, benefits giving to the Invisible Church.”


    I’m certainly not reading Paul as talking about the invisible Church. If you told Paul there was such a thing as the invisible Church he would give you a very quizzical look. You would definitely have to sit him down for a long conversation. These are covenant benefits. Paul continues the list in Rom 9:

    “Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!”

    Anyways, we’re obviously using such different categories that the conversation will probably be fruitless. I prefer to avoid the invisible/visible church distinction, as I don’t find it taught in Scripture.


    Dave DeJong

  17. Reed Here said,

    March 3, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    David: the FV stretches the benefits given to the Visible Church to include things only given to the Invisible Church. We understand that they call these “covenant” blessings, and use this as just another way of describing the outward/external benefits given to Visible Church.

    Lane’s point rests on the idea that there is equivocation going in the FV, a calling of what is an inward benefit for the Invisible C]church exclusively also in some form an outward benefit for the Visible church also. My point about the sign-thing distinction was to note that the FV effectively blurs this distinction.

    What you see as a challenge to this argument is nothing more than the ordinary outward ministry of the word of God in the Visible Church. This does not contradict Lane’s point, or my support because we agree that this is an ordinary outward benefit given the to Visible Church.

    Now even in this context, remember, that which makes the word-ministry effectual is the Spirit’s use of it in response to Spirit-wrought faith.

    If the FV were merely saying that baptism grants one all the outward benefits, and only the outward benefits of the Visible Church, there would be no argument. The FV goes further and says that in the covenantal experience (the FV-defined outward experience) there is a real inward Spirit effected result in response to a real Spirit-wrought faith. Thius inward experience may be the decretal/permanent kind (tier one) or it may be the covenantal/temporary kind (tier two).

    This is contrary what Paul is saying in Rom 6, in which he sees only one kind of inward ministry of the Spirit, not two. Rom 3:1-2 brings in view an outward ministry of the Spirit, and does so to show that it is insufficient. This does not support the FV’s two-tier system at all.

    As to the invisible/visible distinction, why not live with the inward/outward, just another way of saying the same thing?

  18. David deJong said,

    March 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I think the FV does stress the word and sacrament as the ways in which grace is really communicated. From my limited reading (I’m just about to read Leithart’s Baptized Body), the real efficacy of the sacraments seems to be a big deal to the FV. You say this:

    “The FV goes further and says that in the covenantal experience (the FV-defined outward experience) there is a real inward Spirit effected result in response to a real Spirit-wrought faith.”

    I doubt any FV-er would affirm this formulation. They would say: the covenantal experience is real. It unites one to the vine (John 15). It brings one into the community wherein there is fellowship with God. I don’t know if they would dwell on the “inward” character of this experience. I think the FV probably considers evangelicalism far too introspective.

    To be honest, you are still allowing for two tiers in covenant benefits. One is external and for the non-elect, the other is internal and for the elect. If this is really the case, then what amazes me is that some writers on this blog make so much of the heretical character of FV. To an outside observer (consider a Baptist looking in on this conversation), you’re pretty close. Both parties acknowledge the efficacy of the sacraments. Both parties acknowledge the need for infant baptism. Both have some sort of two-tiered realization of sacramental benefits wherein the non-elect receive “blessings” only to be judged later. But the FV lays heavier stress on the reality of God’s promises as communicated in baptism and therefore also issues stronger warnings to covenant faithfulness.

    It seems to me that every baptism, ultimately, is efficacious. It is efficacious either unto salvation (in the elect) or unto damnation (in the reprobate). God’s covenant Word is always realized, whether in salvation or in judgment. Both judgment and salvation are manifestations of God’s fidelity to his covenant and to his own character. That is why Bethsaida and Chorazin are to be judged more strictly than Sodom and Nineveh: incorporation into the covenant is a serious reality that has consequences.

    I’m ok with the inward/outward distinction, but don’t think it’s another way of describing the invisible/visible distinction. The problem is this: Paul was dealing with the synagogue. We all too easily apply statements of Paul wherein he was distinguishing church and synagogue to the covenant life of the church (so that ‘synagogue’ = those in the covenant but not elect). The problem with this is that it blurs Paul’s fundamental contrast, which is redemptive-historical. The Jews have missed the boat and the Gentiles are now coming in. There is an eschatological dimension to this that is missed when we apply this language to the church today without considering it’s original context, in which it was not applied to the church as a whole but to the synagogue on the one hand and the church on the other.

  19. Reed Here said,

    March 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    David: I’m sorry to respond in this way, but I just do not have time to engage in the detail that is needed to respond appropriately to you. Let me instead ask you, along with your FV reading, to read the archives here on the FV. Lane began here through blog to blog interaction with Doug Wilson. Along the way quite a good bit of debate and commentart on the FV has occured.

    As to the FV’s take on the covenantal dimension, it depends on what the word “real” means. It is clear to me, and I expect in time will become clear to you, that the FV does not mean “real’ merely in the sense of the common operations/common grace experience of fallen. In other words, the FV is not merely arguing using Paul’s outward/inward language. “Real” for the FV means more than merely real in this earthly dimension (material and spiritual under the Fall). Indeed, the FV understands the covenantal dimension to be a temporary experience of those beneifts in the decretal dimension.

    Lane’s two-tier analogy is really quite fair.

    As to your thoughts on Paul, have you also been reading NT Wright? I think your use of redemptive-historical as a distinguisher in this sense is a little fuzzy. This to say I do noit think the eschatological dimension is being missed.

  20. David deJong said,

    March 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Ok, thanks Reed. I still think this FV debate is engaging in some hair splitting. But I’m also open to the tension between decretal/covenantal and generally resist collapsing it in either direction.

    I have a critical appreciation for Wright. He’s brilliant, but overly post-modern. His definition of ‘justification’ is incorrect. His affirmation of the importance of ecclesiology is welcome.

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