Saturday, December 15, 2007

Temporary Justification Excursis: Definitive Sanctification

Previous parts: Part I Part II

So far, the discussion of temporary justification has focused on the relationship of Dort to the theology of Non-Elect Covenant Members. Before focusing on Dort V, I wish to consider the concept of "definitive sanctification" and its relationship to justification and perseverance. I claim here that a genuine change takes place upon faith, and that this change is a guarantee of perseverance. I further audaciously claim that denial of this change amounts to an abandonment of monergism.


In this post, Xon put forward this idea:

"elect Bob and reprobate Sam experience the same things, but God does not sustain Sam; hence, he falls away."

That is, there is no ontological change wrought in the believer *except* for the direct operation of the Spirit which can be withdrawn according to the desires of God.

click to toggle Xon's full comments

Another problematic point in Dordt (I'm simply plagiariazing James Jordan on this observation), which is not directly related to the current discussion but still touches on 'FVish' issues. Dordt says that regeneration involves the elect being given an 'incorruptible seed" for a new heart. It speaks as though ONLY the elect are given this 'new heart.' But then it also speaks of the Holy Spirit being sent to preserve the faithful. But why do the faithful need preserving if they already have been given an 'incorruptible' heart?

The tension in Dordt is that it waffles (a few times; I have no systematic objection to this wonderful confession of the Reformed faith) between trying to speak of some 'a priori' differentiation between elect and reprobate other than God's decree, on the one hand, and trying to speak of the biographical experience of the elect and the reprobate, on the other.

The FV position, to me, is a claim that the 'a priori' difference is in the decrees of God. Bob is elect and Sam is reprobate b/c God decreed it that way. But that's pretty much all we can say with certainty, from Scripture about Bob and Sam's 'differences.' Bob and Sam are both baptized, they both are active in their local covenant community, they both seem to receive the Word with great joy, etc. And it's not just that Sam is 'faking' like a hypocrite. This is not just an epistemological problem of we finite humans being unable to tell who the 'genuine' believer is and who the 'fake' is. Sam may not be a 'fake' at all. He may very well genuinely enjoy a relatoinship with God, the wrestling guidance of the Holy Spirit, etc. In fact, at any particular 'cross-section' of their respective lives, Sam may be closer to God than Bob is. The difference between Bob and Sam in the decree of God works itself through time, biographically. Sam eventually apostasizes, loses faith, is excommunicated, etc. Until this happens, things are much more mysterious than we Reformed often want to say. We often want to cram these mysteries into tight categories of "elect over here" and 'reprobates over there," and then simply acknowledge that we don't know which camp Bob or Sam is in. But FVers think (as I read them) that there's something more going on than that in the experience of Sam.

But here comes Dordt, saying that the 'orthodox' position is that only the elect ever receive this 'new heart' called regeneration (which is itself a different usage of 'regeneration' than that of the original reformers, of course). So, presumably, when Bob and Sam both have their initial experience of faith (Bob's pemranent, Sam's temporary), Bob receives this 'new heart' which Sam doesn't get.

This move is logically unnecessary (Since Scripture teaches that the Spirit preserves the faithful, there is no need for God to give the elect an 'incorruptible' heart on the 'front end.' God will preserve them moment-by-moment in the faith, and they are just as secure that way. Plus, the giving of an initial 'incorruptible' heart seems an awfully close analogue to Deism, making God an unnecessary appendage to future perseverance.)


A similar comment is made as an aside by Mark Horne while engaging Samuel Miller's arguments:
"On other terms such as “born from above,” “born again,” “reborn,” etc, I would very much like to see a non-circular argument that these refer to an interior transformation worked directly by the Spirit which irreversibly guarantees persevering faith–that is, “great moral change, wrought by the Spirit of God, which must pass upon everyone before he can be in a state of salvation."


Mark Horne has since clarified (comm. 60-63) that he definitely believes in some kind of ontological difference between NECMs and ECMs; he just does not see it in the terms "born again."

What Xon apparently wishes to preserve is the continued dependence of the believer on the sustaining work of the Spirit, and I wish to stand with him on this point.

But more needs to be said, for the Scriptures *do* speak of an irreversible change wrought in the hearts of believers. This change, described as "definitive sanctification" by John Murray, as "regeneration" by John Calvin and Dort, and as being "dead to sin" in the Scripture, forms a part of the basis for our assurance of salvation.

Thus, if we are to faithfully present to the Church the promises of God, we must also present this one: all those who truly believe have died to sin, have been sealed with the Spirit, and thus are assured of God's faithful, continued work to preserve them to the end.

Hence, I've put forward a provocative thesis: Xon's premise is an abandonment of monergism. I aim to prove this below.

John Murray summarized an important aspect of Reformed soteriology in his teaching on definitive sanctification. In short, Murray taught that sanctification in the Scriptures often refers to "some decisive action that occurs at the inception of the Christian life and one that characterizes the people of God in their identity as called effectually by God’s grace."

Important here is that DS (a) is decisive, "once-for-all" and (b) characterizes the identity of the recipient as effectually called.

First and most importantly, what is the Scriptural basis for such a teaching?

The inadequacy of the Old Covenant can be described in this way: while the Israelites were given the promises of God, still they were unable to obey God's commands (Josh. 24.14-27). Hence, though they were within the scope of God's covenant, they lacked the resources -- specifically, the work of the indwelling Spirit -- needed to be obedient and faithful (Hos 1-3). In short, covenantal nomism was a failure.

(In fact, the nature of the Spirit's work is indistinct in the Old Testament. Clearly, believers did at times experience the work of the Spirit -- cf. Gal. 3.14, Ps. 51.11. But such work was not as direct or continual as in the New Testament. This should lead us to be cautious in applying, e.g., Saul's experience in 1 Sam 19.23-24 to believers post-Pentacost, or to reckon his experience as typical for an NECM).

Thus, the promised New Covenant included not only the fruition of the sacrificial types but also the promise of the indwelling Spirit to "write the Law on the hearts" (Jer 31, Ezek. 37). Importantly, the work of the Spirit is specifically designated as an antidote to apostasy.

Now as the New Covenant is proclaimed in the Gospels and epistles, it is expressed in a variety of terms:
  • being "brought from death to life" (Eph. 2.1-5)
  • "dying to sin" (Rom. 6.1-14, 7.6)
  • "being crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2.20)
  • being "transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son (Col. 1.13-14)
  • Being given "eternal life" (John 3.14-18, 5.24, 6.32-51)
  • Being made a son of God and heir of a promised inheritance (John 1.12, Rom 8.15-17, Gal 3.26-29).
  • Being predestined to adoption (Eph 1.5)
  • Being sealed with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (2 Cor 1.22, Eph 1.14)
  • Being given a "new man" or "new nature" created to be like Christ (Eph. 4.22,23; Col. 3.10)
  • Entering into God's rest (Heb 3) -- though Gaffin reads this as exiting this life and entering heaven.

Now to answer Mark's query above: there are several strands of evidence that indicate that Definitive Sanctification is irreversible. First and foremost, we should note that the language is that of permanent change in status. It is difficult to imagine that the metaphor of "dying to sin" could include later becoming alive to sin once more. It is likewise difficult to understand how God could give "eternal life" that could actually be temporary, or how He could predestine a person to an adoption that he would later not receive.

Second, at no point in Scripture is it ever predicated that one of these changes is reversed. To be sure, there are warnings against "falling away" (to be addressed in another post). And it is possible to read those warnings as indications of real contingencies for people described by the list above. But in the end, we search in vain for any clear indication that such a reading is certainly correct.

So for example, we read in the parable of the soils of people who show faith for a time and then fall away (Matt 13). But Jesus does not say of them that they received eternal life, then lost it. In fact, in the parable, it appears that these were doomed from the beginning by virtue of their "soil." The construction of the parable suggests that there was an underlying ontological reality from the beginning that guaranteed their apostasy, and that the faith they exhibited above ground did not come from the root of genuine faith.

To analyze Matthew 13 in detail here would carry us too far afield. The main point still stands: the various warning passages do not, in the end, provide dispositive evidence that one can receive the items listed above and then lose them. The closest we might come to such a passage would be Hebrews 10.29, yet even that passage is by no means clear.

Third, the passages above are passages of promise intended to shape the Christian's self-image, leading to a particular attitude towards sin and a confidence in future salvation. These promises can only make sense if the changes made are permanent ones. We see this most clearly in the Roman and Corinthian epistles:
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. -- Rom 6.8-12

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. -- Rom 8.9-11

Here, Paul is asking the Romans to see themselves as irreversibly dead to sin and indwelt by the Spirit. On that basis, they are to trust the Spirit to give life and put to death the misdeeds of the body. If DS were irreversible, it would make no sense for Paul to tell them to reckon themselves as dead to sin, or to trust that the Spirit *will* give life to their mortal bodies.

So given that Definitive Sanctification is a reality for the Christian, what can we say of it? Xon wishes to register the opinion that Definitive Sanctification is not an autonomous change, but rather one maintained by the Spirit.

I fully agree. Romans 8 and Galatians 2.20 and 5.16-26 seem proof positive that the fruit of the new nature is the result of the ongoing work of the Spirit, so that if He were to withdraw His hand, our "new nature" would come to naught.

At the same time, the language above is so, well, "definitive" that we must insist that the Scripture presents the change as a *change in us*, a new ontological reality.

So from the Scriptures, we are left with this picture: Definitive Sanctification is a real change in us that is maintained and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We simply don't have enough information to say more than this, but it appears to be the case that DS is both *real* but also *dynamically maintained.*

The direction I've taken here coincides with the teachings of Calvin and Dort. Calvin labeled the change wrought in the believer as "regeneration."[1] He says,

click to toggle Inst. 3.3.9
Both [mortification of the flesh and quickening of the Spirit] we obtain by union with Christ. For if we have true fellowship in his death, our old man is crucified by his power, and the body of sin becomes dead, so that the corruption of our original nature is never again in full vigor. If we are partakers in his resurrection, we are raised up by means of it to newness of life, which conforms us to the righteousness of God. In one word, then, by repentance I understand regeneration, the only aim of which is to form in us anew the image of God, which was sullied, and all but effaced by the transgression of Adam. -- Inst. 3.3.9

For Calvin, the possession or otherwise of "regeneration" was the distinction between the elect and the reprobate:

click to toggle Inst. 3.2.11
I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption. Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent. -- Inst. 3.2.11


It is clear, then, that for Calvin in whatever external sense the reprobate might "believe" (and it might be in such a sense as to deceive even himself), he is never for a moment delivered from death or the possessor of the living roots of faith.

Also important here are Inst. 3.14.7,12; 3.17; 3.18; 3.21.7; and 3.23.

The Canons of Dort saw in regeneration the promise of perseverance:
Those people whom God according to his purpose calls into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, he also sets free from the reign and slavery of sin, though in this life not entirely from the flesh and from the body of sin. -- Dort V.1

So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God's undeserved mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their downfalls to the end and are lost. With respect to themselves this not only easily could happen, but also undoubtedly would happen; but with respect to God it cannot possibly happen, since his plan cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit of Christ as well as his interceding and preserving cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be invalidated nor wiped out. -- Dort V.8

Concerning this preservation of those chosen to salvation and concerning the perseverance of true believers in faith, believers themselves can and do become assured in accordance with the measure of their faith, by which they firmly believe that they are and always will remain true and living members of the church, and that they have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. -- Dort V.9

For Dort, regeneration is the linchpin in the argument for monergistic perseverance. God has begun a work; He will be faithful to complete it. If we could mess up our own salvation, we would.

But also in Dort, regeneration flows from union with Christ. Hence, all who are united with Christ receive the promise of perseverance that comes from the sealing of the Holy Spirit.


Thus, there is a genuine ontological difference in Reformed theology (and Scripture!) between the NECMs and the elect. The former have not received DS; the latter have. The former have not died to sin; the latter have. The former have not been brought from death to life; the latter have. The former do not have a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance; the latter have.

Finally then we come to the exchange here:

JRC:

"If anyone is lost, it cannot be on account of God's unwilli[n]gness to make good His deposit."

XH:

"I'm not sure about this. I wouldn't call it God 'not making good.' God never had any intention of preserving that person to the end. Either the 'deposit' was different for that person than for the elect, or (probably a more natural way of speaking) the deposit is contingent upon remaining faithful. Deposit/earnest are legal/covenantal concepts, and the covenant can have terms. There is no need to insist that the 'deposit' in Eph. 1 refers to an unbreakable contract."

Let's examine this objection in more detail.

Xon is postulating that a deposit could be given by God, but subject to certain conditions. Certainly this is possible.

But now we consider the sad case of Alice, who believes (temporarily) and dies to sin, comes to life in Christ, is predestined to adoption, forgiven of sins past present and future in Christ, and is given the deposit of the Spirit guaranteeing her inheritance.

And ten years later, she falls away and dies a reprobate.

What can we say of her reprobation? It seems that we must either say

(a) Alice chose of her own free will to fall away, OR
(b) God chose of his own free will to stop maintaining her faith.

If (a), then perseverance is synergistic. If (b), then what condition did Alice possibly fail to meet that would cause God to cease to maintain her? It was not her lack of perseverance, for that was caused by God.

One might object that God simply elected to allow her to have faith for a time, so that her falling away is ultimately contingent on election. But in that case, we cannot say that God sealed her with the Spirit as the guarantor of her inheritance. Rather, He sealed her with the Spirit as a guarantor of ... well, her inheritance if she maintained it.

But we cannot say that the deposit was given contingent upon remaining faithful. For in the end, Alice was not dropped because she was unfaithful; she was unfaithful because she was dropped. The contingency rested not with her, but with God.

In short, monergism requires unconditionality. Put differently, a salvation that is solely the work of God cannot be thwarted by human contingencies.

But one may say, "Salvation is contingent on faith as an instrument" -- and this is true. But the faith itself is also the free gift of God. God in his election does not leave our faith "to chance."

So also, when God seals us with the regeneration of the Spirit, with definitive sanctification, He is pledging to us that our perseverance has not been left to chance. It is guaranteed to the end.

1. Calvin's use of "regeneration" is somewhat more in keeping with Titus 3.5. For the second generation Reformers, the term took on quitea different meaning, the work of the Spirit preparatory to faith.
2. It is worth noting that there is equivocation here in Xon's language vis-a-vis WCoF 17.1-2. For Xon, the elect are those who persevere to the end according to God's choice. For WCoF, those whom God has chosen to be elect will persevere according to the changes wrought within them. The set is the same, but the causality is subtly changed.

77 comments:

Xon said...

Jeff, lots of things to interact with here. For now let's cut to the substance of your argument that my position entails monergism, i.e., the stuff at the end of your post.

First of all, your claim that "monergism requires unconditionality" is simply not true, as your own qualification about faith in the next paragraph reveals. Monergism requires that God is the ultimate cause of any conditions being met, not that there can be no conditions at all.

Second, your choice is a false dilemma and your language is ambiguous when you say:

"What can we say of her reprobation? It seems that we must either say

(a) Alice chose of her own free will to fall away, OR
(b) God chose of his own free will to stop maintaining her faith.
"

This is a false dilemma because (a) and (b) are perfectly consistent with one another. Unless you are using "chose of her own free will" to mean that her own free will was the ultimate source of her making the choice she did. But in that caes we simply aren't being Calvinistic anymore, since Calvinists believe that all creaturely choices are ordained by God. The secondary causes of the created realm are, well, secondary to the ultimate or primary causation of God. So Alice fell away because she stopped having faith, and she stopped having faith because God stopped giving it to her.

