More than You Bargained For?

If a person living in the United States discovers that he prefers democracy to other forms of political governance, glaces at the major parties and discovers a Democratic Party, and decides that’s the party for him, he may have made a legitimate decision. But wouldn’t he want to find out something about the party’s past and platforms. What happens when he examines the work of Andrew Jackson, or Stephen Douglas, or Woodrow Wilson, or Bill Clinton, and finds that these figures may be Democrat but he hardly approves of their administrations? Does he then rethink his identification with the Democratic Party?

This analogy occurred to me once again when considering the arguments of John Frame against the so-called Escondido Theology. Greenbaggins has started reviewing Frame’s latest book and has come to the first chapter on the law-gospel distinction. He writes in response to one of Frame’s infelicities:

Frame goes on to say, “They are also motivated by a desire to oppose what they regard as theological corruptions of the Reformation doctrine, particularly the views of N.T. Wright, Norman Shepherd, and the movement called Federal Vision.” I would be a whole lot more comfortable with this sentence had Frame struck out the words “what they regard as.” These distancing words would seem to imply that Frame does not regard Wright, Shepherd, and the FV to be corruptions of the Reformation doctrine. Also, I would think a more charitable way of phrasing this motivation would be that the WSC theologians are motivated by a desire to defend the truth (are they really motivated by opposition, or are they motivated by the truth?).

Greenbaggins contends that the law-gospel distinction has a long pedigree in Reformed circles. It is not merely a Lutheran way of interpreting the Bible, even if Reformed Protestants are not of one mind in distinguishing law and gospel.

Frame notes what he thinks are two failures of the WSC theologians: 1. They fail to notice the problems with the law-gospel distinction. 2. They “fail to understand that the law is not only a terrifying set of commands to drive us to Christ, but is also the gentle voice of the Lord, showing his people that the best blessings of this life come from following his will” (p. 2). WSC theologians fail to notice the problems that Frame points out because they are not problems for the law-gospel distinction. Advocates have noted these objections before and answered them. As to the second point, Frame seems to be accusing the WSC theologians of denying the third use of the law. Whether this is an accurate assessment of Frame’s charge here or not, Frame is off the mark. WSC theologians do not deny the third use of the law any more than Lutherans do (there is an entire section in the Augsburg Confession devoted to the third use of the law).

Greenbaggins’ critique of Frame has not prevented his readers from wondering whether something is still suspect about Westminster California. Some continue to think that the law-gospel distinction has no standing in the Reformed creeds. Others seem to think it may be there but the Southern Californians use it in a radical way. So I’m to imagine that using the law-gospel distinction in opposition to Shepherd, Wright, and the Federal Vision is extreme?

Once again, what seems to happen is that Reformed Protestants understand the Reformed tradition to be as old either as the founding of the Free University or the creation of Westminster Seminary (Philadelphia). These folks continue to be surprised that older members of the Reformed tradition, some of those who defined it, spoke about doctrines like jure divino presbyterianism, or exclusive psalmody, or the priority of justification, or the law-gospel distinction. I too was surprised to learn these doctrines back when my exposure to the Reformed faith came mainly from the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and Francis Schaeffer. But, you know, I soon discovered that the Reformed faith preceded Princeton Seminary and Jonathan Edwards and went all the way back to the sixteenth century where Protestants talked about law-gospel distinctions. Unlike the democrat who did not like what he found among the Democratic Party, I had no problem trying to take instruction from Reformed Protestants older than Abraham Kuyper and Cornelius Van Til (both of whom Frame claims to follow).

Speaking of following Kuyper and Van Til, these Dutch Protestants were members of a church that confessed the Heidelberg Catechism. And lo and behold, the Heidelberg Catechism makes a distinction between law and gospel.

Question 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery?
Answer: Out of the law of God.

Question 4. What does the law of God require of us?
Answer: Christ teaches us that briefly, Matt. 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Question 18. Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man?
Answer: Our Lord Jesus Christ: “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”

Question 19. Whence knowest thou this?
Answer: From the holy gospel, which God himself first revealed in Paradise; and afterwards published by the patriarchs and prophets, and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; and lastly, has fulfilled it by his only begotten Son.

