I am increasingly shocked and flabbergasted by the anti-FV rhetoric that demands a certain extra-biblical and extra-confessional way of articulating the mechanics of individual salvation. The sectarian controversialists gnash their teeth, pound their fists, and call for inquisitions unless you use the magic words, "merit" and "active / inactive obedience."
Go ahead and do your worst, but I'm going to avoid those ways of explaining or otherwise contemplating the Gospel. I'm going to go out of my way to NOT use these constructs because they add something which stands unnecessarily between me and Jesus. What I need is Jesus. I need to be united to His death so that I don't go to hell for my transgressions. I need to be united to His resurrection life in order to inherit life in the world to come. For all you merit-mongers out there, this construct is known as "eternal life."
Yes, He has fulfilled the Law on my behalf. Yes, His obedience is my obedience. Yes, justification is forensic. Yes, yes, yes. But get this - when Jesus spoke about the "mechanics of salvation," you know what He said? Here it is:
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?" Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me." (John 6:51-57)
I'm sorry, but I missed the merit / strict justice part in there. Could someone point out the whole active / inactive obedience thing too? Maybe it is my danged FV spectacles, but I'm reading something that has to do with union to Christ's body - and even smacks of the sacraments. How Roman Catholic of me. Oh, I forgot. The FV is a gateway drug to heresy. Hey - you better stay away from the teaching of Jesus too or you might be led astray as well...
Listen - Jesus is all that I need and He is all that anyone needs. Don't let this other jargon get in your way. It isn't as helpful as it appears. In fact, it isn't helpful at all. Eat, drink, and be merry.
The John Robbins Institute of the West (aka Westminster Seminary California) has come out with a book on "Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry," edited by our favorite controversialist and hyper-sectarian, RS Clark. Of course, the title of the book is an unfortunate misnomer because it should really be entitled, "The Gospel According to Meredith Kline: A New Gospel for Gnostic Antinomians." Someone I deeply respect referred to the blatant theologial novelties in the book as "New Testament Retardation." This is a very subtle way of saying the book is stupid.
The agenda of The John Robbins Institute of the West is clear - strip the Gospel of the notion of ontological participation in Christ's body and reduce it to a legal framework of strict justice and merit. According to them the Gospel is not about vital union to Christ's resurrection life and the life of the Trinity (cf. John 17), but is really about having His merit credited to our heavenly bank account so that we can be "kosher" with God. There's nothing I want more than Heavenly Happy-Grams, how about you?!
I know this sounds esoteric and academic to a bunch of you, but let me assure you that it is not. The Klinean Gospel reduces Christianity to a Gnostic affair that we can contemplate while gazing at our navels. When you redefine union with Christ as the mere legal transference of merit(s), this leads to an incipient antinomianism of the worst kind. You lose sight of the fact that every breath you take now and into the future is animated by your mystical participation in the body of Christ. You lose sight of the "communion of the saints" and the importance of catholic unity. You lose sight of the fact that faith is a way of life, not a lifeless "thing" that is the mechanism for merit transfer. In short, you lose the Gospel.
So go ahead and read the book if you must. Just remember that it represents the very worst of the "De-Kline" of Reformed theology.
Dr. Leithart lays it down again and suggests that the FV controversy is less about what is being said, and more about who is saying it. He cites establishmentarian Daryl Hart's appreciation for John Nevin as Exhibit A. Daryl Hart gets a free pass as a Reformed intellectual to appreciate the Reformed Catholicism of Nevin (a virtual hero to the FV camp), but rogues like me get roasted for lauding his approach.
I think Rich Lusk referred to this phenomenon as "Theologians in Pajamas." You know how a bunch of non-institutional Joe bloggers exposed the CBS / Dan Rather lies about Bush's service in the Coast Guard? Same thing with the FV. A bunch of non-establishment guys like Lusk, Wilson, Wilkins, and Horne are saying, "Hey - wait a sec. We're reading the primary sources of our tradition - and they don't say what you institutional centrists are saying. What's happening here fellas?" The academy simply won't have its credibility undermined in this way.
As someone who has worked on the ground and not from the center of Reformed institutions I heartily affirm that this phenomenon exists. When the institutional guys were initially challenged with the FV stuff, I think there was a sense of embarrassment for not knowing the primary source material - followed by a prideful disdain of the audacity of "untrained minds" to tread such ground. How dare we question them by using their own tradition against them?! It was yet another sign that FV folks didn't know how to read primary sources.