"If (a), then perseverance is synergistic. If (b), then what condition did Alice possibly fail to meet that would cause God to cease to maintain her? It was not her lack of perseverance, for that was caused by God."

Clearly your analysis of (a) is ruled out by what I have said above. It is not synergistic to say that a creature's choices played into God's over-arching sovereign ordination of events. But your analysis of (b) undercuts Calvinism, for the whole point of our doctrine of unconditional election is that God decrees to save Bob based on nothing within Bob himself. There is nothing about Bob that causes God to save Bob. The 'reasons' for God's decrees is located in His inscrutable will. He does all for His own glory and good pleasure, and we have no access to what His reasons are except to know that when He gives grace it has nothing to do with anything within the recipient. Likewise, there is nothing about Alice that caused God to give her temporary grace. She did not deserve this, yet God in His inscrutable wisdom decreed to give it to her anyway.

The condition Alice failed to meet was that she did not persevere in faith; she stopped trusting in God. God decreed that she would stop doing this, which is ultimately why she stopped. There is no problematic 'circle' here; it works the same way when we speak of justification. God has said that all who believe in Christ will be justified, yet the only reason anyone does believe in Christ is because God causes them to do so. This doesn't mean that faith is no longer a condition for justification. It is; but God causes us to fulfil the condition Himself.

And, just to be extra clear here, by 'conditions' we are not talking about 'works-righteousness', we are talking about the simple concept of logical conditionality; i.e., if A then B. This doesn't mean that A 'merits' B or 'deserves' B or anything like that. It just means that if A happens, then B will happen (and also that if B does not happen, then A cannot happen). If you don't lift your fork to your mouth, then you cannot eat. Simple as that. Conditions in this broad sense are inescapable.

Now, if you ask why did God decree to cause Alice to stop believing, then we're back to the inscrutable providence of God's own will which we humans have no access to. Just as we don't know WHY God chose Jacob but did not choose Esau, so we also don't know WHY God chose Bob to have a persevering faith but only chose Alice to have a non-persevering one.

Jeff Cagle said...

Hi Xon,

Good to see you! And thanks for your high-quality thoughts as always. I hope the dissertation is going well.

In case you saw my previous comment, it was simply hash. Here's Take 2.

---


Points of agreement:

(1) (a) "Alice chose of her own free will to fall away" is indeed intended to mean, "Alice is the ultimate cause of her lack of perseverance." And this is clearly a non-Calvinistic option, which is why I labeled that branch a "synergistic" branch.

So (a), while a logically possible option, is also a non-starter for both of us.

(2) We agree that logical conditions, such as "perseverance is a condition for salvation", are not "works-righteousness."

In fact, I agree that LC: "perseverance is a logically necessary condition for salvation." LC follows by definition from the syllogism

"All those who are saved will persevere to the end."

So we can agree that setting perseverance as a logical condition for salvation is not "works-righteousness" and is positively Biblical.

OK, but now:

The condition Alice failed to meet was that she did not persevere in faith; she stopped trusting in God. God decreed that she would stop doing this, which is ultimately why she stopped. There is no problematic 'circle' here; it works the same way when we speak of justification. God has said that all who believe in Christ will be justified, yet the only reason anyone does believe in Christ is because God causes them to do so. This doesn't mean that faith is no longer a condition for justification. It is; but God causes us to fulfil the condition Himself.

Here's the difference between perseverance and justification that makes Alice problematic in a way that Esau was not: God has made no promise or guarantee to all men that they will believe and be justified. Hence, He can freely cause Alice to believe and pass over Esau without doing violence to His promises.

BUT He *has* made a guarantee to all who are justified that they will be glorified. He *has* sealed them with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance.

The case of non-persevering Alice now raises the question, "Why did God make a guarantee that He did not intend to keep?" It is, I suppose, a kind of charge against God that He lost one of His own. And we might reflexively reach for Romans 9.14-24, but that's not the nature of the charge. It's not that God would be unjust in letting Alice go, as if something in her merited being saved; it's that He would be untrustworthy.

So your answer, "Because Alice did not persevere", acts as a kind of theodicy. God is not untrustworthy on your account; rather, Alice failed to meet the condition implied in the guarantee. BUT: the cause of Alice's failure is God's decree.

So note the horrible blasphemy we are caught in here: God makes a promise to Alice, knowing that He intends to arrange to not have to keep it. He promises her eternal life if she believes, but gives her temporary life instead. He seals her with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing her inheritance, then deliberately (and with God, all things are quite deliberate!) causes her to fail to receive her inheritance. He tells her that "all who are justified, are also glorified" -- but it does not come to pass.

On this account, God becomes a welcher who rests on a technicality, pointing to Alice's lack of perseverance as the cause for her failure to receive the promises, but knowing all the time that He engineered the outcome.

That's awful. I cringe just writing it.

Hence, I offered up (a) and (b) as a way of exploring causation: who is the cause of the fact that Alice falls? (a) abandons monergism and looks to Alice as the final cause; (b) retains monergism, but leaves us with a blasphemous contradiction: God makes a promise He does not intend to keep.

As distasteful as (a) is to us Calvinists, (b) is far worse. And of course, I assume that we would all reject (b). Specifically, I assumed that you, Xon, did not believe (b).

And that leaves us with (a) -- a denial of monergism. Or, perhaps, finding a (c) that we could see as a viable third option. But we've exhausted the list of causative agents, so...where are we?

It occurs to me that one move could be to say that God makes no such promises. We might say that Romans 8 contains an implicit condition (though the "all" language is pretty strong), or that Ephesians 1 contains an implicit condition in spite of the predestinary language. But in that case, we're left scratching our heads as to why God would provide promises with non-obvious implicit conditions, when the meeting of those conditions is caused by Himself anyways. It still strongly suggests untrustworthiness.

This is a very different problem than the issue raised in Romans 9. Of course God is allowed to do whatever He wishes with his creations. But is He really a God who makes promises and then sabotages their fulfillment?

And in any event, I think the cumulative case for definitive sanctification closes that door.

Grace and peace,
Jeff

Xon said...

Jeff, the issue I think is that you're reading more into what sort of a promise God has made.

"He *has* sealed them with the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing their inheritance."

You seem to be reading statements like these as some sort of 'promise' from God that "you will go to Heaven, no matter what." But God never makes that sort of promise. Even the elect, if they lost faith (of course they can't), would not be saved to the uttermost. Again, conditions are built inherently into all of this, and since we are Calvinists we believe that God is the ultimate cause of all conditions being met or not being met. So there is nowhere else to go; we cannot ever read any promises in Scripture as 'absolute' in the way that you are wanting to read them. The only way any such promise could be that absolute would be if conditionality were entirely removed from the reality of the situation, which it cannot be.

When I put my house on the market I received a deposit (they even call it 'earnest' money) as good faith from the buyer that he was serious. This was a 'guarantee'--of a sort--that he was going to buy my house. But of course if it turned out to have termites and I never told him, and his inspector found them, then the deal would be off.

When God gives us an 'earnest' deposit of the Holy Spirit, speaking in human terms He is not saying "this is a promise that you will be in Heaven at the last day, no matter what." It is, rather, a promise that "you are 'in', and you will always be 'in' as long as you stick with Me." God's promise to us is that as long as we cling to Him He clings to us. There is no such thing as a person who wants to be with God, who continues to trust in Him, but who God hangs out to dry.

But is it possible that I, Xon Hostetter, might one day lose faith and go to Hell? Sure, it's possible. It doesn't keep me up at night--because why would I lose faith? I believe what I believe and I trust in God because where else could I go?--but it is a possibility. Whether that means that I might have 'temporary' faith right now or whether we want to say that I in fact have no faith at all isn't really the point. What is interesting to me is that on your view it would seem that I have no idea, right now, whether Ephesians 1 is talking to me or not. Since God is making this deposit to people in such a way that they are inexorably and inevitably going to Heaven, and God is singling them out and telling them that is so, then that means that God either has said this to me or He hasn't. If I'm elect, He has; if I'm not, He hasn't. Now what?

Jeff Cagle said...

When I put my house on the market I received a deposit (they even call it 'earnest' money) as good faith from the buyer that he was serious. This was a 'guarantee'--of a sort--that he was going to buy my house. But of course if it turned out to have termites and I never told him, and his inspector found them, then the deal would be off.

You mentioned this before, and I filed it away. Let's examine the deposit situation and try to map it carefully to Non-Persevering Alice.

You play the role of NPA here, and the buyer plays the role of God.

Now suppose that the buyer gives you the deposit, but (for whatever reason) he is the omnipotent controller of all houses. And as such, he sovereignly introduces termites into your home.

And at home inspection, the termite inspector says, "Look! Termites!" And he turns to you and tears up the contract.

Condition or not, was his deposit a genuine deposit?

It seems fraudulent. Certainly, he would be considered fraudulent in a court of law.

Likewise, on your reading,

"God's promise to us is that as long as we cling to Him He clings to us"

really means, in a monergistic world,

"God's promise to us is that as long as He continues to cause us to cling to him, He clings to us."

In other words, He clings to us for as long as He clings to us.

And that's no promise at all; it's like a marriage vow, "I promise to be faithful to you for as long as our relationship lasts."

What is interesting to me is that on your view it would seem that I have no idea, right now, whether Ephesians 1 is talking to me or not. Since God is making this deposit to people in such a way that they are inexorably and inevitably going to Heaven, and God is singling them out and telling them that is so, then that means that God either has said this to me or He hasn't. If I'm elect, He has; if I'm not, He hasn't. Now what?

This is equally true in both our systems. If God has not decretally elected you, then you will fall away at some point, and your standing now is of no avail. So the point, while interesting, is probably a red herring for all us Calvinists, yes?

Jeff

Jeff Cagle said...

Just to anticipate a thought here:

Suppose the buyer gives the deposit, and further agrees to take on the task of keeping termites at bay (thinking here of our discussion of the dynamic work of the Spirit).

But at some point, he decides to stop keeping the termites at bay.

Can he then say at settlement, "Your house has termites, in violation of our agreement."?

JRC

Xon said...

"Now suppose that the buyer gives you the deposit, but (for whatever reason) he is the omnipotent controller of all houses. And as such, he sovereignly introduces termites into your home.

And at home inspection, the termite inspector says, "Look! Termites!" And he turns to you and tears up the contract.

Condition or not, was his deposit a genuine deposit?

It seems fraudulent. Certainly, he would be considered fraudulent in a court of law.
"

Me genoito! God forbid that we should ever accuse him of fraud in this way, but the way to avoid doing so is not by claiming that every time God makes a 'pledge' or a 'promise' to someone that it is an unconditional, gonna-happen-no-matter-what kinda deal. All that does is render lots of God's actual interactions with real people unintelligible.

You are hitting on the very mystery of God's sovereignty. God controls all things, yet people suffer and people go to Hell. I know you are focusing on God making a promise, but I think it's arbitrary to focus on this. The truth is that, explicitly or implicitly, God deals favorably with all people through common grace and He makes promises to all people through the Gospel. "If you believe in Me, I will save you." "If you stick with Me, you can never be lost." "Nothing can separate you from My love, so continue believing in Me." Of course it is still the case--as human beings who are genuine 'secondary' causes--that WE can separate ourselves from God's love by refusing to believe in Him. Yet God still tells us--all of us--that nothing can separate us from His love. Is this a lie, or fraud? No, it's a perfectly proper way to speak when making a promise or when showing favor to someone. It doesn't have to be a pledge that, even if you abandon the covenant, that you will still be dragged kicking and screaming into Heaven by angels.

In history, God shows people favor whom He knows (and whom he predestined) are going to end up lost. God knew all along that Saul would screw it all up. Jesus knew all along that Judas was 'a devil.' Yet these men were shown genuine kindness, they were brought into God's fold and were protected and were given special blessings and gifts. Perhaps there is no explicit 'promise' from God to Saul that "you will be mine forever more," but there is a statement from God that Saul has been given the kingdom. Well, if God is for Saul who can be against him? And yet later Saul loses the kingdom. This doesn't have to be directly analogous to salvation to still make the point: things are a bit mysterious when the omnipotent sovereignly providential God interacts with finite changing creatures in the realm of history. One day, the all-knowing all-powerful God treats you favorably. At a later time you fall out of favor. But does that mean that back when you were in favor that God was 'holding back' somehow? When Jesus talked to Judas, was he secretly thinking "This guy is not the real deal, so I don't really accept him as one of my disciples, and when I tell them about all the good things they will do for the kingdom I don't really mean it when I say it to him." ?? I don't think so.

God talks to us like a person talks to other people. God is a personal being, and He interacts with us in time and space. I don't think those interactions have our eternal destiny tied up inside of them, so that if Alice's ultimate end is perdition then obviously God is going to talk to her differently than He talks to Elect Ed. Yet at the same time Alice's destiny is predetermined.

There are at least two ways 'out' of this 'fraud' problem. Either we simply recognize that this whole thing is mysterious, and we just stick to our Biblical guns. God ordains everything that happens, and yet He is not to be blamed for evil. When Alice falls away, we blame Alice not God. Yet God controlled it all.

The other way (and the two ways are compatible, really) is to deny that God's promises in passages like Ephesians 1 need to be read in such an absolute way. God never promises us that we are on some invisible track that leads straight to Heaven. He tells us rather that we are in His favor, and that when you are in God's favor by faith you can never be cast out, and nothing in the world can truly harm you. That is essentially what God tells us in His promises. He is not saying "You are in my favor and you will in fact never fall out through unbelief." Just look at the New Testament. God tells His people they are in His favor, and that nothing can separate them, and then in other places He tells them not to fall away. We Reformed, again going back to my earlier discussion, have forced these two sentiments into some sort of 'tension' that we think we have to solve. And so we end up saying that the 'promise' passages are for the elect only, and the 'warning' passages are for the non-elect who are 'in the sphere' of the covenant (and they might also be for the elect, but in a different sense; like when Reformed thinkers say that they are meant to 'spur the elect on to good works', etc.). But the whole thing is unnecessary.

I'm ramblier lately, but that's due to the dissertation. I have precious few brain cells to spare on tightening up my writing in other venues. Thanks for bearing with me. The shortest answer to your 'fraud' concern is this: If the 'buyer' of the house also happens to be the omnipotent controller of all houses, then what you seem to be saying is that morally obligates Him to buy the house. Otherwise his promise to buy, even if contingent on conditions from the seller, turns out to be fraudulent. But I think that's backwards. For one thing, we have no right to question the omnipotent and just controller of all houses. But more imporatantly, His omnipotent control should not preclude Him from being able to speak to the seller in a genuine way. "Hey, I like your house, I want to buy it. Here is a deposit showing you that I am serious about buying it. Keep trusting in the things I have told you (stretching the analogy now), and this house is as good as bought." That's a perfectly genuine way for God to speak the person, and for us to go back and say "Nuh uh, God, you were being fraudulent because in your omnipotent sovereignty you knew all along that Alice was going to have termites, in fact you decreed her to have those termites. So therefore all those nice things you said to her about her house and about your desire to buy were disingenuous."