Some may wonder if this really is a law-gospel distinction (by the way, you can see a similar distinction between Q. 39 in the Shorter Catechism — “The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to his revealed will” and Q. 85 “To escape the wrath and curse of sin, God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby he communicates the benefits of redemption.” The section on the law is distinct from the means of grace.). But if you go to Zacharias Ursinus’ commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, it sure looks like he thinks Heidelberg rests upon this basic distinction:

The gospel and the law agree in this, that they are both from God, and that there is something revealed in each concerning the nature, will, and works of God. There is, however, a very great difference between them:

1. In the revelations which they contain; or, as it respects the manner in which the revelation peculiar to each is made known. The law was engraven upon the heart of man in his creation, and is therefore known to all naturally, although no other revelation were given. “The Gentiles have the work of the law written in their hearts.” (Rom. 2: 15.) The gospel is not known naturally, but is divinely revealed to the Church alone through Christ, the Mediator. For no creature could have seen or hoped for that mitigation of the law concerning satisfaction for our sins through another, if the Son of God had not revealed it. “No man knoweth the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee.” “The Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (Matt. 11: 27; 16: 17.)

2. In the kind of doctrine, or subject peculiar to each. The law teaches us what we ought to be, and what God requires of us, but it does not give us the ability to perform it, nor does it point out the way by which we may avoid what is forbidden. But the gospel teaches us in what manner we may be made such as the law requires: for it offers unto us the promise of grace, by having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us through faith, and that in such a way as if it were properly ours, teaching us that we are just before God, through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The law says, “Pay what thou owest.” “Do this, and live.” (Matt. 18: 28. Luke 10: 28.) The gospel says, “Only believe.” (Mark 5: 36.)

3. A the promises. The law promises life to those who are righteous in themselves, or on the condition of righteousness, and perfect obedience. “He that doeth them, shall live in them.” “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Lev. 18: 5. Matt. 19: 17.) The gospel, on the other hand, promises life to those who are justified by faith in Christ, or on the condition of the righteousness of Christ, applied unto us by faith. The law and gospel are, however, not opposed to each other in these respects: for although the law requires us to keep the commandments if we would enter into life, yet it does not exclude us from life if another perform these things for us. It does indeed propose a way of satisfaction, 105which is through ourselves, but it does not forbid the other, as has been shown.

4. They differ in their effects. The law, without the gospel, is the letter which killeth, and is the ministration of death: “For by the law is the knowledge of sin.” “The law worketh wrath; and the letter killeth.” (Rom. 3: 20; 4: 15. 2 Cor. 3: 6.) The outward preaching, and simple knowledge of what ought to be done, is known through the letter: for it declares our duty, and that righteousness which God requires; and, whilst it neither gives us the ability to perform it, nor points out the way through which it may be attained, it finds fault with, and condemns our righteousness. But the gospel is the ministration of life, and of the Spirit, that is, it has the operations of the Spirit united with it, and quickens those that are dead in sin, because it is through the gospel that the Holy Spirit works faith and life in the elect. “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation,” etc. (Rom. 1: 16.)

Objection: There is no precept, or commandment belonging to the gospel, but to the law. The preaching of repentance is a precept. Therefore the preaching of repentance does not belong to the gospel. but to the law. Answer: We deny the major, if it is taken generally; for this precept is peculiar to the gospel, which commands us to believe, to embrace the benefits of Christ, and to commence new obedience, or that righteousness which the law requires. If it be objected that the law also commands us to believe in God, we reply that it does this only in general, by requiring us to give credit to all the divine promises, precepts and denunciations, and that with a threatening of punishment, unless we do it. But the gospel commands us expressly and particularly to embrace, by faith, the promise of grace; and also exhorts us by the Holy Spirit, and by the Word, to walk worthy of our heavenly calling. This however it does only in general, not specifying any duty in particular, saying thou shalt do this, or that, but it leaves this to the law; as, on the contrary, it does not say in general, believe all the promises of God, leaving this to the law; but it says in particular, Believe this promise; fly to Christ, and thy sins shall be forgiven thee.

Now since several of Westminster California’s faculty are ministers in a communion that confesses Heidelberg, should it really be that surprising they follow Van Til and Kuyper all the way back to Ursinus and affirm a distinction that the historically challenged consider to be sub-Reformed? Or might it be more plausible to recognize that since members of Westminster California’s faculty work within the Continental Reformed tradition, their appeal to the law-gospel distinction entirely compatible with earlier generations of Reformed Protestants?

This doesn’t settle, of course, whether the law-gospel distinction is correct. But given Frame’s endorsement of a pro-Shepherd account of the Shepherd controversy, I am reserving the right to question what he believes to be at stake in contemporary debates over justification, not to mention other matters of Reformed Protestant conviction.

