The OPC Republication Report, Part 12

With this post, we delve into Chapter 4, section 1, of the report dealing with merit and demerit. Most of the section is taken up with defining what condign merit is. There are five categories that explain condign merit, and these categories prove that humans have never been in a position to condignly merit anything, even in the case of Adam before the Fall.

The five categories are: 1. free (the performer of merit must be himself free of debt); 2. perfect; 3. personal (meaning we cannot borrow the merits of others); 4. profitable (must be above and beyond what is required, in other words); and 5. proportional to the reward. While the authors take some pains to prove that Christ’s work is meritorious in these five categories, a question remains in my mind. While I have no problem ascribing full condign merit to Christ’s work, I wonder how and if the situation is complicated by the pactum salutis. Would the Son’s agreement with the Father before time began have an impact on our definitions of Christ’s merit? Would it negate the possibility of condign merit? Or would the idea of pactum merit co-exist alongside condign merit in the case of Jesus’ righteousness? This issue has nagged away at my mind for quite some time, and I am not at a point of cognitive rest on the matter yet. My current leaning is that we cannot take away condign merit from what Christ has done, because He has earned our right to heaven. I also think that if any ideas of pactum merit are introduced into any understanding of Christ’s merit, it would have to be heavily qualified such that any idea of disproportionality between work and reward would be eliminated. So, is there a way of saying that Christ’s work both inherently earns eschatological blessing and saying simultaneously that the Father and the Son agreed to this?

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78 Comments

  1. roberty bob said,

    May 30, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    “. . . He has earned our right to heaven.” — greenbaggins

    I am curious to know what biblical texts you would read to your congregation when preaching a sermon on that theme?

    I am unaware of any scripture that speaks of Christ earning our right to heaven, but I am acquainted with scripture that speaks of the Son doing the works that the Father shows him [John 5]; on account of this, the faithful Son is given authority to judge people and to give life to whom he will. Maybe this is one way to explain the theme.

  2. David R. said,

    May 30, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    It seems to me that what the term “pactum merit” does is qualify that Adam’s obtaining of the reward if he had remained obedient would have only been by virtue of God’s condescension to enter into a covenant with him and promise a disproportionate reward. But in the pactum salutis, there was of course no condescension (since the parties are equals), and thus the fact that Christ obeyed the terms of a covenant in no way diminishes the condignity of His meritorious accomplishment. The term “pactum merit” then, is really just another way of saying “merit by virtue of God’s condescension.” FWIW….

  3. Ron said,

    May 30, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    “I am unaware of any scripture that speaks of Christ earning our right to heaven…”

    Ick…

    Are you aware if any scripture that speaks of man earning his right to heaven?

    RB, you conceded the gospel quite a while ago. Who has bewitched you?

    “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous..

    “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

  4. roberty bob said,

    May 31, 2017 at 8:08 am

    Ron, I believe with all of my heart the scripture you quote from Romans 5 and Philippians 3. God’s Son Jesus obeyed the Father, finishing the work that the Father had given him to do.

    The reason I highlighted the greenbaggins quote, “He has earned our right to heaven,” is that it came across to me as though Jesus, by his work, was satisfying the so-far unmet conditions of the Covenant of Works. Adam failed to earn salvation for himself and his offspring on account of his disobedience, but Jesus succeeded where Adam failed. Jesus, by his obedience, met the conditions of the Covenant of Works and earned for us [who believe in him] the right to heaven.

    Well, it never occurred to me that Jesus was under the Covenant of Works. I haven’t heard it put quite that way — that Jesus worked in order to earn for us the right to heaven. Of course I was not aware of any scripture that speaks of any man earning a right to heaven. That is why I wondered what scripture a preacher might use to speak to the point that Jesus earned it. I’m not sure that I’m hearing that from Romans 5 and Philippians 3.

  5. rfwhite said,

    May 31, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Green Baggins: You ask, Would the Son’s agreement with the Father before time began have an impact on our definitions of Christ’s merit? Would it negate the possibility of condign merit? Or would the idea of pactum merit co-exist alongside condign merit in the case of Jesus’ righteousness?

    Maybe it would help to get clarification on this: what would be the ground of merit in the various relations?

  6. Ron said,

    May 31, 2017 at 10:49 am

    RB,

    Not sure what you’re missing (or what I’m missing as it relates to your thoughts). Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law so that He might redeem those under the law so that they (we) might become adopted sons. (Galatians 4) What’s the relevance of His being born of a woman and born under the law as it relates to the redemption of humans under the law?

    Isn’t it true that by gracious adoption we have by grace what the Son has by nature? We’re coheirs with Christ. This relates to the consummation of all things in Christ, even the new heavens and new earth. Our right as heirs is unto glory. (Romans 8) Yet the promise of all things wasn’t made to the Son with one nature, but to the *incarnate* Son as the Second Adam, the Son of Man. Man with God is on the throne. (Wordsworth) But again, not before He finished the work for which He was sent. (John 17)

  7. greenbaggins said,

    May 31, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    RB, the basis of it all is Leviticus 18:5 “Do this and you will live,” as interpreted in the gospels and in Paul. Perfect obedience will result in the eschatological state. One can legitimately infer from the negative prohibition to Adam the corresponding opposite positive command, “Obey me and you will live forever in a greater state.” See Vos’s Biblical Theology for an explanation of why the covenant of works had a probationary period that would have led to a higher state than Adam originally had. Romans 5 portrays Christ as the second Adam, thereby connecting Christ’s work to Adam’s disobedience. However, fixing what Adam broke isn’t enough. Like gears on a car, getting out of reverse is not enough to go forward.