You make omnipotence a hard moral burden for bear, such that even God cannot deal with people in time 'where they are' without becoming a liar, since He omnipotently controls their final destiny. I think something's off in the way you are prying into mysteries, rather than in the character of God.

Jeff Cagle said...

I'm ramblier lately, but that's due to the dissertation. I have precious few brain cells to spare on tightening up my writing in other venues. Thanks for bearing with me.

Not a problem, and likewise, I appreciate the fact that you don't rub my sketchy philosophical training in my face.

I think there is in part a disconnect here. For the arguments that I think I'm making cannot be generalized to sovereignty in general. Rather, they are specific to situations in which God has made a guarantee. And really, there's only one such situation: the salvation of Jew and Gentile under the Gospel. God has, so to speak, bound Himself to His people in the covenant.

So the argument is not a matter of prying into mysteries. Rather, it is a matter of taking God's promises to be good-faith promises (which I think you agree with), and then seeing what making a good-faith promise entails (and here's where we disagree, apparently). It may be the case that I need to hash out language to say precisely what I mean. Once again, as often, I find that the idea pictures are clear in my mind but the words to describe them are not there.

Or who knows? Perhaps I've made a logical error somewhere.

"Hey, I like your house, I want to buy it. Here is a deposit showing you that I am serious about buying it. Keep trusting in the things I have told you (stretching the analogy now), and this house is as good as bought." That's a perfectly genuine way for God to speak the person...

The analogy-stretching sentence is a good example of my concern in reading your account. It seems to me (and I admit that I'm unclear, so this is an appeal for clarity) that when you express the condition of perseverance, you bring it over the line from necessary condition to cause. And it seems further that you do so because of the need to preserve God's good-faith in His offer.

Thus it is with "keep trusting in the things I have told you..." At face value, I agree that this is a logically necessary condition and that it is legitimate for God to say so. But the way in which you express it seems to function as causation: "Your perseverance will be the make-or-break factor that causes me to decide whether I will buy the house."

And now if we couple this with the monergistic assertion that God's will is the make-or-break factor that causes perseverance, then the offer is no longer good-faith. He is *not* serious about buying the house. He has no intention of doing so.

So rather than say that, we just leave it as "keep trusting in the things I have told you...", and God's role in the matter is covered over.

Is it possible to express the logical condition of perseverance in a way that (a) leaves the offer as a genuine offer, and (b) leaves God as the sole cause?

(Note that this is unlike the "free offer of the gospel" argument in this way: the free offer of the gospel is a general call, not a deposit.)

(Note 2 that the problem of good-faith exists regardless of whether there are logical conditions stipulated or not. Let an agent make promise P subject to conditions X, Y, and Z. If P controls the outcome of X, Y, and Z, and if further P intends to force ~X, ~Y, or ~Z to occur, then the offer is made in bad-faith. Namely, it is false that "I'm interested in buying your house.")

... and for us to go back and say "Nuh uh, God, you were being fraudulent because in your omnipotent sovereignty you knew all along that Alice was going to have termites, in fact you decreed her to have those termites. So therefore all those nice things you said to her about her house and about your desire to buy were disingenuous."

That's precisely what I would have to say. And that's precisely what God would say, I think, to another agent who did the same. Unlike the potter who makes some vessels for noble purposes and some for common, God here has made a vessel for a common purpose and told her that the purpose is noble.

That's very very hard for me to accept, and not on a-priori grounds, but on Biblical grounds. It's in the category of dishonest weights and measures, and in the category of fulfilling one's vows (cf. Mk. 7.9 - 12; might be a stretch, but seems relevant to me).

You make omnipotence a hard moral burden for bear, such that even God cannot deal with people in time 'where they are' without becoming a liar, since He omnipotently controls their final destiny.

No, this is not an argument that people cannot be held responsible in general. People are responsible for who they are, even if others have had a hand in shaping (or creating) who they are. "Omnipotently controlling someone's destiny" is very different from making a promise that you intend to subvert.

So for example, if we took the route that "God in the Gospel offers us an opportunity for eternal life", with no deposit and no guarantee, then God could be justified in failing to maintain some.

But that's not the Gospel. Jesus offers eternal life to the one who believes. He places the Holy Spirit in us as a deposit.

And that changes the ball game. It makes eternal life a covenantal affair.

Just look at the New Testament. God tells His people they are in His favor, and that nothing can separate them, and then in other places He tells them not to fall away. We Reformed, again going back to my earlier discussion, have forced these two sentiments into some sort of 'tension' that we think we have to solve. And so we end up saying that the 'promise' passages are for the elect only, and the 'warning' passages are for the non-elect who are 'in the sphere' of the covenant (and they might also be for the elect, but in a different sense; like when Reformed thinkers say that they are meant to 'spur the elect on to good works', etc.). But the whole thing is unnecessary.

I think it's a mistake to believe that the distinction between the visible and invisible churches arose in order to resolve a systematic tension concerning various passages.

First, historically, the I/V distinction arose out of the Donatist controversy.

Second, the tension exists even in your solution. Let's call the tension the "historical-eschatological tension." Now, take Decretally Elect Bob. How do the warnings function for him? It's still not like he's going to fall away. And Non-Persevering Alice -- how do the warnings function for her? 'Cause she's not going to persevere, warnings or not.

Since you and I are agreed to a monergistic, predestined framework of (decretal) election, we have to agree that all of the assurances and warnings in Scripture are instrumental causes only. And that entails the H-ET regardless if we accept the FV framework or the more standard Reformed framework.

Put simply, the way things work out in history are not perfect indicators of how things will work out eschatologically.

And if that's the case, then I don't see what the big deal is about seeing, say, the Visible Church and the Invisible Church as two ways of thinking about God's church, and saying therefore that the promises and warnings function differently for ECMs and NECMs within that church.

In fact, the only way to obliterate the H-ET *entirely* is by being a self-consistent Arminian -- that is to say, an Open Theist. me genoito indeed!

Well, I've rambled enough. Time to pick up the girls, have the Middle School youth group over, and grade Calculus tests.

Jeff

Xon said...

"I think it's a mistake to believe that the distinction between the visible and invisible churches arose in order to resolve a systematic tension concerning various passages."

I'm not talking about the v/i distinction simpliciter, though. In fact I am presupposing that distinction. The visible church is who the letter of Ephesians is written to. The things Paul says in that letter he says to the visible church at Ephesus, not to the secret members of the inivisible church at Ephesus.

But this is not your fault. I have been monumentally unclear. I wish to regroup and start again.

Let's focus in on the promises God makes to people in places like Ephesians 1. I agree with you that, if God actually says to someone "You will be saved to the uttermost at the last day" and then they end up not going to Heaven, that something has gone terribly wrong. God would have straight-up broken a promise. And that's bad. Bad for any theology that allows such a thing to even be a possibility.

What I am questioning is whether the 'promise' God makes to people in places like Ephesians 1 amount to that kind of promise (i.e., you will be saved to the uttermost at the last day), or if they amount to something else. Our dispute is over the content of the promise. What, precisely, is God promising.

I think He is 'promising' all baptized professing believers (allowing a special exception for a self-conscious hypocrite...someone who does not even think of himself as a Christian but is in the church for ignoble purposes), the natural audience of Ephesians 1, that He has predestined them to be conformed to the likeness of His Son (and they ARE being conformed to that likeness, through their membership in the Church and through their regular interactions with God Himself in virtue of that membership: i.e. in virtue of their baptism, hearing the Word preached, receiving the sacraments, etc.), that they are partakers in every spiritual gift (that is possible for a person to partake in while living their life on earth), and that they have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of their future inheritance. And all of that is true. But having a earnest 'gurantee' of a future inheritance does not mean that I have received an absolute unconditional assurance that I will indeed inherit. It's like a golden ticket, or something. If you've got the ticket, you're in. They can't keep you out if you have that ticket. But if you lose faith, the ticket disappears. But, when God gives you that ticket, it's a real thing. It carries real meaning. But it doesn't mean "there is no way that I could ever possibly lose this ticket and thereby not get the inheritance--God has promised that that won't happen to me." No, God nowhere promises that that will not happen.

Does this make my position clearer? I think it might, finally, this third time around. :-) I am simply disagreeing with you as to the content of God's promise. What has God actually promised to a believer living this side of the Jordan?

This flushes out the radical nature of my interpretation of Ephesians 1. I cannot deny that I am reading it differently than the Reformed tradition has generally read it. But I still don't think it makes me unReformed to disagree with the interpretation of a particular passage, so long as I continue to affirm the sola gratia doctrines that the normal interp of Eph. 1 is meant to uphold. And I do still uphold those doctrines...because they are taught in Ephesians among other places. But they are not taught in quite the way that people often think, esp. when it comes to Ephesians 1. Whatever Paul means by all those things he writes in Eph. 1, he is saying them to everybody reading his letter. I don't think calling that a 'judgment of charity' does justice to all that is going on.

Xon said...

And this can be put in even more general terms: does God make people promises in space and time about their status in His eternal decrees? I don't think so, as a general rule. We cannot read Scripture that way. What we learn from Scripture is that every good thing comes from God...it is all grace. Because omnisovereign predestination is true, we know that every good thing that has ever happened to us is something that God gave us purely of His grace and apart from anything within ourselves. And God's promises and His real interactions with us as believers in space and time (such as at our baptisms, when we hear the Word preached, when we partake fo the sacraments, when we read the Word on our own and feel the illuminating presence of the Holy Spirit, etc.) give us assurance that we are secure in God's decrees. We CAN 'know' that we are on the 'good' side of God's eternal decrees...but with the Reformers we base this knowledge on our flesh-and-blood historical existence within the Church. As Calvin put it in his children's catechism written at Strasbourg (and allow me to paraphrase rather than dig it out at this very moment):

"My child, are you a Christian in fact and not in name only?"

"I am."

"How do you know?"

"Because I have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit..."

Baptism (and the other means of grace) shows that God HAS taken a special interest in us. It doesn't show in some absolute sense that we are predestined for glory. But it shows that God has indeed showered us with special grace already, and we know that the way to 'show yourself' to be predestined for glory is by holding fast to those special graces God has already done. This is it, a flesh-and-blood, earthy, history-centered, covenantal religion (as we both agree). Our faith is not based in eternal decrees of God (though part of our faith is that we believe that there are such decrees and those decrees are vitally important for understanding that salvation is truly all of grace--thus why Calvinism is called the 'doctrines of grace'). Our faith is based in the historical, time-bound interactions we have with God Himself through His Word and Spirit. What we 'know' is that God has made a covenant with us, and that if we remain faithful to that covenant (i.e., if we trust in God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, that is at bottom what it means to be faithful to the covenant, contrary to some anti-FV misrepresentations of FV thinking) then we will remain inside it all the way. And we have every reason to think that we will remain faithful to it--after all, why would we doubt it? Are we planning on leaving God for someone/something else? Do we not want to be in covenant with God? Well then what's the problem? Trust, and you are never trusting in vain.

But this still requires trust. Faith, not sight. If God actually gave us a direct communication, "Xon Hostetter, you are, in fact, eternally decreed to final glory" then I would no longer be walking by faith.

I have faith that I am eternally elect, and my faith is not in vain. Why is it not in vain? Because I have faith! Or, more properly, because I have been baptized, received into God's salvation community (the Church), made a hearer of God's Words and a partaker of His sacraments and I have received the Holy Spirit as a deposit that I am indeed in a new household now. I now stand to inherit a kingdom, instead of the gutter I was heading for before I was saved. All this is real. God has told me all these things. But He has not told me, in so many words, that I am in fact predestined to inherit that kingdom. God doesn't (at least generally) communicate those sorts of messages to people. Again, we must walk by faith, not by sight.

(Sorry I got on a roll there and had to comment again.)

Xon said...

Okay, one quick thing. Rather clearly, re-reading that last comment, I am using 'faith' at times in a way that is almost interchangeable with 'assurance.' But that's okay. :-)

Jeff Cagle said...

Hey Xon,

A couple quick questions, and then I have to work on grading.

so long as I continue to affirm the sola gratia doctrines that the normal interp of Eph. 1 is meant to uphold. And I do still uphold those doctrines...because they are taught in Ephesians among other places...

Which places in Ephesians do you have in mind?

And while I'm thinking about it, which passages in Scripture would you say teach decretal election?

But having a earnest 'gurantee' of a future inheritance does not mean that I have received an absolute unconditional assurance that I will indeed inherit. It's like a golden ticket, or something. If you've got the ticket, you're in. They can't keep you out if you have that ticket. But if you lose faith, the ticket disappears. But, when God gives you that ticket, it's a real thing. It carries real meaning. But it doesn't mean "there is no way that I could ever possibly lose this ticket and thereby not get the inheritance--God has promised that that won't happen to me." No, God nowhere promises that that will not happen.

Well, clearly, there are exegetical questions we will need to hash out here.

But for now: given that a good deal of the Reformed community has read Eph. 1 in exactly that way, what is so wrong with believing that the deposit is in fact an infallible guarantee of future inheritance?

Calvin on Eph. 1.14: Thus, when we have received the Spirit of God, his promises are confirmed to us, and no dread is felt that they will be revoked.

I mean, yes, if Eph. 1 does not actually teach that the deposit is irrevocable, then it would be incorrect to believe that it does. But I'm asking, what's the prize? Even if I mistakenly believe Eph 1 to be teaching such, what have I introduced into my system that causes problems elsewhere?

Jeff

Xon said...

I agree with that Calvin comment on Eph 1:14. When you receive confirmation that the Spirit is with you, it does not carry with it dread at the possibility that you might fall away at a future time. But that's because the Spirit gives you faith--or strengthens your faith, as the case may be--and so that means you are too busy trusting in God's great promises to feel dread at the possibility of not attaining them b/c you might not trust God anymore one day in the hypothetical future.

But that doesn't mean that there is no such possibility, just that the Spirit-led faith is not obsessed with worrying about that possibility. If that possibility happens to you, it is because you stopped having faith. So don't do that. :-) Stick with God, and all will be well.

"given that a good deal of the Reformed community has read Eph. 1 in exactly that way, what is so wrong with believing that the deposit is in fact an infallible guarantee of future inheritance?"

Well, I don't know if it's so wrong. I'm not on a crusade against it so much as I am trying to argue for what I think is a better way. But it's all relative, and we aren't talking about heresy v. orthodoxy here (at least not in my book).

But to answer your question directly...you can already guess some of what I'm going to say. For one thing, reading the deposit of Eph. 1:14 as an infallible gurantee of ultimate salvation means that you then have to say that Paul is not addressing everyone in the church at Ephesus any more. This forces an awkward distinction into the text that the text itself does not provide. All of a sudden we have to take Paul as talking only to a special subset of the Ephesian church.

The 'judgment of charity' is the common retort here, and depending on what we mean I also believe in a judgment of charity. After all, I am sitting here arguing that the covenant is 'objective' and that we must therefore take all people who are baptised professing believers and accept their professions at face value and assume they are what they say they are. I talk to every person in the Church like they are going to Heaven, unless there is some disciplinary issue hanging over them for which they are unrepentant. That's a 'judgment of charity' in its own way. But the traditional Reformed usage of that phrase seems to me insufficient for explaining passages like Ephesians 1.