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74 Comments

  1. Richard Smith
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Lily: Richard, There are a few problems. 1) when faced with evidence that refutes one of your statements, you change your story (weasel) and then claim you are misunderstood 2) when asked for evidence to back up one of your statements you ignore the questions or see #1. 3) Your assertions that you understand what Luther taught and Luther scholars do not are not based on any knowledge of Luther’s body of work. 4) To claim scholars are “gossips” and to not include yourself is inconsistent at best 5) To now claim that you are merely “cautious” in accepting scholar’s work is another example of weaseling.

    RS: You are faced with two main problems. 1. You have continually imputed thoughts and motives to me that I did not have. 2. When I tried to correct those, you call names such as weasel. My attempt to correct your misunderstanding of what I wrote or misuse of your own implications to what you thought I wrote is not weaseling. It is always helpful to try to truly understand a position and then not to call names either way.

  2. Lily
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Richard.

    1) the word “weasel” is being used as a verb not a noun

    2) your own words are being challenged not speculation

    3) How about answering the questions I asked in an earlier exchange (reposted below):

    please give me give me your concrete evidence:

    1. “Anyone who believes in predestination has to believe in double predestination.” Show me the evidence starting with early church theologians and proceed to our current era.

    2. “Don’t be so sure that he was furious when he wrote that.” Show me the evidence to refute the historical claim.

    3. “Luther on Romans.” Show me why double predestination is compatible with the rest of Luther’s teaching on predestination: Luther saying that God, desiring to save all fallen human beings, sent his Son Jesus Christ to atone for the sins of the whole world on the cross. Those God saves have been predestined from eternity in Christ and those who are condemned are condemned because of their fallen will.

    4. “Heidelberg 18.” Show the evidence that 18 (man’s bondage) is the central to Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation and not Christ. (Hint: If you understand the Heidleberg Disputation arguments regarding the Hidden God and the Revealed God, question 5 will be easy to answer).

    5. “Luther’s sermon.” Show me the evidence that Luther is not speaking against double predestination. Include refuting these passages:

    a) …this is what they say: “If I am predestined, I shall be saved, whether I do good or evil. If I am not predestined, I shall be condemned regardless of my works.” I would be glad to debate in detail against these wicked statements if the uncertain state of my health made it possible for me to do so.

    b) … these people of our time say: “What God has determined beforehand must happen. Consequently, every concern about religion and about the salvation of souls is uncertain and useless.” Yet it has not been given to you to render a verdict that is inscrutable. Why do you doubt or thrust aside the faith that God has enjoined on you? For what end did it serve to send His Son to suffer and to be crucified for us? Of what use was it to institute the sacraments if they are uncertain or completely useless for our salvation? For otherwise, if someone had been predestined, he would have been saved without the Son and without the sacraments or Holy Scripture. Consequently, God, according to the blasphemy of these people, was horribly foolish when He sent His Son, promulgated the Law and the Gospel, and sent the apostles if the only thing He wanted was that we should be uncertain and in doubt whether we are to be saved or really to be damned.

    c) this is how I have taught in my book On the Bondage of the Will and elsewhere, namely, that a distinction must be made when one deals with the knowledge, or rather with the subject, of the divinity. For one must debate either about the hidden God or about the revealed God. With regard to God, insofar as He has not been revealed, there is no faith, no knowledge, and no understanding. And here one must hold to the statement that what is above us is none of our concern. For thoughts of this kind, which investigate something more sublime above or outside the revelation of God, are altogether devilish. With them nothing more is achieved than that we plunge ourselves into destruction; for they present an object that is inscrutable, namely, the unrevealed God. Why not rather let God keep His decisions and mysteries in secret? We have no reason to exert ourselves so much that these decisions and mysteries be revealed to us.

    d) this inquisitiveness is original sin itself, by which we are impelled to strive for a way to God through natural speculation. But this is a great sin and a useless and futile attempt; for this is what Christ says in John 6:65 (cf. John 14:6): “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Therefore when we approach the unrevealed God, then there is no faith, no Word, and no knowledge; for He is an invisible God, and you will not make Him visible.

    e) Therefore we should detest and shun these vicious words which the Epicureans bandy about: “If this is how it must happen, let it happen.” For God did not come down from heaven to make you uncertain about predestination…

    f) I have wanted to teach and transmit this in such a painstaking and accurate way because after my death many will publish my books and will prove from them errors of every kind and their own delusions. Among other things, however, I have written that everything is absolute and unavoidable; but at the same time I have added that one must look at the revealed God … But they will pass over all these places and take only those that deal with the hidden God….remember that I have taught that one should not inquire into the predestination of the hidden God but should be satisfied with what is revealed.