    1 Corinthians 15 is also vitally important to understanding that eschatology precedes soteriology logically (a Vosian dictum). The second half of verse 44, in particular, speaks of the pre-Fall expectation of a glorified body (see Gaffin’s exegesis in Resurrection and Redemption). In class, he noted that his comments to the NIV translation team resulted in their starting a new paragraph in the middle of 1 Cor 15:44, precisely because Paul broadens the scope of the contrast to include the Pre-fall situation (up through 44a, he had been talking about the post-Fall situation). This is proven by the fact of the quotation in verse 45, which refers to the pre-Fall situation. If the only way that Adam could have lost said glorified state is by disobedience, it follows by strict logic that the only way he could have obtained the glorified state is by obedience. So, by dint of exegesis and by good and necessary consequence, we arrive at the position that Adam was to have obtained the glorified state (which was immutable and glorified, and thus far better than what he had). He lost that possibility in the Fall, but Christ, by His obedience as the last, eschatological Adam, clearly presented in Romans 5, obtained what Adam had lost.

    If you do not agree with this position, then you will need to answer the actual arguments of Vos and Gaffin in their respective works, to which I point you as arguing the case in much detail than I have done here.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    May 31, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    Fowler, I am not sure what your question entails. For instance, which “relations” are you speaking of?

  9. greenbaggins said,

    May 31, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    David, that is certainly a fruitful avenue to pursue.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    May 31, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    RB, that Jesus voluntarily submitted Himself to the CoW is indicated by the first and second Adam passages, as well as Galatians 4 “born under the law.” If He was here to fix what Adam broke, how could there be no connection whatsoever between Jesus and the CoW?

  11. roberty bob said,

    May 31, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Hi Ron,

    All who were born under the law were under a curse [a death sentence] because the law could not bring forth the life God promised, being weakened by the sinful flesh. “The commandment [of the law] came, and I died,” Paul confesses. No mere mortal could deliver himself from death through his or her efforts at law-keeping. The only hope of salvation unto life for those who were under the law was by believing God’s promise to one day deliver them from the curse through “the one who was to come, even the Christ the Son of the Living God. By being obedient unto death, even death on the cross, the Son finished the work his Father gave him to do as he made atonement for our sins thus fulfilling all righteousness. Vindicated by his resurrection, the Son was exalted by the Father and declared to be Lord and Christ. Consequently, all who confess with their mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in their heart that God has raised him from the dead will saved. As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive; there is now no [curse leading to] condemnation to those who are “in” Christ Jesus.

    Is “earn our right to heaven” the best way to express what Christ was doing when he did the work that his Father gave him to do? Are we to understand Israel “under law” to be in a work relationship in which they were required — but failed — to earn their right to heaven? I thought that Israel was called upon to live by faith in the Lord, and to obey the Lord’s commandments so that they could prosper in the promised land. In their folly, they abandoned their faith while priding themselves in the law. The very law given to light the pathway of life became a curse unto them. Christ came to redeem from the curse of the law through the shedding of his own blood on the tree.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    May 31, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    RB, you are confusing the pre-Fall situation with the post-Fall situation. Everyone in this discussion agrees that NO ONE (who is not God) can earn the right to eternal life after the Fall, because of the sin problem. That is not why the law was given, nor are we suggesting it. So, you don’t understand the argument yet. The argument is that Adam, PRE-FALL, was to obey in order to obtain eternal life. You need to address the arguments made above in comments 7 and 10. You cannot bring in inability arguments relevant to the post-Fall situation to address our argument, which concerns the pre-Fall situation of Adam.

  13. Ron said,

    May 31, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Is “earn our right to heaven” the best way to express what Christ was doing when he did the work that his Father gave him to do?

    RB,

    Maybe we shouldn’t worry about the “best way” to express the Savior’s vicarious life on our behalf until we can agree that it includes His having earned our salvation.

  14. rfwhite said,

    May 31, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    8 GB — Sorry to be obscure. I’m trying to ask, in what is the value of Christ’s merit rooted? Is it rooted only in His divine nature or also in His human nature?

  15. roberty bob said,

    May 31, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Let me try again. You are saying [I think] . . .

    1. God established a Covenant of Works with Adam.
    2. Adam, at his creation, is good; he is created without sin, but he is on probation.
    3. God will allow Adam to live [enjoy fellowship / walk with God] for as long as he obeys God by doing the work God has given him to do.
    4. Adam’s obedience will earn him the right to life; indeed, if Adam continues obeying God to the end of his probation, he will receive as payment for his good work everlasting life. He will be crowned with glory and awarded the highest honors.
    5. All of Adam’s children [the entire human race in the line of descent] are bound up “in Adam” so that what happens to Adam happens to them; should Adam disobey, all who are “in Adam” shall die; should Adam finish the work he was given to do, all who are “in Adam” shall live.

    I have not heard you say that Adam was called to live by faith, to take God at His word, in order to continue living in God’s good favor. It seems to me that Adam failed and fell into sin when he chose to forsake the way of faith. That which is not of faith is sin.

    You are also saying [I think] . . .

    1. Jesus was born under law and so was in a Covenant of Works.
    2. The Father gave Jesus work to do. Jesus had to obey the Father throughout His earthly life in order to earn the right to life for Adam’s fallen race who were already condemned and dead “in Adam.”
    3. Jesus obeyed the Father throughout the course of his earthly life by doing all things commanded in the law; he was able to obey because he was very God [and God cannot sin] and very man.
    4. The culmination of Jesus’ work — its finishing — occurred on the cross where he laid down his life as a sacrifice of atonement for the sin of the world.
    5. By this work, Jesus’ earned everlasting life for his own, for all who are “in Christ.” In so doing, the terms set forth in the Covenant of Works were met. The entire catalog of Christ’s works earned Christ a Lifetime Achievement Award of Righteousness; all who are “in Christ” have this righteousness put into their account. So, not only are those “in Christ” forgiven [pulled out of the ditch with their gear in neutral], but they, filled and fueled by the righteousness earned by Jesus, have got their gear in drive so that they can travel all the way to their eternal home.

  16. Ron said,

    May 31, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Fowler,

    Maybe I can help frame what you might be driving at in part. If not helpful, please pay no never mind.

    The Second Person’s obedience was His “perfect obedience.” IF this includes not just active but passive obedience as well, then mustn’t it include that aspect of the cross that made the divine nature requisite to sustain God’s wrath (in Christ’s passive obedience)? So, if the perfect obedience of Christ is imputed to the elect and IF that obedience includes His passive obedience, then in some sense the divine nature is integral to our justifcation. Whether it’s integral in a meritorious sense might be another matter.