The traditional view is that the deposit is an infallible gurantee of ultimate salvation, but it looks like Paul just told the entire congregation that they have received such a deposit. So we say 'well, that's just Paul making a judgment of charity, speaking to everyone as though they are elect even though he knows they are not.' I just don't see how that interpretation is supposed to be of any help. Aside from the basic exegetical questions we could ask--i.e. "How do you know that is what Paul is doing? What indicators do you find for such a rhetorical move in the text?"--what is Paul really doing here on the JoCh interpretation? He is telling a group of people about this great deposit that they have all received, but in fact he doesn't think all of them have received it. But he goes ahead and tells them that they have, b/c he doesn't know the ones who have from the ones who haven't. This interpretation ends up potentially undermining assurance for certain kinds of consciences--"Golly, how do I know that I'm not on the wrong side of that judgment of charity? How do I know that Paul isn't just being charitable with me?" It turns this great deposit into something that the individuals reading the letter cannot know they actually have. Unless, that is, we introduce a further idea that the Spirit somehow gives them assurance directly. So now we have Paul saying words in Eph. 1 which are clearly meant to be assuring, but they are only really assuring if the Spirit comes in and gives you some mysterious inner assurance that they really are for you. Because those words might not be for you.

The whole thing seems unnecessarily convoluted to me. Adding layer upon layer of explanation to what is really a simple word of wonderous encouragement to a congregation in Asia Minor. Well, those words of assurance aren't really for all of you. Who are they for, then? The ones of you who receive a separate testimony from the Holy Spirit. You can know you are elect by the Spirit's illumination, and then if you have that illumination you can be assured by these words in Eph. 1.

Of course, we DO need the Spirit to illuminate all things to us or we can't understand or be assured about anything at all. The Spirit is a constant force for those who are favored by God. But my concern here is with some idea of a 'special' act of assurance (what many Reformed people take the WCF to be talking about when it talks about assurance...some sort of 'internal' conviction that comes apart from any particular 'external' means). I believe the Spirit assures us THROUGH our reading of passages like Ephesians 1. He doesn't come along and 'rescue' the assurance of the elect when they read Eph. 1 and wonder if it really applies to them. The latter picture is what I find convoluted, forced, and not required by the text or by Reformed theology.

And this problem--things Paul writes to a clear audience aren't actually intended to be assuring to that entire audience--then puts us on the logical road to the false tension between predestination and historical flesh-and-blood reality that I have alluded to before. We are now well on our way to dividing 'real' believers from fake believers, 'real' church members from fake church members. But being a member of the church is not a timeless 'predestination to glory' thing, it is a flesh-and-blood historical thing. People in history are in the Church, or they are not. But some of them who are in the Church do not go to Heaven (they are not predestined to glory). But we have trouble accepting this, or we accept it in theory but then we get it mixed up in our heads. We end up drawing this enormous continental divide between elect and non-elect, in history. Right now, in the historical ebb and flow of things, we want to say that Bob is in this one camp and Tom is in this other. Their apparent similarities (both are baptised, both are members of the Church, both received the Gospel with joy, etc.) are only ephemeral. The hard reality of the matter is that Bob is predestined to ultimate salvation and Tom is not, and so we must therefore keep Bob and Tom separate this side of glory, too.

It is readings like the one you are giving of Ephesians 1, I think, which starts us down that kind of road.

Xon said...

You asked where I think Ephesians 1 teaches God's eternal decree of who inherits ultimate salavation and who doesn't, and you also asked where in Scripture in general do I find such a teaching.

I'm going to deflect a detailed discussion of where I find it in Ephesians for now, if that's okay. I'm also going to deflect a look at all the Scriptures that teach it (and I do think that there are several).

For now, I will only mention one. And I am, to give credit where credit is due, ripping off James Jordan again here. I think this one is such a good theological observation that I don't want anyone to mistakenly credit me with the insight.

Where is God's decree of who goes to eternal glroy taught in the Bible? Genesis 1:1.

God created all things ex nihilo, and that means that, by logical necessity, every thing that happens exactly the way that God wants it to happen, form a historical perspective (a moral perspective is another matter). Without God's creation, there would be nothing at all. With God's creation, there is everything that is. The precise 'kind' of world we have, whether it is a world in which I get up at 7:45 am EST on 1/16/08 or whether it is one in which I get up at 8:00 am EST on 1/16/08, is under the control of He who makes all things out of nothing. And, since all things are under God's sovereign control and determination, then eternal destinies of individual people are under God's sovereign control and determination.

Jeff Cagle said...

Hi Xon,

Thanks for the responses.

I owe you an apology. Over on GreenBaggins, someone asked whether anyone actually used the term "temporary justification." I responded "yes", and cited among other things our discussions.

At which point someone made a remark that I thought went well beyond the facts.

Anyways, on reflection, I should not have exposed you to criticism (though I'm sure you're used to a certain amount of it), and I apologize. I should at least have asked first whether you mind if I cross-pollinate other discussions with our comments.

Jeff Cagle

Jeff Cagle said...

I have been working on a proposition that addresses some of your concerns about judgment of charity while retaining much of its substance.

When I get time (i.e., not during exam week!), I'll post it separately.

BTW, would you agree with or disagree with the description of temporary justification in the last paragraph of this post?

Jeff Cagle

Xon said...

Jeff, sure that's a nice summary statement. I think everything Joshua says in that comment is true. I might want to say MORE about temporary justification than just that, but that's good for starters.

The reason I say I MIGHT want to say more is because I really don't know. Whatever appearances I may be giving off in this discussion aside, I have not attained systematic nirvana on this issue yet. In fact, in many ways I still don't like the phrase "temporary justification". I share some of Doug Wilson's unease with speaking this way, but I (so far) can't think of a better way to talk about what the Bible seems to be saying.

"Temporary justification" is a topic that comes up as a result of reading the Bible in a certain way (i.e., reading it as teaching the 'objectivity of the covenant'), and then discussing that reading with other folks who are skeptical. It wouldn't surprise me if we come up with something better, or just different, over time.

Xon said...

Oh, and Jeff, you are certainly forgiven on my end, though I'm not sure there is anything to forgive. But be at peace; I offer it freely.

Letting my curiosity get the better of me, I just perused greenbaggins for the first time in six weeks or so to find the conversation thread you were referring to. Reminded me again of why I don't go there any more. Efforts of some participants to chart a better course notwithstanding, the atmosphere is too full of dust to be breathable. I had occasional asthma as a kid; I can't take it. If folks want to have a theological track meet, I need crisp mountain air. Enough metaphor-wrangling for now.

Also, the criticism made of me there was nothing new. That same contributor has made such rhetorical asides at me from the beginning of our interactions. If I admit I am still working something out, or if I admit I am not quite as precise as I need to be, or if I admit that I haven't read some suggested source yet, then I am scolded for 'disturbing the brethren' without knowledge. If I act confident and bold in my assertions--as though I have already considered all counter-arguments and found them wanting--then I am arrogant and I am still, of course, 'disrupting the brethren.' His favorite aside is that I am trained as a philosopher, not as a theologian. He has brought that one up on several occasions. (i.e., "Xon, your philosohpical contortions know no limit," etc.) It does all grow tiresome. But no law requires me to go through it, so I don't anymore.

Anywho...

Jeff Cagle said...

I want to come back to the notion now that monergism requires unconditionality, refine it, and give two very specific objections to your picture of NPA (non-persevering Alice).

First, the refinement. Clearly, "unconditionality" is the wrong word, since you and I agree that perseverance is a logically necessary condition for justification.

In its place, I might suggest "inevitability", which gets at the spirit of Dort V. The claim of perseverance, P: "Anyone who has genuinely received justification through faith is inevitably saved through the ongoing work of Christ on his behalf." And the slogan, "monergism requires inevitability."

Now, my basis for this would be the same set of texts that Dort appeals to, along with the texts that I've mentioned in the post, so I won't belabor them.

So here's the state of the argument. My claim:
---
(1) If God makes a deposit and guarantee, and

(2) if NPA does not receive the guarantee because of a failed condition, there are only two possible efficient causes:

Either (3a) NPA herself is the efficient cause,

OR (3b) God is the efficient cause

(4) And (3a) amounts to a denial of monergism, which we agree doesn't fly.

(5) And (3b) entails God making a promise which He intended to arrange to not have to fulfill; hence, the guarantee was made in bad faith.

(6) And because we agree that (4) and (5) are both impossible, we therefore rule out the possibility of NPA's existing in the first place.
---

And as I read you, you seem willing to grant all but (5) (and what follows, 6).

I want to therefore make a more detailed case for (5), because I think it gets at the pastoral heart of both Dort and also Ephesians 1.

First, I want to emphasize that (5) has nothing to do with the guarantee being conditional per se. My original slogan was misleading in this regard and led us down some rabbit trails. Again, I affirm that perseverance is a logically necessary condition for receiving the inheritance. Rather, (5) is grounded in what it means to make a deposit in good faith, combined with the specific nature of the promise made.

So responding to (5) by pointing out the conditional nature of the guarantee -- such as, "Alice did not persevere", or "keep trusting, and you will receive the guarantee" -- while TRUE, are also not effective rebuttals to (5). They simply put us back at (2) again.

(Not your fault; the term "unconditionality" dorked everything up)

So why (5)? To repeat and refine the first argument, it appears from Scripture that God binds Himself by the promises that He makes, and that He requires of others to make promises with a clean conscience (Matt. 5.37 || Jas. 5.12). Thus, it is all but inconceivable that He would make a guarantee to someone, intending to subvert it by withdrawing His Spirit.

We disagree on the force of this argument, I think, but the disagreement seems to lead back to a question of "conditional/unconditional."

But an even more compelling argument arises from the nature of the deposit and guarantee itself.

Unlike our termite example, the deposit itself is directly related to the fulfillment of the condition.

What about us needs saving? Ultimately, the fact that our slogan is "anything but God." Or put another way, because we are slaves to our sin nature (standard Rom. 1-3 stuff, and also Eph. 2). How then does God save us? By regenerating us through the Spirit, causing us to believe, causing us to be united to Christ and receive the benefits thereof.

What then is the purpose of the deposit of the Holy Spirit? He is not simply a downpayment. Rather, He Himself is the active cause of our continuance in Christ. He caused our faith to begin with (John 3), and He produces our works and even our perseverance thereafter.

So now: God's withdrawal of His sustenance of NPA's faith is accomplished by removing the Holy Spirit from her. And thus, she fails to persevere.

But note: on this account, God withdraws the guarantee prior to Alice's failure to meet the condition.

Because the "efficient cause of meeting the condition" and "the deposit" are one and the same, God must break the contract without Alice having yet failed to meet the condition.

And at this point, I am very very persuaded that this is simply not a viable account.

That's the philosophical/systematic side of the issue. What about the pastoral side?

For all of the points of agreement we have concerning the free offer of the gospel, and assurance being found in resting in the promises of Christ, still: I cannot read out any assurance in the FV picture. It strikes me as very insecure, in fact.

Now part of it is that I'm not clear on one point. Do you, or do you not, believe that we can have some level of confidence that we are decretally elect?

At one point in our discussion *somewhere*, I thought you said "Yes." But then, you often argue as if our decretal election is entirely unknown and unknowable. So ... ?

But for the moment, let's suppose that our decretal election is entirely unknown and unknowable. This is consistent with the criticisms that Wilkins makes of the standard "judgment of charity" position in his chapter of "The Federal Vision."

So now, what confidence do I have based on my covenantal, objective election? Well, it depends. At this moment, because I'm a member in good standing, I have all manner of confidence.

But that's of no value wrt to assurance of salvation; I want confidence that God will continue to be with me in the future.

AND THE FV CAN'T OFFER IT.

For such continuance is contingent on my perseverance, and my current status and past experience have no direct bearing on those continuing in the future. Terrifyingly, God could decide in a heart-beat to withdraw His Spirit from me, and I'll stop believing, fall away, and be damned. And there's nothing I could do about it.

So I can't rest in Christ's promises, because they're not inevitable; and I can't rest in my own clinging to Christ, because who can possibly cling hard enough?; and I'm out of options.

In short, the monergism you put forward, which is grounded primarily in God's Providence, is a frighteningly arbitrary monergism in which a genuinely saved person could be dropped by God.

(I don't mean to be harsh by this. I suspect strongly you don't relate to God on this basis. But why not?)

Jeff

Xon said...

Jeff, quickly (and more can come later), my 'regrouped' response to your argument is not that I deny (5), but that I deny the hypothetical (1) as you mean it. I don't deny that God "makes a deposit and guarantee" to NPA. But your argument as currentely expressed is leaving something out about the kind of deposit and guarantee that God makes. And this is where we disagree. You are claiming that God makes an irrevocable deposit/guarantee to Alice that she will inherit everlasting glory. Call this deposit D1. My claim is that God does not make such a deposit/guarantee to Alice. Instead what the deposit He gives her is a guarantee that she is in the saved community now, that she has exited the swelling waters of death in which she used to live, that this is all b/c of Christ, and that if she believes in Christ (trusts, the meaning of my term 'clings to'), then there is no way she can be lost. Call this D2. But this is still different than a declaration of promise such as "I God am telling you, Alice, that you are predestined to inherit eternal glory."

If God makes a D1 deposit to Alice, then the rest of your argument seems to follow, and there can in fact be no such thing as a non-persevering Alice. Alice must persevere in the faith if God gives her a D1 deposit. But I don't agree that God makes that kind of deposit.

Clear as mud, perhaps, but clearer than I was last week!

Xon said...

Jeff, I also see now a slightly different way of reading your argument, which is probably closer to what you actually intended. I should have read your entire comment before posting my previous. Sorry about that.

My response to what you are actually arguing will take a little more time to put together. :-)

Xon said...

A few more nibbles before I go to bed.

"Now part of it is that I'm not clear on one point. Do you, or do you not, believe that we can have some level of confidence that we are decretally elect?"

Yes. Absolutely. Unequivocally. And so does Wilkins, for what it's worth.

My view, though, and this relates to my comments in the previous 'round', is that 'knowledge' of our election comes through faith, not through 'sight.' To be a bit more provocative, I think the Reformed suffer a bit from a quasi-'Cartesian' rationalism (who was a contemporary of the Westminster Assembly, after all) in which only absolute certainty qualifies as knowledge. And so if we cannot have absolute certainty, then we cannot be assured. We cannot know. And so the Reformed have come up with this idea of an 'internal' assurance that comes 'straight' from God Himself, independent of any particular 'external' or 'physical' means (like Word preached or sacraments administerd). These things are unreliable, we say, b/c some people who possess them end up not going to Heaven. So there is no 'guarantee' in these things. And we demand a 'guarantee' or else we say that we don't 'know' that we are saved. But this is just not how knowledge works in a Biblical worldview, I don't think.