  3. Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Okay Zrim, to be Reformed correct one should limit who corrects somebody to Pastors and legitimate authority figures in a persons life, ie., parents, bosses at our vocations, elected governing authorities, etc. I normally take people’s negative response to me on the internet with a grain of salt but if it reinforces things I have been told by other legitimate authority figures then I think about it a little more deeply. Being the post-modern narcissistic addict that I still struggle with and am (my peccator side) I have to constantly consider that man to be dead or I will be a dead man soon. That is not as easy as some people seem to think it is. So, my point is, you recognized that and made a constructive comment which I was able to hear because of my knowing where you are coming from by reading your comments over the years. Your ribbing turned out to take on a correcting role even if you did not really have my best interest in mind (the filthy rags thing). Now I’m laughing.

    Speaking of filthy rags, I’m still dwelling on that Horton article and I can’t get it out of my mind. His comment as a 17 or 18 year old to his Pastor when asked When were you saved?- was pretty theologically astute for a kid of his age. I kept wondering if he wasn’t embellishing his insight a bit instead of his spiritual experience. Theological insight holds much more cloat in the Reformed world than spiritual experience.

  4. mark mcculley
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Ephesians 3:9-11. “To make all (even gentiles) see what is the fellowship/union of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places would be known by the called out elect the manifold wisdom of God according to the permanent purpose which He decreed in Christ Jesus our Lord”

    Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ…”

    It is wrong to say that non-election is conditioned on sin. Both the elect and the non-elect are sinners. If sin were the cause of being non-elect, then all sinners would be non-elect. The reason for non-election is like the reason for election. God’s justice is no less sovereign than God’s grace.

    The texts in Ephesians remind us that there is more to know about God’s glory is revealed in BOTH His sovereign love and in His sovereign wrath. To know His name is to know Him as the one who has mercy on some and who hardens others.

    I deny that non-election is conditioned on sin. But this does not mean that I think that sin is conditioned on non-election so that God only makes sinners (ordains and predestines them to sin) in order to not elect them.

    I agree with Robert Reymond, not only that sin is included in God’s purpose (so that God is not REACTING to sin, not even logically) but also that God’s very first concern is to manifest His glory in discriminating between sinner and sinner, so that election in Christ from the beginning is an election of sinners. To be outside Christ from the beginning is to be non-elect sinner.

    God does not wait for sinners to sin, and then decide to pass some of them by. In the very purpose to elect and to not elect for His glory, God is the Subject and sinners are His objects. God’s choice is the first thing.

    Sin is not the first thing, and then God reacts. Sin is necessary if God is to choose between sinners. Only because of God’s choice to choose between sinners, does God ordain sin.

    We often hear the phrase “election is not salvation” so that “election is UNTO salvation”. Or that “election is not the gospel” but that election is what causes people to believe the gospel. Call it “double predestination” if you want, but these soundbites are false alternatives.

    Of course the word “salvation” can be used in different senses. But if the righteousness Christ earned is not for the elect until the elect believe, it makes no difference if you say that the righteousness was earned only for the elect or also for others besides the elect. In any case, it is not the righteousness which is the cause of believing.

    The effect of denying election in the gospel is to make Christ’s work of obedience NOT be the ONLY cause of salvation,. It makes the work of the Spirit IN the sinner (causing the sinner to believe) not a result but the determinative condition that makes Christ’s work work.

  5. Richard Smith
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Lily: Richard. 1) the word “weasel” is being used as a verb not a noun

    RS: One who weasels is a weasel.

    Lily: 2) your own words are being challenged not speculation

    RS: But you have constantly misunderstood, so you are challenging me based on your misunderstanding in many if not most cases.

    Lily: 3) How about answering the questions I asked in an earlier exchange (reposted below):
    please give me give me your concrete evidence:

    1. “Anyone who believes in predestination has to believe in double predestination.” Show me the evidence starting with early church theologians and proceed to our current era.