No doubt about it - the FV guys are theologians in pajamas and this REALLY TICKS OFF THE ESTABLISHMENT GUYS WHOSE LIVING DEPENDS ON PROTECTING THEIR INTELLECTUAL CREDIBILITY. Tell you what, though. Theologians in pajamas aren't going away and our access to the masses will not be diminished. Go ahead. Don't ordain us. Kick us out of your denomination. Don't let us teach at your seminary. No problem. Your people will still stumble on our blogs - and your whole way of thinking will be challenged point-by-point. You go ahead and do what you're going to do - I'm betting on the "Theologians in Pajamas."
So the Reverend Dr. Peter Leithart posts a blog entitled, "Bullshit," and some Reformed discussion board on the internet loses its mind over it. Forget the fact that Leithart is commenting on a work by Ivy League scholar, Harry Frankfurter - who was (humorously) positing a technical category between truth and falsehood. Forget the fact that Peter Leithart is probably the best Reformed mind in the United States today. Forget all of that - he used the word, "bullshit," and we should all be shocked and offended.
Okay, I'll come out of the closet on this one. I cuss. I am what you might call a "cusser." Now don't get me wrong. I don't do it around my kids (they think "stupid" is the "s" word). Not in business meetings or with prospective clients. Not in church, weddings, or at Thanksgiving dinner. No - I cuss at my desk, in my car, at the computer screen, when watching The O'Reilly Factor. I don't use the Lord's name in vain. I don't make comments about attractive women I see. No, I just stick to the basics. Darn this. Dang that. Son of a biscuit. Kiss my grits. That kind of thing.
Does this make me vulgar? C'mon, folks. Please. I've been around vulgar people. G.D. this. J.C. that. I would do this and that to such and such. And so on. You know what I mean. That is vulgarity. It is profane, obscene, and offensive. I don't talk like that and no one should.
Inappropriate forms of cursing should not lead us to the conclusion that all cursing is vulgar. False piety prohibits legitimate cursing in the same way that it prohibits legitimate consumption of alcohol. That isn't Christianity - that is Pharisaism. Heck, such a perspective is more like Mormonism or Islam.
Have to close with a quick story. A man goes to the doctor with a chronic headache that won't go away. The doctor says, "Do you drink?" The man says, "No sir, never had a sip of alcohol." The doctor asks, "Do you smoke?" The man responds, "No, Doctor. Never touched the stuff." Finally, the doctor inquires, "Do you watch a lot of TV?" Exasperated, the man replies, "Doctor, I only read books in the evening." The doctor pauses and says, "Well, sir. I strongly recommend that you go home, drink a beer, light up a cigar, and watch a couple of hours of TV."
Dr. Boneman says, "Amen," to that prescription. And if it helps to throw in a B.S! when watching your favorite news show - go ahead, say it. After all, it probably is "bullshit."
RS Clark, of the Heidelborg, has decided to shut down comments and several conversations that aren't going his way. When you can't win with Scriptural exegesis, confessional citation, or quotes from Calvin and others, I guess this is what you have to do.
For those of you who have been assimilated by Heidelborg, I am truly sorry. We will do our best to rescue you and others from the clutch of the collective. You may find removal of the Borg hardware to be quite painful and disorienting, but you will be very pleased to realize once again just how big the kingdom / catholic church really is. It is far better than being with the frozen chosen.
Dr. RS Clark is the gift that keeps on giving to the FV. I just love how he gets taken to school on his own blog. You can follow the link above to Clark's original drivel if you like, but I am going to lift excerpts of the comment section that ensue when Jonathan Barlow takes him to task... Bottom-line, Barlow (along with so many other Reformed theologians) says that imputation / reckoning happens via union with Christ. Dr. Clark rejects this as Romish and sees imputation happening by divine fiat. Thanks again, Dr. RS Clark, for showing us how off-base you are in this whole matter.
"Not so in the Heidelberg Catechism. According to the
Protestant view, Jesus has propitiated God's wrath and expiated our sins. He has
satisfied for 'all my sins.' He has reconciled God to me and all
But I think you show elsewhere that you also assent to the
distinction between redemption accomplished and applied. And so, like it or not,
we Calvinists do not escape from this idea that Jesus's death made our salvation
possible because a. we reject a historical justification, b. we did not exist
yet when Christ died; there was no 'us' to apply redemption to, in other words,
until we were born. We need Christ's righteousness and we need for the penalty
of our sins to be borne; when the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ - in history -
we have those things. Chapter 11 of the WCF makes it plain that we aren't
justified until the Holy Spirit applies Christ to us, and it also makes plain
that God continues to forgive our sins.