    The human nature part is much easier – to advance our human nature to Sons, that Christ might be our kinsman redeemed and all that other good stuff.

  17. rfwhite said,

    May 31, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    16 Ron: It looks to me that we’re tracking pretty well with each other. Assuming that’s the case, when we say the incarnate Son’s merit is rooted in both His divine nature and His human nature, aren’t we also saying that He manifested both strict/condign merit (to pay the penalty of the covenant) and covenant/pactum merit (to fulfill the probation of the covenant)? In other words, aren’t we saying that, in the incarnate Son, strict merit and covenant merit unite? If so, how do we answer GB’s question about proportionality, particularly in light of the OPC report’s analysis of the same?

  18. Ron said,

    May 31, 2017 at 6:10 pm

    Fowler,

    Frankly, I see both at play. First the more palatable part (maybe). Seems to me that the penalty paid would be a matter of strict condign merit. The penalty could be paid without an eternity spent in Hell by the Savior because He is divine. Yet the sacrifice, narrowly considered, only could get us back to ground zero. We might say it took care of our demerit but that’s all, narrowly considered. (Obviously we can’t separate the active from the passive but we can distinguish them a bit and draw useful inferences.)

    Added to that, I think I am also comfortable saying that the what we needed to go from ground zero to glory was not a matter condign merit but pactum merit, even though the reward was merited for us by one no less than God himself in human flesh.

    I just don’t see how we can assign condign merit to the Second Adam’s work without implying that Adam could have been given an offer of reward that contemplated his own personal condign merit on behalf of his race. We might be tempted to defend Christ’s condign merit for the obedience part on the basis of our demerit and / or on the basis of Who earned our reward. But if it’s true that satisfaction was truly made according to condign merit, we are left only to consider the reward part of the exchange. For that part I think we must be informed by the original covenant stipulations, which Christ fulfilled as the Second Adam.

  19. Ron said,

    June 1, 2017 at 7:01 am

    In a word, what I’m suggesting is:

    Declaration of “not guilty” is a matter of condign merit.

    Declaration of “righteous” on the basis of active and passive obedience would be a matter of pactum merit.

    Something I neglected to add is if we allow The whole person of Christ, His perfect righteousness, and not just His work on our behalf to be imputed to us (who are not by legal fiction but truly “not guilty”), then indeed our righteousness and hope of glory would be a matter of condign merit. That would not keep the symmetry of the CoW as it relates to grace but I’m fine with that for a couple reasons.

  20. rfwhite said,

    June 1, 2017 at 9:08 am

    18-19 Ron: I’m with you. We’re reading from the same script: satisfying the penalty was a matter of condign merit; fulfilling the probation was a matter of pactum merit. So we’re nearing the question that GB asked in the original post: if fulfilling the probation was a matter of pactum merit, then what becomes of the argument about the disproportion between the work and the reward, that is, the argument that the value of the work was far less than the reward promised?

  21. rfwhite said,

    June 1, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    2 David R. and 18-19 Ron: In other words, are we obliged to analyze and apply the argument from disproportion as the OPC report does? By the way, I am not asking if the Standards analyzed and applied that point satisfactorily. My interest is in the OPC report’s analysis and application.

  22. Ron said,

    June 1, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    Fowler,

    I think the work of Adam would’ve been far less than the reward. Yet for Christ to have achieved that same work in a fallen world with a host of opposition was surely a harder task. Adam had to be obedient in a world with the serpent but not in world with human disciples of the serpent. Notwithstanding, the sufficient conditional work to obtain glory would still be the same I’d think. (Of course I’m assuming for argument sake that the CoW even contemplated the prize of confirmation in righteousness.)

    I haven’t acquainted myself with any argument that concludes that the work of the Second Adam would’ve have been in proportion to the reward (unlike the work required of Adam himself that is agreed upon by all was according to pactum).

    Can you put forth the logic of that position for me? Or is it just asserted?

    Also, is it possible, as my follow up post intimated, that although the *required* work was the same and, therefore, disproportional to the reward, in our receiving of the whole person of Christ to our account in addition to His life in the economy of redemption, mightn’t that support condign merit? In other words, by our union with Christ we’d deserve the heavenly Jerusalem as He does by His rightful ownership. Not by His work only but by our union with the Maker and Builder Himself? Maybe OPC has that in mind?

  23. rfwhite said,

    June 1, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    22 Ron — I think I could put the logic of the position in this way: if we affirm that fulfilling the probation was a matter of pactum merit, why is Christ’s divine nature necessary for Him to merit eternal life for us?
    .

  24. Ron said,

    June 1, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Fowler,

    I understand the logic of that question. It’s mine as well. What I wanted to understand is logic that suggests condign merit is what was needed in redemption.

  25. Ron said,

    June 1, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Let me qualify that with what I said already. The divine nature was necessary for the sustaining of the Second Person under the fury of God etc. The logic I’m after has to do with what I thought the opc position is, that condign merit was necessary after the fall. I have a question regarding merit type, not nature per se.

  26. rfwhite said,

    June 1, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    25 Ron — My bad … Let me try again. Perhaps the following two successive paragraphs from the OPC report will serve the purpose to give a representative snapshot of the logic. It would doubtless be best to read them in the context of the report, for which GB gave a link.

    He [Christ the mediator] must be a man since the Apostle links the incarnation and being under the law (Gal 4:4). He must be a man because he must perform God’s law, something which the Godhead could not do; that “Christ was obedient to the law” is a statement proper to Christ’s human nature (Heb 10:5–7; Phil 2:5–11; Gal 4:4–5). Moreover, Christ must be a holy man, “innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens …” since his sacrifice was “once for all when he offered up himself” (Heb 7:26–27).

