Sacramental Union/Sealing: Another FV Dilemma

Commenting on Wes’ Part IV post of Lane’s Reply to TE’s Moon and Lawrence , I (Reed DePace) posted some comments that the FV demonstrates some weaknesses in terms of its understanding of both sacramental union and sealing in baptism. Let me explain a little more what I mean.

Sacramental Union: there is a spiritual relation between the sign of the sacrament and the thing to which the sign points, such that the sign can be used a shorthand for the thing. Sealing: the sign is used as a seal that confirms the grace in view, and in this way strengthens the possession of that grace. These biblical nuances are essential for distinguishing between the sign (water) and the thing (grace in view). Note that in both of these the Spirit is the critical component. He is the union in the spiritual relation between the sign of water and the grace in view in baptism. The Spirit is the Effector in the seal (Eph 1:13-14).

The FV will affirm both sacramental union and the sealing function in baptism. Yet it seems to not quite understand the nature of the Spirit’s role in these. This leads to at least the appearance of baptismal regeneration and ex opera operata in the FV’s system. The FV is not susceptible to these charges on the basis of its decretally based understanding of baptism (tier-one of Lane’s two-tier analogy). At this level the FV maintains the critical reformed nuances that biblically avoid these errors.

Yet the FV also proposes a covenantal based understanding of baptism (tier-two of Lane’s analogy). The FV argues that whenever baptism is administered it always results in the reception of an experience of the benefits of the covenant of grace. This, at the very least, gives a strong appearance of a form of baptismal regeneration/ex opera operata understanding for the water rite of baptism.

The FV may argue that these errors are not in view because the Spirit is understood as the One Who effects the reception of these covenantal benefits. Yet bring into view that these benefits, as formulated by the FV, are a variation of inward spiritually transformative ordo salutis benefits. They are not merely outward, external, only applicable to an unregenerate man. E.g., the FV’s notion of covenantal union with Christ means that the person really and truly participates a spiritually transformative experience.

To be consistent then the FV must argue for a covenantal version of the sealing function for baptism. This may not be a problem for some FV’ers, as it is logically consistent with the two-tier, dual system it proposes. Yet it will be hard (impossible in my view) for the FV to demonstrate that when the Bible speaks of the sealing function it speaks dually, decretally and covenantally. Just take a read of the primary sealing passage, Eph 1. It is only with an a priori decision to read this chapter covenantally that one can miss that it demands an exclusive decretal reading.

Of course, if the FV is willing to forgo a dual sealing function in baptism, then it faces a dilemma. If the covenantal benefits (FV defined as inward, spiritually transformative), that are purportedly effected by baptism, are not the result of the Spirit’s sealing work, then the only option available is that the water rite itself is the source of the sealing effect. Yet this is a form of baptismal regeneration/ex opera operata.

Posted by TE Reed DePace