    RS: So you are asking for something, even if it could be proven, that would take a 100 page essay to show. Anyway, let me give you some logical evidence.
    1. Let us use the analogy (for ease) and say that there would be 100 people total in all history
    2. All are guilty and worthy of condemnation based on original sin
    3. God chose and predestined some of those to salvation
    4. Therefore, He made a choice regarding the ones He did not choose to be saved.
    If a person really and truly believes in the doctrine of predestination, that person has to believe in double predestination to some degree. By not choosing some to be saved, God has made a choice regarding those people He did not choose to be saved.

    Lily: 2. “Don’t be so sure that he was furious when he wrote that.” Show me the evidence to refute the historical claim.

    RS: What historical claim is there that he was furious when he sat down and wrote this book that obviously took a lot of thought and time to write? Did Luther or Melancthon note how furious he was when he wrote this book? You have not shown that anyone but yourself has ever believed this. In fact, in the writing of this book Luther was almost tender toward Erasmus and concerned for his soul.

    Lily: 3. “Luther on Romans.” Show me why double predestination is compatible with the rest of Luther’s teaching on predestination: Luther saying that God, desiring to save all fallen human beings, sent his Son Jesus Christ to atone for the sins of the whole world on the cross. Those God saves have been predestined from eternity in Christ and those who are condemned are condemned because of their fallen will.

    RS: Dying for the whole world does not mean in and of itself that Christ died for each and every person. In biblical language, it meant that He died for Jew and Gentile. Indeed human beings are condemned based on their guiltiness, but again, if God predestines some to be saved He has made a choice for some not to be. Nothing in the above statement refutes that.

    Lily: 4. “Heidelberg 18.” Show the evidence that 18 (man’s bondage) is the central to Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation and not Christ. (Hint: If you understand the Heidleberg Disputation arguments regarding the Hidden God and the Revealed God, question 5 will be easy to answer).

    RS: I was not aware that I had made an argument that Christ was not central. The reason that Luther even argues so vehemently against ‘free-will’ is in order to show forth the grace of God in Christ.

  6. Richard Smith
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Lily: 5. “Luther’s sermon.” Show me the evidence that Luther is not speaking against double predestination. Include refuting these passages:

    a) …this is what they say: “If I am predestined, I shall be saved, whether I do good or evil. If I am not predestined, I shall be condemned regardless of my works.” I would be glad to debate in detail against these wicked statements if the uncertain state of my health made it possible for me to do so.

    RS: Those are wicked statements, but are not against predestination in any way. It is wicked to argue that one can be predestined and then continue on in an evil life and regardless of that person’s works.

    Lily quoting Luther: b) … these people of our time say: “What God has determined beforehand must happen. Consequently, every concern about religion and about the salvation of souls is uncertain and useless.” Yet it has not been given to you to render a verdict that is inscrutable. Why do you doubt or thrust aside the faith that God has enjoined on you? For what end did it serve to send His Son to suffer and to be crucified for us? Of what use was it to institute the sacraments if they are uncertain or completely useless for our salvation? For otherwise, if someone had been predestined, he would have been saved without the Son and without the sacraments or Holy Scripture. Consequently, God, according to the blasphemy of these people, was horribly foolish when He sent His Son, promulgated the Law and the Gospel, and sent the apostles if the only thing He wanted was that we should be uncertain and in doubt whether we are to be saved or really to be damned.

    RS: Another wicked argument against a misconception of predestination and not against predestination itself. God predestined people to be saved through Christ and not just to be saved. Luther’s point is not against predestination but against those who misunderstand it and also deny the means of grace. It is also an argument against those who want to find comfort in a bare predestination than comfort in the means that God has sent to save those He predestined.

    Lily quoting Luther: c) this is how I have taught in my book On the Bondage of the Will and elsewhere, namely, that a distinction must be made when one deals with the knowledge, or rather with the subject, of the divinity. For one must debate either about the hidden God or about the revealed God. With regard to God, insofar as He has not been revealed, there is no faith, no knowledge, and no understanding. And here one must hold to the statement that what is above us is none of our concern. For thoughts of this kind, which investigate something more sublime above or outside the revelation of God, are altogether devilish. With them nothing more is achieved than that we plunge ourselves into destruction; for they present an object that is inscrutable, namely, the unrevealed God. Why not rather let God keep His decisions and mysteries in secret? We have no reason to exert ourselves so much that these decisions and mysteries be revealed to us.