'It is begun.' Jesus says: 'It is finished.'"
By which I would hope you
mean that Jesus has finished his work on the cross. But it doesn't mean that God
has finished with little John Doe who wasn't born until 1973 and was not born
justified, but rather in need of justification.
has redeemed me from all the power of the devil. It isn't just 'underway.' It's
done. God is not propitiated, he is not reconciled, and I am not redeemed in any
way by anything the Spirit does within me or anything I do in cooperation with
grace. It's done for me."
Perhaps this paragraph illusrates the problem
you're having understanding the other side of this argument. God is propitiated
with respect to me by Jesus. As my propitiation, Jesus is certainly outside of
me. And the Spirit must unite me to Jesus before Jesus avails for me. But that
doesn't turn propitiation into something that comes on the basis of something
done *in me*. You're reading that into your opponents and then criticizing them
for a position they do not hold. Unless you want to erase the idea that
redemption must be applied to us, then you too have to come up with some way to
explain how it is that the redeemed are found in the propitiation.
"The only 'condition,' (instrument really) is this: 'if only I
accept such benefit with a believing heart' (HC 60)."
Exactly. And so
here you make your polemical point a bit muddied. The HC there is calling for a
change in the heart - something "in us" as a precondition for having the right
kind of faith. If you had written the Heidelberg, you could have eliminated that
part about the heart and it would have been a much better quote to support your
argument. But even if we bracket out this change in the heart effected by the
spirit, we are still left with a natural man needing to have a certain kind of
faith and that comes only as a gift in union with Christ.
(I will also
mention here your departure from the reformed tradition on the issue of union
with Christ that you have, in previous comments, divorced from metaphysical
considerations. Yes, you are at odds with the tradition there - you make union
with Christ a kind of metaphor or legal perspective upon the believer and his or
her savior rather than a spirit-wrought mystical connection between the risen,
glorified Lord and his people.)
Then you close with a
"The whole Reformation can be said to have turned on the
difference between two prepositions. When it comes to being right before God the
Roman preposition is 'in' and the Protestant preposition is 'for.' Thank God for
that little preposition 'for!'"
And this blurs a lot too. No one in the
reformed world is arguing that God justifies us on the basis of something done
"in" us. It is a matter of plain-jane vanilla rock n' roll Calvinism to point
out that what Christ did "for us" now needs to be applied "to us" by putting us
"in Christ." And so your opponents are not making a Roman error - they don't
care what is done "in us" - they care who "us" are in! Thank God for all those
prepositions that allow us to bring the conversation away from slogans and back
to the point at hand...
There is no "before" or "after" in my comments
about justification relative to union. To quote John Murray, "It [union with
Christ] is not simply a step in the application of redemption; when viewed,
according to the teaching of Scripture, in its broader aspects it underlies
every step of the application of redemption." (chapter 9, Redemption
Accomplished and Applied).
I'm not sure why you would need to call for
honesty - I'm very upfront about this. The whole debate may be about how the
application of redemption occurs, but that is only because some, like Clark, do
not think that the righteousness of Christ can be imputed to us, extra nos, via
union with Christ. How do we get into a situation where God considers us to be
righteous? The answer for both FV and Clark is that we must have the verdict
given to Christ on the basis of his righteousness also given to us. How is that
accomplished? Clark says "by imputation" and the FV says that "reckoning" or
"imputing" just restates the problem, it doesn't tell how God goes about
imputing Christ's righteousness to us. The answer is still outside of us - it is
that God unites us to Christ so that our life is hidden in his, so that his
faith is ours, so that the verdict he deserves can be pronounced over us though
we don't deserve it.
The FV cannot claim to be Protestant much less Reformed and speak as Jon does
about imputation, not when the HC says:
Q60: How are you righteous before
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience
accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God,
and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God,
without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect
satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed
nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has
fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing
"grants and imputes" is the very sort of forensic language that
the FV is fleeing.
Justification grounded in intrinsic sanctity, however
considered (via unio Christo or via infusion) is still contrary to our
confession. We (the Reformed) might be wrong. Fine. Let's have that discussion,
but lets not pretend that the Reformed have been opaque about this. BARLOW:
Dr. Clark, I never said that justification was based upon intrinsic sanctity.