Knowledge is the fruit of trust. Even in the Garden, even in our innocence, it was by trusting in His Creator as a gracious and loving father that Adam was able to fulfill his mandate to subdue the rest of the created order, to name the animals, to guard his wife, etc. Our fruitful study of the world ultimately comes out of our reliance upon God for every good thing. Knowing is trusting. But trusting, by the Biblical definition, is not an internal cognitive certainty. That would be 'sight.' If we 'see' that our name is in the Book of Life, then we can know that we are decretally elect. This is how our minds work. But it's not the way God tells us to find assurance. Our assurance comes, rather, through trusting in Christ, the 'mirror of our election' as Calvin says. And the way you trust in Christ is by seeking Him where He tells us He can be found: in the Word of promise to all who believe, in the Sacraments where He has promised to be present (and, indeed, when God promises He does bind Himself to keeping that promise).

To worry that we trust in Christ now, but we might not trust in Him later, is to enter an inextricable maze. It is psychologically hopeless. There is no 'good' answer except to realize that we have let our concern about future faith get in the way of actual faith.

The 'TR' Reformed view does not have a 'good' answer to this, either. This is a notorious problem for historic Calvinism, especially the Puritans who are our legacy as American presbyterians. The TRs (for lack of a better term) speak of an 'infallible' assurance that comes directly from the Holy Spirit, independent of any particular external means, but some people don't have this. Some people might have it, but soem people don't. And so now those people who don't have it or left right back in the same boat: they do not have this 'infallible' Cartesian certainty of their election brought about through some rapturous fluttering of the Spirit in their hearts, and yet all the Reformed masters are telling them they have to have this if they are to 'know' that they are saved. And so they are left thinking "Gee, I guess I don't 'know' I'm saved, then. Now what?" It's a real problem. FV doesn't magically fix things for these vexed souls, b/c there is no magic fix for them.

But FV does offer them something which, conceivably, is a genuine comfort in some of their cases. You 'know' you are decretally elect by trusting in the real and objective things that God has already done for you. Through this trust--through faith--God assures you that you are an inheritor of eternal life. It all comes back to Christ, not to the strength of our own faith, but to something objective, something 'out there', that God has done for us. He has sent His Son, He has called you by the Gospel to believe, He has put a claim upon you in your baptism, He has called you into His presence weekly to sit at His feet and learn from Him and feast with Him and be strengthened by Him. These are real things, not subject to debate about whether they really happened or not. So take them as a sign of the fuller things that God intends for you. That's how God tells you to think about them; that's how He commands you to think about them. Believe: have faith. Trust.

So, to sum this point up. Yes, I believe we can know that we are decretally elect, inheritors of eternal glory, etc. But I don't think this knowledge generally comes through some 'immediate' operation of the Spirit upon our hearts, outside of normal external means. The 'normal' or ordinary way in which we come to KNOW that we are decretally elect is by trusting in the objective and physical symbols, rites, and realities of our covenantal election. Covenantal election is the window into decretal election, because Christ is the mirror of our election and we are baptized into Christ. The visible Church makes us part of Christ's body, objectively. This is the ordinary way in which we find assurance that we are destined for salvation to the uttermost.

But not everybody who has covenantal election ends up being saved in that uttermost way. Why is this? B/c they stop trusting, b/c they don't have faith. (Or, if we really prefer, b/c they never had 'true' faith at all. Either way the same problem of assurance is still with us.) But then doesn't this ruin my 'knowledge' that I am decretally elect? Not at all--because that's not how knowledge works in the Bible. Knowledge is not Cartesian certainty. It is trusting in the Creator. By trusting we attain knowledge that we are really His. If we do not know this, if we lack assurance, then the only remedy is to trust that we are. For those excessively vexed souls who just cannot bring themselves to trust, who obsess over thier own lack of assurance, I don't have a magical answer. They indeed do not have 'knowledge' that they are decretally elect. But such knowledge is possible, and in fact most believers have it (I think). But, again, we have it by trusting in the external/objective things that God has already done for us. This is the 'ordinary' means God uses to assure us--to give us knowledge--that we are going to be saved when it's all said and done, too.

Xon said...

"In short, the monergism you put forward, which is grounded primarily in God's Providence, is a frighteningly arbitrary monergism in which a genuinely saved person could be dropped by God."

Well, but an arbitrary monergism is still monergism, right? :-) Seriously, I'm just trying to clarify what your criticism of my position really is. Are you saying that my position entails a denail of monergism, or that it entails a scary form of arbitrary monergism?

"You're the worst pirate I've ever heard of."

"Ah, but you have heard of me!"

Jeff Cagle said...

To be a bit more provocative, I think the Reformed suffer a bit from a quasi-'Cartesian' rationalism (who was a contemporary of the Westminster Assembly, after all) in which only absolute certainty qualifies as knowledge. And so if we cannot have absolute certainty, then we cannot be assured. We cannot know. And so the Reformed have come up with this idea of an 'internal' assurance that comes 'straight' from God Himself, independent of any particular 'external' or 'physical' means (like Word preached or sacraments administerd).

Now, is that what current Reformed folk really teach, or is that a possible reading of WCoF 18.2?

It's a real question; my knowledge of prior generations is somewhat better than my knowledge of the current one.

Certainly, some Puritans encouraged a kind of internal assurance (and they did so in opposition to a kind of dead orthodoxy they perceived in the Church of England). And the Methodists did also. And the Primitive Baptists do, and some more hyper-Calvinist types probably would.

But mainstream PCA encourages people to look to an internal experience for assurance of their faith?

I've never heard it.

Think about how you and I have been talking about assurance. Here's my position: our membership in the Church, the fruit that we bear, and our recognition of our belief in the promises of God serve as cumulative evidence that we are saved. But in the end, the real assurance that I am saved comes from the promise of God.

My view, though, and this relates to my comments in the previous 'round', is that 'knowledge' of our election comes through faith, not through 'sight.'

How very odd; our knowledge of decretal election must come through faith but not by sight, but our knowledge of covenantal election comes through the objective declaration of baptism and our clear, visible participation in the visible church?

Hm. I think the "faith/sight" criticism is probably similar to the charge of "pessimism" regularly leveled in eschatological debates. No matter what side one takes, the other side is always "pessimistic."

Gotta go have lunch with a former student,
Jeff

curate said...

Just to say hello. The Green Bagginses site is just too horrible for words at the minute. Just touching base.

Jeff Cagle said...

Welcome, Curate! As you can see, this discussion has a lot of overlap with some of ours.

Jeff

curate said...

How about inviting Mr White to the discussion. Reading his comments on Hebrews 6 he argues that the descriptions of regeneration and blessing are meant sarcastically. I would like to hear him defend that thesis. What do you think?

Jeff Cagle said...

I really appreciate and respect Dr. White's comments, and if he were to post here I would welcome his contributions.

That said, I am in the process of winding down my involvement with Federal Vision-related discussion. My original mandate was to understand what the FV teaches; I think I can represent that to my session and church with reasonable accuracy. And, my wife believes (rightly) that I've spent too much time overall on it. And I believe I've become a little too forward at times.

These conversations with Xon have been a bright spot, and I would like for those to continue. And I forsee two, maybe three more posts on the nature of the church and the exegesis of Eph. 1, with attendant interactions, and then I'll go back to butterflies.

So ... I won't invite him, but that doesn't preclude you from doing so.

Jeff Cagle

Xon said...

"How very odd; our knowledge of decretal election must come through faith but not by sight, but our knowledge of covenantal election comes through the objective declaration of baptism and our clear, visible participation in the visible church?"

Hmm. I'm not sure why this is 'odd.' This hasn't been addressed before, but I agree that the fact that you are a member of the visible church is a 'sight' thing and not a 'faith' thing. How could it be otherwise? What the implications of my covenant membership are for other things like eternal salvation, is where 'faith' comes in.

I know that I-75 connects Atlanta to Detroit by "sight." It is an 'objective' thing; there it is, connecting Atlanta to Detroit right before my very eyes. Likewise, I know that I have been baptized and that I have joined a local congregation and that I am a member of the visible church by 'sight.' There is no faith required for that kind of knowledge (except in some more metaphorical and philosophically-interesting sense where we might say that ALL knowledge ultimately comes down to faith).

That I am a covenant member is objective, there-for-all-to-see, and beyond any doubt. On the basis of that objective indubitable fact, I am supposed to have faith that I am one of God's elect. And I do, by the grace of God.

And, yes, in my conversations with anti-FVers I have heard the 'internal' assurance thing many times. In fact, look back at the Carolina Presbytery memorial against Wilkins. Look over some of Lane's older posts on why FV is bad at greenbagginses. One of the things critics of Wilkins make a lot of hay over is that he (allegedly) denies that there is an 'internal' indubitible assurance.

But also, my original criticism was not so much directed at the belief that there is some 'internal' component to assurance, but at those who are looking for some sort of Caretesian-style absolutely certain knowledge. In that misguided quest, some Reformed people have constructed an 'internal,' means-independent assurance as a way of securing the holy grail they seek. I want off that entire train.

"Think about how you and I have been talking about assurance. Here's my position: our membership in the Church, the fruit that we bear, and our recognition of our belief in the promises of God serve as cumulative evidence that we are saved. But in the end, the real assurance that I am saved comes from the promise of God."

And my position is everything you said before that last sentence. And that last sentence jumps out at me: why are you opposing all that other cumulative evidence with 'real' evidence, as though our assurance is inadequate with just that cumulative-case stuff? That's precisely what I don't get. I would say that the promise of God is included in that list of 'cumulative' stuff. All that stuff--the promise of God (especially), our membership in the church, our fruit, our awareness of our own belief in God's promises--provides cumulative evidence that we are saved. Full stop. The end. No urge to then add something about what gives us "real" assurance. All that stuff we just mentioned IS real assurance.

All these things allow us to know that we are saved, that we are God's elect, and that we will be saved at the last day. But this "knowledge" isn't some sort of infallible certainty that is not subject to any sort of proper second-guessing. As a general rule (though of course God can do whatever He wants in particular moments), God does not allow us that sort of certainty. He gives us bread, wine, water, and words. These are the means through which we find assurance. There is no other place to look.

Jeff Cagle said...

It is an 'objective' thing...

Just a nitpick. I know that the terminology has been established by usage, but I would have called it an 'empirical' thing, since it measures our election by means of clear empirical criteria.

Being decretally elect is, after all, an objective thing also; one either is or isn't, and the objective criterion is whether one has been chosen by God to be finally saved.

/nitpick

JRC:
"Think about how you and I have been talking about assurance. Here's my position: our membership in the Church, the fruit that we bear, and our recognition of our belief in the promises of God serve as cumulative evidence that we are saved. But in the end, the real assurance that I am saved comes from the promise of God."

XH:

And my position is everything you said before that last sentence. And that last sentence jumps out at me: why are you opposing all that other cumulative evidence with 'real' evidence, as though our assurance is inadequate with just that cumulative-case stuff?

Sorry, I wasn't clear. The reason I'm setting the promise of God apart from the others is that the two play different roles. The first three are information about myself. And the last, the promises, are the lens through which I interpret what that information means.

That's all. Nothing mystical or setting aside the first as "non-real."

And, yes, in my conversations with anti-FVers I have heard the 'internal' assurance thing many times. In fact, look back at the Carolina Presbytery memorial against Wilkins. Look over some of Lane's older posts on why FV is bad at greenbagginses.

I will look at those posts. I have to say that I wrestle with understanding the language of WCoF 18.2,3:

This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.

3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it...


I don't know how to read out their notion of certainty; I've been tainted, I suppose, by 350 years of epistemological hair-splitting since that time.

There's cause to believe that 18.4 shapes the way we should read 18.2, such that "certainty" would be a relative and inductive type of certainty, along the lines of "The sun'll come up tomorrow" rather than a deductive certainty along the lines of "Given that x+2 = 4, it is certain that x = 2."

And of course, all inductive certainties are probabilistic in nature, so it might well be that the Westminster divines did not intend to rule out my version of assurance.

So I would love to be able to find out more about the discussion that went into Ch. 18 and so on.

One of the things critics of Wilkins make a lot of hay over is that he (allegedly) denies that there is an 'internal' indubitible assurance.

Well, OK, let me speak to that. Wilkins articulates on p. 57 of TFV an "FV argument" that I've seen several times made by various FV advocates. Here it is:

Think of the promise Paul relates to the members of the church at Rome (Rom. 8:28-34). Throughout this passage, Paul refers to the "elect", those whom God "foreknew" and "predestined," ... Clearly, Paul is not stating promises that are true only for some unknown group called the "elect." Nor is he speaking only to a portion of the congregation whom he judges to be "regenerate." Rather, he is applying these promises to all the members of the Church who have been baptized and united to Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6). -- TFV, 57

And John Barach also:

The Romans were not supposed to say, "Well, wouldn't it be great to be one of those elect people, then. I just don't know if I am." No, they were to take this statement as applying to themselves... -- TFV, 29 ... and he then goes on to argue that decretal, predestinary election cannot be what 2 Thess. 2 has in mind because if it were, then we couldn't ever know if the passage were referring to us.

NOW

There are all manner of things that bother me about Steve and John's argument.

Zero-th and aside, as a matter of theological polemics, it could not have been more ill-calculated and combative. Both men had to have known that the vast majority of Reformed theologians read Ephesians 1 and 2 Thess 2 with some kind of version of judgment of charity in mind. To sweep that aside with bare, unsupported assertion was like putting a chip on the shoulder and daring someone to knock it off. In terms of some kind of strategy designed to convince others that they stand squarely within Reformed orthodoxy -- this was clearly a loser. And that's too bad, because if either one of them had acknowledged the concerns and provided arguments to deal with them, they might very well still be holding Aub. Av. conferences unmolested and without silly rubber nose stunts. Or, if the FV teaching is in fact heterodox, they would have been confronted with its heterodoxy sooner.

/vent

But that's a criticism of tactics, not substance. Let's examine the structure of Steve's argument:

(1) Paul speaks of the "elect."
(2) He is clearly (?!) not speaking to an unknown group called the "elect" nor to a subset called the "regenerate"
(3) Therefore, he is speaking to the entire baptized body of believers.

Now, there a lot of details left out here, and so we're left to reconstruct some of them. And it's in the reconstruction that I came to the strong impression that Steve does not believe that the decretally elect can have any assurance of that fact.

The big question is, How do we get from (2) to (3)? Barach's article (which Steve cites approvingly on this point) fills in some of the details:

(2a) Paul must be speaking in a way that is intelligible to his readers.
(2b) And if the letter were addressed to the decretally elect, then no-one would know whether the letter were addressed to himself ("If Paul isn't writing to the whole church, then no one in the church would know if Paul is writing to him." -- TFV 30).
(2c) And, presumably, writing a letter to an audience who cannot tell whether the letter is addressed to them is not intelligible, so
(2) He is clearly not speaking to an unknown group called the elect.

Now, I don't know some things here. First, it may be that Barach and Wilkins have subtly different views here. If so, it was unfortunate that Wilkins chose to draw on Barach's article for support without qualifying himself in some way (TFV 57-58). And second, my reconstruction is plausible but not necessarily perfect; it may be that Wilkins would fill in the details in some other way, or that (2) is somehow intuitively obvious to him.

(In math, the word "Clearly" means "A proof immediately springs to mind." Usage may be different in other disciplines.)

But in any event, (2b) contains within it the assumption that if someone is decretally elect, he can't know it.

For my part, I think Wilkins' argument (1)-(3), not including my reconstruction, doesn't stand scrutiny. It's not at all clear to me that Paul could not speak to the entire Ephesian church on the grounds that what he says *should* be true of all of them, even if it might not factually be true of some.