    RS: Predestination itself has been revealed, so it is not a matter of speculation. Who has been predestined and those who have not been predestined is a matter who are not to pry into and instead seek the Lord according to His means of grace.

    Lily Quoting Luther: d) this inquisitiveness is original sin itself, by which we are impelled to strive for a way to God through natural speculation. But this is a great sin and a useless and futile attempt; for this is what Christ says in John 6:65 (cf. John 14:6): “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Therefore when we approach the unrevealed God, then there is no faith, no Word, and no knowledge; for He is an invisible God, and you will not make Him visible.

    RS: Again, any type of predestination that is not predestined in Christ and being drawn to the Father through Christ is idle speculation at best.

    Lily quoting Luther: e) Therefore we should detest and shun these vicious words which the Epicureans bandy about: “If this is how it must happen, let it happen.” For God did not come down from heaven to make you uncertain about predestination…

    RS: So God came down to make people certain about predestination. He is quoting against the Epicureans who taught a vicious form of fatalism. Biblical predestination is not a vicious form of fatalism.

    Lily quoting Luther: f) I have wanted to teach and transmit this in such a painstaking and accurate way because after my death many will publish my books and will prove from them errors of every kind and their own delusions. Among other things, however, I have written that everything is absolute and unavoidable; but at the same time I have added that one must look at the revealed God … But they will pass over all these places and take only those that deal with the hidden God….remember that I have taught that one should not inquire into the predestination of the hidden God but should be satisfied with what is revealed.

    RS: Again, that has nothing to do with what God has revealed about predestination of the elect. We are not to speculate into things about predestination which have not been revealed and things that may or not be predestined and try to live by what we think may or may not have been predestined. We are to follow what God has revealed and be content with that.

    Romans 9:13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”
    14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!
    15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.”
    16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
    17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.”
    18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

  7. Richard Smith
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    mark mcculley: Ephesians 3:9-11. “To make all (even gentiles) see what is the fellowship/union of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ. To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places would be known by the called out elect the manifold wisdom of God according to the permanent purpose which He decreed in Christ Jesus our Lord”

    Ephesians 2:4-5 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together with Christ…”

    It is wrong to say that non-election is conditioned on sin. Both the elect and the non-elect are sinners. If sin were the cause of being non-elect, then all sinners would be non-elect. The reason for non-election is like the reason for election. God’s justice is no less sovereign than God’s grace.

    The texts in Ephesians remind us that there is more to know about God’s glory is revealed in BOTH His sovereign love and in His sovereign wrath. To know His name is to know Him as the one who has mercy on some and who hardens others.

    I deny that non-election is conditioned on sin. But this does not mean that I think that sin is conditioned on non-election so that God only makes sinners (ordains and predestines them to sin) in order to not elect them.

    I agree with Robert Reymond, not only that sin is included in God’s purpose (so that God is not REACTING to sin, not even logically) but also that God’s very first concern is to manifest His glory in discriminating between sinner and sinner, so that election in Christ from the beginning is an election of sinners. To be outside Christ from the beginning is to be non-elect sinner.

    God does not wait for sinners to sin, and then decide to pass some of them by. In the very purpose to elect and to not elect for His glory, God is the Subject and sinners are His objects. God’s choice is the first thing.

    Sin is not the first thing, and then God reacts. Sin is necessary if God is to choose between sinners. Only because of God’s choice to choose between sinners, does God ordain sin.

    We often hear the phrase “election is not salvation” so that “election is UNTO salvation”. Or that “election is not the gospel” but that election is what causes people to believe the gospel. Call it “double predestination” if you want, but these soundbites are false alternatives.

    Of course the word “salvation” can be used in different senses. But if the righteousness Christ earned is not for the elect until the elect believe, it makes no difference if you say that the righteousness was earned only for the elect or also for others besides the elect. In any case, it is not the righteousness which is the cause of believing.

    The effect of denying election in the gospel is to make Christ’s work of obedience NOT be the ONLY cause of salvation,. It makes the work of the Spirit IN the sinner (causing the sinner to believe) not a result but the determinative condition that makes Christ’s work work.

    RS: Mark, I am not trying to make you question yourself or bring mocking upon you, but this was a good post that exalted grace in a way that is very rare in our day. I take it that you are a supralapsarian.