And repeating 'grants' and 'imputes' is great, but imputed how? No one avoids
forensic language. Your comment sounds a lot like "oh yeah? well, you're still
Roman Catholic, so nyah." I would love some substantive interaction here. Since
you've made the allegation, it is your burden to prove that someone who explains
the mechanism of imputation by pointing to union with Christ is somehow sneaking
inherent sanctity into the picture. When we hook a caboose to a train, we do not
consider that caboose part of the train because of its newfound inherent
engine-ness. Roman Catholic theology wants God to recognize a changed
individual. The FV men are simply saying that God wants to see sinners righteous
in Christ and he enables their sharing his verdict by uniting them to Christ.
That's very different. If you don't like the FV solution, what's yours? How does
God impute righteousness to his elect? By mere force of will? If so, then, why
did he need Christ to die at all? Do you see the problem?
... - that's just a lot of theological novelty too and it doesn't really do
the work you think it does. Notice what you're doing - you're saying that we are
justified apart from Christ! Hilarious. I'm saying we're justified in Christ,
and I think Paul would probably prefer my formulation. Plus, in your view, we
have a mediator only after we don't need one.... Yikes. RSC:
I don't think I made any reference in the original post to the FV so I'm not
sure why you're up in arms. If the FV is a protestant view it should have no
problem with what I wrote. Luther wouldn't. Calvin wouldn't. Why do
Is it because you want to revise the doctrine of justification so
that vital union (see the archives for my post on that for more) swallows up
legal or forensic union? It certainly is doing so in much of contemporary
soteriology and perhaps for you too?
I was interacting with the Roman
Catechism and moralist evangelicals who substantively agree with Rome - who
don't think that Jesus really satisfied for *all* our sins.
interesting that this post provoked such a reaction from you. BARLOW:
Rev. Clark, I'll just put the question to you
again - how does God impute Christ's righteousness to us? By force of his will?
By uniting us with Christ?
If your answer is "by uniting us with Christ
legally" then you've just said "he imputes righteousness to us by assigning us a
legal status" which raises the question "how does he assign this legal status?"
which is just another form of the question "how does he impute Christ's
righteousness to us?" I'm glad you are crystal clear in your rejection of a
metaphysical union forged by the Holy Spirit between believers and Christ - it
makes the discussion proceed with greater clarity. But I think at this point
that you will end up with a view where God gives us a righteous verdict by fiat,
apart from any vital connection with Christ, and I know you can recognize
immediately the systemic problems such a view would generate. The only
alternative isn't Rome's - that he gives us a righteous verdict by making us
righteous. A perfectly valid, non-Roman alternative is that God unites us to
Christ by the Spirit so that the verdict justly falls upon Christ's shoulders
and ours in him.
As for your subtle implication that I rightly saw the FV
somehow in your description of Rome, that's just not the case. I think you were
subtly engaging the FV discussion here because a. propitiation came up in the
previous post on your blog here and Johnson did not handle the issue very well,
and b. you often wedge FV formulations into an RC category if they don't fit
neatly into your understanding of Protestantism. If I'm wrong about why this
conversation started, it doesn't change the fact that the conversation now
exists, and I would be fascinated to see how you would explain the means of
imputation apart from a metaphysical union with Christ. RSC:
Does the word "constitute" mean anything to you?
How did God
create the heavens and the earth? Check out Gen 1. BARLOW:
So you're saying "yes" God gives us Christ's verdict "righteous" by fiat? RSC:
First there were, "Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics." Now, thanks to Guy "Muddy" Waters, there are, "Lies, Damn Lies, and Anti-FV Rhetoric." Yes, let me be clear. Guy "Muddy" Waters, the PCA champion of anti-FV fame is lying about the FV. In my best southern accent: "Why, I DO believe this makes him a liah. Do all y'all southerners in Florida know what I'm a sayin'?" (Said with the highest Yankee disdain).