    Nevertheless, there is another accent in our standards, and it is of particular interest in the current discussion. WCF 8.3 emphasizes that the divine person of the mediator (an ontological matter) and the indwelling of the Spirit (an economic reality) are necessary for the removal of demerit. Similarly, WCF 8.4, 8.5 and LC 38 emphasize that the divine person of Christ is necessary for the provision of merit. In the words of LC 38, “It was requisite that the mediator should be God” to “give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession” as well as “to satisfy God’s justice.” Or as Cornelius Burges put it, “Why should not Christ’s meritts [sic] be of infinit [sic] value by suffering in his flesh, since that God suffered”? … We can speak of an “efficacy” to “the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ” (WCF 17.2). His work was meritorious because it was proportional.

    It wouldn’t be the first time that I have misread something, but it looks to me that the report is unclear as to where the value of Christ’s merit is rooted. At the least, some parts are clearer than others. I submit that the comments above are not clear. For example, granted Christ’s performance of God’s law was proper to His human nature, was it meritorious?

  27. Ron said,

    June 1, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    Fowler,

    With all due respect to the authors, I find that section poorly written with respect to what it might aim to assert. If the intent was to defend a theological point, whatever that point was supposed to be, I don’t find an argument, just some ambiguous assertions.

  28. Ron said,

    June 2, 2017 at 8:55 am

    This probably goes without saying but just because the mediator must be a divine person doesn’t necessitate the need for condign over pactum merit.

  29. rfwhite said,

    June 2, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    28 Ron — Press the discussion further: is it the case that only condign merit suffices for securing the proportionate reward? If so, is pactum merit needed? Why?

  30. Ron said,

    June 2, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    “is it the case that only condign merit suffices for securing the proportionate reward?”

    I would think so.

    “If so, is pactum merit needed? Why?”

    I would think some sort of compact or contract would be needed since one need not accept every proportional payment, right? Would the willingness even to receive an equitable payment be a matter of Pactum?

  31. rfwhite said,

    June 2, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    31 Ron — We may be talking past each other. Not sure. Let me ask the following.

    The main post from GB prompts me to ask this: when speaking of the Son’s merit, is His merit rooted only in His divine nature or also in His human nature? I ask this because, if His merit is rooted only in His divine nature, it consists only in condign merit. Alternatively, if His merit is rooted also in His human nature, then it consists also in pactum merit. Yet here’s the rub I feel: unless I’m missing something, pactum merit is, by definition, said to be disproportionate; hence it cannot fulfill the probation and receive the promised reward. Why, then, the need for pactum merit or the incarnation?

    To elaborate … as GB pointed out in #7 above, following Gaffin’s exegesis: If the only way that Adam could have lost said glorified state is by disobedience, it follows by strict logic that the only way he could have obtained the glorified state is by obedience. So, by dint of exegesis and by good and necessary consequence, we arrive at the position that Adam was to have obtained the glorified state (which was immutable and glorified, and thus far better than what he had).

    I agree with this exegesis, but it relies on the supposition that Adam could have obtained a reward that is — wait for it — “disproportionate” to his obedience. If not that, then we eliminated proportionality as a criterion of merit and redefined the term.

  32. Ron said,

    June 2, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Fowler,

    I’m sorry but I’m really not following. I’m sure it’s not you. Must be me. Really sorry.

  33. Ron said,

    June 2, 2017 at 10:31 pm

    Let me try something.

    “Yet here’s the rub I feel: unless I’m missing something, pactum merit is, by definition, said to be disproportionate [and OPC says Christ’s reward on our behalf was proportionate]; hence it [pactum and, therefore, human nature] cannot fulfill the probation and receive the promised reward. Why, then, the need for pactum merit or the incarnation?

    Am I tracking? If so, I agree. I think that construct leads to a glaring conclusion that we’d want to avoid.

  34. Ron said,

    June 2, 2017 at 11:57 pm

    Fowler,

    Maybe some questions for you to help confirm to me your take on things?

    Would you agree?

    1. Our redemption included penal substitution that was a matter of condign merit, requiring a divine person?

    2. The active obedience required of Adam was fulfilled vicariously on our behalf by a human being through His human nature. That merit was pactum merit.

    3. The divine person had to be a human being.

    In your estimation, how would the theology of the report relate to those points, particularly 2 and 3?

  35. rfwhite said,

    June 3, 2017 at 9:11 am

    32-34 Ron — I agree with each point, and I acknowledge that the report would agree with each point. Yet the report’s discussion of merit and in particular the Son’s merit raises the problem that GB raised in the main post: if any ideas of pactum merit are introduced into any understanding of Christ’s merit, it [read: they] would have to be heavily qualified such that any idea of disproportionality between work and reward would be eliminated.

    If I’m reading GB correctly (and only he can answer this), he feels the following pinch: the way the report defines and makes use of the terms proportionality and disproportionality sets the reader on a trajectory to conclude that Christ’s active obedience cannot be rooted in His human nature and that the value of Christ’s merit is to be found only in His divine nature. On the other hand, constrained by the exegesis of 1 Cor 15, the reader is also set on a trajectory to affirm, as an axiom of biblical anthropology, that the obedience of a man (be he the man of dust or the Man of Heaven) would suffice to merit eternal life.

  36. greenbaggins said,

    June 3, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Fowler, I am not sure that I agree with your assessment as to where I “feel the pinch,” as you so aptly put it. Where I am feeling the pinch is in a sort of possible category confusion. Is it possible for Christ’s obedience to be both condign and pactum merit at the same time? I don’t think it is ultimately helpful to relegate one of those to one nature, and the other to the other nature. For any other human being, condign merit is simply not possible, because we already owe that obedience. But the Son’s assumption of human nature as a completely voluntary act means that his human nature does not owe obedience already. He is free, in other words. The best I can come up with at the moment is that there are some aspects of condign merit and some aspects of pactum merit both present in Christ’s obedience. However, if a theologian wanted to eliminate condign merit from the discussion entirely, and say that Christ’s active obedience is entirely pactum merit by virtue of the pactum salutis, I would not quarrel very vociferously.

  37. Ron said,

    June 3, 2017 at 10:01 am

    Fowler,

    Maybe we’re getting somewhere here.