    Romans 9:11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.”
    13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

  8. Lily
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Very funny, Richard. I use a verb and you insist it must mean a noun. Examples like this do help explain your thinking and your belief that you are misunderstood. As for your answers, the onus is upon you to answer the questions with evidence. You did not provide evidence to support your original unwarranted assertions and continue to weasel or fudge (if that descriptive verb is less offensive to your sensibilities). As for question #5 – your assertion was that Luther taught double predestination and now you reduce it to single predestination. As I’ve said before: you weasel in your answers.

  9. Zrim
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Richard, you said, “Again, I have not said that the church does not need the church for the Bible. But still they need to read the Bible and study it rather than just rely on others. I would think that my advocacy for Edwards would at least show that I am not against reading.”

    But what I have in mind when I say we need the church to instruct us are the creeds, confessions, and catechisms. Those are the result of the gifted church reading the Bible. And so when you pit reading the Bible against “relying on just what others say,” where the latter is esteemed and the former undermined, I find it contradictory. In other words, when the forms are studied, preached, taught and memorized, it is a form of Bible study done with the church, by the church, and for the church. So relying on others to know what the Bible says—where “others” are the formal statements of the church— is actually a virtue to the confessionalist’s mind, even as it is a vice to the revivalist’s, who tends to esteem and privilege individual writings over ecclesiastical writings. I understand you’re not against reading, but it’s what you esteem and privilege versus what you undermine and criticize that’s the point. I think this is the part where you say (again) a pure heart makes the difference, but since nobody has one of those the criteria has to be something else.

  10. Posted March 12, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Lily,

    Cut it out with the weasel stuff- I am getting bad memories of being called John Weasel, when I was in grade school, which kind of goes with Yeazel. I did not particularly like being called Weasel. Just another all about me comment.

  11. Posted March 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    BTW, I was just making light of the weasel thing in case anyone thinks I was being serious with Lily- I really need to be more careful of what I say on public sites. I just think it is important to be honest about how we deal with our sin and that it is a powerful presence in our lives that does not just go away easily. In fact, I think we are often unaware of how deeply it effects us and we have a tendency to just try to put it out of our minds and suppress it. I have not been able to do this with the stuff I have experienced in my struggles.

  12. Posted March 12, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    John,

    Youzel are no weasel… either in the old life or the new life!

    (all about species identification)

  13. Lily
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    John,

    A ditto with Jack and add: you’re a keeper. ;)

  14. Richard Smith
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Lily: Very funny, Richard. I use a verb and you insist it must mean a noun.

    RS: One who lies (verb) is a liar (noun).

    Lily. Examples like this do help explain your thinking and your belief that you are misunderstood. As for your answers, the onus is upon you to answer the questions with evidence. You did not provide evidence to support your original unwarranted assertions and continue to weasel or fudge (if that descriptive verb is less offensive to your sensibilities).

    RS: Let me respond with a partial quote from Luther: Councils and Popes have erred… Unless you can can show me my error from Scripture or evident reason… An appeal to history or quotes from authors did not settle it for Luther. He wanted it from Scripture or from evident reason. My assertions were not unwarranted.

    Lily: As for question #5 – your assertion was that Luther taught double predestination and now you reduce it to single predestination. As I’ve said before: you weasel in your answers.

    RS: My assertion was that you cannot believe and teach single predestination because you cannot have one without the other.

  15. Richard Smith
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Zrim: Richard, you said, “Again, I have not said that the church does not need the church for the Bible. But still they need to read the Bible and study it rather than just rely on others. I would think that my advocacy for Edwards would at least show that I am not against reading.”

    Zrim: But what I have in mind when I say we need the church to instruct us are the creeds, confessions, and catechisms. Those are the result of the gifted church reading the Bible. And so when you pit reading the Bible against “relying on just what others say,” where the latter is esteemed and the former undermined, I find it contradictory.

    RS: But Roman Catholicism rests on their former teachings on the level of Scripture. The Reformation came along and stood for Sola Scriptura. The final authority must be Scripture as it alone gives us the words of God. The very writers of the WSC took pains (so to speak) to point out that Scripture is the final authority in matters of dispute. One should respect and read the older writers and the creeds, but the Bible is God-breathed and it is the only “book” that God speaks directly in. Surely we should esteem it far above all other books.

    Srim: In other words, when the forms are studied, preached, taught and memorized, it is a form of Bible study done with the church, by the church, and for the church. So relying on others to know what the Bible says—where “others” are the formal statements of the church— is actually a virtue to the confessionalist’s mind, even as it is a vice to the revivalist’s, who tends to esteem and privilege individual writings over ecclesiastical writings.