Or that Paul could not have in v.1 been specifying exactly whom he means: "To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus."

Off the top of my head, those are just two live options that *need to be considered in works of this nature.*

Anyways, I'll start venting again, and that's off-point. The main thing was to explain: Steve's argument for reading Ephesians 1 as "covenantal election" rather than "decretal election" appears to contain within it the assumption that decretal election is unknowable.

JRC

curate said...

First, a general observation Jeff. I think that you are hugely over-complicating something that is very simple. The FV says that the ordinary way that God deals with mankind is through means. These means are the ways that God deals with us in time and space. They are the covenants, the word, and the sacraments.

Without denying election in any way, indeed, with an absolute insistence upon it, the FV is simply saying that we need to think in terms of the means of grace within history as a normative thing, because the Reformed are over-emphasizing the decretal side of things, resulting in a warped way of reading and applying the Bible.

So it boils down to an historical, practical approach to the Bible, the Faith, and Church as a norm. It opposes the pietistic and mystical mentality of modern Reformed Evangelicalism as unbiblical.

Jeff Cagle said...

Hi Curate,

First, I'm very sympathetic to arguments from simplicity (being a physics guy and all).

And second, I'm very sympathetic to the idea that God deals with mankind through means.

Not *exclusively* through means, mind you, but through means, and perhaps even primarily through means.

(If the error of Gnosticism was to insist that the physical world was illusory and/or evil, the error of the moderns is to insist that the physical world is the whole show. It has struck me a couple of times that the FV emphasis on the physical world, the visible church, Christendom, and the rest might reflect a kind of modernist theology. But that's pure speculation)

That said, I don't find the FV solution to be simple at all.

First, in the Wilkins incarnation, it creates a whole separate structure of "convenantal" attributes -- covenantal union with Christ, covenantal sanctification, covenantal justification. And then, somehow, we have to understand which passages mean which.

(Jordan's model simplifies this, I guess, by having everything be covenantal until the eschaton.)

Second, insisting that God works through means all the time creates difficulties reading the Bible. Recall our debate concerning whether justification waits for baptism. In the end, you simply had to relegate all of my counter-examples to "exceptions."

And of course, exceptions are the sign that a theory is insufficiently broad and simple.

Or again, even when I grant the notion of "covenantal election", it turns out that I can't agree with anyone else on whether, say, Ephesians 1 is talking about covenantal or decretal election. That's a sign of a theory that is too complex to use.

And finally, I note the legions of PCA-ers who have either (a) been unable to understand FV theology, or (b) have not agreed that it is consistent with Reformed theology.

Assume for a moment that FV theology is in fact consistent with Reformed theology; still and all, the amazingly hard time it's had selling itself to the PCA (and other Reformed denominations) indicates that it has not found the necessary simplicity to be teachable.

Quite the contrary -- after (Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan.) 4.5 months of research, I now think I *might* be able to fairly represent the FV to my session. Maybe.

So while I agree with a lot of the basic impulses of the FV: uniting the invisible and visible churches into one Church; emphasizing the sacraments as means of grace; providing assurance to ordinary Christians who don't have special revelations of election; and affirming the free Gospel offer -- even with all of that agreement, I can't take in the FV solution.

I do have a counter-proposal, though. Stay tuned.

JRC

Xon said...

"(If the error of Gnosticism was to insist that the physical world was illusory and/or evil, the error of the moderns is to insist that the physical world is the whole show. It has struck me a couple of times that the FV emphasis on the physical world, the visible church, Christendom, and the rest might reflect a kind of modernist theology. But that's pure speculation"

It's interesting speculation, but I don't really think it squares all that well with modernism. Of course, 'modernism' is not a simple or monolithic thing in its own right.

But I think you are on shaky ground comparing any theology to 'modernism' in the way you do here. Sure, there are materialistic modernists like Bertrand Russell, but the great majority of the 'classical' modernists, from the rationalist philosophers on the continent like Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz to the English 'empiricists' through the Enlightenment and the deists through Kant, Hegel, and the romantics and transcendentalists, were not materialists. Most of them hardly qualified as orthodox Christians (or Jews), certainly, but their views were not atheistic or materialistic. Theology is always, well, theology, and so you won't find much atheism there. Not even the 'death of God' theology was about atheism. Modern/liberal theology is bad, don't get me wrong. But it's not 'materialistic', or if it is we're just on different wavelengths with the language here.

But what's more, FV doesn't make material stuff "the whole show." They emphasize physical means of grace b/c that's where, in their reading of Scripture, God has promised to be present. The FV view if anything represents a 're-enchantment' of physical stuff and of the material world, which makes it a pre-modern theology to whatever extent we associate modernity with the Enlightenment. It seeks a greater recognition that God is present and active in 'normal' day-to-day life (and just in case there are any witchhunters from Warfield or Greenbaggins comments reading this, I am not advocating 'pantheism' or 'panentheism,' either. Labels labels labels, some people are obsessed. Anyway, just a little side ranting...). You belong to God b/c He made a covenant with you. Like the title to your car, it's on file somewhere. When your baby was baptized, God is ripping the roof and speaking to the child Himself. When you hear the Word read aloud or you listen to a sermon, God is talking to you. You aren't just going to a 'theology club' to sing a few songs and hear a lecture about God. You are actually encountering God Himself. Seriously. Believe it. (As we both believe)

But none of this happens through some 'immediate' unmediated experience outside of means. At least not normally. I'll allow for extraordinary happenings all day long; God is sovereign and He does what He wants. But ordinarily (a most Reformed term!) people encounter God when they go to Church b/c God has said that He is present in the preaching and reading of the Word and in the sacraments. God doesn't say "If you come to church, I will touch your precious little heart in a way that is independent of anything necessarily going on around you." :-) Means means means. The fact that God works through means means that the world is an enchanted place. No, not everything becomes a 'sacrament', at least not in the way the medieval Catholic Church claimed. But every person, every vocation, has access to God through their 'ordinary' encounters with His Word and His sacraments. (Now that's high-octane original vintange Protestantism!) The Reformers weren't teaching that you can forget about means and meet God in your heart-chamber somehow. They taught that God meets us in means that are accessible to everyone. But He really does insist on using the means, ordinarily (there's that word again).

Anyway, that got me going. It was a provocative thought, but in the interest of representing FV fairly (which I think you are well-equipped and qualified to do and I appreciate your efforts over the last few months both in conversations with me and in your own studies that I know little about) I wouldn't bring up any more speculations about the 'real' roots of their theology. Besides, some anti-FVers have already accused Leithart and others of being "liberals" and "modernists" for a few years now, so you're late to that game anyway. :-)

Jeff Cagle said...

Thanks for the correction. It sounded thin when I wrote it, and sure 'nuff...

JRC

Xon said...

Now, about Wilkins' (and Barach's) argument. I don't think their argument, even as you represent it (which is a fair enough gloss, but see some comments below for a more fleshed-out picture from Wilkins himself), assumes that "if someone is decretally elect, he can't know it."

Here's the argument from Barach as you present it, just for ease of reference (and I remind any readers that Barach's argument has been suggested as a way of helping to 'fill in' some inferential moves in Wilkins' argument, so we're really talking about both Wilkins and Barach here, or at least I am willing to stipulate that we are doing so. I do think Wilkins and Barach are close enough on this issue that we don't need to split hairs between them):

(2a) Paul must be speaking in a way that is intelligible to his readers.
(2b) And if the letter were addressed to the decretally elect, then no-one would know whether the letter were addressed to himself ("If Paul isn't writing to the whole church, then no one in the church would know if Paul is writing to him." -- TFV 30).
(2c) And, presumably, writing a letter to an audience who cannot tell whether the letter is addressed to them is not intelligible, so
(2) He is clearly not speaking to an unknown group called the elect.


I think (2b) is overstated. I think Wilkins and Barach would actually have it go more like this: "If the letter were addressed only to the decretally-elect, then many (and, in principle, no one) would know whether the letter were addressed to himself.

Barach does say "no one" on p. 30 of the FV book, as you point out. And Wilkins also wrote that way a couple of times. But Wilkins for sure has clarified his view since then. He never meant to say that no one knows whether they are decretally elect, period. He rather meant something like this: Assurance does not generally come through some 'internal' means-free process. We can have assurance but it comes through believing in God's promises that have been objecively made to us, not by finding out our 'secret' identity in God's decrees. God's decrees, properly speaking, are secret, as the Reformed have always said. True, we can have assurance that we are on the good side of that decree, but Wilkins was only trying to emphasize the standard Reformed position that God's decrees are not something we creatures are privy to. Assurance that I am elect is not necessarily the same as a literal knowledge that God's decree of election contains my name. Assurance is more like the security one feels when reflecting upon that time the King pulled them out of a raging river, and how safe they feel whenever they are with the King and their remembrance that as long as they are in his mighty company he will look after them and so they will never fall in any raging rivers again. I think in any 'real life' situation this sort of comfort and security is VERY assuring, and to demand some sort of knowledge that our name is on this secret list of names before we feel like we are really out of the water, or to worry constantly that we are going to fall back into the water at some future date even though we are sons of the King now and he has promised to watch over us, is insulting to the King. But then when it comes to God we have forgotten that He is a person. We have forgotten what it means to have a personal God. Instead we start thinking about eternal rosters in the sky, and worrying about whether our name is on the roll or not. This is Allah-think, not Jesus-think. Well, that's my own rank speculation perhaps. Goose and gander, and all that. :-)

Back to Wilkins and "FV" thinking about assurance in general, though. Here is something I wrote on my blog last February in my response to one of Guy Waters' talks at a one-day anti-FV conference he did in Greenville. I apologize for its length, but I think it covers what I want to say well enough to use it again here. Note also where I quote more recent statements from Wilkins (more recent than that article in the FV book) in which he clarifies his position in a number of helpful ways:

BOQ

The Confession does not define “inward graces” as “things that exist only in your heart, and which can only be seen by looking at your heart apart from the outward fruits of life that your heart produces.” That is an assumption that Waters is loading into the Confession’s words at this point.

Part of the problem here is that Waters is not critiquing Wilkins’ most recent revisions and clarifications of his position. We mentioned much earlier that it is okay to criticize someone for being unclear, but that you must then allow them to revise and qualify their views. It would be a shame if someone was to be judged poorly forever simply because he was unclear at one time (that is, granting that he really was unclear at the earlier time, which is not necessarily something Wilkins has to grant). It is unfortunate, then, that Waters does not make any mention of Wilkins’ recent written answers to his presbytery (the Louisiana Presbytery), in which he very carefully qualifies and elucidates his earlier comments on assurance.

"1. Do you believe that your teaching on assurance contradicts WCF 18-2? If so, how?"

No, I do not believe my teaching contradicts WCF 18.2. In the quote from my article in The Federal Vision (p. 67; note 15 on p. 69), I am not denying the possibility of assurance or “infallible assurance” to which the Confession alludes. Rather, I am trying to show the appropriate grounds of such assurance and the appropriate way to attain it. We do not attain assurance by trying to discern the sincerity of our faith or repentance through introspection of our hearts and examination of our motives, affections, or feelings. Our hearts are deceitful and, thus, our assurance cannot be grounded upon what we feel or think we discern in the recesses of our souls. Our assurance is founded on Christ Himself and His work and the promises of God revealed in the Scriptures as well as the visible fruit of the Spirit’s work in our lives.

Note how the Confession teaches that one obtains “infallible” assurance (WCF 18.1). Certain assurance can be obtained only by those who “truly believe” [i.e., have saving faith, WCF 14] and sincere love for the Lord Jesus, and who endeavor “to walk in all good conscience before him” [i.e., who repent, believe, and obey] — these may be assured that they are in a “state of grace” and rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Thus, assurance is grounded upon: believing the promises of God; the “inward evidence” of those graces (which is always manifested outwardly and according to the textual proofs include obedience to God’s commandments; love of the brethren; honest conduct; and godliness); and the witness of the Spirit (Who confirms our faith through the fruit of holiness He produces in our lives)…..

The promises of God are also sealed and confirmed by the sacraments (WCF 27.1 they serve “to confirm our interest in Christ”). Baptism means that I have been joined to Christ covenantally, united to His body by the Spirit (I Cor. 12); it means that I have put on Christ Jesus (Gal. 3). All the promises of God are delivered to me and are properly and truly mine. There is no reason to doubt these promises if I am clinging to Christ by faith. The very fact that baptism is a “sign” and a “seal” confirms my standing and I am to rejoice in the grace of God given to me in Christ Jesus. Assurance must not be sought apart from the ordained signs and seals of God’s mercy and grace.


So, Wilkins does not deny that there are legitimate “inward” sources of assurance of one’s decretal election. But he also wants to argue that “inward” doesn’t mean here that one is looking to something within oneself which has no outward expression. Inward graces are not only inward. The “real faith” we are looking for, the “real repentance,” etc., are things that will be manifest in our lives. We may call saving faith an “inward” reality, but it is also an outward reality, and the Spirit points us outward to see the fruits of this saving faith. So Wilkins affirms that we can have an infallible assurance that we are decretally elect, and that this infallible assurance is found through the Holy Spirit’s confirming with us that we possess certain “internal” graces. What he denies is that these “internal” graces are only internal, so that the only way to see them is to somehow look into your heart independently of the fruits it produces. Again, this is not what the Confession says, and Waters is doing eisegesis at this point.

In addition to this infallible assurance spoken of in WCF chapter 18, Wilkins also wants to put forth other external or “objective” sources of assurance, such as our covenantal election and the sacraments. But this doesn’t mean that Wilkins is “grounding” assurance in baptism, only that it is a means of assurance. The only ground of assurance is Christ himself, which Wilkins says explicitly in the quote that Waters reads during the lecture. (This was one of the most egregious misrepresentations of the entire conference.)

There is nothing wrong with pointing to our covenantal election as a means of assurance for our decretal election. As Calvin said, Christ is the mirror of our election, and the way to see our own election is to look constantly to Him. But Calvin meant by this that we must look to Christ where He has promised to be found, which is in the Church through the Word and sacraments . Our presence in the covenant of grace and our participation in its “objective” practices like baptism and the Lord’s Supper are therefore mirrors in which we may look to Christ to see our own decretal election. Because we have all these things, because we are in the covenant of grace, we know that God has promised to save us. This is most assuring. (The first Reformed theologian who enabled me to see this sacramental connection to assurance was Michael Horton. Many thanks to him!)

Both Waters and Wilkins believe that there are means of assurance, by which the Spirit enables us to see that we are truly connected to Christ. The disagreement is over what these means are. Wilkins (in his more recent and revised statements) clearly affirms both the “inward” means spoken of in WCF 18, though he also wants to insist that these “inward” realities have external manifestations, as well as the purely “outward” means of baptism, covenant membership, etc.

Waters seems to be making two claims in response to Wilkins’ view. 1. He denies that things like baptism and covenantal membership can be sources of assurance at all (thus, he says that “baptism can assure no one of salvation;” more on that argument anon.) 2. He presents Wilkins as denying any internal means of assurance at all, but we have now seen that this is a misrepresentation.