    I wrote: 2. The active obedience required of Adam was fulfilled vicariously on our behalf by a human being through His human nature. That merit was pactum merit.

    You wrote: “…I acknowledge that the report would agree with each point.”

    I remain unclear on how you can maintain that the report agrees with my point 2 if that same “report’s discussion of merit and in particular the Son’s merit raises the problem that GB raised in the main post: if any ideas of pactum merit are introduced into any understanding of Christ’s merit, it [read: they] would have to be heavily qualified such that any idea of disproportionality between work and reward would be eliminated.

    But wouldn’t my point 2 establish disproportionately rather than preclude it? Yet if I am reading your assessment of the report correctly, then it (the report) does not make room for disproportionality. I think I must either not understand my own point 2, your assessment of the report or else how they can be compatible. Thoughts?

  38. Ron said,

    June 3, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Lane,

    Picking up on what you just said, can’t we simply say in at least general terns that the passive obedience (penal substitution) was and had to be a matter of condign merit, whereas the active obedience was and had to be more a matter of pactum merit?

    No human could ever pay his penalty but Adam “could have” merited confirmation had God do decreed. Hence the need for both sorts of merit.

  39. greenbaggins said,

    June 3, 2017 at 10:41 am

    There is merit in your proposal, Ron. ;-) Surely, there can be no argument that Christ’s penal substitution was fully commensurate with the “reward,” if you want to call it that, of our forgiveness. It is fully condign. However, even here, there are complications. The pactum salutis did not leave out the passive obedience of Christ. Surely the whole point of the pactum salutis was that Christ would save His people from their sins by his penal substitutionary death? There was an agreement there, too, it seems to me. On the flip side, I am not sure if we can fully eliminate condign merit from the discussion of Christ’s active obedience, if Christ’s obedience was indeed free, not owed.

  40. rfwhite said,

    June 3, 2017 at 10:47 am

    36 GB: Thanks for tweaking how to state where you “feel the pinch” (see, we did need to hear from you!). My concern is that the report shows how we are not clear in how we relate merit to ontology. On the one hand, when consider Christ, we hear that condign merit is the only merit that is worthy of the reward of eternal life. On the other hand, when we consider Adam in the light of 1 Cor 15, we hear that pactum merit is worthy of the reward of eternal life. In the case of Christ, proportionality is defined relative to His divine nature; in the case of Adam, it is not. Well, which is it? As a result of the lack of clarity on proportionality, we are left with an unclear answer to the question: why the God-man?

  41. rfwhite said,

    June 3, 2017 at 10:54 am

    37-38 Ron — Yes, we’re getting to the issue I’m wrestling with. The report is confusing in the way it analyzes proportionality in relation to merit.

  42. Ron said,

    June 3, 2017 at 11:00 am

    “But the Son’s assumption of human nature as a completely voluntary act means that his human nature does not owe obedience already.”

    Lane,

    Of course we agree that a nature doesn’t owe obedience, only people do. I hope that clarification isn’t pedantic but even useful. But yes, the person of the Son, even as a human being, didn’t owe that obedience. But that’s because His person didn’t, even though He took on a human nature. Notwithstanding, even though He didn’t owe obedience, He assumed the terms of the covenant that offered a disproportionate reward for works done as a human being. So, regarding the active obedience part, I don’t see that anything changed regarding proportionality. Any change cannot be indexed to the original terms of the CoW. How does the voluntary act of condescension make the reward proportional for the man, Christ Jesus? Of course penal substitution required full employment of the divine nature and was proportional, getting us back to ground zero.

  43. rfwhite said,

    June 3, 2017 at 11:20 am

    37-38 Ron — Let me restate the issue another way: the report is confusing in the way it analyzes ontology and merit.

  44. rfwhite said,

    June 3, 2017 at 11:33 am

    Ron and GB — it looks to me that your claims about the Son as man and obedience illustrate the problems raised by the report’s analysis of the relation between ontology, merit, and proportionality. Perhaps this question would capture my point: on what account did the Son as man owe obedience to the Father?

  45. rfwhite said,

    June 3, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Ron and GB — Let me add a little bit: When you say (in summary), “the Son, even as a human being, did not owe the Father obedience,” do you mean that His merit must be defined in terms other than ontology?

  46. Ron said,

    June 3, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    “Perhaps this question would capture my point: on what account did the Son as man owe obedience to the Father?”

    Fowler,

    Unlike Adam, the begotten Son had no debt, so I don’t see how He “owed” obedience even as son of man. That the Son owed nothing actually would pertain to His divine ontology. Whereas Adam even owed God everything prior to sin, virtue of being blessed as God’s image bearer. Adam’s ontology was creaturely. We aren’t talking of merit yet. That was just precursor.

    “When you say (in summary), ‘the Son, even as a human being, did not owe the Father obedience,’ do you mean that His merit must be defined in terms other than ontology?

    As I understand the question, then yess. As I understand this subject, the sort of merit the Son might achieve on our behalf (whether pactum or condign) would first and foremost be according to the task as it relates to the prize.

    Please pay special attention here, as I know you always do. :) Although merit is related to ontology, I’d say that to define *merit* by first looking to the ontology of the being who seeks to achieve the merit is to reverse the order of things. In other words, I don’t think that ontology *dictates* the type of merit it is. Rather, it seems to me that the type of merit it is would inform us of what sort of ontological being can meet the demands. See the difference?

    So, I think we discern what sort of merit it is by first figuring out whether we are talking about strict justice or condescending compact that contemplates disproportionate reward. After we know that, then we can determine who is able to meet such demands, i.e. the ontological question. From what I think you’re saying about the report, it might be that they’re allowing ontology to drive the question of what sort of merit it is. I think that’s backwards.

  47. Ron said,

    June 3, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    Lane,

    You note “The pactum salutis did not leave out the passive obedience of Christ.”

    I think your point is pactum can have an element of correspondence with respect quality, quantity or both as it relates to penal substitution. I concur.

    As I understand it, condign merit entails proportional reward, pactum merit doesn’t. So, what shall we call it when there’s an element of agreement in the Godhead but the merit is not proportional? That’s a distinction I tried to tease out with Fowler earlier in a brief post. Here it is again. Fowler in quotes, my responses below his questions.