    RS: Or simply believe that it is far more appropriate and biblical for people to speak from Scripture itself.

    Zrim: I understand you’re not against reading, but it’s what you esteem and privilege versus what you undermine and criticize that’s the point. I think this is the part where you say (again) a pure heart makes the difference, but since nobody has one of those the criteria has to be something else.

    RS: There is such a thing as a pure heart in God’s eyes and it is not a perfect purity in and of itself. A pure heart is necessary, so in some way it is possible.

    Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
    Psalm 24:4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully.
    Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
    Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    Psalm 73:1 A Psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, To those who are pure in heart!
    James 4:8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

  16. Lily
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    No, Richard, I did not call you a weasel. You are not clever enough to be a weasel. It does seem obvious your example of liar fits with no scripture needed since your own words condemn you:

    He [Luther] was quite one with Calvin on the Bondage of the Will and predestination.

    Yes, that is correct [Calvin and Luther are one in agreement on predestination]. It has been stated that Calvin was a Lutheran and Luther was a Calvinist.

  17. Richard Smith
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Lily: No, Richard, I did not call you a weasel. You are not clever enough to be a weasel. It does seem obvious your example of liar fits with no scripture needed since your own words condemn you:

    Lily quoting RS: He [Luther] was quite one with Calvin on the Bondage of the Will and predestination.

    Lily quoting more or less RS: Yes, that is correct [Calvin and Luther are one in agreement on predestination]. It has been stated that Calvin was a Lutheran and Luther was a Calvinist.

    RS: So where has it been shown that Luther did not believe in Bondage of the Will? His writing is very strong on that in his book Bondage of the Will. Indeed he was stronger than Calvin on it, but they both believed it. Where has it been shown that Luther did not believe in predestination? It hasn’t. Quotes were given for that, but no refutation. I know you gave some quotes, but they were not against Luther believing in predestination, but only things that people were saying against him because he believed in predestination. By the way, the quotes you gave which did have Luther defending against false views of predestination demonstrates at the least that the people of his day were accusing him of believing it.

  18. Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m reeling with all the love at oldlife- back at you Lily and Jack!!

  19. Lily
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Richard,

    Again, you weasel about your assertion that Luther was double predestination. And no, Luther was rebutting double predestination not his own teachings. You are no scholar and have not read his work. I have provided the evidence regarding Luther’s single predestination. The onus us upon you to make his belief in universal atonement and that God’s will for all to be saved compatible with double predestination.

    As for your smart assery with Donald Philip Veitch. Man-up.

  20. Richard Smith
    Posted March 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Lily: Richard, Again, you weasel about your assertion that Luther was double predestination.

    RS: Not at all. What I asserted was that one cannot truly believe in predestination without believing in double predestination. I would not argue that he went around using that language.

    Lily: And no, Luther was rebutting double predestination not his own teachings. You are no scholar and have not read his work. I have provided the evidence regarding Luther’s single predestination. The onus us upon you to make his belief in universal atonement and that God’s will for all to be saved compatible with double predestination.

    RS: There is no onus on me. Luther was not rebutting double predestination in the post that you give with quotes of his. I have not argued anything about his belief in universal atonement, but simply that he believed in predestination and that one cannot (logically) truly hold to predestination without holding to double predestination. But then again, you might have a different idea of what double predestination is.

    Lily: As for your smart assery with Donald Philip Veitch. Man-up.

    RS: Donald is the one who is calling names, not me. It is rather sad to see someone act that way. Now it is even more sad to see you heading down that path. It is far better just to stick with the points of discussion.

  21. Darren
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    Wasn’t the original post about the Law and the Gospel, John Frame and WSC?

  22. mark mcculley
    Posted March 13, 2012 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    John Calvin. “Do you see how he makes this the distinction between law and gospel: that the former attributes righteousness to works, the latter bestows free righteousness apart from the help of works? This is an important passage, and one that can extricate us from many difficulties if we understand that that righteousness which is given us through the gospel has been freed of all conditions of the law. “(Calvin on Romans 10:9, 3/11/17)

  23. Thomas
    Posted March 19, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Escondido>Auburn

  24. Posted March 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Thomas, please don’t confuse Frame by suggesting that Escondido is the equivalent of Auburn, the school that produced the Auburn Affirmation. You see, Frame thinks that Escondido identifies too closely with Machen who was opposed, as I’m sure you know, to the Auburn Affirmation.

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