You want to see it for yourself? Here it is. He says that assurance is not to be found in FV preaching and teaching! Are you kidding!? Seriously, has he lost it? That is half of what this brouhaha is about! One of the key frustrations of FV folk is that pop-Reformedom tries to seek assurance immediately - or "without means" - as if the Holy Spirit operates in a vacuum. It is the classic "burning in the bosom" routine. To this unReformed nonsense, FV'ers say enough Gnostic navel gazing! Assurance arises from the testimony of the Spirit, yes, but it arises in the context of the church! Let's start with the sacraments. They are signs and seals of God's covenant with us. We should look to them and our ongoing perseverance in Christ for the inward testimony of the Spirit. Assurance doesn't come from spontaneous feelings of ecstasy while chanting, "TULIP - TULIP - TULIP." It is the fruit of patricipation in God's covenant. This has been major theme for FV'ers.
I suppose one could assume that Guy just made a mistake. He forgot that in fact FV'ers do have much to say about assurance. However, since he has a "Dr." attached to his name and has made anti-FV stuff his specialty, I'm not sure this is the safest assumption to make. I think this is just good 'ole-fashion politics, southern style. Next thing you know, these guys will be running for Congress.
Which of the following heretics wrote the following?
"It is certainly true that when children of believers reach the
age of discernment [and have never repented or believed] they will have
alienated themselves from God and destroyed utterly the truth of
baptism. But this is not to say that our Lord has not elected them and separated them from others in order to grant them His salvation.
Otherwise, it would be in vain for Saint Paul to say that a child of a
believing father or mother is sanctified, who would be impure if he
were born of and descended from unbelievers (1 Cor. 7:14)."
A. Rich Lusk B. Douglas Wilson C. Steve Wilkins D. James Jordan E. John Calvin
Pick carefully! This is a pass / fail test. If you fail to name that heretic, you may disqualify yourself as a good Reformed person... Have you chosen? Good. And the answer is:
E. John Calvin - that's right!!! Yes, this is straight from John Calvin's, "Treatises Against the Anabaptists and Against the Libertines," pg. 52
If you failed this test, it may be yet another sign that you have wrongly persecuted your FV brethren. I suggest that you flog yourself at least 2 dozen times, repent before your Maker, and send a check to the FV church nearest you. Oh yeah, and why don't you actually read primary sources for a change as well? Time to grow up, folks.
Rewind to about 1991. I am a freshman at Indiana University and Campus Crusade for Christ is THE major Christian force on campus. Little booklets about the "4 Spiritual Laws" are ubiquitous. The theme of the booklets being circulated is that you can be saved by accepting Jesus into your life (bringing him into your personal venn diagram circle) - and then hopefully when you're ready, you allow Him to sit on the "throne" of your life (in the middle of the venn diagram circle). Jesus is Savior first, and then maybe, He will become Lord. Made sense to me...
Then someone gave me John MacArthur's book, "The Gospel According to Jesus." I was shell-shocked. Clearly, the "4 Spiritual Laws" were wrong and unbiblical. I realized that saving faith was not mere mental assent, but had emotional and volitional aspects. Saving faith was a repentant faith. With my assurance shaken, but thankful beyond words for John MacArthur, I quickly digested some of his other books. Within a year I was attending his undergraduate Bible school, The Master's College.
When I arrived at The Master's College, I was surprised to learn that John MacArthur was under fire in Baptist circles for what was then known as, "The Lordship Controversy." Zane Hodges and other leading Baptists were criticizing John for teaching a "works-based salvation" because he posited that for Christ to be Savior, He had to be Lord as well - there was no either / or scenario. I didn't realize it for awhile, but even Reformed guys got into the criticism act, claiming that John was not properly referencing historic theological distinctions between justification and sanctification. Michael Horton's rise to fame was largely fueled by his book, "Putting Amazing Back Into Grace," and radio show, "The White Horse Inn," which wrestled with these issues from a Reformed perspective.
Fast forward to 2007. The Lordship Controversy has subsided - and John MacArthur weathered it just fine. He even adopted more Reformed categories in his teaching and was quickly embraced by the likes of RC Sproul's Ligonier Ministries.
So what does John MacArthur have to do with the Federal Vision controversy in Reformedom? Just this - Reformedom's struggle over the nature of saving faith is very similar to the Lordship Controversy. Douglas Wilson and others are playing the part of John MacArthur, and RS Clark and company are playing the part of Zane Hodges. FV'ers posit that living faith is alive because it is a repentant faith, and anti-FV'ers claim this is somehow Romish. It's deja vu all over again.
I don't expect the likes of John MacArthur to wade into this aspect of the FV controversy, but I could be wrong. Heck, John Piper is weighing in at some level. HT: The Craw