    “is it the case that only condign merit suffices for securing the proportionate reward?”

    I would think so.

    “If so, is pactum merit needed? Why?”

    I would think some sort of compact or contract would be needed since one need not accept every proportional payment, right? [I was referring strictly to the agreement of an equitable / proportionate payment, which the pactum salutis contemplates in the passive obedience of Christ.] [The post continues:] Would the willingness even to receive an equitable payment be a matter of Pactum? [Rhetorical. Was trying to tease out that there’s agreement in CoR, but does agreement somehow change condign merit into pactum merit.]

    Post 2 here is from a wise but younger GB. :)

    https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/condign-congruent-or-pactum-merit.66235/

  48. rfwhite said,

    June 5, 2017 at 11:59 am

    46 — Ron: I think you are right to reexamine the relationship between ontology and merit. GB’s post picks up the report where it expounds the criteria of what the report describes as a properly meritorious work (a work deserving of reward). As I read the report’s analysis of these criteria, only Christ’s work qualifies as properly meritorious. Yet the report lacks a clear account for the Apostle’s axiom that the obedience of the man of heaven suffices to merit us sinners eternal life. How that obedience would ever qualify as properly meritorious on the report’s terms is at least unclear.

  49. rfwhite said,

    June 7, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    Ron/GB — Here’s one other way to try to crystallize the problem raised in the OP report and in GB’s main post. On the one hand, we are informed that pre-fall Adam was to have merited the glorified state by his obedience. On the other hand, we are told that disproportionality made pre-fall Adam incapable of meriting the glorified state. The measure of merit in the one is not the measure of merit in the other. The standard of justice in the one is not the standard of justice in the other.

  50. Ron said,

    June 7, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    Yes, Fowler. That’s my point when I wrote earlier, “So, regarding the active obedience part, I don’t see that anything changed regarding proportionality. Any change cannot be indexed to the original terms of the CoW. How does the voluntary act of condescension make the reward proportional for the man, Christ Jesus?”

  51. rfwhite said,

    June 8, 2017 at 9:39 am

    50 Ron — Ah, good; I see better the point of your earlier comment. So the answer to that problem is what? What is the measure of merit, the standard of justice?

    I ask because in #42 you state that “[Christ] assumed the terms of the covenant that offered a disproportionate reward for works done as a human being.”

    Are we right in concluding then that, as you understand it, pre-fall Adam was not capable of meriting the glorified state that God offered him in the Covenant of Works and that he could therefore not have merited the glorified state by his obedience?

  52. Ron said,

    June 8, 2017 at 11:29 am

    When I wrote that “[Christ] assumed the terms of the covenant that offered a disproportionate reward for works done as a human being,” what I was trying to communicate is that if the reward was disproportionate for Adam, then it would follow that it would have been disproportionate for the second Adam. Otherwise Christ would’ve have fulfilled a different covenant of works, or life for the more strict Murray folks.

    Also, I wasn’t trying to imply “that pre-fall Adam was not capable of meriting the glorified state that God offered him in the Covenant of Works and that he could therefore not have merited the glorified state by his obedience…”

    Couple of things that part that I hope don’t take away from the discussion at hand. The discussion *assumes* that the prelapsarian offer of confirmation in righteousness (i.e. glorified state) is a given. I’m not here to challenge that axiom. I’m rolling with it as a given to the discussion and the quest to find symmetry within that framework. I might add that I’m much more in kind with that position. I’ve benefited from Beale who I think makes some very fine observations regarding the covenant having indeed contemplated eschatological consummation. He infers from Gen. 3:22 the possibility of a decisive *onetime* eating of the tree of life that would have confirmed Adam in an irreversible heightened state, just like death came by a *onetime* eating of another tree. Also, he makes interesting arguments from the token nature of the sabbath rest that may have been foreshadowing a higher state. And there’s more regarding marriage and nakedness. I never took advantage of Vos, to my shame. I’m admittedly more acquainted with Catherine than Geerhardus. :)

    Lastly, regarding whether Adam was “capable,” I’m assuming you’re not raising a metaphysical concern about the mechanics of will but rather in this context just focusing on the terms of the covenant.

  53. rfwhite said,

    June 8, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    52 Ron …

    You state: if the reward was disproportionate for Adam, then it would follow that it would have been disproportionate for the second Adam – Yes, I agree. To state it differently, would you agree, then, that the reward offered to the first Adam in the Covenant of Works/Life was proportionate for the obedience required of him?

    You also state: The discussion *assumes* that the prelapsarian offer of confirmation in righteousness (i.e. glorified state) is a given. – Yes, I agree that that assumption is taken as a given in this discussion. Oddly enough, I remember that assumption being debated in the comment boxes of this blog! I think you and I, along with others, interacted about it.

    You then state: regarding whether Adam was “capable,” I’m assuming you’re not raising a metaphysical concern – Correct; I have only the terms of the Covenant of Works/Life in mind.

  54. Ron said,

    June 8, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    “To state it differently, would you agree, then, that the reward offered to the first Adam in the Covenant of Works/Life was proportionate for the obedience required of him?”

    No, quite the reverse. I think the reward of being eternally freed from the presence of the serpent and to be given a perfect body that could not possibly sin exceeds the work of serving the creator for a season.

  55. rfwhite said,

    June 8, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    55 Ron — Ok, so the reward offered to the first Adam was, in fact, disproportionate to the obedience required of him. Seeking to understand here: how are the value of the obedience and the value of the reward determined?

  56. Ron said,

    June 8, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Explain what you mean by determine and by value.

  57. Ron said,

    June 8, 2017 at 4:54 pm

    That was a serious question. I have no clue what you’re driving trying to tease out. Maybe rephrase? But maybe this will cut through and help you understand where I’m coming from: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

    Do one have to know (a) how much obedience was required to gain a *better* level of existence to know that (b), a better level of existence isn’t proportional to a servant doing his duty? Secondly, it’s not as though Adam had libertarian freedom. Accordingly, had he performed the requisite duty to gain the prize, it would’ve only been because God had providentially enabled Adam both to will and do God’s good pleasure.