EOQ

The only thing I would point out at this point is that, if anything, I (Xon Hostetter) am more radical than Wilkins on this point, because I frankly admit to being skeptical of this "infallible" talk. Were I up for ordination today, I would probably take exception with that term in the Standards (or at least discuss it and ask presbytery to decide whether my view constituted an exception). I really do worry that this is just modernist philosophy creeping in to Reformed theology (we must get infallible assurance? We must know that we know that we know that we know....) But I'd also be more than interested to read a good word study and to learn more about the historical discussions at the Westminster Assembly. It is certainly possible that I am reading "infallible" in too strictly Cartesian a way, and that I need to lighten up on the divines on this point. (Yes, I know how that sounds)

Xon said...

I think you've read it before, Jeff, but just in case you (or anyone else) is interested the full post from my blog is here:

http://afterdarkness.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html

curate said...

Jeff, I read your response. Just this weekend a friend read out a passage on the phone from Ussher's "A Body of Divinity", which includes the Irish Articles of Religion. As you know they were the basis for the WCF. He is quite brilliant.

He says this: "Man is bound by the means of grace, but God is not."

This summarizes the whole thing. From our perspective as men we are bound by the means, since they are our only access to God. God for his part can and may dispense with them as he sees fit. That is his business, and none of ours.

Why has the PCA had such difficulties with the FV, which is really Reformation pastorality? Because they focus on God's business too much, and have not learned to think about the means in the right way. They do not think sacramentally, being semi-baptists.

Another general observation from me re why you personally are having such difficulties with the FV, in a friendly spirit and with a brotherly smile: your scientific and mathematical mentality is directing your thoughts in some cases in an artificial direction. I have seen this often with men with science and maths degrees. They bring that methodology to the scriptures.

The study of scripture is a literary discipline, not an empirical one. They are quite different in their methods.

At times you have shaken it off, like when you realized that assurance is not mathematical certainty, but a real certainty nevertheless. But it is an issue.

curate said...

Cont. Witness the way you dismiss the exceptions. What is wrong with exceptions? The exception in some cases establishes the rule. In Acts we have an historical transition from the older covenant into the new covenant. John's baptisees need the Spirit, so Paul has to bring them up to date on the resurrection and ascension. Gentiles need to be brought in for the first time AS GENTILES, so we have another one-off.

What the problem is? So it doesn't fit the final theorem. Not an issue. There is a transition happening here that needs to be recognized.

Savvy?

curate said...

Since the means of grace are binding, and the usual and normal means whereby men are saved, the importance of the Church becomes apparent - a big FV emphasis. The Church is where the word, the sacraments, and prayer are found, thus the Church is where salvation is found.

Hence the dignity of the Pastoral office,and the reason why the ministers of the word and sacraments robe, hence the importance of liturgy as opposed to the Baptist model, because the liturgy embodies sound doctrine and practice, as well as including the congregation in the worship, instead of making them spectators to the action.

curate said...

Temporary justification is not a major FV doctrine, as far as I can tell. Most of the pro-FV guys at Green Bagginses agreed that the Hebrews passages must be read with scare quotes.

So Wilkins and I disagree, no big deal. There has always been a minority opinion about it within the tradition of absolute sovereignty. We just can't see the scare quotes, and that makes us a minority, but not Arminians.

Jeff Cagle said...

Another general observation from me re why you personally are having such difficulties with the FV, in a friendly spirit and with a brotherly smile: your scientific and mathematical mentality is directing your thoughts in some cases in an artificial direction.

Now, is that an "observation" or a "speculation"? :)

JRC

P.S. (I'm not dismissing the thought entirely; it's just that I think there *is* a role for logic in providing controls on our theological ruminations. And I've benefited, I think, from using set theory to think about these issues.

And who knows? Perhaps your non-scientific mentality is leading your thoughts...yada, yada)

Jeff Cagle said...

This is just a refinement, but perhaps an important one:

Assurance is more like the security one feels when reflecting upon that time the King pulled them out of a raging river, and how safe they feel whenever they are with the King and their remembrance that as long as they are in his mighty company he will look after them and so they will never fall in any raging rivers again.

And above, you said

But having a earnest 'gurantee' of a future inheritance does not mean that I have received an absolute unconditional assurance that I will indeed inherit. It's like a golden ticket, or something. If you've got the ticket, you're in. They can't keep you out if you have that ticket.

I think it's important, and I'm sure you'd agree, that the "raging river" that destroys and the "they" who might keep us out are in fact the wrath of God Himself at our sin.

I only say this because it's not like there's some system that is pre-existing, and God is trying to work with us to keep us from being destroyed by the system.

Rather, He is delivering us from His own wrath -- and that sheds a slightly different light on the nature of the deposit and the promise.

Probably not enough to be decisive, but certainly suggestive.

JRC

Jeff Cagle said...

Barach does say "no one" on p. 30 of the FV book, as you point out. And Wilkins also wrote that way a couple of times. But Wilkins for sure has clarified his view since then. He never meant to say that no one knows whether they are decretally elect, period...

Well, OK, good. I'm much happier with the clarified view. But now, why does the argument continue to be made in its unclarified form?

Even you wrote,

What is interesting to me is that on your view it would seem that I have no idea, right now, whether Ephesians 1 is talking to me or not...

Surely you mean, "I only have a probabilistic idea..." or "I'm not entirely certain whether..."

And it's not just you; I've seen the same argument made by Travis and Gabe and Joshua and I don't know who else. It's like an FV meme that circulates around -- except that the originator of the meme has since qualified his position!

It seems like the exegetical argument concerning the audience of Eph. 1 hinges on this important piece of reasoning, and we ought to be as clear about it as possible.

JRC

(p.s. I hope this doesn't sound gruff; I don't feel gruff in writing it)

Xon said...

You don't sound gruff at all, Jeff.

Perhaps there is a problem with our clarity here, but speaking for myself I know that when I said that I can't know if Eph. 1 is written to me I was being hypothetical. I wasn't saying that, in principle, nobody can know if Eph. 1 is written to them (on your reading) b/c nobody can know whether they are elect. I was saying that, since we know that knowledge of one's election is a widespread problem for a lot of people, those people (and I, Xon Hostetter, might be one of them, in theory) cannot know if Eph. 1 is written to them.

curate said...

Ephesians 1 was the passage that opened my eyes as a brand new Christian to the fact that God is sovereign and that he chooses whom he wills, and that he had chosen me personally.

It truly changed my life.

curate said...

P.S. (I'm not dismissing the thought entirely; it's just that I think there *is* a role for logic in providing controls on our theological ruminations. And I've benefited, I think, from using set theory to think about these issues.

The proper role for logic is in subordination to the Bible, not vice-versa. Logic would have told Abraham that it is impossible for a hundred year old man and a ninety year old wife to have a child, much less for him to go on and father numerous other children with another wife.

In that case logic becomes unbelief, and if Abraham had been logical he would not have been justified!

Logic must not provide controls upon the Bible under any circumstances. The Bible must control logic. Reference the case of Abraham and the promise of a child.

Yes, we must reason intelligently, but the word itself is the control.

Jeff Cagle said...

Logic would have told Abraham that it is impossible for a hundred year old man and a ninety year old wife to have a child, much less for him to go on and father numerous other children with another wife.

Perhaps Xon could speak to this more effectively than I. I am by no means, at all ever demanding a thoroughly rationalistic theology.

(And in any event, it's not logic, but rather inductive reasoning -- specifically, statistical inference combined with human reproduction theory -- that leads us to the conclusion that Sarai could not under normal circumstances conceive.

By contrast, logic can reason from the premise "God is able to do whatever He wants with the creation" in a single step to "Therefore, God can cause Sarai to conceive.")

If I have one frustration in talking theology with you, it would be that when you read the Scripture and reason from it, you allow yourself to say things like "clearly..."

But when I present data from the Scripture and reason from it, you insinuate that I'm captivated by unBiblical scientific and mathematical reasoning tools.

Humph.

Jeff Cagle

curate said...

If I have one frustration in talking theology with you, it would be that when you read the Scripture and reason from it, you allow yourself to say things like "clearly..."

But when I present data from the Scripture and reason from it, you insinuate that I'm captivated by unBiblical scientific and mathematical reasoning tools.

Humph.


Clearly that is because I am right and you are wrong. :)

curate said...

There is a brilliant essay over at the Biblical Horizons blog by someone called Obadiah called "What's the Difference?"

Very highly recommended.

Jeff Cagle said...

LOL. :)

Sorry I was grumpy. Here's a better reply:

My sales-resistance to the FV is not, in the end, a product of being trained in Systematics and therefore being unable to see beyond the walls of my system. I mean, yes, that can happen, and I'm not immune to it.

But my own journey into Reformed theology was not a function of systematics; rather, I came to it through reading the Scriptures and learning to see the Scripture as a whole story.

So my resistance to FV is not that the theory is wrong; it's that they don't tell the story the same way I do.

Well, I need to go grade ethics essays.

Grace and peace,
Jeff

Jeff Cagle said...

In case you don't know, Robert Saucy is a leading Dispensational theologian. I'll respond to his comments and the article by Obadiah in detail later, but here's the first take on Saucy:

His points are snapshots of larger arguments, and they aren't very precisely stated. But specifically,

(1) is correct, and Obadiah makes too much of his (lack of) language.
(2) Saucy overplays the language, which is unsurprising. Dispensationalists all but deny the validity of the Visible Church. But Obadiah is seriously mistaken to say that there is nothing for Protestants to object to in the material from the catechism. In a phrase, the RCC suffers from "over-realized eschatology." And in this context, what that means is that the RCC overrealizes the implications of the church being the body of Christ.

It is -- but not yet in the way that it will be. And one implication of this is that the church does not yet have perfection wrt doctrine. And thus, Protestants would not agree, say, to infallibility.

(3) Saucy is, again, unclear. But his core complaint -- that the RCC controls salvation -- is a valid one, and is precisely what Luther complained of in the 95 theses.

JRC

curate said...

About telling the story the same way. That we read the doctrine of faith very differently from Luther and the other Reformers is shown by the account of Luther's growth into understanding the practical implications of justification by faith alone.

He tied justification to baptism is much the same way that I do now. (I was very pleased to be called a Lutheran by Gadbois). So much so that for him justification and baptism went hand in hand. That is very different from our modern takes on it.

This is how it went: since we receive the full remission of our sins in baptism, and since this remission is for the whole of our lives (not tied for efficacy to the moment of administration), it is quite wrong to seek another remedy for sin, such as indulgences, pilgrimages, etc. because our once for all baptism washes us clean, completely, for ever.

IOW Rome was practically speaking denying our baptisms! IOW they had a very low view of it, because they failed to grasp sola fide properly!

Talk about a different way of telling the story from ours!

We are all the children of our age, and we are the children of the Enlightenment, with our empirical mentalities. It is hard for us to rethink our assumptions, and to learn to see things from within an entirely different model.

curate said...

Cont. In this at least the FV has rediscovered the Reformation. That modern Reformdon has moved a long way from its origins is apparent at the Green Bagginses.

curate said...

Thanks for the heads-up on Saucy. I didn't know about him.

Jeff Cagle said...

He tied justification to baptism is much the same way that I do now. (I was very pleased to be called a Lutheran by Gadbois). So much so that for him justification and baptism went hand in hand. That is very different from our modern takes on it.

I agree, and think that you might find yourself more comfortably at home amongst the Missouri Synod Lutherans, were it not for living seven or so time zones away from Missouri. :)

Luther tied justification to baptism in that way because of (IMO) several converging strands of thought.

(1) He was very Augustinian.

Now Augustine, who conflated what we now call "justification" and "sanctification" into the single term "justification", believed that the sacraments (including the use of relics?!) conferred a substance-like grace to the recipient: both forensic justification and also the love of God.

Luther followed this in a modified way; he emphasized the forensic nature of justification, but asserted that our sanctification is the outworking of that justification.

(2) It was very important for Luther that the sacraments actually presented Christ to the recipient.

This was his side of the Marburg conflict with Zwingli; he wanted to maintain that we *really do* receive Christ in communion. Likewise, I think, he wanted to insist that we *really do* receive the Spirit in baptism.

(3) His theology developed over time and polemically. Arguably, he ends up linking justification and baptism in that way because he saw it as the shortest route to the doctrines of Rome. And most, most, most important for Luther was our security in the grace of Christ (notwithstanding his concession to temporary justification). Thus, it would be natural for him to swing to the pole opposite from Rome -- "You're baptized? You're in."

Now, the tension in Luther's system comes to this: On the one hand, he was a strict monergist and predestinarian (much like Augustine). On the other hand, he also believed that grace came to all recipients of the sacraments. And on the other other hand, the empirical evidence is overwhelming that not all who are baptized remain within the kingdom.

How to resolve these three points? Lutherans accomplished that by relaxing predestination. See for example The Book of Concord, Free Will, 49-53, which contains within it the seed of "single predestinarian" thought. Or in sec. 67-69 of the same, which might have been written by you but for the current world-wide shortage of time machines.

But the problem of course is that (despite sec. 73), this created an unworkable tension between man's free-will and God's predestining actions.

And so Calvin took a different route, ascribing to baptism an efficacy contingent upon faith, which in turn is contingent on the direct regenerating operation of the Spirit. And in order to resolve various difficulties, he stipulated that the sacraments *really are* means of grace, but they *really are not* causal in either a necessary or sufficient sense. Rather, they are just like the preached Word: effective to those who have been effectually called, ineffective otherwise.

I guess my whole point is this: the view I've been articulating on the sacraments really does appear, even after our discussions, to be the genuine Calvinist-reformed position, or close enough. And the view you've been articulating really does appear to be the genuine Lutheran-reformed position.

Now whether others have migrated even further from Luther is probably not possible to discern in a polemic setting like Green Baggins. When people (like me) argue against a perceived error, they frequently do not argue cogently, but only provide a partial picture.

Sometimes, I grant, the partial picture looks Baptist. But the PCA rooted out the genuine Baptists from their pulpits in the 80's (a friend of mine was deposed.) The simplest explanation for the Baptistic arguments is that they are the natural arguments at hand over against the perceived FV errors. But it would be a kind of illegitimate totality transfer to go from "you make some arguments that Baptists make" to "You are Baptist."

For better or worse, Lutheran sacramental theology *is* considered an error in the Confession. And so it is not surprising or a mark of deviation when Presbyterians argue against a kind of Lutheran sacramentology.

Grace and peace,
Jeff Cagle

Jeff Cagle said...

Thanks for the heads-up on Saucy. I didn't know about him.

Yes, I was a dispensationalist from about 1990 - 1994. That is to say, I grew up Southern Baptist (which is already dispie in many ways) and then was discipled by hard-core Dallas folk during part of my college experience.

It was in many ways a really, really good experience. I value and continue to use the solid meat I received from them. But in the end, I walked away from certain aspects of dispensational theology -- pre-Trib eschatology, division between the church and Israel, hard separation of the various covenants, and ultimately, credobaptism -- in the '90s.

Saucy is one of the "Progressive Dispensationalists", along with Bock and Blaising, who have moved dispensationalism on a trajectory that may or may not ultimately entail re-merging with the Reformed theological world. A lot has to occur before then, but the direction is good.

Essentially, as Bock puts it, the PDs view Israel and the Church as "two chips on the same motherboard."