  58. rfwhite said,

    June 8, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    58 Ron — Sorry to be slow in response. Other meetings and conversations intrude on my time for our conversation. I expect to get back to you shortly.

  59. Ron said,

    June 8, 2017 at 11:59 pm

    Fowler,

    You’ve been going at a most agreeable pace. :) Since we’re the only ones chatting, happy to take it off line. Always enjoy our discussions at GB.

    Warmly,

    Ron

  60. rfwhite said,

    June 12, 2017 at 11:40 am

    57 Ron — As far as what I meant by “determine” I meant “decide, establish, reckon”; by “value” I meant “what something is worth.”

    I’m with you on libertarian freedom.

    I take it that your citation of Luke 17.10 is meant to help me understand your starting point. So would we agree (that Jesus’ point is) that we can never do something extra beyond our duty, and that obedience is worth the reward God determines to give it, no more, no less. Would this apply equally to the first man and to the second man?

    (Just so you know, my availability for discussion for the next couple of weeks will be spotty.)

  61. Ron said,

    June 12, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    Fowler,

    Yes, I think it’s impossible for a human person to earn anything from God, let alone pay his debt. The only earning would be by gracious pactum. We may call it merit but only with such qualification pertaining to compact, not intrinsic merit. Of course I do believe Christ, a human being, paid our penalty but that was due to the fact that He is divine person.

  62. Reed Here said,

    June 13, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Ron, his intrinsic merit as deity works with his obedience as man?

  63. Ron said,

    June 13, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Hey Reed,

    Is that you behind those Foster Grants?

    You’re referring to this I think: “The only earning would be by gracious pactum. We may call it merit but only with such qualification pertaining to compact, not intrinsic merit.”

    That could’ve been made clearer. Let me elaborate on the post from which it came.

    “Yes, I think it’s impossible for a human person to earn anything from God, let alone pay his debt.” [Only human persons are in view here. It was impossible for Adam to have “earned” anything in a *strict* sense.] “The only earning would be by gracious pactum. We may call it merit but only with such qualification pertaining to compact, not intrinsic merit.” [ What I meant by “not intrinsic merit” is that the so called “merit” by Adam would not be intrinsically meritorious, as if God would’ve owed a reward because of the intrinsic value of the work performed. The reward would’ve been owed virtue of the gracious promise to overpay Adam upon completion of any condition.]

    That leaves this: “Of course I do believe Christ, a human being, paid our penalty but that was due to the fact that He is divine person.” [The one time sacrifice was sufficient payment to satisfy God’s justice. Satisfaction was actually intrinsic to the work. It was gracious to provide an all sufficient sacrifice but the satisfaction itself isn’t disproportional to the justice due. Satisfaction could not have been accomplished – for several reasons – by any other than the incarnate Son of God. Not even a sinless human person could have atoned for the sins of many. Our demerit required the eternal Son of Man. If there was another way, the cup would’ve passed.]

    Lastly, to your question as I underand it, definitely yes. The eternal Son had to empty himself by addition (not subtraction). His vicarious life of faithful obedience on our behalf was according to His human nature.

  64. Reed DePace said,

    June 14, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Thank Ron. Yeah, I thought Iw as tracking with you. Helpful discussion between you and Fowler in understanding why our doctrinal standards emphasiez Jesus has to be both God and Man in one person. Thanks to both of you.

    (And yes, I’ve changed my emoji. I was hoping the beard and mustache would be a more effective disquise. ;) )

  65. rfwhite said,

    June 21, 2017 at 9:26 am

    61/63 Ron — You state that His vicarious life of faithful obedience on our behalf was according to His human nature. Clarify for me: I presume that we would agree that Christ was rewarded for His obedience-according-to-His-human-nature? Assuming He was, was it a matter of pactum merit?

  66. Ron said,

    June 22, 2017 at 1:19 am

    Yes, same as Adam.

  67. rfwhite said,

    June 22, 2017 at 10:01 am

    66 Ron — Ok. Remind me how pactum merit applies to Christ. As you analyze it above, “the only earning would be by gracious pactum.” Does that apply to Christ? That is, did Christ receive His reward for His obedience-according-to-His-human-nature by grace or justice? I presume you’d agree that Christ received His just reward, not a gracious reward. If so, how do we avoid equivocating on the meaning of pactum merit?

  68. Ron said,

    June 22, 2017 at 10:29 am

    Fowler,

    I’m pretty sure we’ve been over this. IF the Son took on the terms of the original covenant and IF those terms offered disproportionate reward via pactum, then it stands to reason…

  69. rfwhite said,

    June 22, 2017 at 11:49 am

    68 Ron — Bear with me; I’m traveling, so with each stop I have to review or catch up, whichever is required.

    So is it the case, then, as you see it, that because the reward Christ received was a disproportionate reward, it was also a gracious reward and not a just reward? I’m trying to understand you. Help me.

  70. Ron said,

    June 22, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    “So is it the case, then, as you see it, that because the reward Christ received was a disproportionate reward, it was also a gracious reward and not a just reward?”

    I prefer to start with the original terms. If Adam was offered a disproportionate reward and Christ fulfilled the obligations the CoL contemplates, then would’t it seem to follow that Christ in our stead received the same disproportionate reward offered to Adam with respect to merit through active obedience as it relates to glory? If not, then why not?

    That said, I believe if *Adam* was offered eternal life as reward then it was gracious because it would’ve been a disproportionate reward.

    I don’t think in terms of the Second Person being offered a “reward” of glory for Himself. He went back to the Father to share in the glory that was intrinsically His before the foundation of the world. He united our humanity to that glory.

    I think if we want to speak of our reward being strictly just, then I think we need to abandon the notion of merely obedient-merit imputed and start thinking in terms of Christ’s *perfection* being imputed. We have by grace what the Son has by nature and we receive that in union with Christ. I think some constructs fail to do justice to implications of union with the perfections of Christ – the whole Christ, which exceeds his work of obedience.

  71. rfwhite said,

    June 22, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    70 Ron — I’m following the parallel in your construct: Adam was offered and Christ received the disproportionate reward of eternal life for fulfilling the obligations contemplated by the Covenant of Life (i.e., for obedience according to their human nature). The difficulty I have with your construct is that Christ has His reward in the same manner as Adam would have had his reward: by grace, not by justice. Yet we agree that God is just and that obedience is worth the reward God determines to give it, no more, no less. I’m left to ask: where is justice in your construct?

  72. Ron said,

    June 22, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    As written farther above, with which you agreed, there is justice in the satisfaction for sin.

  73. Ron said,

    June 22, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    Also, although I find no strict justice in a reward for active obedience, I do find strict justice in a reward predicated upon imputation of the perfect righteousness of the whole Christ, which we receive in union with Christ.

  74. rfwhite said,

    June 23, 2017 at 8:24 am

    72 Ron – Yes, we do agree that there is justice in Christ’s satisfaction for our sin. There is no justice, however, is the reward He received for His obedience-according-to-His-human-nature (fulfilling the obligations of the Covenant of Life), which was the focus of our recent exchange.

    73 Ron – You find no strict justice in a reward for active obedience. Yet, if I’m following you (and I may not be), neither is there pactum justice. So it would seem to follow that neither the man of dust nor the man of heaven would have been justified according to his work. There is no pactum justice for man; pactum merit is not worthy of reward. In your construct, it seems there is only justice for equals (divine persons), but there is no justice for non-equals, in this case humans in covenant with God. Nor is the obedience of the human worthy of the reward that God determines to give. And this applies even to the man Christ Jesus.

  75. Ron said,

    June 23, 2017 at 9:14 am

    Fowler,

    We’re not communicating successfully I’m afraid. I’d prefer to discuss over the phone given the repeated attempts. I’ll still try to address some things here.

    “You find no strict justice in a reward for active obedience.”

    Correct

    “Yet, if I’m following you (and I may not be), neither is there pactum justice.”

    I find strict justice with respect to satisfaction for our *demerit*. Notwithstanding, I don’t see how pactum justice can be avoided *if* our *positive merit* is predicated *solely* on Christ’s fulfilling the *original* terms of the covenant and we assume those terms were according to pactum justice. I think that’s the necessary implication of a position that limits our positive standing to that which we receive *only* by the active obedience of Christ.

    “So it would seem to follow that neither the man of dust nor the man of heaven would have been justified according to his work.”

    The eternal Son went back to enjoy the glory that was His by nature. He finished the work He did on *our* behalf, not His behalf. Glory was His by divine right.

    “There is no pactum justice for man; pactum merit is not worthy of reward.”

    If what you mean is pactum justice is not strict justice, then of course that’s true. I’m not sure what you mean by “there is no pactum justice for man…” since we’ve assumed from the start the CoW was according to such a compact.

    “Nor is the obedience of the human worthy of the reward that God determines to give. And this applies even to the man Christ Jesus.”

    If all we possess in Christ is the merit that was available for Adam to obtain, and if that merit was according to pactum justice and not strict justice, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that if those *same* terms (without addition) were met by the Second Adam it would be according to the same pactum? (As I noted earlier, the Son in a fallen world had a greater challenge than Adam in the garden who didn’t have to war against human, fallen minions. So, yes, the work was greater and the reward less disproportionate.)

    My view:

    I think if we want to speak of our reward being strictly just, then I think we need to abandon the notion of merely obedient-merit imputed and start thinking in terms of Christ’s *perfection* being imputed. We have by grace what the Son has by nature and we receive that in union with Christ. I think some constructs, as I’ve tried to labor above, fail to do justice to implications of union with the perfections of Christ – the whole Christ, which exceeds his work of obedience. I find no strict justice in a reward for active obedience, yet I do find strict justice in a reward predicated upon imputation of the perfect righteousness of the whole Christ (including His active obedience), which we receive in union with the Son.

    Please, can we talk if you’d like to go further? Just contact Reed if you’d like to discuss on phone.

  76. Ron said,

    June 23, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    “We’re not communicating successfully I’m afraid. I’d prefer to discuss over the phone given the repeated attempts. I’ll still try to address some things here.”

    Incidentally, I’m suggesting no blame. It’s the subject matter more than anything I suppose. So many clarifying statements. All good.

  77. Ron said,

    June 24, 2017 at 7:15 am

    Fowler,

    Some of these comments of mine go back to June 1. I’m not sure how much you’ve considered them, but the more I think about this matter I suspect the OPC report must have something like this in mind:

    Something I neglected to add is if we allow The whole person of Christ, His perfect righteousness, and not just His work on our behalf to be imputed to us (who are not by legal fiction but truly “not guilty”), then indeed our righteousness and hope of glory would be a matter of condign merit. That would not keep the symmetry of the CoW as it relates to grace but I’m fine with that for a couple reasons.

    Also, is it possible, as my follow up post intimated, that although the *required* work was the same and, therefore, disproportional to the reward, in our receiving of the whole person of Christ to our account in addition to His life in the economy of redemption, mightn’t that support condign merit? In other words, by our union with Christ we’d deserve the heavenly Jerusalem as He does by His rightful ownership. Not by His work only but by our union with the Maker and Builder Himself? Maybe OPC has that in mind?

    I think if we want to speak of our reward being strictly just, then I think we need to abandon the notion of merely obedient-merit imputed and start thinking in terms of Christ’s *perfection* being imputed. We have by grace what the Son has by nature and we receive that in union with Christ. I think some constructs, as I’ve tried to labor above, fail to do justice to implications of union with the perfections of Christ – the whole Christ, which exceeds his work of obedience. I find no strict justice in a reward for active obedience, yet I do find strict justice in a reward predicated upon imputation of the perfect righteousness of the whole Christ (including His active obedience), which we receive in union with the Son.

  78. rfwhite said,

    June 26, 2017 at 10:19 am

    76-77 Ron — Let’s try another venue to see what progress we can make. See your email for more.


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