Jeff Cagle

curate said...

Luther contra Calvin on baptism? Not according to Calvin himself, and not according to D'Aubigne. I am as sure of that as I can be, after much research.

On Luther's apparent predestination-lite, have you read his The Bondage of the Will? It does not get better than that, and in many ways he trumps Calvin on double predestination. It is a "Calvinist" classic.

Read,mark,learn, and inwardly digest it.

curate said...

I have just read the link to the Formula. It's great. What did you find that was suspect?

Jeff Cagle said...

Luther contra Calvin on baptism? Not according to Calvin himself, and not according to D'Aubigne. I am as sure of that as I can be, after much research.

OK, I think we're to the point where citations can help. It's not like I haven't brought some research to the table ;).

It's known that Calvin's explanation of communion is markedly and intentionally different from Luther's. I don't think it would be surprising if their baptismal approaches differed.

But more specific things can be said.

(1) Whereas the Lutherans hold that the Word of God inheres to the water and gives it efficacy (LC "Holy Baptism", 14-18), Calvin taught that the sacrament is the declaration of God's promise, and it is efficacious in the same way that the Word is efficacious.

These two are very similar, but also distinctly not the same. So Calvin:

This [i.e., that there is never a sacrament without an antecedent promise] is commonly expressed by saying that a sacrament consists of the word and the external sign. By the word we ought to understand not one which, muttered without meaning and without faith, by its sound merely, as by a magical incantation, has the effect of consecrating the element, but one which, preached, makes us understand what the visible sign means. -- Inst. 4.14.4

In this declaration, Calvin takes aim at the Catholics, not Luther. Nonetheless, notice the difference between "The Word is added and the water becomes a sacrament" from "the word, when preached, makes us understand what the sign means."

This difference between the two is precisely parallel to their difference wrt communion.

(2) Luther grounds infant baptism in the hope that the infant will believe:

Thus we do also in infant baptism. We bring the child in the conviction and hope that it believes, and we pray that God may grant it faith; but we do not baptize it upon that, but solely upon the command of God. Why so? Because we know that God does not lie. I and my neighbor and, in short, all men, may err and deceive, but the Word of God cannot err. (LC "On Holy Baptism" 57).

By contrast, Calvin grounds infant baptism on the parallel to circumcision in the OT. (Calv. Inst. 4.16) and argues not, that we hope all infants actually believe, but rather that they are all owed the sign of baptism, and that some might believe in the manner of John the Baptist (Inst. 4.16.17). The closest he comes to Luther is to grant some kind of "seed faith": In fine, the objection is easily disposed of by the fact, that children are baptised for future repentance and faith. Though these are not yet formed in them, yet the seed of both lies hid in them by the secret operation of the Spirit. -- Inst. 4.16.20.

(3) And most importantly, therefore, Calvin does not see justification as beginning with Baptism, but beginning rather with regeneration at whatsoever time the Spirit grants it.

To the same effect are the two passages in which Paul teaches, that we are buried with Christ by baptism, (Rom. 6: 4; Col. 2: 12.) For by this he means not that he who is to be initiated by baptism must have previously been buried with Christ, he simply declares the doctrine which is taught by baptism, and that to those already baptised: so that the most senseless cannot maintain from this passage that it ought to precede baptism. In this way, Moses (Deut. 10:16) and the prophets reminded the people of the thing meant by circumcision, which however infants received.

To the same effect, Paul says to the Galatians, "As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ," (Gal. 3: 27.) Why so? That they might thereafter live to Christ, to whom previously they had not lived. And though, in adults, the receiving of the sign ought to follow the understanding of its meaning, yet, as will shortly be explained, a different rule must be followed with children.

No other conclusion can be drawn from a passage in Peter, on which they strongly found. He says, that baptism is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ," (1 Pet. 3: 21.) From this they contend that nothing is left for paedobaptism, which becomes mere empty smoke, as being altogether at variance with the meaning of baptism. But the delusion which misleads them is, that they would always have the thing to precede the sign in the order of time. For the truth of circumcision consisted in the same answer of a good conscience; but if the truth must necessarily have preceded, infants would never have been circumcised by the command of God. But he himself, showing that the answer of a good conscience forms the truth of circumcision, and, at the same time, commanding infants to be circumcised, plainly intimates that, in their case, circumcision had reference to the future. Wherefore, nothing more of present effect is to be required in paedobaptism, than to confirm and sanction the covenant which the Lord has made with them. The other part of the meaning of the sacrament will follow at the time which God himself has provided.
-- Inst. 4.16.21.

So while Calvin and Luther are similar, they aren't the same, as far as I can see. And this difference is reflected in the WCoF also (cf. WCoF 28.5 and note the contrast with Luther's LC and the frank appeal to Mark 16).

What research would lead you to believe differently?

Jeff

Jeff Cagle said...

I have just read the link to the Formula. It's great. What did you find that was suspect?

It's not that it was suspect. I'm not here arguing against it; rather, I'm just arguing that you really are 100% in accord with Luther. :)

(And I'm not, which is why I wouldn't be ordainable in any Lutheran church. I'm too persuaded by Calvin's version.)

JRC

Jeff Cagle said...

On Luther's apparent predestination-lite, have you read his The Bondage of the Will? It does not get better than that, and in many ways he trumps Calvin on double predestination. It is a "Calvinist" classic.

Yeah, I once appealed to BoW in a discussion with a Lutheran scholar, arguing to the effect that Luther *had* to be double-predestinarian because of his arguments in that book.

I lost.

Luther, and more so the Lutherans following Melanchthon, really did believe (along with Augustine) that the will is set free after justification, and this allows some who are justified to fall away.

I don't have a cite here, but I can tell that I lost the argument. :)

JRC

curate said...

Jewel's Apology of the Church of England in response to Trent makes it clear that the only real difference between the Reformed Churches and the Lutherans was consubstantiation, and he makes the point that even that is a minor issue.

D'Aubigne says the same thing.

Calvin was not aware of any substantial differences between him and Luther except on consubstantiation.

You don't need to deduce double predestination from BoW, because he spells it out in his inimitable style.

Of course the will is set free after justification and union. The whole man is free, but not autonomous. That is Calvinist orthodoxy too. Nothing specifically Lutheran there.

Beware of Lutheran theologians, they don't always faithfully represent Luther. Reminds me of some Calvinist theologians I know, present company excluded, of course. :)

curate said...

Have you noticed that Calvin never criticizes Luther? He thought of him as an apostle.

Jeff Cagle said...

Huldericus Zuinglius

Now there's a spelling for ya!

But I don't find the comparison between Calvin and Luther that you mention in Jewel; in fact, Calvin does not appear by name at all. I don't know whether to be surprised or not by that.

So what did you have in mind?

JRC

Jeff Cagle said...

Calvin was not aware of any substantial differences between him and Luther except on consubstantiation.

I'm so confused. You've mentioned one yourself: Luther believed that one could lose justification; Calvin did not.

And the passages I've cited showed other more subtle differences.

I guess we could debate the meaning of the word substantial, but that wouldn't be profitable.

JRC

curate said...

Jewel's Apologia was widely circulated among the Reformed Churches and found wide acceptance and admiration. I will find the reference if you want it. It is in the first chapter. Jewel denied any difference in doctrine between the Reformed and the Lutherans except on consubstantiation, and said that that was a small point, and he hoped it would soon be sorted out.

I wonder if the difference on temporary justification only became an issue at Dort. The English delegation was opposed to anathematizing temporary justification as we know, because of Augustine, Prosper, and the Lutherans.

Many of the things that divide Lutherans and the Reformed developed after the Reformation generation has passed on, and were not live issues at the time.

curate said...

I posted on Turretin's nineteenth question at Bagginses under Turretin on Justification, in which he parrots Luther's understanding of baptism and justification. So you see that this is not a Lutheran versus Calvinist thing.

No-one has engaged the post, because it is unanswerable.

Jeff Cagle said...

No-one has engaged the post, because it is unanswerable.

In general, a lack of response can be multiply caused, anywhere along the spectrum of

"wow, that's a really good argument"

"Possible, but needs more thought"

"I don't have the time to engage this person"

"That's wrong, but I'll never persuade him, so I'll let it go"

"I don't have the heart to refute this fellow"

"That's so obviously wrong, I won't bother to reply"

In my experience, the only way to interpret such silence with any confidence is to wait and see how the conversation shifts.

If there's no change, then your argument has had no lasting effect. If there is a change, then you've managed to make some kind of point.

Jeff

curate said...

Another reason would be: this is too much, so I will pretend it doesn't exist.

What did you make of Turretin's nineteenth question? CAn you see that he is on the same page as Luther?

Jeff Cagle said...

Turretin: Does baptism take away sins in such away that as that they are not, or only that they do not reign and are not imputed? Does it take away past and present sins only and leave future sins to repentance? Or does it extend itself to sins committed not only before but also after baptism? The former we deny; the latter we affirm against the Romanists.

I don't think I could speak to the question we've been discussing, not having Turretin myself. Does Turretin believe that baptism takes away sins by faith in the proclaimed promise and at the moment of faith, as per Calvin, or does he believe that baptism takes away sins by faith in the sacrament created by the Word joined to the water, as per Luther?

I have no idea without further context.

Jeff Cagle

curate said...

Hi Jeff. Ref GB list. I am not in a rage, but I am unhappy. Tell me how to bring charges against these idiots and I will do it. Apparently it cannot be done from outside the PCA.

These evil men are hounding Reformed men who are superior to them in every way, and now I am holding up a mirror so they can see themselves the way that others see them.

You have probably not heard yet, but Sam Duncan was at a LAP meeting yesterday. He is the chief prosecutor for the SJC. He said out loud in the meeting that no-one from LAP could expect a fair trial. Someone else who was there, Haiglaw, confirmed on his own blog that it was said, so there are witnesses.

This whole sorry mess has revealed the thoughts of many hearts.

Jeff Cagle said...

It is a sorry mess!

If you are serious about charges, then consult the BCO:

http://www.pcanet.org/BCO/

But before you do, I should say that it's entirely likely that Lane's views are not what you think they are.

And in any event, Matt 18.15 requires you to speak individually with someone first. I would recommend some offline clarifying discussion before launching anything.

Besides, didn't you begin our conversation by noting that your views on baptism represented but one corner of the Reformed position?

Anyways, you have my sympathies with regard to the felt need to defend your friends. I have been in situations where church discipline was applied unfairly to my friends -- and later reversed, after the damage was done.

Was that the case here? Could be. In my view, Wilkins' views *do* go unacceptably beyond the Confession at least at one point. But again, I haven't had the privilege of speaking with him, so there it is.

I'm disappointed with the process, and the overall tone of the on-web conversations make me depressed at times. What an irony!

I'm already a week late on my post on the church, so I probably *won't* do the following. But this morning, I was contemplating a post about how the Internet allows us to do an end-run around church discipline processes.

Grace and peace,
Jeff Cagle

P.S. FWIW, I don't think Lane is evil; far from it. In fact, I think he's trying to provide a small amount of sanity to this process. His blog still hasn't recovered from his absence.

P.S.S. Sam's comment struck me in a couple of ways. First, that he was resigning as prosecutor. Second, that he came as a representative of SJC but (apparently) left the impression that SJC was unable to fulfill their mandate. What does that mean? Was he speaking out-of-school? That seems awfully undisciplined of him. Or was he speaking as a representative? In which case, he probably didn't mean what's being reported. I look for a clarifying remark from him sometime in the future. JRC

curate said...

Hello again. Had a look at the BCO and charges can only be brought fro within that church. You know, it amazes me that no FV men have brought charges on baptism, given Webb's explicit repudiation of the confessional position.

It is a mentality thing. They want to be catholic and tolerant, and they think they are being gracious. To most I suspect it looks like guilt. Which is why it is so important to respond with vigour if accused of heresy.

Jeff Cagle said...

No, actually, BCO 31-2 allows a complaint from anyone. Personal experience on that point.

More later; it's time to take my girls to school.

Jeff

Jeff Cagle said...

Hey again.

First, thoughts on Lane, charges, etc. I tell you all of the following not because I think Lane is charge-worthy, but because if you are serious about his being heretical, then at least you should pursue that thought with decency and order.

There is a procedure to be followed. First, you should contact Lane directly. Tell him: "I'm concerned that what you have expressed here, here, and here is in contradiction with the Standards there, there, and there. I believe these errors, if I've understood you correctly, rise to the level of a teaching that strikes at the vitals of religion because of X, Y, and Z."

Be specific, direct, unthreatening. Remember that you begin with the assumption that Lane himself is orthodox, and that the fault lies either in his manner of expression or your manner of understanding.

See what kind of answer you get. If it is unsatisfactory, and since the comments he made are public (obviating the need for witnesses), then you would proceed to contact his Presbytery.

That's the procedure.

Here's why I think you *should* contact Lane, but also why I don't think it will go beyond that stage.

As I've said before several times, polemic discussions on the 'Net are simply not the right environment in which to understand someone's positive positions. You're much more likely to encounter their negative defenses.

Say that Alice believes A, B, and C; and she encounters Bob who says X, Y, and Z. Alice finds Z unacceptable, so she begins to argue ~Z. But, her arguments against Z lead Bob to think she's arguing ~B. Is that the case? No.

How could Bob discover that? By backing out of the argument over Z and isolating a discussion to B itself.

Now take Lane's situation. He's been arguing against a certain view -- namely, that justification occurs at the moment of baptism. Oddly enough, so have I; but you knew that. :)

In his denials, he has caused you to believe that he does not hold that "the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost..." as WCoF 28.6 states. I assume that's the basis for your concern about heresy.

But a debate about the *timing* of baptism and justification is not actually directly representative of his views concerning the *efficacy* of baptism. To get at those latter, you have to ask him directly.

I suspect that if you do, you will discover views not very different from mine.

I hope that helps. This FV debate is monstrous.

Jeff

P.S. While I do not understand the zeal of Andy Webb, I at least appreciate that he's doing what the BCO requires: bringing charges. If we had more of that, and less of Internet accusations of "Romanism" and whatnot, people would take this all more seriously, as in James 3 seriously.

curate said...

Andy is bringing charges? The FV complaint is that no charges have ever been brought. I have contacted him privately this morning to fulfill the one to one requirement. In his case I have proof, but not in Lane's case. I am going to email him too.

What grates me about Lane is his giving editorial rights to men like Gary Johnson and Andy Webb. These people are hate-mongers - Webb for his bigotted and stupid posts, and Gary with his snide and sarcastic manner, and his apparent inability to actually argue theologically. If he were a good man he would surely not make his site available to the likes of these men.

I happily admit that he personally tries to keep a balance, but that increasingly looks deceitful when Webb and Johnson are given liberty to peddle their hate.

A man is judged by the company he keeps.

Jeff Cagle said...

Andy's stated plan appears to be to bring "memorials" against MO and NW Presbyteries, to essentially require them to charge or else (practical outcome) to face charges themselves.

Like I said, I think it's more honorable than making charges over the 'Net. However, I disagree with his stated plan to eliminate the FV proponents.

JRC

curate said...

Andy is a theological re-enactor. He thinks I am a Laudian or a Puseyite, and he is Cromwell or a Presby Puritan of the Commonwealth. LOL.

Do you have a private email address?